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Whatever Holiday Shopping Guide 2016 Starts Monday!

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Fri, 11/25/2016 - 16:26
Every year as the holiday season begins I run a shopping guide for the holidays, and over the years it’s been quite successful: Lots of people have found out about excellent books and crafts and charities and what have you, making for excellent gift-giving opportunities during the holiday season. I’ve decided to do it again this […]

Thanksgiving, 2016

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Thu, 11/24/2016 - 12:53
Putting these here for permanence. A list of things I am thankful for, in no particular order, follows this tweet. — John Scalzi (@scalzi) November 24, 2016 1. I am thankful for my wife Kristine, without whom I would likely be sitting alone in a one-room apartment, ordering pizza. — John Scalzi (@scalzi) November 24, […]

Science marches on.... mostly good medical news.

Contrary Brin - Wed, 11/23/2016 - 20:35
Girding myself for the long-haul, I will try to punctuate political missives with reminders that we are a scientific civilization, still. And that the whole American Experiment has been about moving forward mostly ourselves.  And hence, getting across this week...
== Medical advances ==
A 25-year-old student has just come up with a way to fight drug-resistant superbugs using a star-shaped polymer that can kill six different superbug strains without antibiotics, simply by ripping apart their cell walls.  
In the most finely-parsed brain mapping to date, researchers put a donor brain through MRI and diffusion tensor imaging and then sliced it up by specific regions. The end result is a map of 862 annotated structures at a resolution of roughly a hundredth the width of a human hair.  

A low oxygen environment may help stimulate heart regeneration in mice.
Larry Brilliant’s new book, autobiographical on a most-interesting life (!) is now available. Sometimes Brilliant: The Impossible Adventure of a Spiritual Seeker and Visionary Physicist Who Helped Conquer the Worst Disease in History. Okay, if I had a name like that… 

Larry writes: “In the middle of the Cold War, Russians and Americans, Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists—people of all races and creeds—joined together to conquer the worst disease in history. I was living in a Himalayan monastery when my teacher, Neem Karoli Baba, sent me to be a foot soldier to help eradicate smallpox. I stayed in India for a decade. We did eradicate this terrible disease, and I saw the very last case of variola major.”  

IBM's Watson recommends the same cancer treatment as doctors 99% of the time, but offered options missed by doctors in 30% of cases.

Read about ProTactile ASL, a language for the DeafBlind that doesn't rely on sight or sound. 

Fighting against dengue and zika around the globe: a visual guide to modified mosquitos. 

== Forever young? ==

Rejuvenation? Oh, this is simultaneously hopeful and creepy — evidence that injecting young human blood into olderbodies does seem to offer powers of rejuvenation – even if those old bodies aren't human themselves. Researchers took blood samples from a group of healthy, young 18-year-old human participants and injected them into 12-month-old mice – late middle age in mice years, or the equivalent of being about 50 years old in human terms. And there were effects on memory and other functions, as if they had been made younger.
First, results in mice don’t always translate to humans, especially when it comes to matters of aging.  I explore why.
Second, the cheap sci fi movie plots spin out, in the mind.  One envisions a dystopian hell in which young people are hooked up to the vampiric rich — the flick becomes even more bankable because vampire flicks always correlate with Republican administrations. (During democratic administrations, it’s zombies, all the way down. I explain why, elsewhere.) 
A much better film would start with a reasonable premise… all young people are expected to donate blood at reasonable intervals — say the three month cycle that is how I got up to donating 84 pints. Only the schedule keeps getting tightened as kids get tired all the time. A more plausibly chilling hell.
Our Orwellian fear is that secretive elites will hoard and monopolize new technological powers and manipulate the state into protecting their monopoly. But technology often stymies this trend, by spreading more democratically, as happened with the supercomupters we carry in our pockets.  And hence, rejuventaion results have drawn focus on blood components that change with age, opening the possibility that some factors might be provided industrially, en masse, without having to clamp onto the veins of the young.
Oh and look up the good news about Aspirin, which just keeps coming. But update your notions of maximum dose for Tylenol. And don't mix it with Aspirin... which appears to be gaining cred as a wonder supplement.
== Curiosities ==
The ancient shipwreck at Antikythera has been enriching us with insights to the Roman era world for 100 years… including the wonder called the Antikythera Device.  Now, archaeologists have found a human skeleton which might reveal even more secrets… of… the… past!  
The world's deepest underwater cave in the Czech Republic - Hranická Propast - reaches a dizzying depth of 1,325 feet (404 meters).   This year’s Ig-Nobel Prizes for scientific studies that… well… some were foolish and others wise, but all make you smile.  

Don't swear at Siri: on average, ten to fifty percent of our interactions with our technological devices are abusive. And... .what are we going to say when our machines begin to ask why they're here?
Why does Elon name his sea and space ships after those in sci fi books? Why? Because he can!  

Okay, how'd that taste? The troglodytes have decided to grab our ankles, kicking and screaming how much they hate the future.  But we can keep moving forward, and take them - despite their howls - to Star Trek.                                . . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and (site feed URL:

How to Get Signed and Personalized Scalzi Books for the Holidays, 2016

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Wed, 11/23/2016 - 09:41
It’s that time of the year again, and once again I am teaming up with Jay & Mary’s Book Center, my local independent bookseller, to offer signed and personalized books for gift-giving. It’s a great way to get a unique gift for someone you love (even yourself!) while at the same time supporting a great […]

Dig the Cover to the French Edition of The End of All Things

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 11/22/2016 - 22:37
That’s pretty damn nifty, if I do say so myself. The art is by David Demaret, who has clearly read the book. If you read French, it’s coming out on the 23rd of February in 2017. Look for it then.

Now, a Scamperbeasts Break!

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 11/22/2016 - 19:10
Nothing like a pair of adorable sistercats to help you unwind after a long day. Enjoy, and have a good rest of your Tuesday.

Two Weeks In

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 11/22/2016 - 14:59
Two weeks since election day. Let’s get to it. Again, in the format of a Q and A, as this piece will contain questions I have been asked by others. Ready? Let’s begin. Fucking Nazis, man! That’s not really a question, though, is it. Where are these fucking Nazis coming from? If you mean the […]

New Books and ARCs, 11/21/16

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Mon, 11/21/2016 - 17:30
Time to catch up on the latest books and ARCs that have come to the Scalzi Compound! What in this stack looks particularly appealing to you? Tell us in the comments!

Print Version of The Dispatcher: Coming in May 2017

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Mon, 11/21/2016 - 11:41
For those of you hoping for a print edition of The Dispatcher, your hopes have been answered: Subterranean Press will be releasing its version in May 2017. In addition to standard trade hardcover and eBook editions, Subterranean is also offering a limited (400 copies), signed edition for collectors and especially fervent fans. You know who […]

Thoughts On My Trump-Era Novels

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Sun, 11/20/2016 - 15:22
I had someone ask me to what extent Trump et al is going to have an impact on my creative life, specifically my novels. It’s a question with no particularly easy answer, but let me try to tackle it. First and foremost, I can’t truly know because I don’t know what will happen in the […]

It Begins

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Sat, 11/19/2016 - 10:54
The first snow of the season. Well, first-ish, because it’s only sticking on my deck, and barely even there; the ground is still too warm for it to stick there for any amount of time, not least because it was 70 degrees yesterday around here. And the next ten days don’t have snow weather in […]

Might some Zillionaire save us? Electoral College gambits and smoking guns.

Contrary Brin - Fri, 11/18/2016 - 22:22
== Clutching at straws ==

Are any of you out there among the millions signing petitions and praying for salvation via the Electoral College? I’ll offer a cluster of slender straws for you to clutch, in a moment. But first:
Despite volcanic rhetoric, the U.S. is currently in pretty good shape, by most measures, despite having not had a functioning Congress for 20 out of the last 22 years. Lately, we’ve mostly been administered in benign ways, though with almost zero innovation at the national level.
A locked and frozen federal government has fulfilled one Libertarian dream: wildly varied experiments at the state level – from marijuana legalization and investment in science, infrastructure and education… all the way to gerrymandering, voter suppression, bathroom bills and supply side ‘economics’ hothouses like Kansas. Outcomes in most (not all) so-called blue states have ranged from solid to excellent, while most (not all) red states, like Kansas, have seen their lot decay. It's valid experimental data, if we'll look at it.
Out of all the post-mortems from the election (I’ll resume my series of appraisals, shortly), one that I never see mentioned is this distinction between a U.S. federal government that was mostly in caretaker status, under Barack Obama, and the states, where legislation and experimentation have surged.
I have my own impudent hypotheses for why our red-state neighbors feel such wrath. One is that they know they have been very badly governed! But they have been talked into – somewhat naturally – blaming a distant federal government that has done next-to nothing new or different since 2001. (Except Obamacare – which now seems likely to be amended, with many name changes, rather than discarded; go figure.) In fact, Congress has cut funds from the IRS, SEC and other agencies that fight white collar crime, so many of those investigations have shifted to the office of the Attorney General of New York.
It’s said that “all politics is local.” We have red states whose outcomes from radical policy have been stunningly bad, but where citizens would rather not blame their accustomed political party. Not quite yet. Not while there’s a convenient scapegoat further upstairs, in the White House.
(In a hopeful harbinger, the fed-up people of Kansas punished the GOP, this round, for running probably the worst state government in America. And the term “red state” applies to 33 out of 50, where the Republican governor and officials held sway over critical electoral infrastructure, like the voting machines.)
I guess we’ll see if the Confederacy can maintain this effective technique of delusion, as so many things go south, under Donald Trump.  Hope springs eternal… or at least for 2018.
And that brings us – as promised – the Electoral College and other ‘salvations.’
== Straw don’t float for long ==
Long ago I said Donald Trump would “veer to the center” after winning the GOP nomination -- not one of my shining predictive successes. Nor, it seems, will there be any center-ward pivot once he takes office. His parade of extremist appointees lacks even a token nod toward the majority of Americans who voted against him. And thus, I find a silver lining – schadenfreude – in the discomfiture of Glenn Beck, Megyn Kelly, and the Worst Man In America – George F. Will – who issued polysyllabic, grandiose denunciations that “Donald Trump is no Republican.” Silly shill. He's no Yale-Bushite, paying lip service to right wing radicalism. He's the real deal.
Legitimately fearful, many thousands have bent their efforts to petition drives, pleading with members of the Electoral College to cancel the calamity.  For Republican electors to switch their votes to Ms. Clinton. A fantasy made of pure fairy dust… though that has not kept some from harassing Arizona GOP electors, apparently. An unseemly and futile undertaking.
Last time, I linked to a different Electoral College Gambit… persuading enough electors to abstain, in order to: Force House Republicans to Elect Trump.” Paul Ryan’s majority-of-states there would then choose a Republican, and it likely would be Trump. Still, read the value in this alluring essay.
Folks assume that the final moment will be December 10, when members of the Electoral College cast their votes. But that’s not true! Straw clutchers have until January, when the new House will certify each state’s electors’ ballots.  The House still has the power to refuse a state’s Electoral College delegation at that point. If they repudiated both Florida’s and Michigan’s delegations – for reasons of blatant (duh?) cheating -- the House might then seize the choice for themselves. 
That would, naturally, throw things before the High Court. In which case we would see what John Roberts and Samuel Alito are really made of.  Are they the dogmatic servants of rising feudal oligarchy that many now assume? Or adult citizens who have a limit to how much 1930s-Central-Europe style crap we have to take? This question will be asked not just in January, but many times, during a Trump Administration.
Okay, there are your straws. Folks who believe there is one chance in heck, for any of them, aren’t readers of plausible science fiction. They believe in fantasy.
And yet…
== Might a sane billionaire save us?  Summon the Electors! ==
Okay, I’ll bite. I concoct the best scenarios on the planet. This one calls a patriotic and unafraid billionaire to step up on our behalf, against not just one mad mogul, but a cabal of dozens. A hero. Our Lafayette. No one else could do this. Certainly not citizen petitions or thrashings by a dying Obama Administration. Know a zillionaire with some guts? Here’s one idea (of many):
1) Rent a lavish hotel in Washington DC and invite the Electoral College to actually meet, in session!
They haven’t done this in at least two centuries. It has long been assumed that there’s no point.  They gather in state capitols, sign a document and it is transmitted to the House. BFD: where’s the fun in that? What kind of “college” never meets?
Think on it. Our billionaire rents a hall, hotel rooms, security, catering and air fare… and then backs off! So it's no 'partisan' tactic or trap. The electors are free to deliberate with zero interference, exactly as the Framers of the Constitution envisioned.
Would they come? A free trip and the chance to bean Elector instead of just a signature on a page?  You bet many would show up! Others might come just to argue on Trump’s behalf. Only dig this, they would have it in their power (with a few of them facing token fines) to choose anyone they liked!
Ohio’s John Kasich? Tim Kaine?  Someone who might attempt to bridge our differences and govern well, filling our agencies with sane professionals instead of mini-mussolinis. Care to bet that dozens of GOP electors… and many democrats… might at least ponder the idea, while enjoying free catering and a moment in the national spotlight?
Is this likely? Naw. But it is the only“Electoral College Scenario” that could possibly have even a snowball’s chance of happening.  And oh!  How memorable!
Moreover it would cost some rich dude maybe ten million dollars, tops. And there is absolutely nothing illegal about it.  Rent the hotel, meals and air… issue invitations… and step back.
== Calling all henchmen! ==
There is a second ingredient needed here. A smoking gun.  Something to convince those Utah and Minnesota electors to stop swallowing their gorge.
I’ve called for this since way back in the last century, illustrating it in The TransparentSociety and in novels like Earth. We must unleash whistleblowers on the world. Like Edward Snowden and the Panama Papers revealer, only far more extensively, with protections and rewards that lure secrets out of shadows. 

Basics are already in place – Whistleblower Lawsthat offer big commissions in certain circumstances, for example, but these are far too limited. Expanding such protections and lures could be more important to our planet and civilization than any other matter.
Remember, our kind of society is almost never seriously damaged by revelations or leaks. Spills can be irritating or irksome and even tactically harmful. But we generally find the light bracing and adapt quickly, as our services did, after Snowden. Our deadly enemies, in contrast are all – every last one of them – lethally allergic to light.  In a world that moves progressively toward light, we win. “We” – enlightenment civilization – just win.
And this applies to the Trump Era? Spectacularly. Like Bushites, he and his team will lay the hammer onto whistleblowers. But some billionaire might solve this.
See how far back I’ve been making this call.  Especially, asking that rewards be offered to bring out information about electoral fraud.
In the short term… offer a million dollars for anyone who comes forward with solid evidence of electoral tampering, this 2016 cycle.
After all, Donald Trump proclaimed that “the system is rigged!” (Neglecting to point out that in 33 out of 50 states, the “riggers” would be Republicans.) So? He can’t complain if someone offers such a prize… expanded to ten million dollars or more, if the proof brings notable effects.
There is a time element here. If such henchmen stepped forward with credible and damaging proof - say of hacked voting machines - before December 10… or January’s House certification… it could make all our fantasies about Electoral College finagling moot. The courts would then decide whether to throw out results in one, two or more states. Moreover, do you honestly doubt, at this point, that such proof actually exists? Come on.
In the long term… this matters far more than just the results of one election. Out of a dozen major “suggestions” I have offered, over the years, none is more important than making it harder – ever-harder – for conspirators and would be lords and other elites to trust their own henchmen.  Think on that.
Then ponder how this is not a uniform effect. The Koch brothers offered lavish rewards for scientists who would sell-out, regarding climate change. The tactic worked a bit in the pharmaceuticals and tobacco industries, biasing some reports. But almost never do top researchers accept the bribes. As I said, the forces of enlightenment can withstand light, but not their enemies.
== Doing our part? ==
Hey, I know maybe a dozen such good billionaires… and that – plus $3.65 – will get me a small cappuccino. (My dad used to say: “Yeah, that and a nickel will get me a cup of coffee.”) I haven’t broached this with any of them, and you know why. Because their hackles get up when impudent folks push “suggestions.” (Hey, that’s why I forgive H. Clinton for doing the opposite of every single thing I urged!)
Good Billionaires exist and we need their help. But… we mustn’t count on it.
This is ourrepublic, our civilization (use that word!) It is our duty and responsibility, and we must rise to it, the way other generations of Americans did.  As did the heroes of 1775, 1861, 1933 and 1941.  Yes... 1861 especially.
return to my earlier post-election postings: Part I and Part II

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

Just Putting This Here Because It’s Blowing My Mind

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Thu, 11/17/2016 - 12:56
This video is from the musician Sting’s kid, and holy buckets, does she (who identifies as non-binary so I may not be using the right pronoun) sound like her pop vocally. There’s no problem with that, and it does nothing to diminish from her own talents. It’s just, wow, eerie. I listened to the whole […]

Explaining the Gut Punch

Contrary Brin - Wed, 11/16/2016 - 15:41
Okay… cue background music. Robert Palmer’s “Women are smarter in every way.” Our anthem for tonight. And perhaps for four years.

And so let us continue with more unconventional and alternative perspectives on the election.  But first, just a few words on the frenzied protests in our cities. 

Oh, I’m sympathetic to the revulsion, and appreciate raw passion. (Crisis hotlines are helping people cope.) Still: “Did all you folks in the street vote? Did you precinct walk and knock on doors? Did you try to engage (and even listen to) a few of your red neighbors, this round? What is it you expect raucous demonstrations to accomplish? Other than give opportunities for street trolls (learn the French term agents provocateurs) to draw camera attention, by burning flags? I’m curious.

Oh, I can dig the sense of desperation. Among those clasping for straws, one fellow begs Warren Buffett to offer to pay any finesincurred by any members of the Electoral College who cannot stomach the duty before them. Over 4 million have signed the petition on for the Electoral College to make Clinton president on December 19, using the excuse that she won two million more votes than Mr. Trump.

Hm. Not impossible, in theory, but that ‘salvation’ ain’t gonna happen, and indeed probably shouldn’t. Though the glimmering possibility could help explain why Donald Trump is keeping mum and making pleasant sounds, wanting no scandals till after the Electoral College vote. 

A more tasty fantasy... For the electors to pick Tim Kaine as Vice President. To serve as a caution, always lurking at DT’s elbow. But also to deter Paul Ryan from ever betraying Trump by trying this trick. Yeah, right. 
The least implausible and most eloquently argued Electoral College Gambit is this one put forward by E. J. Xavier. Force House Republicans to Elect Trump.” 

Huh?  Read that again. It’s not a fantasy about reversing the election results. That’s not happening, folks. But getting enough electors to abstain, so that no candidate gets a majority? That would throw the choice to the U.S. House of Representatives. And what would that accomplish? Paul Ryan’s majority-of-states there would then choose a Republican, and it wouldbe Trump. So what’s the deal? It would force them to take full responsibility for Trump. Read Xavier’s essay. It is persuasive enough that thirty or so Republican electors might… well…
Nah. Sci Fi can be fun and we’ll return to fantasy politics later. But now it’s time to dive into that turbid sea of rationalizations for what actually happened. How did we get punched in the gut?

 First from fabulators of the right.
== The Bushite Establishment Rationalizes ==
Those who concocted this mess, who egged on the lobotomization of the Republican Party – especially Glen Beck and George F. Will – have been seen moaning imprecations in every direction except toward the nearest mirror. They, along with Rupert Murdoch, Roger Ailes, Dennis Hastert and the Fox Elite, created the frothing creature we all witnessed at those rallies. DT merely leaped into the saddle, toppled the appointed jockeys, and expertly grabbed the reins. But you did this, fellahs. We aren’t interested in your fairy tale excuses, boys. Or Megyn Kelly’s.
A more interesting conservative source is John Mauldin’s newsletter, which offers up some choice justifications. For example, international financier Charles Gave targets the globalist “Davos Men,” citing Trump as a reversion to basic nationalism: “Trump’s election victory is a clear indication that the majority of people are not interested in a world government, but want to return to a classical, local democracy.”  

Good try, Charles. As if ‘world government’ was even remotely on the minds of the Trump electorate. And as if ‘democracy’ was the visceral goal of a putsch whose principal outcomes - every policy goal shared by Trump and the GOP -- will favor oligarchy, all the way down till we reach 1789.
His father, legendary money-mover Louis Gave, starts out much wiser by citing Alexis de Tocqueville, who wrote the following of American democracy:
“The election becomes the greatest and, as it were, the only matter which occupies people’s minds. Then political factions redouble their enthusiasm; every possible phony passion that the imagination can conceive in a contented and peaceful country comes out into the light of day… As the election draws near, intrigues multiply and turmoil spreads. Citizens divide up between several camps each of which adopts the name of its candidate. The whole nation descends into a feverish state; the election becomes the daily theme of newspapers, the subject of private conversations, the object of every maneuver and every thought, the only concern of the present moment. It is true that as soon as the result has been announced, this passion is dispelled, all returns to calm, and the river which momentarily overflowed its banks returns peacefully to its bed.”
Perspective, indeed.  Alas, Louis doubts things will settle down this time. Far more on target than his son, he writes:
“Back in 2004, John Kerry had made the theme of his campaign the problem with the “Two Americas”. And of course, back then Kerry referred to the rich and the poor. But this vote illustrates that the US really is dividing into two countries as the gulf in voting patterns widens along income, education, gender, class, and urban/rural divides. Increasingly, Americans seem to live in self-reinforcing echo-chambers where they solely interact with people who hold the same beliefs and values. Combine this new reality with the news filtering capacity provided by social media algorithms and it is clear that growing parts of the country will never have to confront uncomfortable facts, or opinions.”
And yes, I predicted this Echo Chamber Effect long ago, in Earth (1989). And its possible, catastrophic outcome, in The Postman.
John Pavley, Sr. Vice President at Viacom, takes this thought farther, talking about how these new media are causing social breakdowns. moreover, this lobotomization is familiar, from history.

Remember, the first effect of the printing press was to exacerbate intolerance... till printed books later empowered people to fight against it. Or ponder the way 1930s radio first wrought fanaticism and horror before it fostered empathy. Likewise, Pavley talks about how monsters are using the new media more effectively, before they can increase our reasoning ability and empathy:
“The broadcast technologies of the pre-social media world coerced us into consensus. We had to share them because they were mass media, one-to-many communications where the line between audience and broadcaster was clear and seldom crossed. Then came the public internet and the World Wide Web of decentralized distribution. Then came super computers in our pockets with fully equipped media studios in our hands. Then came user generated content, blogging and tweeting such that there were as many authors as there were audience members.
“Here the troll was born…. Every time you share a link to a news article you didn’t read (which is something like 75% of the time), every time you like a post without critically thinking about it (which is almost always), and every time you rant in anger or in anxiety in your social media of choice, you are the troll.”
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:14.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-bidi-font-family:Times; mso-fareast-language:JA;} Max Read argues in New York Magazine that our ‘echo chamber’ mentality, to gather in likeminded swarms online, may have been a crucial factor this year. Polemically fervid-uniform ’nuremberg rallies”... and there are (yes) some on the left, too.

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:14.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-bidi-font-family:Times; mso-fareast-language:JA;} “All throughout the election, these fake stories, sometimes papered over with flimsy “parody site” disclosures somewhere in small type, circulated throughout Facebook: The Pope endorses Trump. Hillary Clinton bought $137 million in illegal arms. The Clintons bought a $200 million house in the Maldives. Many got hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of shares, likes, and comments; enough people clicked through to the posts to generate significant profits for their creators. The valiant efforts of Snopes and other debunking organizations were insufficient; Facebook’s labyrinthine sharing and privacy settings mean that fact-checks get lost in the shuffle.”  

Yes to much of that. Fretful over how social media are being blamed for the Echo Chamber Effect, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg published a response to accusations that “fake news” on Facebook influenced the outcome of the U.S. election, and helped Donald Trump to win. Oh, if only he were interested in simple ways to make this a win-win.
== An amputation we cannot afford ==

Of course this relates to the decline of professional journalism, which endangers us all. Each year, we train thousands of ambitiously dedicated young people -- some of our very best -- overflowing with curiosity, to go forth and ask questions of the widest variety of sources. The profession has many lapses and can fail at times, but it happens to be one of the three dozen or so that deal most avidly in those things called facts. And hence, journalism -- along with science, teaching, medicine, civil service, economics, diplomats... and let me repeat, above all science... have all been declared enemies by Fox, the alt-right and trumpism. They share this, down to the marrow.

But journalism is being undermined even more powerfully by one flaw in today's internet! By the Net/web's astonishing over-reliance on advertising to pay the bills. A business model that has worked far longer than I ever expected it to. But by sucking away the revenue source of old fashioned, fact-centered investigative news media, this business model has harmed us all.

In this series of articles at the bold Evonomicswebsite, I make the case for micropayment systems for online content, offering the "secret sauce" that could make them (at last) work.  And possibly save professional journalism. And possibly thereby... all of us.

(Advertising Cannot Maintain the Internet -- Here’s the “Secret Sauce” Solution and Beyond Advertising: Will Micropayments Sustain the New Internet?)

Alas, even as we discuss the Internet's real design problems – recalling that every new medium since glass lenses and movable type has rocked society and done harm, till we learned to use it well -- Louis Gave and John Pavley and the others are still pointing to a surface phenomenon. 

An exacerbating tool or symptom, rather than the disease.
What disease? Alas, Americans know no history, or the context for all of this should be blatantly obvious -- that this patterned illness has struck before! Many times. In its most violent manifestation it was called the Civil War – lately “culture war.” 

And – manifestly - it’s been deliberately re-ignited
Moreover, we’ll see that this is the only model for recent events that actually fits every single thing that happened.
== A pause for the Sci Fi perspective ==
More of these rationalizations in a moment. But let’s pause, at intervals, to try striking a lighter – if cynical – tone.
The most compellingly science fictional interpretation? If Nate Silver was our Hari Seldon, then Donald Trump is the Mule.” Some of you get exactly what that means. If not? Then save it for another time.
Or take this from my blog’s comment section, where A.F. Rey related... ‘My wife said first the Cubs win the World Series, now Biff is in charge. It's Back to the Future coming true.’
Oops. And we left Jennifer sleeping on the porch swing. Biff. Oh sweet lord. Are there any differences?
Ah, but now we’ll never know if Bill Clinton would have been called “First Laddy.” Or if she’d have given him a cabinet appointment, to keep him both busy and close… or an ambassadorship to keep him far. (Sweden, if she still liked him; Afghanistan, if not.)  Now? We can only speculate.

Enough comedy. Back to work.
== Finally… more chillingly plausible sci fi ==
There’s so much material.  So let’s put it aside for now and post what we’ve got.  Except for this final thought.
The ‘Prediction professor’ who called Trump’s big win also made another forecast: 
Trump will be impeached. 

Allan J. Lichtman’s book, “Predicting the Next President: The Keys to the White House 2016,” was among the few that forecast successfully the results of this election.
Lichtman also puts forward a forecast that’s similar to a “what-if” that I issued, months ago, based on a obvious fact — that the Republican establishment “don't want Trump as president, because they can't control him. He's unpredictable. They'd love to have Pence — an absolutely down-the-line, conservative, controllable Republican. And I'm quite certain Trump will give someone grounds for impeachment, either by doing something that endangers national security or because it helps his pocketbook.”
Adds Lichtman: “The Democrats cannot rebuild by pointing fingers at Hillary Clinton and her campaign, which as the Keys demonstrated, were not the root cause of her defeat,” he said. “The Democrats can rehabilitate themselves only by offering an inspiring progressive alternative to Republican policies and building a grass-roots movement.”
Oh, I will talk about that. As if anyone listens.


-- return to my earlier election posting: We are in it, all right, but "figuratively" or "literally"?
. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and (site feed URL:

Checking In, Eight Days On

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Wed, 11/16/2016 - 15:37
I’ll do this one in Q & A format, in no small part because it will include questions that people have actually asked me, and that I want to address: So, Scalzi, how are you doing? I’m better than I was last week, thanks. I’m eating and sleeping normally again, and I can go for […]

The Two Day Comment Window Thing

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 11/15/2016 - 14:13
This is a Whatever housekeeping note, so if you’re not interested in that, feel free to skip. When I got into the tough portions of writing The Collapsing Empire, I trimmed down the number of days that comments were open on posts from ten days (itself a markdown from fourteen days, itself a markdown from […]

Pragmatic Government in an Age of White Nationalism

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 11/15/2016 - 12:32
Late last week I was interviewed about Trump and his incoming administration, and one of the things that came up was the practical issues involving government, as in, to what extent should the Democrats (or anyone) work with Trump and the GOP to make deals, pass laws and so on. My answer to this was […]

On the Road Again

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Mon, 11/14/2016 - 13:20
Traveling back from a lovely wedding this weekend. It was good to see some joy in the world. Otherwise, see you tomorrow!

We are in it, all right. But “figuratively”? … or “literally”?

Contrary Brin - Sat, 11/12/2016 - 14:06
Tis the season for post-mortems… for pompous declamations and dissections, explaining to us all what the F— just happened. And so, across the next week or so, I’ll offer summaries and links to a panoply of rationalizations for this bizarre turn of events.  How liberals, conservatives and other pundits got it wrong… and what I think may be glimmers of actual insight.
We’ll start with those doom-casters out there who proclaim that the sky has fallen. Sure, I fought against this as hard as anyone… and I do deem this to be a ‘disaster.’ But more because of something others find boring -- the 5,000 or so appointees whom Donald Trump will sign off without even meeting any of them. Most will be standard, Bushite factotums from the GOP/Fox go-to list. Forget the flashy cabinet posts. Those mid-level, supervisor positions were the real prize, opening the way for massive graft and crippling of our institutions. I’ll discuss that another time. And yes, it is a calamity.
Nevertheless, to all you Chicken Littles out there, let’s be clear on one thing, that prediction is often led by emotion. When Barack Obama was elected, tens of millions of our fellow citizens likewise envisioned apocalypse. Their confederate catechisms -- nurtured by Fox shills and the darker right -- forecast not only economic collapse, but that black U.N. helicopters would soon be strafing every small town in America. We’d see gun-owners thrown into ATF camps and universal Sharia Law. 

Not even the mildest of these ravings – say about the economy or timid gun control - came remotely close to happening. But refutation doesn't matter, hence the same jeremiads were simply repeated, about Ms. Clinton. 

Doom-meister score: Zero.
I don’t expect us to be anywhere near so lucky, now that the shoe is on the other foot, because in fact the two parties are different. In contrast to the Obama Administration -- the first in U.S. history to be entirely free of indictable scandal -- both Bush administrations blended corruption, incompetence and outright treason, to a degree that was unprecedented in my lifetime. Hence, certainly, some hand-wringing toward a coming Bush III – with extravagant Donaldian flourishes – is justified. 

Many, from Nobel-winning economist Paul Krugman to famed environmentalist Bill McKibben, from Putin opponent Masha Gessen to activist-for-veterans Jim Wright, are sounding gloomy alarums. If any of them are right, then Californians were wise to legalize pot. 

If the worst fears prove true, then expect 1861 to be followed by 1865.
And yet, I am strangely sanguine that we can limit such behaviors, this time. In part because G.W. Bush was given generous benefit of the doubt, in his first years.  (Democratic Congresses always negotiate with GOP presidents. In contrast, except in 1995, Republican Congresses have nevernegotiated, even slightly, with Democratic presidents.) Obviously, we have learned a lesson; Donald Trump will be scrutinized from the very start. His crew will be watched with new technologies of transparency. Schemes will be secretly recorded and then leaked. Civil servants and military officers will protect us, passively or even (I pray it will never be necessary) actively resisting the worst things.
Oh, sure. The KKK is marching. Militias are jubilant. I’m getting waves of emails citing my novel – The Postman – that showed where it all could lead. And yet, here’s a thought that you probably never entertained till now – that John Roberts and Samuel Alito are not just conservatives. They are, foremost, jurists imbued in modern American principles. Are they biased and political? Sure. They will, alas, help to block any reform of the gerrymandering depravity. But they have limits. Anyone aiming to send Black Helicopters after you will have to get past them.
Nor am I convinced that Donald Trump wantsto do the worst things that he’s proclaimed at those damned rallies, where throwing red meat to the mob – living for those rabid cheers -- became more about DT’s own thrill addiction than actual policy intention. 
== Did he mean what he said? ==
Oh, he’ll build a wall. He’ll do some deporting and say crude things and propose some lunatic “first hundred days” actions. (Five or six of the forty or so goals he just issued actually make some sense.)  And yet, the (by far) smartest human in Donald Trump’s advisory circle – Peter Thiel – made a comment that I find hopeful. Thiel observed that Trump’s followers take everything he says “figuratively” rather than “literally.”  
Oh, I will be following up on that!  There are several angles, disturbing ones. But for here and now, the question is simple. How many of the crazy things that Trump promised will he actually try to do?
Indeed, looking across Donald Trump’s life, there are plenty of abhorrent things – relentless lying, cheating, bullying, egomania and personal sexism.
On the other hand, there’s little sign of longstanding commitment to livid racism, or religious zealotry, or isolationism, or supply-side voodoo... nor any extensive record of hating science. Thosecentral tenets of the Murdochian cult are more pertinent to policy!  Policies that could either veer the nation into hell… or else leave us well-enough alone to find ways to fend for ourselves.
Yes, he paid lip service to those latter horrors – to racism, religious zealotry, isolationism, supply-side voodoo, and hatred of science -- along with affection for foreign dictators. Boy, did he, during the campaign! And it’s likely he’ll continue ranting. But these aren’t baselines to the jarring cacophony of Donald Trump’s life, the way that self-indulgence, bullying and cheating have been.
In other words, it is conceivable he’ll veer away from dogmatic purity, in favor of just being impressively and astoundingly Donald.Indeed, he might even do the most un-Republican thing of all: negotiate. In which case “The Art of the Deal” might … er… trump the treasonous Hastert Rule

(Yes, I predicted this might happen during the debates. But at that time the rallies… those damned rallies… dominated his every thought.)
If my tentative hopefulness is justified, then DT’s commitment to policy-pertinentturpitudes will turn out to be shallow. Perhaps even somewhat reversible. If so, then I (for one) will look away if he steals a few billions (as Bush/Cheney did), builds an absurdly symbolic-useless wall, or outdoes Bill Clinton’s consensual adventures in that windowless White House hallway.
Much will depend upon his gatekeepers. Nancy Reagan made sure that Ronnie would hear no stories that might rouse his compassion, knowing that RR was a softy, at heart. If Eric Trump and Donald Jr. and Steve Bannon similarly control access to DT, then we will, indeed, be royally and literally screwed. But if the gatekeeper is Ivanka? 
Well, as I said, hope springs, eternal.
== In case I sounded too hopeful… ==
Will The Donald decide, at last, to grow up? Or at least get practical? I made a case for it, above.  

Now let me tell you that the signs aren’t good. Again, it’s the rallies. Those damned rallies, where a weak-willed egomaniac has had the greatest time of his life. It seems that the President-Elect of the United States of America – faced with a four year prison sentence of reading reports and holding sober meetings in the Oval Office – is already concocting an escape plan.
Returning home to Trump Tower from the White House may not be Mr. Trump’s only embrace of the familiar. His aides say he has also expressed interest in continuing to hold the large rallies that were a staple of his candidacy. He likes the instant gratification and adulation that the cheering crowds provide, and his aides are discussing how they might accommodate his demand."  -- from The New York Times.
So do not confuse me with an ‘optimist!’ Let’s be clear. I am volcanically pissed. For the second time in this young century the Democrat wins the popular vote and the Republican wins the White House.  Moreover, the Confederacy used a zillion foul tricks to get here... 

...from gerrymandering and voter suppression to rigged voting machines, Russian hacking, and lies, lies, endless lies. 
I intend to fight hard against the damage that they openly intend to do – to our rights, our planet, our nation and our species’ chance of achieving the kind of civilization yearned for in Star Trek and the best science fiction, or in the dreams of our children. The master-hijackers of American conservatism are doing everything they can, to end our Great Experiment and return us to 6000 years of inherited oligarchy and feudalism.
Case in point: folks at the ACLU have undertaken a constitutional analysis of Donald Trump’s most controversial policy proposals. These include his pledges to deport over 11 million undocumented immigrants, to ban Muslims from entering the United States, to surveil American Muslims and their houses of worship, to torture again, and to revise libel laws. “We have found them all wanting, to say the least. According to our analysis, Trump’s proposals taken together would violate the First, Fourth, Fifth, and Eighth Amendments to the Constitution. Have no doubt about it: Donald Trump’s policies, if implemented, would trigger a constitutional crisis.”  (Naturally, I appeal for donations to the ACLU. Pony up.)
But we need the big picture. How did the Trumpists and the Murdochian GOP nobles – together - convince a majority of white male baby boomers without college degrees… and too many white women… to vote eagerly against their own self-interest? The way that a million poor white Southerners marched to war in 1861, to protect the “rights” of slaveholding plantation lords? 
The specifics are different this time, but the basic memes are shockingly similar. We in the Blue Union – America – won’t win this phase of the Civil War till we start parsing out what’s happened, much less reflexively and far more carefully.
Next time, I’ll focus directly on post-mortems written by conservative ‘sages’ about how they won. Then on the hand-wringing diagnoses of liberals. And even some theories that are straight out of sci fi!  As it happens, many of them offer a little insight…
…like blind savants groping at an undead, diseased elephant.
But for the most part, they are all dead wrong.
. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and (site feed URL:

Veteran’s Day

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Fri, 11/11/2016 - 07:20
Please give a thought today to those who served our country. In other news, I’m taking the weekend off; I figure it’s a good time to disconnect for a bit. Take care of yourselves, and see you all on Monday.
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