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Space Marvels for 2017

Contrary Brin - Tue, 03/28/2017 - 16:07
Oh, let's (please) take a break from pondering our current crisis of civilization, and the now explicit war on science. Instead, this time, let us turn our heads to ponder the wonderful cosmos that our children will explore... if we manage to keep a great and brave and thoughtful civilization.

My own space news can be found at the bottom.  A dinner gathering with cool topics. But first... 

Fantastic! Cosmographists have plotted the velocities of hundreds of galaxies within 1.7 billion light years, including all of our galactic super-group.  They subtracted the universal expansion and traced lines of a velocity field.  We had already known that swarms of galaxies were converging on what’s called the “Shapley Attractor.”  But this paper unveils a spectacular discovery named the Dipole Repeller! The DR is a region on the opposite side of our super-group that appears to have a repulsiveeffect on the velocity field, making the whole thing resemble the pattern of… well… a dipole.  As illustrated in this remarkable video.
But… but gravity isn’t supposed to have a repulsive “pole”, right? Well, there is a void near the Dipole Repeller. So, could just an absence of matter explain… hey, I am digesting this even as you are. Whoa.

(Does anyone else see a resemblance to the human inner ear? Or a chambered nautilus?)
On a much smaller scale.... Here’s proof of an intermediate-mass black hole existing — weighing just 2,200 times the mass of the Sun. 
A decaying binary orbit will lead a close pair of stars to collide, and calculations pin it down (maybe) to the year 2022, when a “red nova” may even be visible to the naked eye. 

In  Welcome to the Universe, An Astrophysical Tour, the incomparable Neil deGrasse Tyson gives you a personal tour through the marvels of the cosmos, delving into big picture topics such as quasars, cosmic strings, supermassive black holes, wormholes, time travel... and the possibility of intelligent life out there. Are we part of an infinite multiverse? Tyson illuminates and entertains with glimpses of the latest research into the scale and mysteries of the universe. 
== Marvels of our solar system ==
A study published in Nature supports the growing consensus that Pluto may be one of a dozen “roofed worlds” in the Solar System, where liquid water churns beneath protective ice. (In the case of Titan, all of this lies below lakes of methane, lapping at waxy shorelines.) Unlike Europa, Enceledus and other, “inner” ocean moons, Pluto’s ocean is likely to be “rather noxious, very cold, salty and very ammonia-rich—almost a syrup," said William McKinnon, co-author of the study.  Any ‘life’ that developed there would be very different… though not quite as remarkable as any cryo-beings (or cells) that might arise in Titanian lakes.
Utterly cool image of the Earth – Moon system taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.  Amazing.  We are still a mighty and scientific people. Fight for that.
A beautiful movie made by NASA using 100 images of Pluto taken by the New Horizons craft.  And yes, at risk of (necessary) repetition: you are a member of a glorious, scientific civilization.
Cassini is going out gorgeously, providing closeups of Saturn’s hexagonal north-polar cyclone… and soon vivid ring shots.  
Oh, did I mention that you are a member of a civilization which does this: Saturn's rings warped gorgeously by tiny moon,Daphnis?
NASA Langley’s concept of an ice shelter on Mars would transport a light, inflatable, double-walled dome, then fill the walls with water melted from nearby buried ores, which we now believe to be plentiful there. The concept would create an ideal radiation protection barrier, when the water re-freezes, and has an added advantage in the fact that it can be transported and deployed easily, then filled with water before anyone arrives. It would also serve as a storage tank for water or maybe even used for rocket fuel. Ideally it would be erected and filled robotically, before a human crew even left Earth. 

Go Mark Watney! Footage from a cubesat experiment shows potato plants budding in weightlessness, in Mars-like soils, suggesting that a certain movie (and book) may have been on target in its optimism about growing food on the red planet. Providing you can wash out perchlorates and all that. We'll see. 
The latest wonderful discoveries of our loyal robot on Mars – Curiosity. NASA’s next Martian lander -- Mars 2020 -- will be wowzer! Seeking signs of life....
This innovation may enable a rover on Venus! NASA Glenn Research Center built a computer chip that survived Venus-like conditions for an impressive 521 hours, almost 22 days. Conditions that will incinerate electronics with its 872º F temperatures and seize mechanical components with its immense atmospheric pressures. At 90 times the surface pressure of Earth. In 1982, the USSR’s Venera 13 lasted 127 minutes on the Venus surface. Silicon Carbide transistors make the difference.
See the concept for a Venus sailing rover. We have even more baroque and weird projects, at NIAC! 
== My dinner with Elon ==
Photo by Amber Heard
Last time, I invited Astrid & Greg Bear and Vernor Vinge. This time, my sci fi colleagues Gregory & Elizabeth Benford and Steve Barnes, plus JPL senior planetary scientists Dave and Joy Crisp. The topic? Mars mostly (of course), plus artificial intelligence (AI) plus much else beyond the immediate horizon. 

Elon served a great dinner and his five boys were terrific, well-mannered fellows. And the rest isn't 'news' so that's it.

== Coda ==

Did I remember to remind you to murmur, now and then "IAAMOAC"?

"I am a member of a civilization."

By most standards of wealth and thoughtfulness and accomplishment and gradually rising ethics and everything else, perhaps the first human civilization. Perhaps the first in the Galaxy to escape traps like feudalism. 

If you have any notions of progress, of wanting your descendants to bestride the stars, then reject the blithering-dopey "cycles of history and "The Fourth Turning" and "we're all doomed" rants of those who would turn away from science and wonder.

IAAMOAC.  Fight for it.



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

View From a Hotel Window, 3/28/17: Dallas!

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 03/28/2017 - 14:02
For the parking lot aficionados, bask in the glory of not one, not two, but three entirely separate parking structures! Parkingpalooza! That really catches us up on the parking lots, which had been a bit sparse the last few days. Also: Hello, Dallas! Tonight at 7 you can see me at Half Price Books! So […]

View From a Hotel Window, 3/27/17: Houston!

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Mon, 03/27/2017 - 14:26
Definitely not a parking lot. I could get used to this. (Don’t worry, I’m sure more parking lots are coming.) This is a fine time to answer a question I get sometimes about touring, which is whether I can any control (or say) regarding the hotels I’m in while on tour. The answer to this […]

View From a Hotel Window, 3/26/17: Austin!

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Sun, 03/26/2017 - 13:26
I’m in a brand-new, very hipster hotel. I kinda love it, but I’m also very clearly not its primary demographic. Hello, Austin! In just about 90 minutes from the typing of this sentence, you can see me at BookPeople at 3pm! There’s still time to get there! Drive! Safely! Tomorrow: Houston, and a 7pm event […]

The Collapsing Empire and Word Count

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Sun, 03/26/2017 - 11:15
Been looking at the reviews (professional and otherwise) of The Collapsing Empire and I’m happy to say that by and large they’re pretty good. There are quibbles here and there, and from time to time someone bounces off it hard, but in both of those cases that’s fine, and to be expected, since no one […]

View From a Hotel Window 3/25/17: Nashville

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Sat, 03/25/2017 - 19:44
I’m staying at the Opryland resort, which is immense and filled with waterfalls and inside gardens and I feel very fortunate not to have lost my way to my room. Today’s event at Parnassus Books was really wonderful, and overall I have found Nashville delightful and have been very glad that I finally managed to […]

New Books and ARCs, 3/24/17

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Fri, 03/24/2017 - 17:13
I may be on book tour, but that’s not reason not to show off a stack of new books and ARCs! What here calls to you? Tell us in the comments.

Economic Inequality: opportunity vs outcomes

Contrary Brin - Fri, 03/24/2017 - 15:38
Our last posting -- extensively  shared by thousands -- offered long, verbatim quotations from epic science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein, revealing his amazing prophecy of an America falling into perilous failure mode.  

Now let's back off from our immediate crisis and try some perspective.

== The Equality Problem ==

This article - Is Inequality Inevitable? — asks a fair enough question, whose answer is “Sure, inequality is inevitable. So?” 

That don’t mean we can't always make things better.
Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry starts with studies showing that the children of elites have always stood a better chance of becoming elite, themselves, and that efforts to equalize outcomes by force - such as Maoist cultural revolution - always fail. Indeed, in Europe, the same surnames have been elite for 400 years.

True enough.  Only then M. Gagny calls all liberal efforts at mitigation futile and useless -- an assertion that amounts to stark-jibbering toilet raving.
One refutation is to point out the staggering amounts of cheating and repression that inherited oligarchies and other elites have engaged in, across all eras, to ensure advantages for their offspring. Nearly all of recorded human history reveals the lengths that lords and masters went to, using law and religion and sheer economic bullying to prevent sons or daughters of the poor from competing fairly with their own children. 

If aristocracy were self-replicating on the basis of simple, inherited quality, why then the relentless frenzy of desperate repression that we see across all annals, in all nations and eras?
Further, if inherited lordship were a matter of genuine superiority, then why - across the long epochs before our egalitarian experiment - were nearly all kingdoms and oligarchies so delusional and so horrifically-governed?  There is a name for the cosmically stupid way that 99% of post agricultural societies were governed. In a general sense, that name is feudalism. Another word for the endless litany of insipid and lethal errors committed by aristocrats is -- history.

Or, in more modern parlance: Idiocracy.

In my novel, Existence, I portray a meeting of uber-trillionaires in 2048. They can see they are going to win, that their putsch against liberal democracy is about to succeed, and looming success has them worried.  They can also see that feudalism is vastly less productive, innovative and far more error prone than open systems like transparent republics. Is there a way out of this dilemma.

At their conference, they earnestly seek ways to imbue the rule of inherited oligarchy with meritocratic and competitive elements, weaving in some of the powerful synergies of the Enlightenment... without its egalitarianism.  Kind of like what the Chinese ruling caste has been desperately trying to achieve, for decades. There are inherent flaws to this plan. But at least these oligarchs are smart enough to see the alternative:

Paris: 1789. And tumbrels.

(See my earlier posting: Class War and the Lessons of History.)

== Easing our way out of a lethal attractor state ==

Sure, our egalitarianism has been flawed, often corrupted and always imperfect. And yet, our ongoing enlightenment experiment does correlate with a singular society that has been vastly more creative, productive, fair, scientific and happier than all others… and yes I mean absolutely all of them… combined.
If the grandchildren of rich people do tend to be rich, and the kids of scientists may somewhat tend to replicate that success, then liberal-minded folk will cite favorable circumstance as a chief reason. And so far, that presumption seems more right than wrong. 

But even if there is also a strong, genetic component, we still seem well-served by at least addressing those unfair inequalities that do cause disparities. And make each generation of favored kids work to prove it. To earn what they achieve.
We must do this for one reason, above all others — in order to stop wasting human talent.  Expanding opportunity for the children of the poor, of all races, genders etc., is simply logical and a vast improvement over the institutionalized, reflexive and wasteful bigotries of the past. 

Any excuse-making in the opposite direction is not only morally vile, it is also deeply impractical! Because it rationalizes reducing the number of skilled, eager, confident and competent competitors to enter our markets.  In other words, those who rationalize inequality of opportunity for children and youths are betraying the very essence of Adam Smith, of Friedrich Hayek and all other icons of competitive enterprise.

Hypocrisy -- by their own standards.

And sure, yes, inequality (for children and youths) is also immoral. But notice that some people find it easier to shrug off that appeal, than when you base your argument on hypocritical short-sightedness.

Why emphasize children and youths?

Elsewhere I explain in detail the difference between interventions that aim to equalize opportunity and those that aim at equality of outcomes. Foolish  reactionaries like M. Gagny seem to agree with radical levelers on the other side, that liberal interventions aim at outcome-equalization. Indeed, if that were the case, perhaps I could see a point to the ravings of the far-right and the far-left. 

If that were the aim, then call me a rebel-libertarian.

But that vile, lobotomizing “left-right axis” is built upon shavings of stupidity. In fact, I assert: if state actions concentrate only on raising up possible opportunities for children of the poor, then outcomes will manage themselves.

== The context for it all: The Fermi Paradox ==

Many of you know that I am the principal tabulator of hyptheses and proposed explanations for why we seem to be alone in the cosmos.  Of the hundred or so that have been offered, I rank a Top Ten.  And high on my list is...

... feudalism.  The chief attractor state of human governance, that sucked in 99% of all human societies that ever got metals.  Feudalism rewards big males who act like elephant seals and bash other males to take their women and wheat.  We are all descended from the harems of guys who pulled that off.  

Moreover, the Darwinian logic probably applies on other worlds, perhaps most other worlds. And if so, we get a powerful "fermi" hypothesis: that all over the galaxy kings and feudal lords and priests suppress science and advancement and environmental care, because they are focused on short term battles to stay on top.  

Only our enlightenment experiment broke away from this pattern and found another, in which equalization of opportunity, plus rights and transparency and love of science, opened up all the positive sum games that utilize competition -- markets, democracy, science, justice courts and sports.  The resulting cornucopia has been dazzling!  But humans who rise up high will always be tempted by urges to shut down competition and become lords.

That is the grand context.  Our current struggles may matter even on a galactic scale!  If we are the first to rise up to Star Trek levels of enlightened maturity, then we could rescue all the others, out there, trapped in cycles of feudalism.

Oh but let's get back to Earth. Literally.
== Climate denialism is a symptom ==
 We've reached the point where denialists are frantic. Having invested in raging contempt for science and scientific civilization, while claiming the opposite, they must now double down -- trying desperately to prevent cognitive dissonance. They must avoid doing that almost-impossible thing for human beings... but the act that science teaches.  

To admit:"maybe I was wrong."
I could link to sage articles and scientific studies till the sun burns out and they would have no effect. Cultists will answer with nostrums and "talking points" concocted by Koch-financed shills who could not parse the gas vapor laws if their lives depended on it. But jpegs re sometimes convincing. Here are four that make the point fiercely.



First the rate at which humans have been adding CO2 to the atmosphere of a world that skates the inner edge of our sun's continuously habitable zone. And that's a crucial aspect!  Because it answers the cultist line: "How could measly humans affect habitability of a giant planet?"

Let me reiterate: our Earth skates the very inner edge of our sun's continuously habitable zone. Because of that, our world must have a very transparent atmosphere with a Gaia Balance that has only just enough CO2 for plants to live.  Needing to allow heat to escape, we can afford very little greenhouse gas. 



But saying "humans can't change an atmosphere" can easily be measured.  That is: if we're allowed to!  The Bushites sabotaged satellites and hampered scientists, but the Trumpists have taken things to a whole new level, cancelling programs and ordering NASA to never look down at a planet called Earth.  

You denialists who have long proclaimed "the jury is still out!  We need more data!" are now exposed as hypocrites. The truth is the very last thing you want.

But none of this is as horrifically dishonest as the standard riff used by Ten Cruz and other fanatics, claiming "there's been no net warming for 5 years!" Then 6 years. Then it was 7! Always increasing by one.  

Why so specific?  Look at our third jpeg and note the spike in 1998. The general slope of temperature has increased relentlessly, but fools and liars used that spike as a "before" to claim subsequent years were 'decreases.'  That is, till new peaks came in 2014... and 2015... and so far 2016, with all but one of the last seven months breaking records. Oh, so much to be proud of.



But the kicker is the ocean. Not one of the cult's shill "think tanks" has been able to concoct an incantation to answer the damage we are doing via ocean acidification. There are no even hypothetical causes for the effect that is killing coral and replacing fish with jellies, in all the regions depicted in our third jpeg, as well as helping to eutrophy (choke) the Black Sea and Mediterranean and Caribbean.

So what can we conclude?
Nothing new.  I made this list to arm you with talking points, because all that America needs to do, in order to win this phase of our recurring Civil War is to just peel off just 10 million still somewhat sane and reluctant and uncomfortable members of this weird-confederate coalition.       You can do your part by hammering one, just one nervous aunt out there. (Your uncle is probably hopeless, unless he's ex military. Stay tuned for ammo that will work with him!)
Peel away one, then another. It's your assignment. Start with ocean acidification. I mean it. They cannot run from it or explain it, and Fox doesn't even try. They shout "squirrel!" and point offstage.  But use it, over and over again...  ocean acidification. ocean acidification.ocean acidification.
. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/ (site feed URL: http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/atom.xml)

View From a Hotel Window, 3/24/17: Richmond, VA

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Fri, 03/24/2017 - 14:06
You know, I lived in the Commonwealth of Virginia for four years, but in that time I never managed to get down to Richmond, its capital. I came here for the last stop of my very first book tour in 2007, and now I’m back, a decade later, and happily so. If you’re in or […]

View From a Hotel Balcony, 3/23/17: Chapel Hill!

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Thu, 03/23/2017 - 12:47
Yes! I have a balcony this time! And it is lovely. I may go out and write on it. Being on tour has its occasional perks. I’m in Chapel Hill tonight, at the great Flyleaf Books, where the fun begins at 7pm. If you’re in the area, come on by and see me! Tomorrow, I […]

The Big Idea: Paul Cornell

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Thu, 03/23/2017 - 08:13
Chalk, by Paul Cornell, is in many ways a remarkable book. But it’s not an easy read, and for Cornell, it’s a story that has personal meaning for him, and is a book that has a lot of him in it. He’s here now to tell you more about it, and why as a writer […]

View From a Hotel Window, 3/22/17: Raleigh!

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Wed, 03/22/2017 - 15:29
Ahhhhh, there we go. Parking lot excellence. If you’re in or around Raleigh tonight, I’ll be a Quail Ridge Books at 7pm, in its spiffy new location. Come on down! In the Research Triangle but can’t make it tonight? I’ll be at Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill tomorrow. See me then! For everyone else not […]

The Big Idea: Mishell Baker

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Wed, 03/22/2017 - 05:05
Here’s the thing about ghosts: Nearly all of them have one thing in common. Or so author (and current Nebula Best Novel Award finalist) Mishell Baker believes. In today’s Big Idea, she tells you what that thing is, and what it means for her new novel Phanton Pains. MISHELL BAKER: Long before I began writing […]

View From a Hotel Window 3/21/17: Lexington!

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 03/21/2017 - 13:14
And it’s not of a parking lot! I take that as a good sign. Tonight I’m in Lexington, Kentucky, one of my favorite places, at Joseph-Beth Booksellers, which is one of my favorite stores. The event starts at 7pm and this audience gets to be to guinea pig, because I’m reading everything here for the […]

The Collapsing Empire is Here!

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 03/21/2017 - 05:15
Hey! It’s out! The Collapsing Empire, my twelfth novel, is here and available at your favorite bookstore and/or online retailer (in the US/Canada; in the UK it’s out in two days). It’s the first book in the new space opera series (called “The Interdependency”) and introduces some of my favorite characters ever in a universe […]

How to Get a Signed Copy of The Collapsing Empire

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Mon, 03/20/2017 - 13:38
Hey there! Wanting to have me deface a copy of my upcoming book The Collapsing Empire (or other books of mine), with my signature, and possibly a personalization? Here are all the ways you can make this happen in the next few weeks! 1. Come see me on tour between March 21st and April 29: Yes, […]

Baja California Sunset

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Sun, 03/19/2017 - 18:06
The sunsets around the Scalzi Compound have been a bit uninspiring recently, so let me offer you this one, from Baja California, on March 8. I think it’ll do quite nicely, don’t you?

Looking back at Heinlein's Future History - coming true before our eyes.

Contrary Brin - Sat, 03/18/2017 - 15:40
This one is so pertinent and important, I tried to find a more public venue for it. But one of the tragic consequences of the Trump Era is the decay of op-ed journalism -- everyone recycling the same whines. I'll speak more of this, at the end. But now -- this just can't be put off, any longer.  Prepare to go wide-eyed!

== A chilling forecast: accurate down to the last detail ==

You can sway a thousand men by appealing to their prejudices quicker than you can convince one man by logic. – Robert A. Heinlein, Revolt in 2100
Robert A. Heinlein’s 1953 "Future History" collection, Revolt in 2100, vividly portrays citizens rising up against an authoritarian theocracy which has taken root in America. A succession of fundamentalist despots have ruled for nearly a century, dating back to the First Prophet Nehemiah Scudder. John Lyle, a graduate of West Point and now a member of the Prophet's elite guard "Angels of the Lord," joins an underground revolt when he begins to question the society under which he always lived: 
"I began to sense faintly that secrecy is the keystone of all tyranny. Not force, but secrecy ... censorship. When any government, or any church for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, 'This you may not read, this you must not see, this you are forbidden to know,' the end result is tyranny and oppression, no matter how holy the motives. Mighty little force is needed to control a man whose mind has been hoodwinked; contrariwise, no amount of force can control a free man, a man whose mind is free. No, not the rack, not fission bombs, not anything -- you can't conquer a free man; the most you can do is kill him." (If This Goes On-- Chapter 6)
Does that sound familiar? Oh, but you ain't seen nothing, yet. Prepare to be amazed.

Sure, Heinlein's voice is different than mine. But he largely raised me, and I deeply resent it when some folks lazily dismiss RAH as a "right winger" or even "fascist." Sure, there are ways in which he reads rather retro, today. And he yelled "get off my lawn!" at hippies who came to pay homage, after Stranger in a Strange Land.

But he truly saw himself as a champion of equal rights and equal opportunity, even if his characters can seem cringeworthy, through modern eyes. His libertarianism is of another, Jeffersonian-AdamSmithian variety, and he despised Ayn Rand.

Of course, our chief overlap is seen in that extract, above. Heinlein and I both portray light as the cleanser and liberator. We must all see as much as we can handle, and then more. It is a citizen's duty to look! And yes, to re-examine things we had been comfortable believing.  Transparency is key to reciprocal accountability, which we use to be both free and smart. It is the miracle tool that enables us to question the lies of monsters.

== Amazing prophecy! ==

Is it ironic that the author of a novel about false prophets nailed the future so well? Oh, but it gets much better. Especially the paragraph in bold, below.

Here, I’d like to quote extensively from Revolt in 2100's afterword, “Concerning Stories Never Written,” in which Robert Heinlein takes an incisive look at a possible dark future for our country:
As for ... the idea that we could lose our freedom by succumbing to a wave of religious hysteria, I am sorry to say that I consider it possible. I hope that it is not probable. But there is a latent deep strain of religious fanaticism in this, our culture; it is rooted in our history and it has broken out many times in the past. 

"It is with us now; there has been a sharp rise in strongly evangelical sects in this country in recent years, some of which hold beliefs theocratic in the extreme, anti-intellectual, anti-scientific, and anti-libertarian.
“It is a truism that almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so, and will follow it by suppressing opposition, subverting all education to seize early the minds of the young, and by killing, locking up, or driving underground all heretics. This is equally true whether the faith is Communism or Holy-Rollerism; indeed it is the bounden duty of the faithful to do so. The custodians of the True Faith cannot logically admit tolerance of heresy to be a virtue.
“Nevertheless this business of legislating religious beliefs into law has never been more than sporadically successful in this country – Sunday closing laws here and there, birth control legislation in spots, the Prohibition experiment, temporary enclaves of theocracy such as Voliva’s Zion, Smith’s Nauvoo, and a few others. The country is split up into such a variety of faiths and sects that a degree of uneasy tolerance now exists from expedient compromise; the minorities constitute a majority of opposition against each other.
“Could it be otherwise here? Could any one sect obtain a working majority at the polls and take over the country? Perhaps not – but a combination of a dynamic evangelist, television, enough money, and modern techniques of advertising and propaganda might make Billy Sunday’s efforts look like a corner store compared to Sears Roebuck. 

"Throw in a Depression for good measure, promise a material heaven here on earth, add a dash of anti-Semitism, anti-Catholicism, anti-Negrosim, and a good large dose of anti-“furriners” in general and anti-intellectuals here at home, and the result might be something quite frightening – particularly when one recalls that our voting system is such that a minority distributed as pluralities in enough states can constitute a working majority in Washington."
Jiminy!  Heinlein wrote that in the early 1950s! Is there anything he did not hit right on the head? Heck, he even nailed the dominionist "Prosperity Gospel" so popular among Ted Cruz types, promising fervid followers that their "material heaven here on earth" will come by righteously seizing the property of unbelievers. (Late note: a prosperity gospel preacher keynotes Donald Trump's inauguration.)

Seriously, read his last paragraph (above) again.  Then recall that Heinlein portrayed Nehemia Scudder taking the White House against the will of a majority, in 2012.  (He also spoke of America sinking into "The Crazy Years.") 

As for you blithe judgers who dismissed Heinlein as a 'fascist'? Shame on you.  He was fighting the good fight before you were born, far more persuasively and effectively than you'll ever be.

Oh, but back to his essay. It gets even more amazing:

“I imagined Nehemiah Scudder as a backwoods evangelist who combined some of the features of John Calvin, Savonarola, Judge Rutherford and Huey Long. His influence was not national until after the death of Mrs. Rachel Biggs…. who left Brother Scudder several millions of dollars with which to establish a television station. Shortly thereafter he teamed up with an ex-Senator from his home state; they placed their affairs in the hands of a major advertising agency and were on their way to fame and fortune. Presently they needed stormtroopers; they revived the Ku Klux Klan in everything but the name – sheets, passwords, grips, and all. It was a “good gimmick” once and still served. Blood at the polls and blood in the streets, but Scudder won the election. The next election was never held.
“Impossible? Remember the Klan in the ‘Twenties – and how far it got without even a dynamic leader. Remember Karl Marx and note how close that unscientific piece of nonsense called Das Kapital has come to smothering out all freedom of thought on half a planet, without – mind you – the emotional advantage of calling it a religion. The capacity of the human mind for swallowing nonsense and spewing it forth in violent and repressive action has never yet been plumbed."
Give Heinlein's Revolt in 2100 a read (available for Kindle.)  

Are the parallels with our present situation perfect? Well, no. For one thing, there is the spectacular hypocrisy of U.S. fundamentalist Christians gushing their fervid support for a man who is - in every conceivable measure of action or character - the diametric opposite of Jesus. Even Heinlein could not have written that.  

No, this has to be a clarion call. Members of the American center and moderate-left must get past their clichés... like the insipid stupidity of calling old-fashioned Jeffersonian libertarians like Heinlein "right-wingers." For one thing, anyone who loves science, nowadays is, by definition, no member of that cult.

We must be welcoming of fellow citizens who flee the rising, confederate madness. Soon, these will include waves of 'retiring' U.S. military and intelligence officers, potential allies of stunning value in our task of saving civilization! So do not listen to fools on the far-left, who would spit in the faces of such refugees. The far-left can be as crazy as the entire-right has become. Especially if they would reflexively spurn powerful allies, just because they have good posture and sport crewcuts.

Or powerful inspirations, like the science fiction author and American, Robert A. Heinlein.

== Addenda ==

Oh, you don't believe that there is a nationwide cabal of fundamentalists who aim for precisely the scenario that worried Heinlein? Read this. An escapee from the "christofascist" network describes how a million or so children at any time are not only being homeschooled, but indoctrinated to think of themselves as holy warriors, battling a satanic republic. And this is the central goal of Betsy DeVos, our new Secretary of Education.

And yes, central to their belief system are not the words of Jesus, but the diametrically opposite and hate-drenched Book of Revelation.  With hand-rubbing delight, they anticipate the torture and death of you and your loved ones and our nation, followed by eternal torment and damnation, plus an end to all democracy, science, ambition, curiosity, questioning, exploration and every other thing that makes us human. And... oh yes, a violent end to the United States of America. And I did not exaggerate a single word. Every single one of those outcomes is directly and explicitly what they pray for, daily.

Finally... A Scottish newspaper listed coverage of the Trump Inauguration as a Twilight Zone reboot: "The Twilight Zone returns with one of the most ambitious, expensive and controversial productions in broadcast history. Sci-fi writers have often dabbled with alternative history stories... It sounds far-fetched, and it is, but as it goes on it becomes more and more chillingly plausible..."

== The meta problem, here ==

I had saved up this posting, offering it to every venue I could find (or shortened versions, eliminating my personal voice.) It is interesting, effective and different. But there is the rub.

Look, there's one more factor at work now. Fear. When that emotion reigns, even the side that believes in openness and originality shuts down psychologically. At the very moment when we need a wide stance and originality, mass media have circled the wagons, allocating op-ed soapboxes to pals who re-word the same whines, over and over.

Like the latest wave of ill-considered reactions, screaming about the Trumps' increase in military spending, as liberals fall for a baited trap, reflexively shouting hate at the Military Officer Corps, spurning another set of victims, another fact-centered profession. This is the stupidest thing we could possibly do, right now.

 It's not that they are wrong in opposing this tsunami of Confederate madness! Their mistake is a belief that the Union can win this phase of civil war with "resistance" alone, pushing back with grunting sumo.  Again and again I cry - as Heinlein did - that this is a time for agility.  For judo.. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/ (site feed URL: http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/atom.xml)

The Big Idea: Marshall Ryan Maresca

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Fri, 03/17/2017 - 09:06
Stop, thief! In today’s Big Idea, Marshall Ryan Maresca explains why actions we wouldn’t approve of in real life we enjoy in fiction, and what that means for his new novel, The Holver Alley Crew. MARSHALL RYAN MARESCA: It’s fascinating how much we love the thief-as-the-hero trope, and we love having them pull a heist. […]

Shifting views on immigration

Contrary Brin - Thu, 03/16/2017 - 21:29
In 1939, the infamous ship St. Louis limped around the Atlantic and Caribbean with over 900 German Jews on board. Arm-twisted by the Nazis, but also shamefully, the United States and Cuba both refused sanctuary to the refugees. Eventually the ship returned to Germany and most of the passengers on board were eventually killed during the Holocaust.
Bard College professor an director of the Hannah Arendt Center, Roger Berkowitz talks about a luckier refugee, Hanna Arendt: In 1943, Arendt wrote a poignant essay 'We Refugees': "The stateless person, without the right to residence and without the right to work, had of course constantly to transgress the law."

Berkowitz expands on Arendt's experience: 
"The word, refugee, flattens a person and a people marked by loss and vulnerability. Having lost their home, their language, their friends, and their families, refugees live in camps, in public; they experience the rupture of their private lives and their public visibility as only a mass.
   "The refugee is transformed from a person with a history and world into a pitiable figure. We can have compassion for an individual, look into their eyes, touch their shoulder, and feel the humanness in their pain. But faced with masses of refugees hands open, seeking refuge, compassion is too often replaced by pity (if not by fear).”
I’ve long accused all sides of hypocrisy regarding immigration!

History shows that Democrats protect the borders and reduce illegal immigration --demonstrably better and more vigorously than Republicans (till Trump) -- for the same reasons that they boosted legal immigration — because legal immigrants can join unions and eventually vote. Yes, this sounds counter to popular impressions because liberals try to be kind to illegals, once they are here. But democratic presidents always boosted the Border Patrol (Obama deported all the illegals who misbehaved, who he could get his hands on).

Think about why, until 9/11, GOP presidents always slashed the BP. It's true!  Why? Because their owner caste loves cheap labor that must live in fear and that undercuts unions.
If cranky, white, male boomers want to blame anyone for the changing look of America, blame the Democrats all right! But for legal immigration.  The landmark Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 eased the path across the nation's borders for people from Asia and Africa by removing old regional quotas. That was moral and right.
And now the GOP Congress is moving against legal immigration.  
That 1965 Democratic Congress also did something that seems also to be right-sounding… easing the way for families to re-unite, if one member is already legally a U.S. resident. And there, well, I disagree

Sure, unite parents and children and spouses. But the sibling and cousin advantage is just immoral and wrong. 
Think.  Anyone in another country who has a U.S. relative is already much luckier than his neighbors in say, Bangladesh. Think, I mean it, actually think about this. Those relatives back home already get remittances and packages and favors, and help with legal paperwork trying to emigrate. They are already luck! Why should they automatically be luckier than their neighbors, in Dacca?  Don’t those neighbors deserve a chance, too? See my earlier posting: Hidden factors in the rush to immigration reform. Must luck be kept limited to arbitrary family chains?

Does this mean I approve of a Republican bill?  Really? These monsters who have betrayed Adam Smith and Lincoln and who have sent Barry Goldwater spinning in his grave? 

Well, in fact, while it seems old-fashioned, I am capable of fine parsing. And there are portions of this bill that are as loathsome as anything else spewing from Paul Ryan’s Confederate Treason Cabal. But to be honest, there are parts that I can shrug over.

Look, we need to prioritize. Obama himself had no problems with simultaneously creating a citizenship for "dreamers" - kids who came here as babies, while vigorously deporting slimes who betrayed their adopted land by wreaking crime and harm.  He called for kindness and help for hard-workers who were already here... while spending quite a few millions beefing up the Border Patrol and laying hundreds of miles of new fences, so immigration can channel through the legal processes.

Just in order to shock you all, let me say: "Build your stupid wall." It's about time Republicans were willing to employ lots of semi-skilled workers in infrastructure, creating high velocity money in the economy instead of sucking us dry with tax gifts to the rich.

If this were a negotiation, I'd let em have the wall, in exchange for... for... for not being jerks at war with facts and brains and heart in every way they can possibly find.

== Immigration and Violence ==
From the Los Angeles Times: Californians are 30% less likely to die a violent death today than other Americans. Since 1980, California’s rate of reported crime overall has fallen by 62%. The state’s criminal arrest rates, too, have fallen considerably, by 55% overall, and by 80% among people younger than 18 — a population, it is worth noting, that is now 72% nonwhite. 
Violent crime in California has fallen by an impressive 50% in the same period. This includes drops in robberies (65%), homicide (68%), and rapes and assaults (more than 40%). That last figure is even more remarkable when you consider that the legal definitions of both assault and rape were expanded during these years.
Trump often points at violence in Chicago. An outlier that is less blue and less immigrant rich, and far smaller than California. 

Oh, and California generates inventions and jobs faster than anyone. Texas keeps sending governors here to try to raid and poach our companies. Um, why? Can't generate your own?
Efficient government, top schools and universities... and sure, filled with problems... that are being handled better than any red state. Why? How? We haven't abandoned the formula of the Greatest Generation. We have unions, universities, infrastructure, tolerance and the rich pay taxes. And business flourishes. 
Oh, one more thing. We like being a little bit funky-crazy. It's cool. It is one of many reasons why we're the sane ones.
. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/ (site feed URL: http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/atom.xml)
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