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Can elections be hacked? And the Russian gambit.

Contrary Brin - Thu, 10/13/2016 - 12:35
As the pace quickens, I'll use this political posting to catch up on side items... such as...

Hey Hill! Want a solution to all the fuss around the Clinton Foundation? Hand it all over to the Carter Center, lock stock and barrel. Analogous to Warren Buffett making Bill Gates his heir! Because the Gates Foundation is run so well. Likewise, the one thing all Americans agree about Jimmy Carter is his rectitude... and the effectiveness of his foundation. Just do it.  Carter will give Chelsea a job and no one will care.

Only note the difference in the way ex-presidents who are Democrats spend their time, vs Republicans. They are is diametric and perfect opposites. Oligarchs holding court vs. scurrying around trying to help the poor. 
== The KGB Connection ==

What gives with the crescendo of internet hacks and trolleries - of blatant Russian origin? This surge of activity - which has the cyber sleuths in our intelligence community scurrying - points to a fervid obsession with meddling in Western politics.
The sheer number of these attacks is quite boggling. They range from stealing and clumsily altering documents of George Soros’s Open Society Foundation to spreading anti-NATO rumors in Sweden to timing leaks of swiped Hillary Clinton emails for maximum effect on American elections.  
Former Central Intelligence Agency director Mike Morell – a lifelong leader in such matters, with no history of being political - describes Trump as “an unwitting agent” of Vladimir Putin, a view that is shared by many American intelligence personnel. 

John Schindler, a security expert and former National Security Agency analyst and counterintelligence officer, elucidates in an Observer article you must read. 'The case for Morell’s charge is circumstantial but impressive. We have Trump’s repeated business dealings in Russia, dating to the Soviet era, none of them very successful, though that didn’t stop the candidate’s son from declaring in 2008 of the Trump Organization: “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”'  And you wonder why he won’t release his tax returns? 
Sure, Fox News and right wing radio guys have been spreading a cult of adoration of Vladimir Putin for a decade, culminating in Donald Trump’s huge, bromantic crush on the (I’ll admit) very clever Russian President. But is it truly possible that the conversion of U.S. conservatism into confederate-ism is so thorough that no one in Red America can smell a rat?  Nothing else makes the conversion more clear. Russia used to be red. Now the color doesn’t even apply in Trump Country.
It’s Gray.
== But can American elections be rigged? ==
We keep returning to this question. The recent discovery of e-meddlings in Illinois and Arizona voter databases has raised chills. “U.S. elections are hackable, though it is much harder than some appear to believe. There are three main areas of vulnerability, according to Andrew Appel, a Princeton University computer scientist. Hackers could tamper with voter records, removing names from official rolls. They could attack electronic voting machines. And they could disrupt the proper tallying of voting results as they are collected from various precincts.”
The Washington Post Editorial Board recently reiterated a point I’ve been making for years: In each case, one key to ensuring integrity is creating a paper trail that can be matched to the electronic records. Electronic voter rolls can be checked against paper ones; electronic vote counts can be compared to paper ballots filled in during the voting process; statewide vote tallies can be checked by examining and adding the results reported publicly in each precinct.”
The editorial board is a bit too blithe for my taste, suggesting that most U.S. counties do have auditable paper trails and that our voting machines are hard to hack.  I’ll believe that when a truly thorough and scientific study is done. There are states where the politicians will stop at nothing.  If you’d gerrymander – and suppress voter participation without helping poor folks to get the ID they need – then you are the kind of person who would ease the way for corrupt machines to be used.
Still, they make a cogent point: “At the moment, the biggest threat to the integrity of U.S. elections appears to be that politicians, Mr. Trump in particular, will use anecdote and innuendo to stoke a crisis of confidence. Given that Mr. Trump has already indicated he will not accept the legitimacy of an election that ends in his defeat, even a well-functioning electoral system in which any attempted hacks and other frauds are caught and corrected could look to many like a sham.”

This is so important that I will say it in several postings:
Hillary Clinton needs to declare this as a crisis! She should demand that Donald Trump put up or shut up, on electoral fraud. 

Insist that he appoint 6 friends who are “sages beyond reproach” to join six she would appoint, plus six chose by retired US Supreme Court Justice and GOP appointee Sandra Day O’Conner. And have that commission investigate electoral rigging charges right now!  No delays. No excuses. And they should look at everything from voting machines to voter suppression to gerrymandering. And no time for sage perfection. Report back in two weeks!
It would be an aggressive, assertive action and she’d look decisive, presidential. And it is utterly necessary, lest her presidency begin less valuable than a bucket of tepid spit.
== Trump is not an anomaly ==
Don't for a moment entertain the delusion that Donald Trump is some weird, side-canker on U.S. Conservatism.  Sure, hundreds of prominent Republicans have fled from the current, pyrotechnically-offensive ravings of their party's standard-bearer. Many of these defectors openly avow that Hillary Clinton is an acceptably "solid" statesman worthy of support.
Don't believe a word of it. This hemorrhage of conservative adults is still filled with rationalizers who call Donald Trump a "special case," while urging support for down-ticket GOP candidates. Even as they declare acceptance of HC's acceptable solidity, most declare their intention to fight for a GOP led Congress that will wage war upon her from her very first day as Commander-in-Chief. 
No, no. You do not get to do that, and I will repeat my counter-nostrum over and over. Trump is not the "disease."  He is a symptom of a virulence that you guys helped to spread. Yes, even the sage, nodding heads and professionals, and intellectuals who doubted WMD lies and tried to break the Hastert Rule against ever negotiating. Even you who pursed your lips and frowned silently over the tsunami of Fox lies.
Case in point. Donald has just appointed conservative eminence grise Ed Feulner to join Chis Christie heading his Transition Team… to prepare for a (shudder) Trump Administration. Feulner is a former head of the Heritage Foundation, the top right wing "think tank" that gave us neoconservatism, Iraq Wars, Supply Side never-once-ever-right-ever-even-once "Economics," and… (surprise) the general outlines of Obamacare. Feulner is credited with building the Heritage Foundation from a small, struggling policy think tank in the 1970s to the influential behemoth that prepares a majority of GOP policy positions. (Generally in close collaboration with Rupert Murdoch.) 
Sure, DT has emphasized the Tea Party, Breitbart, confederate-treason, screeching-nitwit wing of the party, finishing the decades-long task of driving-off every skill and knowledge profession, from scientists to the military officer corps. But to call him (and them) "aberrant" is to ignore the fact that he won the GOP primaries convincingly. And that half of the Republicans in Congress are bilious, raving loonies, who sabotage science and research and investment and who refuse to negotiate even a basic budget for the United States.
So no, you "grownups" who are defecting to HC temporarily, you do not get to feel virtuous and bipartisan while helping to carve out the Trump tumor. The surface mole grew up top out of a metastacized disease. And American conservatism need chem and radiation and cauterizing therapy to burn out the Murdochian confederatism. Rip it out, and there's a chance the movement might survive Even thrive.
Oh, interesting note: Both Trump and Clinton have taxpayer-funded office space provided for a transition effort, the result of a 2010 law that moved up the availability of such money to just after the party conventions, rather than after the election.
== Russian sabotage ==
The Russian ruling clade is doing what I would do — were I a member of a cabal dominating an underdog world power that is deeply opposed to democracy and the Western Enlightenment experiment. They are doing what underdogs always do — innovating. Finding ways to undermine and sabotage and mislead their bigger, stronger, but less-focused adversaries.

Never mind that they are only “adversaries” because of reflexive paranoia.  From that psychological perspective — then yes, one can see how Vladimir Putin and his cronies perceive themselves being “surrounded” and threatened.  And hence their emphasis on “D&D methods” of waging cold-war… Disproportionate and Deniable… emphasizing small investments that yield larger outcomes while letting the Russian leadership say “who me? I had nothing to do with that!”  The aim? To defeat their lumbering adversary with the Death of ten Thousand Cuts.

Cyber sabotage is the most famous of these D&D methods.  Another is disinformation — the spreading of false rumors through far-left and far-right gullible paranoia groups and sites, as described in this article where Sweden’s closer cooperation with NATO has been undermined with untrue narratives.

“A prime Kremlin target is Europe, where the rise of the populist right and declining support for the European Union create an ever more receptive audience for Russia’s conservative, nationalistic and authoritarian approach under Mr. Putin. Last year, the European Parliament accused Russia of “financing radical and extremist parties” in its member states, and in 2014 the Kremlin extended an $11.7 million loan to the National Front, the extreme-right party in France.”  Then there is Trump, over here. “The Russians are very good at courting everyone who has a grudge with liberal democracy, and that goes from extreme right to extreme left.”

“The role of non-military means of achieving political and strategic goals has grown, and, in many cases, they have exceeded the power of force of weapons in their effectiveness,” Gen. Valery V. Gerasimov, the chief of the general staff of the Russian Armed Forces, wrote in 2013.

We can only hope that this does not devolve into the scenario described in Frederik Pohl’s chillingly plausible novel The Cool War, which envisioned a horrid era when great powers deliberately and relentlessly sabotage each others’ infrastructure, causing power and water systems and bridges and highways and factories to collapse, leading to a general decline of all sides and all human civilization into a downward spiral of shabbiness and decay.

== Any proportion?  Any at all? ==        Finally. Just to be clear about the "30,000 emails" that Donald Trump wants Russia to find for him - there aren't even assertions of any concealed misdeeds in them! Only that HC made a dumb procedural mistake and tried to shrug it off.  Sorry fellahs. But that… is… it. The sum total of your trumped-up case.
Contrast this to 22,000,000 (yes, million) Bush emails that went "missing" when Congress sought information about the firing of 8 federal prosecutors who were sniffing at Bush-Cheney corruption.  Read that sentence over again, as many times as it takes, for the hypocrisy to sink in.

In 2014, e-sleuths managed to recover a bunch of those bushite erasures, though getting them sorted could take more years.  But the issue is both the amnesia and weird sense of scale displayed by our republican friends. Like spending 6 years of relentless hearings screaming over 4 volunteers who took an ill-advised risk in Benghazi... versus thousands who died on 9/11 because Bush re-assigned agents away from terror duties. Which of these got endless, endless hearings?

 Millions of deliberately deleted emails pertinent to blatant abuse of power in evading a corruption probe vs. a few thousand personal emails that no one even suggests were pertinent to any malfeasance? Which got hearings?

Cheney companies making billions off the Iraq wars and more billions sent by Cheney into Iraq as raw cash on pallets, that promptly disappeared...
... vs. a few hundred thousands in speaking fees with no known quid pro quo and those banks who paid for speeches are due anyway to get broken up by Hillary Clinton?  Which of these tales of corruption gets a lynch mob?

I could go on and on.  But you see, those would be FACTS.  And now you see why Fox and its wholly owned party have declared war on science.
No. We want only five words from you scoundrels.
“OMG, what have we done?”
. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and (site feed URL:

The Big Idea: Meg Elison

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Thu, 10/13/2016 - 08:55
Well, this Big Idea, by Meg Elison, for a new release of her 2014 Philip K. Dick Award winner The Book of the Unnamed Midwife, is strangely and unfortunately well-timed. MEG ELISON: The biggest idea in The Book of the Unnamed Midwife is that women are people. I have read exhaustively in the genre of […]

My Endorsement for President, 2016: Hillary Clinton

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Wed, 10/12/2016 - 14:26
Today is the beginning of early voting here in Ohio, which means that it is a good day for me to formally make the following announcement regarding my vote for President of the United States: I am voting for Hillary Clinton for President of the United States, and I think you should too. And now, let me […]

The Dispatcher Hits #1, The Front Room is Finished, Hanging Out at NYCC With Adam and Norm

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 10/11/2016 - 15:07
Three things! One post! Let’s get to them! 1. The Dispatcher was released one week ago today and during the week apparently a ton of people, hungering for my excellent words and Zachary Quinto’s thrilling narration (and also possibly because it was distributed for free) downloaded it — enough to make it the #1 title […]

The President Pence Gambit is now openly discussed. And doubling down on insanity

Contrary Brin - Tue, 10/11/2016 - 12:48
The cycle time for my sci fi forecasts becoming reality keeps getting shorter. See below, how the GOP lords are now openly calling for a scenario to impeach a President Trump and install Mike Pence, exactly as I described.


In an earlier political blog, I showed how those states that have invested in infrastructure, universities and people have vastly outperformed those slashing taxes and services according to Supply Side Voodoo “Economics” (SSVE) theory. Now yet more for the mountain of evidence. Across the nation in August, employers added  151,000 new jobs, meaning that California accounted for 42% of all U.S.job growth with 63,100 jobs. 

Meanwhile the vigorous-moderate California state legislature has been busier than any other session, passing adjustments to archaic laws and helping the state adapt to the 21st century… all the while consulting closely with citizen groups and companies, negotiating compromises under the most open and transparent politics in the country…
…exactly opposite behavior to the Paul Ryan-led US Congress, which has been the laziest in 150 years, unable once since 2010 to even pass a budget. Once. Perfectly happy to leave in place every obsolete code from the 20th Century. Hardly holding any hearings that weren't about Clintons. And never de-regulating a single thing.
Contrast booming California to the archetype, gerrymandered and GOP-run Red State… Kansas. Where they have doubled down on SSVE because slashing taxes on the rich ought to result in greater tax revenues. Right? It ought to work THIS time. Right?
Donald Trump says that his tax cut would cost $4.4 trillion over 10 years, including the childcare plan he announced this week. But he proclaims the cost would be compensated by economic growth. 
Oh. That voodoo again? Does anyone recall Scotty saying “Fool me once; shame on you. Fool me ninety times? Shame on me.”
That is about how often “supply side economics” has been pulled on us by the party of oligarchs, crooning the mantra that slashing taxes on the rich will induce moguls to then invest it all in productive plants and equipment, increasing “supply” so much that the resulting boom will reduce deficits.  The forecast never came true.  Ever.  Even once across 30 years of relentlessly repeated experiments, including the recent spectacular fiscal melt-down in Kansas.  To repeat, SSVE has never had one successful outcomes prediction. Once.  Ever. Yet they double down again and again. Proving what they say about insanity.  
== Fleeing rats? ==

Below, I will re-describe the gambit being pondered by the topmost GOP leaders. Meanwhile, a swarm of Republicans are ditching Trump... with suspicious correlation to how tight their re-election races happen to be.  As explained by Paul Krugman:

"The probability of a House Republican jumping off the Trump train is strongly related to the Obama share of a district’s vote in 2012. That is, Republicans in competitive districts are outraged by Mr. Trump’s behavior; those in safe seats seem oddly indifferent."

Krugman's appraisal of moral hypocrisy is stinging and on-target. He lists a long series of sexual predator politicians from Hastert to Foley to Ailes, and asks: "Why do all these stories involve Republicans? One answer may be structural. The G.O.P. is, or was until this election, a monolithic, hierarchical institution, in which powerful men could cover up their sins much better than they could in the far looser Democratic coalition.
There is also, I’d suggest, an underlying cynicism that pervades the Republican elite. "

I'm not sure I'd go that far.  Yes Bill Clinton and Anthony Weiner engaged in more consensual, less predatory misbehaviors. Still, there seems to be a bit of a problem with men.  Maybe time to take a break from one at the top.  See my assessment of the second presidential debate.

== And we’re supposed to be impressed? ==
They're baaaaack! The two worst (by far) presidents of the 20th Century. The only living ex-presidents not to even be *mentioned* by name at their own party's recent convention. Presidents whose outcomes across their terms were so universally bad for the nation that historians scratch their heads for a comparison. (Also never mentioned by today's GOP, the words: Cheney, Rumsfeld, (pervert) Hastert, (felon) DeLay, (pervert) Ailes, Boehner and McConnell... what kind of party is so ashamed, with such good reason, that it veers for Trump, thinking: "well, at least he's not like the other leaders we keep choosing!" 
To call Donald Trump a break from that tradition is iffy.  Sure, he expresses the contempt the confederate masses rightfully feel toward the Bush-Cheney-Murdoch-Ailes cabal that so betrayed them. But his behavior is just an extension – a multiplication – of the Fox-Limbaugh ethos. “If my side does anything it is automatically fine, and it’s good to make up things to hate the other side for, out of thin air!”
Though I admit that the following news made me (briefly) consider dropping Hillary Clinton - till I recalled the guilt-by-association should be limited:  Former Republican president George H.W. Bush plans to vote for Democrat Hillary Clinton in November rather than his party’s presidential nominee, according to a family friend. 

To be clear, I deem Bush Senior to be the worst US president of the 20th Century, having done America and the world relentless harm. Even worse than his catastrophic son. No wonder there was no mention of either Bush, or Cheney, Hastert, DeLay or any GOP leader between Reagan and Ryan, at the recent RNC. Still, without a doubt, Trump would eclipse them both.  
So will Reince Priebus “punish” the elder Bush for this betrayal? “The head of the Republican Party suggested that he might punish the fellow 2016 presidential candidates who don't support Donald Trump.” In a sense it is easy to see his problem. First, his initials are the same as Republican Party, so maybe he feels entitled. 
Second, for 25 years the GOP was the most tightly disciplined partisan force in US history. Any talking point issued by Roget Ailes had to be repeated within 48 hours by every Republican office holder or Fox would punish them. Even organize a primary challenge against them.  Now that Ailes is exposed as a sexual pervert-predator and GOP cohesion seems shattered, the party elders are still rallying their media empires to try reinforcing that old discipline.
Shatter it.
== Finally, what I hope will remain a sci fi scenario ==
On Quora someone asked… “What will happen if Trump becomes President?"
First thing out the gate? Revenge, that will be Donald Trump’s first priority, if he is ever sworn into the presidency. Against every slight he imagines that he ever suffered.  Um duh?

(Late breaking examples! His threats against disloyal Republican office holders and his debate-vow to send prosecutors after Hillary Clinton, the moment he's in office.) 
Beyond that, once in office he will scurry to find allies - including some liberal ones — because of one big problem that he has. It outweighs every other consideration.
That problem is Mike Pence.
Pence was Trump’s olive branch to both the GOP establishment and the very far-right culture warriors. In theory, it could keep them calm and loyal enough to get the ticket elected. But in picking someone acceptable to the establishment, he made a huge mistake.

Because Pence is a hack and trivially controllable by the Murdoch-Koch-Saudi masters of the GOP. And he is beloved by the fundies. With him as figurehead, they might rebuild the Bushite Cabal.
This means Mike Pence is impeachment bait. And though it seemed science fiction when I first mentioned this, right during the Rebublican convention, the scenario is now being offered up in Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal - I kid you not. It's simple. A win-win for Rupert.

The very instant that President Donald Trump commits some over-the-top public relations calamity - and it will happen swiftly, as he reflexively seeks revenge for past slights - Paul Ryan will be out there making deals! Ryan & Murdoch will count on Democrats to scream for Trump’s head, while the Speaker deftly makes his move.
As Democrats foolishly fall for the trap, McConnell and Ryan will provide JUST enough Republican votes to carry a Bill of Impeachment, then Trump’s conviction and removal —

—leaving Mike Pence in the White House, puppeted by Murdoch and the Bushites. What about all the angry Trump supporters? Those Fox-Watchers will be diverted to froth hate and blame for Trump’s ouster on Democrats!
Not only is this a possible scenario… it is the onlypossible scenario, should Donald Trump get into office. Seriously, do you think that anything else is even plausible?
He shoulda picked Gingrich.

== Think it through ==

This scenario has an even deeper purpose. Yes, it offers the Murdoch-Bushite-Romney lords a way out, if Trump wins. It also offers them a rationalization to offer the myriad rats... um, defectors... bolting from the GOP. It's their way of saying: "Come back and help get out the vote for down ticket races. Because even if Trump wins, it won't be for long!"

Donald, you are boned. Better take your revenge on those lords now, before the election.  . . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and (site feed URL:

The Big Idea: Amy S. Foster

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 10/11/2016 - 12:30
I liked reading Amy S. Foster’s Big Idea for The Rift: Uprising, because her idea is very much the same idea I have as far as my own teenager goes. What idea is that? Read on. AMY S. FOSTER: So I had this idea…This big, crazy, ridiculous idea to write a YA novel that my […]

Trump, the GOP, and the Fall

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 10/11/2016 - 08:58
At this point there is no doubt that Donald Trump is the single worst major party presidential candidate in living memory, almost certainly the worst since the Civil War, and arguably the worst in the history of this nation. He is boastful and ignorant and petty, disdainful of the Constitution, a racist and a sexist, the […]

POST DEBATE EXTRA - She won, yet I'm bummed

Contrary Brin - Mon, 10/10/2016 - 00:45
I am so bummed. Oh, sure, she dealt with him pretty well personally, including his huge self-indulgence promising a special prosecutor against her, if he's elected. (24 years and half a billion dollars in investigations and you guys still got nothing.)

Still, she left standing every one of his doom-gloom lies about the state of the nation. For example, assertions that:
- The EPA is killing energy companies.
- Health care costs are rising at the fastest rates ever.
- Manufacturing is in decline. 
- Crime is at its worst.
- Isis is an existential threat worth allying ourselves with Assad and Russia and Iran.

All of these are lies of such stunning magnitude - diametrically opposite to all facts - that she could have sent viewers to a neutral site -- instead of ludicrously suggesting! To leave standing the right's all-out assault on American self-confidence is - itself - an act of betrayal.

In fact:
- Old-dinosaur carbon companies are in trouble because the U.S. has discovered so much oil and gas that we are now energy independent again, for the first time since the 1960s, allowing us to stop catering to petro princes in the Middle East. This plus the vast progress made in solar and sustainables have us in better shape than ever... except for those dinosaurs. 

- Health care costs are NOT rising at the fastest rates ever. Since Obamacare, what was a disaster has become a mere irritant. What had been a skyrocket in health costs has slowed down to only slightly above inflation. It is a huge victory! Even though, in fact, Obamacare (which was originally the GOP's own plan) should be replaced with something simpler ASAP... once we get a sane Congress.

(By the way, no Canadian would trade their health system for ours - pre or post Obamacare. Not one. Watch. If we get a sane Congress, the first move will be simple: put all children on Medicare.)

- Manufacturing is NOT in decline. Spurred by cheap natural gas and good policies and new tech, manufacturing in the U.S. is rapidly rising. Why Clinton did not brag about the longest period in U.S. history without a recession, with major job growth the entire time since Obama took office, is beyond me.

Yes, the middle class and jobs would be far healthier if Congress passed the decade delayed Infrastructure Bill that has been entirely blocked by the Republican Party. Let me get back to that.

- Crime is at its worst? Another towering Trump lie. There have been small upticks this year, in a few cities, after 30 years of steady declines in crime in the U.S. Declines that were even faster across most of the Obama Administration. In fact Americans have never been - on average - more safe.

- Then there's this Trumpism. 'Isis is an existential threat worth allying ourselves with Assad and Russia and Iran.' What wimps! Americans have suffered almost no casualties per capita from those incompetent wretches. We must fight them and stop them - and it is happening without U.S. casualties, a switch from GOP ways to doing war. Nevertheless, panic is for losers.

SIDE NOTE: Notice how Trump went on and on about Mosul? Did you remark on that? Why did he do that? 

I suspect it is because he has had security briefings and now believes Mosul will fall to Iraqi forces soon! He does not want this to be an October Surprise to make the Democrats look good. Hence, he prepped the way for his response when Mosul falls, concocting a story that, by telegraphing the attack, our side allowed the ISIS leaders to "slip away."

The nerve! You don't 'sneak up' to a major city. You surround it and take the neighboring countryside. If there weren't a single news report, ISIS would know they were surrounded and doomed in Mosul. He knows his talking point to be fabulation. (And so does the military officer corps, so why doesn't HC speak of the far greater numbers of retired officers supporting her?) Moreover, for any Republican to accuse Clinton or Obama of letting the Jihadist leadership get away is hilarious! Beyond bin-Laden, they have snuffed almost a hundred major jihadist leaders, compared to the Bushite score of .... zero. (Though in fairness, vastly more Americans died under the Bushes.)

But there you get to my biggest complaint. She hardly mentioned the words "republican" or 'Congress' or "Bush." Or the fact that not a single GOP leader between Reagan and Ryan was even mentioned during the recent RNC, out of shame over twenty wretched, accomplishment-free, harm-doing, America-undermining leaders like both Bushes, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Dennis-pervert-Hastert, Tom-convicted-felon-DeLay and Roger-Sexual-predator-Ailes.

Indeed, DT himself disavows one of GW Bush's only two accomplishments... the Iraq War. Now if only he'd also drop Supply Side voodoo.

No, I cannot begin to measure my fury at HC's advisers. Yes, she seemed to have dealt with Bill Clinton's sexual past in a way that worked, by simply blowing past and ignoring DT's attempts to get a rise. I'd have preferred to get a couple sentences out of her, like: "This is you and me now, Donald."

But the thing I cannot comprehend is her refusal to make an issue of Congress. The public despises Congress! And for good reason. She could say that for 20 of the last 22 years it has been the laziest in U.S. history, seldom in session, holding hardly any hearings that did not involve Hillary Clinton, and blocking almost every effort to adapt to 21st Century problems. The word "lazy" would judo outside the normal left-right divide and she could slip in that those were years of GOP control.

She must do this! HC is acting as if winning the presidency is everything. It's not! Without a Congress, she'll be almost impotent and we'll be stuck with years and years of hell, with Paul Ryan both blocking her every move and sitting there 2nd in line to the presidency.

She could tell Republicans... "Hey, take your lickings in Congress now, and come back in two years with better GOP candidates who negotiate like adults." But for now? Well...

...Donald Trump is not a temporary 'disease' on conservatism. He is a symptom of a deeper aliment inflicted on U.S. conservatism and the Republican Party and America foremost by one man --

-- by Roger Ailes. Whose similarity to Donald Trump in all ways is no accident.


PS... I left out how she should mention the War on Science and all other knowledge professions. 
Or how desperately urgent it is to dare DT to help name a commission to do both fact checking and look into his accusations of election stealing.  

If his "election stealing" gambit is left standing un-refuted, then we are in for a tsunami of Timothy McVeighs, after November.  So please Hillary Clinton, grab this one by the horns.
. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and (site feed URL:

New Sci Fi media and messages and... fun?

Contrary Brin - Sat, 10/08/2016 - 18:20
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Traditionally, I try to avoid politics on the weekend and focus instead on much less disgusting goings on... like dystopias, apocalypses and science fiction! Still, we're in a sci fi world right now... Robert Heinlein predicted the "Crazy Years" and we've been spiraling into something truly weird.

So tune in at the end of this posting for what I am hoping, for this Sunday's U.S. Presidential Debate.

For now, though -- sci fi!
ASU’s Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative just published Everything Change: An Anthology of Climate Fictiona free digital collection featuring 12 stories from ASU's global Climate Fiction Short Story Contest. The book includes a foreword by Kim Stanley Robinson (the lead judge for the contest) and an interview with Paolo Bacigalupi. Free to download.
How about the new Star Trek? Sure, I have some disagreements with the J.J. Abrams conceptual reboot… but it’s still way cool stuff.  Frankly, we need the ambiance and underlying assumptions of Trek… that our children might – conceivably – be better than us.  It’s what we want. Yet the gloom and stupidity industries (Hollywood) seem to think you cannot tell a story that will sell tickets, if you let even a glimmer of hope raise its head.  See where I appraised this in my published piece on Trek
See this speculation about how Game of Thrones will end leaves out one factor… that George R. R. Martin has been trying hard to show readers and viewers how bloody awful feudalism is! Okay, so none of you got that.  Wallow in the blood and oppression and infantile behavior and extremes of human nastiness while rooting for the marginally less-nasty!
But maybe, just maybe, the underdog common folk may have the last say.
== Rant-mode on! ==
 It may surprise you, given that I deem Yoda to be the most evil character ever, in the history all versions and forms of human storytelling... but I have no objections to his appearing in Episode 8 of Star Wars. After all, he lied to Luke endlessly about everything, so why not about "dying"? 

Poor Luke is an okay dude but a very dim bulb and on Dagobah he fell for the old Jedi "death fade-away" trick, which the vile green oven mitt pulled, just when Luke was ready to demand some answers!

Yes, yes, Mr. Abrams - while an absolute genius with characters - seems unable to imagine an original plot. He portrays Luke's new Jedi destroyed in exactly the same way that the original Jedi were. (Did I mention Luke is dim?) Luke then (The Force Awakens, Episode 7) goes on to precisely repeat Yoda's and Obiwan's cowardly actions - hiding away from the world, instead of trying to fix your own mistakes.

Only, if you actually think Yoda is anything but flat out super-Hitler, actually try sometimes tabulating the tens of billions of deaths he caused. And please, please come up with one... even one... genuinely wise and helpful thing the gnasty gnome ever really says.

He senses Anekin may be dangerous, yet foists him off to be trained by the most inexperienced master. He over-rules Mace every time Windoo says "let's tell the Republic what's going on!" Never once does he do his duty to the republic. 

There is zero reason to believe that the super smart gene crafters of Planet Kamino weren't telling the truth when they say that Yoda ordered up the clone army. Lucas doesn't even TRY to offer an alternative explanation. After all, who takes delivery of the clone army? Yoda!

When does he take delivery? Before he goes and orders all the Jedi into a suicide charge that kills 2/3 of them. He conveniently arrives with the clones JUST in time for that slaughter to be almost done.

Are you freaking kidding me? You noticed none of that? Yoda "dies" conveniently at the very instant when his dupe, poor Luke, is ready to look him in the eye and demand answers? W... T... F?

See this explored in more detail in Star Wars on Trial. I am giving you the tip of the iceberg, here.

The challenge stands. ONE genuinely wise and helpful thing that the little monster says. One. One. Offer up one.

Instead you have shit like "there is no try." Ooooooooooog
== a better Jedi ==

 Ursula LeGuin is deservedly praised as a giant of American letters. I also learned important things when I took a class from her, in grad school.  I am glad she has been receiving waves of commendation and recognition, almost-annually, all across the 21st Century. (See her latest: The Complete Orsinia.) 

Still, LeGuin also represents the purest archetype of a literary maven who was given everything by science fiction – the liberty to express and develop a vast range of notions, ideas and thought experiments – and who was treated with respect by her SF peers and readers long, long before any discovery by the doyens of erudition... who has thereupon taken relentless pains to kick aside and spurn her first and most-generous love. From The New York Times: Le Guin has earned a rare honor. Just don't call her a Sci Fi writer. 
Oh, it is a fairly typical pattern. Kurt Vonnegut did it, as has Margaret Atwood, though both amended their disparagements at times, when brain and blood surged with that rare but precious trait called gratitude.  Heck, even Harlan Ellison gave in to the temptation, across a stretch of years when sycophants did what sycophants do – urging him to drop the pejoratively “career harmful” Science Fiction label. A harm that only happens because so many titans of exploratory fiction listened to the devil on their shoulders.
Fortunately, that era is passing. The best and brightest of a new generation – e.g. Paolo Bacigalupi, Michael Chabon, and Neil Gaiman  -- want no part of nasty ingratitude.  All refuse every invitation to re-name their writings “magic realism” or any other shill-concoction. They openly and proudly say: “I write science fiction; live with it.”  And the effects are starting to show.
Oh, it is still a very rare university lit or English department that promotes its science fiction lecturer with tenure. Hatred of SF – ironically the boldest and most-American of all genres – is still bilious and venom-drenched in those sections of campus.  But in New York literary circles, there’s been real movement. 

For example, The Atlantic, New Yorker and Harpers used to trade off a cycle of running hit pieces, savagely dissing SF, every 5 years or so. That cycle is shattered now, replaced by excellent survey articles by very with-it reviewers, every year.   

In other words, there is no longer even a fig leaf reason to perform rituals of churlish ingratitude toward the audacious genre of Mary Shelley, H.G. Wells, Huxley, Butler and Kress.
It’s a habit. And it is never too late to outgrow such childish things.
...At the HIGH end!... 
Seth Rogen and partners are preparing a pilot for a TV series about… the Singularity.  Got some funny ideas on that.
Hip-hop scifi? Gift of Gab and Blackalicious, especially their excellent pop-rap song “Powers,” which is joyful and stunningly original. Follow Gift of Gab over to The Mighty Underdogs doing “Droppin’ Science Fiction!” Sci-fi rap!  Seriously!
Let’s add to my list of sci fi comics Star Power, which appears to have a more uplifting motif and sensibility. The sort of attitude we need more of, these days. 

... and finally... yes... the crazy (political) year...

Hillary Clinton seems determined to obey advisers, who urge her to fight Donald Trump using political "Sumo"... grunting and shoving for margins of undecideds over this or that exchange of insults or tax returns.  It is a bloody awful mistake.  

Oh sure... fight those fights.  But only doing that is exactly why Tim Kaine did badly, last week. What would work better is Judo!

I've offered riff after riff that could be effective.  But all of them depend on HC wanting to win the OVERALL election. Which means taking back what was once the greatest deliberative body on the planet from monsters who have turned the U.S. Congress into the laziest, most dogmatic and worthless in US history.  

What? Does she want to accomplish anything? Or is she content to commence 4 years of pure hell, the moment she enters office?

In the first debate, she used the word "Republican" just once! Coached to try to win over marginal republicans, she has played nice to a party that has become a travesty. How about actually taking this seriously?

-  Cite Reagan!  He famously said "The Democratic Party left me." Brilliant.  So USE THAT! Say "the Republican Party has left you, abandoned you to cozy up to oligarchs and ONLY oligarchs."

- Point out that no GOP leader between Reagan and Ryan was even mentioned during the recent RNC.*  Bush, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Hastert, Ailes... a long list of which the party is clearly ashamed, helping propel the Trump insurrection. And do not be afraid to mention the Bushes. You do not need their "support."

- Use the word LAZY to describe a Congress that almost never meets, passes no budgets, hates science, and avoids hearings about things that matter.  Lazy goes straight to character, bypassing typical divides. And it applies to republicans.

- Demand Trump appoint 5 distinguished conservatives to a commission to (1) check on accusations of election cheating AND (2) to supervise a trusted fact-checking service. With 5 democrats and 5 appointed by (say) Sandra Day O'Conner. Demand he name these sages THIS WEEK!  Or else admit he was bluffing.

- Lots of republicans dismiss Trump as a temporary disease-aberration. He is a symptom. Portray him as the natal outcome of Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes's takeover of US conservatism.

- Most metrics of US national health do far better across democratic administrations, even military readiness and the curve of change in deficits, which accelerate under republicans and slow down under democrats. And we'd be father along if the GOP congresses had passed the damn infrastructure bill.  Folks can understand this. 

- List the professions that Fox & pals attack! Not just science, teaching, journalism, medicine, economics… but all of them. Dare DT to name an exception.

Enough.  I got a million of them. But she's not reading this.  Nor are any of her stodgy, unimaginative and dismally-sumo-obsessed advisers.  All we can do is hope for the best.

* Okay, Newt Gingrich got some time at the RNC. But think that one through. . . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and (site feed URL:

This Really Happened

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Sat, 10/08/2016 - 10:15
Tried to write a post about the latest about Trump and what came out was GWAAAAAAARRRRRRGBLEWAAARGBLE, so maybe I'll come back to it later. — John Scalzi (@scalzi) October 8, 2016 As you might suspect I have a whole bunch of thoughts on the matter, but I’m at NYCC and my brain is still defrying […]

My Annual Unsolicited Endorsement of WordPress VIP

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Fri, 10/07/2016 - 09:01
Eight years ago tomorrow I transferred the Whatever over to the WordPress VIP service because before that I was having weird outages and glitches and basically all sorts of headaches trying to keep the blog running as it had gotten more popular. Once I switched over, nearly all those problems and glitches just… went away. […]

View From a Hotel Room, 10/6/16: New York

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Thu, 10/06/2016 - 14:18
It’s a very New York view, I have to say. Also: Hello, New Yorkians, I am among you through Monday. You will be most able to find me at New York Comic Con, where I am signing books and posters and hanging out on panels, and otherwise lurking about. And now that I have my […]

Politics not as usual - the crazy preference for "divided government"

Contrary Brin - Thu, 10/06/2016 - 12:58
Median income in the U.S. rose at its fastest rate last year while inequality shrank. What’s more, the income gains were larger for the poor and middle-class than for the wealthy, thus cutting into inequality. In addition, the poverty rate fell by 1.2 percentage points, the steepest decline since 1968. There were 43.1 million Americans in poverty this year, 3.5 million fewer than in 2014. The share of Americans who lack health insurance continued a years-long decline, falling 1.3 percentage points, to 9.1 percent.

This anchors in what has been utterly universal. Every major metric of U.S. national health improves across the span of democratic administrations. and almost all decline across Republican ones. Across the board, including deficits! Anyone who cares about actual outcomes would never trust the GOP with a burnt match.

Especially since this rapid rise should have happened 4+ years ago, had the GOP-run Congress passed the Infrastructure Bill, repairing our corroding bridges and roads, injecting high velocity cash into our sluggish money supply. (Supply Side tax cuts for the rich have only inflated asset bubbles while widening disparity, actually slowing money velocity.)

In fact, it is less the federal-level democrats than state level ones who should brag. Stymied by Congressional GOP blockage, blue states have been doing Keynsian stimulus and infrastructure investing - and it's working, as they surge in every way ahead of red states like Kansas, which keep doubling-down on Supply Side voodoo. This answers the key question posed by the CSMonitor article, as to why rural folk are lagging.

Seriously, compare outcomes! That is what they never, ever want you to do - the incantation-pushers at Fox and Breitbart. It is why they wage war on every knowledge and fact based profession. (Name an exception.) Especially science. It's why fact-checking their candidates feels so futile. Nevertheless, see my analysis of: Fact-checking the First Presidential Debate.

== Let's Bribe Trump to release his taxes! ==

A 26 year old Marine Corps veteran started a campaign on CrowdPac to raise money - to be donated to ten veteran's groups - if Trump releases his tax returns by the final debate on Oct. 19. Entrepreneur Reid Hoffman (co-founder of LinkedIn) made a $5 million matching pledge, bringing the total over $6 million for this CrowdPac campaign. This is an excellent example of citizen involvement. Wage this phase of our Civil War with wagers!

Demand they back up the spectacularly, actinically insane things they assert and believe - from 'Obama's a Kenyan Muslim' to 'no climate change' to 'the GOP is fiscally responsible and governs well' - and put money on it! Find a trustworthy person to hold the stakes. Watch how they run, change the subject, and scurry back to the Fox-Nuremberg rallies.

== Making a statement with your Halloween costume! No words needed. ==

Here’s your obvious Halloween costume! A blue Civil War kepi hat would make a statement clearly, without having to say much at all. That you are on the side of the United States of America - a scientific, advanced, inventive, dynamic nation that believes in education and that’s always trying to move forward to correct even its own injustices - against a confederate fever that keeps frothing hate across our table, about once per generation. Order now! And wear it across Halloween and till the election. Available this year cheap!

Think it can’t be cool?  See the kepi worn by Spike Lee It don’t get cooler.
Warning.  Early purchasers will get the current, cheap prices. When the tsunami of orders hits, expect it to go up!== Worst Congress in US History: Hint - it's the party ==
Oh, but let's get back to Americans' least favorite institution. After years of scaffolding and refurbishment, the US Capitol has been returned to its former glory. If only they could do the same to Congress. The Congress that broke all records for laziness, shattering the previous records held by every GOP led session since 1998, just finished its longest recess in U.S. history, to return to pass a year-delayed Zika Bill and yet another emergency 3 month funding bill, because it has not been able to do a simple budget since 2010, when the Republicans took over.

“Americans are worried and angry about the big issues: stagnant wages, immigration, trade deals, health care, entitlement programs, the tax code, the Zika virus, tainted drinking water. Yet the best Congress can do for the moment is to keep the government running on autopilot for a few more months, and even this isn’t guaranteed,” writes Dana Milbank in The Washington Post.

As House Democrats point out, 195 of the 219 ‘bills’ that Paul Ryan’s House brags of having passed have been minor “suspension” bills, such as post-office namings. That's 195 out of 219.

Seriously, you think cynicism and pessimism and dismissing Congress as an “institution” and a “corrupt political caste” will get you off the hook? Bull. It is not the institution but the drooling insane party that has gerrymandered its way into control over what was once the greatest deliberative body on the planet. 

In California, the other party only loosely guides its majority, who argue openly like adults, listening to business and community leaders about what needs to be done. Individual legislators negotiate in almost perfect transparency… and laws adapting to the 21st Century get passed… and constituents discuss pending bills and grownup POLITICS happens!

Republicans used to do this, back in even Gingrich’s day. Before a merely conservative party went stark, jibbering insane. You conservatives, know that Trump is not a disease but a symptom. You will only regain a sane conservatism by understanding a word. "Cauterize." Better yet... immolate and hope for a phoenix.

== Libertarians rise? ==

Straight from the old heart of the Confederacy: The Richmond Virginia Times-Dispatch dumps Trump and endorses Gary Johnson for president. And yes, I forecast that there would be a rush by “quasi-sane” American conservatives to the Libertarian Party candidate, perhaps even enough to get him on the coming presidential debates. At which point the bleed could become a gusher.
Clinton is not eager for all this, because she knows Johnson would bleed her a bit, too… and open a possible door for lefty-green Jill Stein. (I think she’s being shortsighted; getting ten million saner republicans to shift to the Libertarian Party could help us all.) But let’s keep it all in context. With Virginia turning blue, Richmond is no longer Jefferson Davis’s town. The re-ignited confederacy treason, sparked deliberately by Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes and their pals, is aflame mostly elsewhere, in states that did not invest in education.
The Libertarians have some ideas and promise. Mostly pro-transparency and leaving peoples’ bodies to themselves. But their current cult of “government = always bad!” is lunacy contradicted by all of American history. Our parents in the Greatest Generation would have been appalled. Half of our current wealth we owe to sci & tech advances, many of which emerged from taxpayer funding of R&D. From the 1790’s National Road to rails to highways and airways, from space to the web, government infrastructure investments were crucial every decade... till the last two. When fanatical GOP Congresses ended a two hundred year partnership of public and private.
== The fallback of sane Republicans: divided government!”
What's John McCain's re-election slogan now? "Elect me in order to put a 'check' on President Hillary!" Wow what a mantra. Of course it is based on the Fox-ite litany that divided government is best. Which they never said back when the GOP controlled every branch and lever of government from 2001-2007, setting a record for laziness that only the recent Boehner-Ryan congresses have matched. No attention to the people's business, not even funding to fight Zika. No adjustments to fit an onrushing 21st Century. Just favors for the oligarchy.
Oh, it was not for lack of determination or focus. For 25 years the GOP was the most disciplined and tightly run partisan group in American history. Every Republican pol repeated any talking point issued by Roger Ailes, within 24 hours. But that focus, that discipline was aimed at doing nothing. Not even passing a budget on time. Even once. Ever.
The incantation that "gridlock is good" is stunning drivel. Despite recent excellent economic news, the overall pace of this recovery, from the pit we fell into during the last Bush years, has been way too slow. Why? According to a deep and extensive study that weighed many factors for cause and effect: "As the U.S. economy enters its eighth year of its recovery from the Great Recession, one major factor is slowing its growth: Government gridlock." 

What can we expect if the Democrats take Congress? Reiterating a point that deserves it: just look at California, where the prospect of a 2/3 Democratic Assembly and Senate triggered screaming forecasts of instant communist dystopic hell. Except those Democrats did as Dems always do in power – they separated into individual legislators, negotiating pragmatically. And, to everyone’s surprise, the GOP minority became both moderate and influential!  Tipping the balance between DP factions. And California state government has been – without question – the most effective in the United States at responding to citizen concerns while adapting to an ever-changing 21st Century.
Yet even as the Republican intelligencia fleeing their toxic candidate, with many of them stepping up to support H. Clinton, because “at least she’s knowledgeable, moderate and stable,” some are repeating the mantra... "elect her to avoid Trump, but keep Congress red, so we can make her life a living hell, and make sure nothing at all gets done."
No, the issue is not divided vs. undivided. It is whether to trust a party with zero positive accomplishments and mountains of negative ones, ever again.
At the recent National Security Forum, Trump again expressed his admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin. Stop blaming Donald Trump for embracing things like the cult of Putin-worship that have been spread by Sean Hannity, O'Reilly, Limbaugh and the confederate media for years. Agin and again: Trump is not the disease. He is a symptom.

In relation of: In his "charity" foundation, Donald Trump became expert at one thing. He found a way to give away somebody else's money and claim the credit for himself.

Meet Rebekah Mercer, the powerful hedge fund heiress who is now the money-mogul appointing almost every top official in the Donald Trump campaign, replacing the Koch Brothers and Sheldon Adelson as the top GOP feudal patron.

== Finally ... but most important... SCIENCE! ==

Lawrence Krauss and his colleagues at ScienceDebate, supported by nearly every major science organization in the country, have spent two decades heroically asking political candidates to answer a series of questions about science and technology policy, in recognition of the fact that these matters will ultimately present the most important challenges to the next President. 
After getting predictably detailed -- somewhat wonkish, but scientifically enthusiastic -- answers from the Clinton campaign, and predictably lefty answers from Jill Stein, Donald Trump’s campaign finally sent in his answers. They were released on the Science Debate Web site.
Krauss makes no bones about his own reactions, which he lays out in the New Yorker. But then, if there were no other loathsome traits to the re-ignited Confederacy, their incessant and volcanic War on Science, in enough of a lethal threat to our children that nothing else would be needed.  It is the marrow deep cancer that decent American conservatives must burn out of their movement, if it is to survive. 
Last minute item.  You think those talking about a "war on science" are exaggerating? Have another look at the biliously anti-science House GOP.  Again and again and again.... this is not about Donald Trump. He is not a disease.  He's a symptom.
. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and (site feed URL:

The Collapsing Empire: Done!

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Wed, 10/05/2016 - 15:37
Finished literally ten minutes ago. So there’s that one more done. I’ll have more to say about it sometime soon, but I wrote 7,500 words in the last 24 hours and my brain is scrambled and I still have to get ready for NYCC, to which I am traveling tomorrow. But I will say this […]

The Big Idea: Daniel Polansky

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Wed, 10/05/2016 - 08:24
In the writing of A City Dreaming, author Daniel Polansky learned that staying in one place doesn’t necessarily mean settling into a rut. What did this mean for his novel of New York? Read on. DANIEL POLANSKY:  I moved to New York in 2013, after years of aimless wandering. Melancholic by nature, I feared waking […]

Sci Fi Invades Reality

Contrary Brin - Tue, 10/04/2016 - 11:37
Announcement for today only!   Insistence of Vision -- is today's Nook Daily Find!
Today only, the ebook for my third (and best) story collection is discounted to $1.99 for both Nook  and Kindle. That's today only, and wow, will this make your e-reader (and you) really happy.
Okay, I've been video'd a bit, lately. For example, the “Neo” Project aims to create a vividly beautiful film, combining science and art to offer up something almost totally missing from our world discourse about the future — optimism. Their initial teaser-trailerfeatures some of my blather. But the stars of this show are vivid imagery and remarkable sound editing. I don’t claim to know very much about where the project goes next, but it’s off to a great start! Neo is sponsored in part by Humanity+ and the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies.
In honor of the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, I earlier offered up this posting: To Boldly Go: Star Trek at Fifty.  The Verge site, cribbed from it along with another baker’s dozen in “13 Science Fiction authors on how Star Trek influenced their lives.”

In this lavish and vivid short video (from X Prize Foundation)– with many sci fi flick-snippets in the background – I talk about why so many (not all) sci fi dystopias are turgid and lazy.
Elsewhere I offer a much more extended riff explaining why so many films and books slothfully assume the worst. It doesn't have to be this way! With a little work and creativity, a director and /or author can keep her protagonist in delightful jeopardy without insultingly assuming that all our institutions are automatically crap and all or neighbors sheep. 

Also... be sure to watch the episode Is Privacy Dead? of "Morgan Freeman's Through the Wormhole" discussing privacy in the future.  It's well-done and provocative... and I blather last.
== Sci Fi invades reality ==
Consider seven ways Science fiction predicted the future.  A short list and some are better than others. But he does list John Brunner’s classic 1968 novel Stand on Zanzibar which forecast in 2010 a “President Obomi.” And see the innovations predicted by the visionary H.G. Wells, born 150 years ago.
An AI-made trailer: Fox Pictures asked IBM to set its brainiac series of computers – Watson – onto an artistic task – make a trailer for the new SciFi - horror flick “Morgan.” You can view the results. Coincidentally, I’ll be co-keynoting IBM’s big World of Watson convention in Las Vegas, October 26. 
My colleague author Hannu Rajaniemi (author of The Quantum Thief) is using brain scans to let the emotions of readers decide which way a story goes next.   Volunteers don the Epoc neural sensing headset, then read the story of Snow White, and the story would branch and change in different ways, depending on whether the volunteer showed more affinity for ‘life’ or ‘death’ imagery.  Rajaniemi comments, “I’m actually planning a near future, very biotech-driven story, focusing more on the unpredictable side effects of all these technologies.”  
People who read books lived an average of 23 months longerthan those who did not. That makes me your Doctor....  you're welcome.  And I further prescribe...
Amid the hoorow over possible (even likely) foreign interference in the U.S. elections, plus ‘bromance’ connections between one of the major U.S. nominees and a major eastern leader… have a chilling look at this! It is like an out-take from The Cool War – one of the creepiest of the great novels by Frederik Pohl.
The “Gerasimov doctrine,” formulated by Russian Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov in 2013, proposes that modern conflicts are waged and won not with guns as much as through dirty tricks. This 'hybrid warfare' aims to destabilize the opponent's political system in order to weaken the enemy.   In The Cool War, adversaries who don’t dare risk open warfare engage in tit-for-tat , deniable sabotage… Oh, note, I have a character named Gerasimov, in Existence.   
== Science Fiction Book Roundup ==
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Normal 0 false false false EN-US JA X-NONE /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:Cambria; mso-ascii-font-family:Cambria; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Cambria; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-fareast-language:JA;}  Blue Remembered Earth, by Alastair Reynolds, offers a near-utopia set in a post-catastrophe future where Africa has become the reigning economic, political and technological superpower. Humans have established thriving colonies from the moon to Mars and Titan. An omnipresent surveillance system, the Mechanism, maintains peace throughout the system. The story follows the descendants of Eunice Akinya, who established a sprawling family mining empire that stretches to the asteroid and Kuiper belts. After her death, a historic artifact discovered on Luna sets Eunice’s grandchildren off on a journey through the solar system in search of answers that could affect the destiny of humanity. Reynolds, former scientist at the ESA, presents a believable vision for a future forged in space.
I keep an eye open for semi-pro works that rise above that level, and are worth noting.  Mother Moon, by Bob Goddard, doesn’t set the planet ablaze with style or characters or action… but it does relate a story you can care about, with some interesting ideas. About 250 scientists and engineers at an international lunar base use advanced, late-21st Century tech to exploit buried ice at the moon’s south pole, when word comes that a comet is streaking toward the Earth.  They must at-minimum race to become self-sufficient, since it might take a long time for Earth to recover launch capability. In an interesting device, Goddard alternates scenes set in 1504 aboard a sailing ship whose hometown is being persecuted by an inquisition.  All becomes clear.

With her novella, Murder in the Generative Kitchen, new author Meg Pontecorvo cooks up and dishes out for you not one, not two, but three original sci fi premises. Enjoy and digest them well.

A fun book for Young Adult readers: Mad Science Institute, by Sechin Tower, offers up a teenage girl genius who loves inventing robots and electronic devices. But Sophia “Soap” Lazarcheck’s science projects have a way of going awry, setting off frequent explosions and the occasional fire. When she is admitted into the secretive Mechanical Science Institute (founded by Nikola Tesla), she uncovers a conspiracy of evildoers who want to subvert the institute’s science advances for nefarious purposes. Sophia teams up with her older cousin, Dean, to unravel these mysteries and prevent an imminent doomsday. For more YA, see my extensive list of suggested SF books for young adult readers. 

Teachers and parents! See a Science Fiction anthology for middle grade readers. Bring the stars to a new generation with diversity, representation & great stories!  SFWA has named the 2017 Young Explorer's Adventure Guide  anthology as a STAR project.  A followup to the successful 2016 Young Explorer's Adventure Guide.
Great news.  At long last, the audiobook for my second short story collection, Otherness, is now available at - including The Giving Plague, Dr. Pak's Preschool, Detritus Affected, and more..... I worked pretty closely with the reader, veteran Hollywood actor Stephen Mendel and I can tell you, this is what you want for your commute, or those long sessions on the elliptical! Why not make your commute interstellar and your strides take you across fate and time?
== SF Announcements ==
The Raw Science Film Festival is open for submission! The festival honors films on science and technology worldwide. The film festival partners are Explore MarsSpace Tourism Society Canada, and the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination. Categories include fiction and non-fiction for both students and professionals. Cash prizes are awarded. Animations and infographics are welcomed. The film screening and awards ceremony takes place on Saturday, December 10, 2016 on the Fox Studios lot inside the historic Zanuck Theater. The deadline for film festival submission is November 9, 2016. Raw Science Film Festival proudly accepts entries via, the world’s best online submission platform. FilmFreeway offers free HD online screeners, unlimited video storage, digital press kits, and more.  
The 2017 Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers' Workshop will be held June 25 - August 5, 2017 on the campus of UC San Diego. 2017 Clarion instructors will be Nalo Hopkinson, Cory Doctorow, Dan Chaon, Lynda Barry, Andrea Hairston, C.C. Finlay, & Rae Carson. See bios at the Clarion site Established in 1968, the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers' Workshop is the oldest workshop of its kind and is widely recognized as a premier proving and training ground for aspiring writers of fantasy and science fiction. The list of distinguished Clarion alumni includes Ed Bryant, Octavia Butler, Bob Crais, Cory Doctorow, George Alec Effinger, Nalo Hopkinson, James Patrick Kelly, Vonda McIntyre, Kim Stanley Robinson, Martha Soukup, Kelly Link, Bruce Sterling, and many others. 
Downloadable Weird Tales! And much more if you follow the embedded links ... and much, MUCH more if you follow the sidebar links.
. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and (site feed URL:

The Dispatcher: Now Out for Free on Audible + NYCC Signings and Appearances

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 10/04/2016 - 08:53
Today’s the day: The Dispatcher, my audiobook novella, is out and exclusively available on, for free through November 2. It’s read by Zachary Quinto, who you know from the new Star Trek films as Spock and from Heroes as Sylar, and he is simply a terrific narrator for the story. And what’s the story? […]

Homecoming 2016

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Sun, 10/02/2016 - 21:36
Athena’s final high school homecoming was last night, so of course I had to go and take pictures of Athena and Hunter, and their friends Kaycie and Jose, before they headed out for the evening. If you’re of a mind to peruse the photos, they’re in a Flickr photoset here. Enjoy!

Our phenomenal (recent) accomplishments in space

Contrary Brin - Sat, 10/01/2016 - 16:33
I am trying... hard ... to keep politics down to half of my postings (or so) and not on weekends!  And hence... something to remind you what a great civilization you are proud of!  Do not let the gloom merchants poison your mood.

After a successful launch, the OSIRIS-REx mission sets off to explore and bring back samples from asteroid Bennu, whose size, orbit and possible carbonaceous makeup suggest real potential for riches... and if that dream comes true, then we can stop digging into Mother Earth. Fly well, Osiris-Rex!
Layered buttes on Mars / NASA Curiosity Wonderful latest images from our hardworking, loyal robot on Mars. The Curiosity rover recently sent back stunning detailed photos of jagged finely layered buttes in the Mount Sharp region. And they are beauts! (pictured to right).

A very cool (get it?) summary of mysteries revealed about Pluto-Charon by the New Horizons probe.   
A rare double eclipse: Kewl! NASA’S Solar Dynamics Observatory caught BOTH the Earth and the moon crossing the sun
The U.S. government has approved Florida-based Moon Express for a planned 2017 robotic lunar landing, hoping eventually to exploit its resources. And  I am rooting for em!  Though I am deeply skeptical – I see no evidence for anything usefully available from the bottom of the Lunar gravity well, in the immediate time horizon. (I much prefer what NASA and planetary scientists, industrial investors and this administration see as an obviously better prospect: asteroids.) But go ahead guys!  Prove me wrong.
NASA's Solar Probe Plus mission is moving ahead with its daring 2018 launch to study the sun's super-heated atmosphere. Now of course I have mixed feelings. First, I’m certainly glad to see this daring voyage-endeavor which, it turns out, will require seven Venus flyby maneuvers in order to get into a near solar trajectory. (Do not imagine heading toward the inner solar system, to be ‘easy because it’s downhill.’ It is excruciatingly difficult, dynamically. Much harder than - say - going to Mars.)
Still, one of the competing groups had enlisted me on its board of advisers - as both a planetary scientist who used to do solar astronomy and later a member of NIAC.  But also, I suppose, because they had planned to name their mission Project Sundiver, letting me serve as mascot.  Ah well.  I suppose the JHUAPL guys had a better mission plan. Good luck sundivers!

For up to two billion years, some investigators believe, Venus may have been a hospitable place for life. “Venus receives 40% more heat and light than Earth does. At first, that wasn’t a problem since the sun was 30% dimmer in the early days of the solar system, but its brightness—and heat—increased over time… if Venus ever had plate tectonics, the process would have begun grinding to a halt, due at least in part to the lack of water to keep the upper mantle viscous. Without tectonics, carbon in the atmosphere can’t be recirculated underground, worsening greenhouse conditions.” 
Channels on Titan/ NASA CassiniNASA's Cassini spacecraft has probed the surface of Titan with microwaves, providing evidence of liquid hydrocarbon-filled channels and rivers on Titan.  Stunning!  This is where I'd go.
Some astronomers think that the oddly-extended and somewhat retrograde orbits of a small class of trans Neptunian objects amount to a ‘treasure’ map that will let them pinpoint and spot “Planet Nine.”It used to be Planet X, when “X” could also stand for Ten.  There have been a lot of wild goose chases in the search for new planets.
Read how sun watchers stopped World War III in 1967. Yep!  Solar astronomers save the world! BTW... I was the first to spot the Great Flare of 1972! That one, too, could have caused a war, but for solar astronomers. Learn about flares & such in… SUNDIVER!
A new study shows another unique connection between Jupiter and its innermost large moon Io: In addition to its raging sulfur volcanoes and sputtering ionic radiation storms, Io's atmosphere collapses every time it passes into Jupiter's shadow, and scientists just watched it happen for the first time. The newly arrived JUNO mission should be spectacular.  

Oh, did I mention that you are a member of a civilization that does stuff like this?  Shame on you for buying into the gloom! Statistics refute almost every negative thing that politicians and media are saying about this society and era. Do not let gloom merchants get (or stay) in power! And change channels.

On the other hand... we do need to be prepared...
== Space Tech ==
Orbital targets for hackers? Satellites are at significant risk of cyber-attacks, by individuals or state-sponsored terrorists. These vulnerabilities could interrupt communications, defense, weather monitoring and navigation. 

China confirms that its Space Station Tiangong-1 will fall to Earth sometime in 2017. Heads up.

A 'space train' concept that can get to Mars in two days? There are too many awful-dumb things about this article to even begin commenting on… and I hope it is the reporter’s fault.  Because the underlying concept – having a space station that transit loops from Earth to Mars and back again – is actually a pretty good one.  Trajectory options are very very very limited but possible and alluring, allowing passengers to torch their rendezvous with this space liner in teensy capsules. Only there’s no going into “orbit” at either planet. That… defeats… the… whole… notion.
Lockheed SkyFire CubesatIn 2018 the much maligned NASA Space Launch System will finally take off, delivering a test (unmanned) Orion capsule to lunar orbit and back, paving the way (one hopes) for an efficient dawn of the asteroid exploration (then mining) era.   Along the way, the Orion adaptor ring will deliver to lunar orbit 13 cube-sat  mini-satellites, opening a bold new era for miniaturized exploration, available to a far wider scientific and technical community.  Lockheed Martin announced a few details of its 6U CubeSat,called SkyFire. Lockheed's payload will capture high-quality images of the Moon. And in exchange for the ride into deep space, NASA will receive data from the mission. 

To be clear, I oppose the US taxpayers funding any near-term return to the (probably) sterile-useless lunar surface - for the time being.  But lunar orbit is extremely valuable! A space station there could do our asteroid mining experiments safely.  And that station could provide services to the European, Russian, Chinese, and billionaire-private efforts at landing on the moon. Charge the fools... I mean copycats... I mean brave explorers a nice fee.
Ever since the Obama Administration opened up launch services to competition, the United Launch Alliance’s monopoly on U.S. military and intelligence cargoes has been under threat, with Elon Musk’s SpaceX offering bids up to 75% discounted from ULA’s normal price. Oh but let's get those problems solved. Interesting times.
Aquila is Facebook’s solar-powered airplane designed to stay aloft weeks at a time and beam internet to remote parts of the world.
== Comets, Asteroids and more ==  Terrific! Hubble before and after images of Comet 332P breaking apart.

E-Glider concept, JPLThis promising concept from JPL: an E-Glider, or electrostatic glider that could maneuver around asteroids without expending fuel, in the electrically charged environment around an asteroid. Further research has been funded by NASA NIAC, where I'm on the advisory council.

NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM)  will demonstrate advanced, high-power, high-throughput solar electric propulsion; advanced autonomous high-speed proximity operations at a low-gravity planetary body.  Exactly what we should be trying to do. 
Rosetta’s mission to Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko finally spotted the lost Philae lander. Pretty amazing photos reveal the lander tumbled on its side in a shadowed crevice, a fate long suspected suspected since it ran out of solar power soon after touch-down… or bounce-down. Ah well.  A lot of science got done anyway, verifying much of my doctoral thesis. (And some bits from Heart of the Comet!)  Thanks Europe!  Now onward into space!

And Rosetta's mission recently came to an end. After twelve years in space, and two years flying around Comet 67P, the orbiter crash took a final dive onto the surface of the comet on September 30.  Adieu, Rosetta! Mission Accomplished.
Like most sun-grazing comets, this comet was torn apart and vaporized by the intense forces near the sun.
Images from the Dawn mission provided evidence for a “fairly recent” salty water/mud volcano on Ceres. 
== Outside the Solar System ==
Interesting item. My comrade Stephen Baxter’s 2013 novel PROXIMA seems to have predicted almost every aspect of the newly discovered earthlike planet “Proxima b” orbiting our neighboring star, Proxima Centauri!  Lee Billings' writeup in Scientific American offers you a generous excerpt!  The James Webb space telescope, scheduled for launch in 2018, may provide more information. 
The mysterious dimming of “Tabby’s Star” – both periodic and secular, perhaps across the last 100 years – has both amateur and professional astronomers peering at old photographic plates and new Kepler data to seek possible explanations.  And yes, “alien constructions” are still on the table!  Though you have to make some assumptions…
Biggest galactic map may throw light on the nature of 'dark energy,' -- and fascinating echoes of the formation of our universe of galaxies with hints at the behavior of both dark matter and dark energy. All from the biggest and most detailed galactic mapping, ever.
The Future First series of brief online tech-shows is a credit to Popular Science, well edited, informative and on target. This one — “Where are all the aliens?” — starts with my description of the Fermi Paradox or SETI Question, then segues to Jason Crusan, director of NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems. Such cogency, charisma and… science!
Directed Energy Comms and SETI/METI: UC Santa Barbara physics professor Philip Lubin — "The Search for Directed Intelligence" appears in the journal REACH - Lubin is a scientific advisor on Milner's Breakthrough Starshot, which is using his NASA research as a roadmap as it seeks to send tiny spacecraft to nearby star systems. 

Of course mysteries remain... as explained in The Unknown Universe: A New Exploration of Time, Space and Modern Cosmology, by Stuart Clark. A look at how the latest discoveries are shedding light on the formation and evolution of the universe.
Send a fingernail sized digital archive containing human knowledge. Profs. Lubin and Bradshears, in this (unsuccessful) Kickstarter campaign, aim to create the world's first "Space Time Capsule" - a Humanity Chip, a custom semiconductor memory device that can be attached to the small, wafer-scale spacecraft that are part of DEEP-IN and other directed-energy concepts. This chip will contain volumes of data, including tweets, media files, and even the digital DNA records of all those who want to take part in the mission.

There, that was a lotta space stuff!  It oughta hold you across the weekend. And maybe convince you to tell every single grouch out there... and they are rife in the FAR left and the ENTIRE right... to get bent!  There is zero justification for gloom!  Every bad thing you hear is either exaggeration or else reason to step up in confident problem solving mode.

Because we are mighty beings, citizens of a spectacular civilization that can do a lot!  And the gloom merchants can go to hell.
. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and (site feed URL:

New Books and ARCs, 9/30/16

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Fri, 09/30/2016 - 16:24
It’s our last stack of new books and ARCs for the month of September, and it’s a very fine one, I have to say. What here looks good to you? Tell me in the comments!
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