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View From a Hotel Window, 7/18/18 : Cincinnati

Whatever (John Scalzi) - 2 hours 48 min ago
I’m doing a thing this evening in Cincinnati, and usually when I’m in Cincy I head home because it’s drivable, but tomorrow I’m doing a thing in Kentucky, so it made sense to stay here in town. And then on Friday I head to Cleveland for another thing! I am just doing a lot of […]

The Big Idea: Nicole Kornher-Stace

Whatever (John Scalzi) - 6 hours 22 min ago
Nicole Kornher-Stace has some esoteric random influences for her novel Latchkey, which include a classic philosophical work, a popular video game… and a disease. Well, sort of for the last one. Here she is to sort it all out. NICOLE KORNHER-STACE: When I was eight years old, I had a teacher with advanced chronic Lyme […]

The Big Idea: Kali Wallace

Whatever (John Scalzi) - 7 hours 24 min ago
City of Islands is author Kali Wallace’s first children’s book, and in writing it, she was thinking about where the balances were in telling a story for children, and still telling a story with some complexity. For her Big Idea, she’s here to talk about finding that balance, especially in today’s times. KALI WALLACE: Adults […]

Sunset 7/17/18

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 07/17/2018 - 22:46
Or, as I noted elsewhere: “Tonight’s Sunset as a Hotel Room Painting.” I think I could get at $25 for this! Here’s what it look like zoomed out a bit: We do have pretty skies here, I have to say.

The Big Idea: James Patrick Kelly

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 07/17/2018 - 11:00
Today, Hugo and Nebula Award winner James Patrick Kelly is here to tell you why you need more short stories in your reading diet. And coincidentally, The Promise of Space and Other Stories, his latest collection of short stories, just happens to be out! JAMES PATRICK KELLY: I rise in defense of the humble short […]

And Now a Brief Procedural Update on The Consuming Fire

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Mon, 07/16/2018 - 23:11
What I'm working on today. — John Scalzi (@scalzi) July 16, 2018 Which is that I got the first pass page proofs this morning and read the book through, front to back, for the first time since sending it in a month ago. Folks, this book is really good. Like, better than I remember […]

The Big Idea: Wendy Nikel

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Mon, 07/16/2018 - 10:53
People with a familiarity with time travel tropes may have heard of the “grandfather paradox.” But now, author Wendy Nikel proposes a corollary for her newest, The Grandmother Paradox. WENDY NIKEL: As an author, I struggle with titles, and I don’t normally settle on one until a story is completely written, usually borrowing from bits […]

The Bright Side

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Sun, 07/15/2018 - 23:33
Hello everyone! Today I’m going to tell you about this awesome comic that a reader of this blog told me about (when I posted about Death as a character). It is a comic about the personification of death, otherwise known as Dee, befriending a teenage girl named Emily! They become besties and she teaches Death […]

End the cheating...

Contrary Brin - Sat, 07/14/2018 - 17:13
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This time, I'll finish with a weird comparison of Donald Trump as the Bizarro Gorbachev... indeed, I believe that's how Vladimir Putin views his puppet!  

But let's start by talking about how Rupert Murdoch and his minions and overseas allies hope to continue their impressive run, having controlled the US legislature, despite losing the popular vote in ten of the last twelve congressional elections, and in all but one of the last seven presidential elections.  How do they do it? 

We know how urgently they need to control the Supreme Court, which has refused to intervene against the egregiously horrific treason called gerrymandering. (Future generations will remember this craven behavior in kind with the Dred Scott Decision.)

Further case in point... Our battle for the republic just got a notch worse. The Supreme Court, in a 5–4 ruling, allows states to purge voters for a failure to vote.  

The Blue Wave will be inadequate unless voter repression in swing districts is fought, tooth and nail. Elsewhere I talk about Voter ID laws, and how stupid liberals are, for opposing such laws in principle.  In principle, there is nothing wrong with asking a voter to prove who they are. Opposing it in general terms makes liberals look like would-be cheaters, themselves.

No, the better argument is that states should offer vigorous compliance assistance, to help poor citizens or women, minorities, youth to get their ID, which would help them also economically and in other parts of life. No red state has done this, spending not even a dime. They close DMV offices in democratic areas! See where I dissect how enemies of America trick decent people into opposing a wretched cheat... in stupid ways.

Instead support groups like this one, that actually get on the ground - like the Freedom Riders of old - and help poor people, the old, the young, divorced women etc to GET ID. This is how we answer: see the valuable work done by VoteRiders.

== The voting machines ==

Top Maryland officials say the FBI told them this week that the state's voter registration platform was purchased by a Russian oligarch in 2015.  And this is... news? This is only the latest, blatant example. For decades, the companies making US electronic voting machines just happened to be owned by former GOP or Murdoch operatives.  

The top job of every GOP Secretary of State in red states is electoral cheating, and they are financially richly rewarded. These states, lacking auditable paper records, will show anomalously high Republican voting this fall, in targeted swing districts, especially in state assembly districts that might tip the balance of power in statehouses.

== This is how you can be most effective, starting now ==

If you are looking for a way to help, turn your attention to some local or neighboring state assembly or senate district that might be in reach to flip. It is at that level that one person's activism could make a huge difference. Offer to host a neighborhood meet-and-greet for the candidate, for example. If they see your district is climbing out of reach, the cheaters will go elsewhere.

Oh, btw, this advice holds for decent republicans. In 2020, the decent, American side of conservatism will have its one chance to rise up and rescue something from the Trump-Murdoch-Putin-confederate ashes. But only if there are ashes in 2018! This fall... hold your nose and go blue.

== Eliminating the greatest path for cheaters ==

A petition was recently sent to the chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, by 36 eminent retired general and field officers from the United States Armed Forces as well as retired civilian leaders from the National Security Council; the Departments of State, Treasury, Defense, Justice, and Commerce; and the U.S. Agency for International Development.  Are they concerned about foreign despots? Terrorists? White and blue collar criminals? Drug lords?

All of the above are empowered and enabled by secret-anonymous shell corporations. And surprise, the leading nexus of these dark dens is not Switzerland, or the Cayman Islands. It is Delaware. Followed by many others of these not-so-United States.
“The U.S. remains the easiest place in the world to set up an anonymous shell company according to an academic study from the University of Texas and Brigham Young University….  These companies have put Americans at risk and worse — criminals enjoy the benefits of strong investment returns and total secrecy here in the U.S. drug cartels and human trafficking operations have long understood the benefits of corporate secrecy to launder money from criminal enterprises. More recently, anonymous companies are implicated in terror financing, fraudulent contracting with our military, and even sanctions evasion.”
These eminent leaders added: “As we ratchet up sanctions against hostile nations, it is telling to note that the Iranian Government previously skirted our sanctions for years by utilizing a web of shell companies, including some registered in the United States, to buy a skyscraper on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.”
Read the letter here, and spread the word. No, this Congress won’t do anything to benefit the nation, humanity or the future.  But tracks and seeds can be laid. This is reminiscent of the “Helvetian War” that I described in my 1989 novel EARTH. Only I never expected “Helvetia” to stand for America.

 == Who are the best cheaters? ==
Evonomics – the smartest site online for economic/social analysis, aimed at saving free markets from the oligarchy that’s ruining them – features Steve Roth’s article: “Capital’s Share of Income Is Way Higher than You Think.” Roth dissects how almost half of the market income arriving at U.S. households is received for just being wealthy: owning stuff, and not either work or active investment. In other words, most of the rich are doing exactly as that liberal – Adam Smith – described aristocrats always doing… pouring their excess wealth into “rent-seeking” or “rentier” vampirism, instead of creative enterprises.
Oh, there are exceptions! Investors like the west coast tech zillionaires who recycle their extra capital into new ventures, new goods and services and productive capacity. That’s what the Mad Right has said would happen with Supply Side “economics!” But for 90% of the oligarchy, it never, ever happened. Moreover guess how that risk-taking, investor 10% votes?  With a few exceptions, like Peter Thiel, they are mostly democrats, agreeing that markets must be regulated to reduce the age-old enemy of enterprise –
Seriously, where do the proto-feudal oligarchs think this will end? Will the war on all fact users truly cow all the folks who stand in their way to total feudal power? Or will we fight back?

And finally, as promised...

== Is Donald Trump our Bizarro version of Gorbachev==

I was about to claim this as an original-weird idea, but searching uncovered a guy who thought of it first - that Donald Trump's best historical analogue is Mikhail Gorbachev!

Oh, they are opposites in almost every way - as were the systems they undermined! But look at it from the perspective of Puppetmaster Putin, who calls the fall of the USSR 'history's worst tragedy.' Putin openly calls Gorbachev a western agent, who used the Soviet presidency to systematically bring a communist superpower down from within. So, why not use that template to retaliate, in kind?

Gorbachev applied intelligence and decency to reforming his nation away from dogmatism and incompetence. He might have saved the USSR in some form - (I portrayed it, in EARTH) - had not a final attempted communist putsch led to the total breakup.

Now mirror-reverse every single adjective above. Rupert Murdoch and Putin now have an agent in the White House who applies stunningly stubborn stupidity, indecency and a complicity to plunge his nation toward dogmatism and incompetence, while dismantling every single strength that led the West to Cold War victory - from strong alliances to science to a confident service class and basic social cohesion.

Yes, it is a mirror-reverse image, because the US and USSR were opposites in nearly all ways. Ours is a Bizarro Gorbachev, but the fundamental is the same... figure out the empire's greatest weaknesses. Then use a suborned leader and party, plus a massive propaganda mill to demolish morale, undermine institutions and bring a mighty nation down.

More and ever-more, I am convinced Putin and Murdoch are very smart, indeed... though not science fiction smart. They are unable to grasp where waging war on the West's fact-using professions will inevitably lead, once we let ourselves perceive the full extent of cheating.
. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and (site feed URL:


Whatever (John Scalzi) - Sat, 07/14/2018 - 15:25
In other words, Smudge update! This little guy has been living it up here in the Scalzi compound and is being an adorable pain in the neck! He is the most playful kitten we’ve ever had, Sugar and Spice as kittens don’t even compare to how crazy this dude is. He loves chewing on cords, […]

New Books and ARCs, 7/13/18

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Fri, 07/13/2018 - 16:42
Friday the 13th is a lucky day here at the Scalzi Compound, because I get to show off all these new books and ARCs to you. What here would you consider yourself lucky to read? Tell us all in the comments!

The Big Idea: Raz Greenberg

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Fri, 07/13/2018 - 09:46
My first personal awareness of Hayao Miyazaki didn’t occur until I was well into adulthood, but for Raz Greenberg, his journey with the great animator started much earlier, and led him to write a book on the filmmaker, Hayao Miyazaki: Exploring the Early Work of Japan’s Greatest Animator. RAZ GREENBERG: The roots of the big idea […]

What You Should Be Watching: Final Space

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Thu, 07/12/2018 - 20:22
Hello, everyone, and welcome to another edition of “What You Should Be Watching”! Today I’ll be telling you about Final Space, a TBS original adult cartoon. It’s a sci-fi that takes place in an Earth where aliens are totally normal, and the Earth has a military-style organization called “Infinity Guard” that has spaceships and lasers and […]

The Big Idea: Jay Schiffman

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Thu, 07/12/2018 - 11:00
What is best in life? If you are, say, Conan the Barbarian, you have one sort of answer. If you are Jay Schiffman, or one of his characters in his novel Game of the Gods, your answer might be very different indeed. JAY SCHIFFMAN: There are two aspects of my life that have significantly shaped […]

My Three Sons, One a Parrot: A Twitter Story

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Thu, 07/12/2018 - 08:57
It began innocently enough. Enjoy tonight's sunset. — John Scalzi (@scalzi) July 11, 2018 MAKE ME — Chuck Wendig (@ChuckWendig) July 11, 2018 you tell him, chuck, he can't push us around anymore — Sam Sykes (@SamSykesSwears) July 11, 2018 ACTUALLY THIS CONTRACT HERE SAYS I CAN ENJOY THIS SUNSET BOTH OF YOU OR […]

Liars, cowards and scoundrels

Contrary Brin - Wed, 07/11/2018 - 20:44
== Defectors and clingers….  and a truth teller who can go to hell ==
Top GOP strategist Steve Schmidt, long a vocal critic of Trump, sees his party as cowardly and "irredeemable" for not standing up against the president. There are dozens of such adults who are saying they’ve had enough. Alas, almost none of them are in the right’s political caste.
Mitt Romney – for his own benefit – spent a year trying to get “moderate republicans” like John McCain and Susan Collins and the rest to join in a conference to save their party, the way the Democrats saved theirs in what I call the “Miracle of 1947.”  Alas, Romney failed to find more than three grams of cojones among all of them, and now he has shrunk back from the challenge, too, sucking up to the Trumpists. We’ll get no help from such cowards.
And there’s backpedaling and lying hypocrisy on the rise. Take Ralph Reed who was always among the smartest of the fanatics pushing us hard into a dark age. His recent missive declares that the countless, volcanically-vile personal faults of Donald Trump are irrelevant:
I said the same thing in the 1990s when I argued strongly against attacks on Bill Clinton’s character. In my book “Active Faith,” I wrote: “I have always deliberately confined my criticism of Clinton to public policy issues, not his character or moral shortcomings” and “If Bill Clinton is a sinner, he is no worse or less than you or me.” That was not a popular position at that time in my community, but it is one that I felt very strongly about then, and I feel the same way about President Trump.”
Oh, how charitable and all-forgiving! And spectacularly hypocritical and openly lying, given his earlier words. Here's a quote from Ralph Reed in a 1998 NY Times article''Character matters, and the American people are hungry for that message…. We care about the conduct of our leaders, and we will not rest until we have leaders of good moral character.''
Okay, so now his excuse for the pyrotechnically immoral behavior of almost every to GOP official, from Newt Gingrich and Dennis Hastert to the present occupant of the White House is: "Yes, our leaders are deeply immoral... but democrats are the same!"
Half a billion dollars of mostly our money was spent — across 25 years — investigating the Clintons, the most thoroughly probed humans in the history of our species. Half of all subpoenas issued by the lazy-ass GOP Congresses were in futile search of some "smoking gun." In 2001, George W. Bush diverted many agents from counter-terror duties to go through Clinton Administration files... in the run-up to 9/11.

 And after all that, what did we wind up with? A husband fibbed about some third base adult-consensual infidelity in a hallway... and the wife was later caught using exactly the same sort of somewhat improper email system as Colin Powell, Dick Cheney, John McCain, Mike Pence, George Bush and Jared Kushner.
Meanwhile, the GOP, which used to oppose gambling as a vice, is now dominated by casino moguls and slumlords with mob ties. A movement that despised divorce now shrugs when far more of its politicians are on multiple marriages (or caught in sexual perversion) than democrats. Red-confederate America leads the way in STDs, teen sex and pregnancy, domestic violence, gambling, addiction, murder and opioid addiction… and yet continues chanting about how much more moral they are.
Reed knows the chant is unraveling. “It’s about the policies,” he now maintains.  

I know several “ostrich” or residually sane Republicans who fall for this mantra. “My side has gone insane and sunk into turpitude,” admitted one of them to me, just days ago. “But if Trump and Fox are monsters, at least they have good effects.”
Alas, when I ask them to cite actual, measurable positive outcomes from the GOP controlling Congress for twenty of the last twenty-three years, they all stammer and then desperately try to change the subject. Because in all metrics and all ways - even things they should care about, like deficits and the health of entrepreneurial enterprise ... and military readiness(!) - the record of outcomes across Democratic administrations is universally and unambiguously better. 
See this proved, in detail: Outcomes Matter more than Rhetoric.
I repeat this too often, I know. But I will keep doing so, until you - yes you - and others start using it as a powerful polemical weapon: Name a fact profession - from science to law to the military - their cult is not attacking.

Name a strength that won us the Cold War - from alliances & science to citizen cohesion and a confident civil/military serving caste - that is not being systematically demolished by the Foxites.
When these purported ‘anti-communists’ are all chummy with Kremlin lords - just because those ex-KGB agents switched from wearing hammer/sickle pins to orthodox crosses, you know hypocrisy has hit new levels.  When their greatest pals are communist tyrants, you realize this was never about the health of market enterprise, but the revival of a confederate plantation caste.
“By his fruits you shall know him.”  And by his every fruit, we know Ralph Reed is what he’s always been. A lying beast, slouching toward Meggido.

== A man who could always see where this must lead ==
Oh, but they fall into a spectrum, a bestiary. Ralph Reed, while feral-clever enough to be evil, shows no sign of what I (or any star visitor) would call “sapience.” But there are some who I know to be easily as smart and perceptive as I am… or more… who have deliberately chosen treason.
Take the man I call "The Worst American".  George F. Will now asserts that only time spent in the wilderness can possibly save a Republican Party that's been hijacked by monsters. Oh, sure, he's very smart. He can tell that his entire conservative movement could wind up going extinct, if it remains under the control of casino moguls and slumlords with mafia ties, foreign despots, fox-traitors and confederate trogs. His point in this essay (Read it! Show it to your uncles): that only a crushing defeat this fall might force the GOP to re-evaluate and replace ol' Two Scoops in 2020.
Only a pyre that burns today's GOP will let a phoenix rebirth from the ashes. And Mr. Will asserts that rebirth could be dazzling.
He has a point. Democrats frittered away the last two times they retook Congress, allowing the Republicans to come roaring back. So, as a purely tactical move, GOP voters might follow Will's advice to rescue their party, ideally restocking their political caste with fresh voices who aren't crazy, or anti-fact - or beholden to Rupert Murdoch.
Only here's the thing. George Will remains unrepentant that he helped architect this present freak show. His brilliant incantations - like those of the protagonist in Vonnegut's MOTHER NIGHT - helped to keep tens of millions of residually sane "ostrich" republicans loyal to the undead elephant for two extra decades after Dennis "friend to boys" Hastert and his crew destroyed politics in America. For 20 years, Mr. Will cast soothing spells, delaying the arrival of this crisis till the very lives of America and the Western Enlightenment Experiment - hang in the balance.
He continues rationalizing... e.g. that Democrats kowtow to their executives -- an imbecilic falsehood belied by history, including California's Brown administration. Will knows this; he's offering his conservative readers a way to save face. 

But there's nothing left to save. Not when your party is now a cult, waging war against every profession that uses things called facts. Not when each and every strength of the American Pax that won the Cold War is being systematically dismantled or torched.
No. This man gets no forgiveness. Sure, we must welcome every American who returns home to the Union side, in this phase of the Civil War. And if some are turned back toward the light by words issued by George F. Will? Let's make them feel welcome under a very broad tent.
But not him. I forbid it. He might earn a prodigal son's forgiveness from Washington and Lincoln, perhaps in the great beyond. But the Worst American gets no pass from me.

== Speaking of whom… ==
The Nazis, according to this new book - The Death of Democracy: Hitler's Rise to Power and the Downfall of the Weimar Republic - were above all “a nationalist protest movement against globalization.” Even before the Great Depression brought huge unemployment to Germany, the caprice of the global economy offered an opportunity to politicians who had simple answers. In their 1920 program, the Nazis proclaimed that “members of foreign nations (noncitizens) are to be expelled from Germany.” 

Next would come autarky: Germans would conquer the territory they needed to be self-sufficient, and then create their own economy in isolation from that of the rest of the world. As Goebbels put it, “We want to build a wall, a protective wall.” Hitler maintained that the vicissitudes of globalization were not the result of economic forces but of a Jewish international conspiracy.
And then… more surprises?
This actually appeared on Fox News?  What’s their game? NASA's chilling 30-year-old warning: “We were warned. On June 23, 1988, a sultry day in Washington, James Hansen told the US Congress and the world that global warming wasn’t approaching — it had already arrived.  The testimony of the top NASA scientist, said Rice University historian Douglas Brinkley, was “the opening salvo of the age of climate change.” "Thirty years later, it’s clear that Hansen and other doomsayers were right. But the change has been so sweeping that it is easy to lose sight of effects large and small — some obvious, others less conspicuous. Earth is noticeably hotter, the weather stormier and more extreme. Polar regions have lost billions of tons of ice; sea levels have been raised by trillions of gallons of water. Far more wildfires rage. Over 30 years — the time period climate scientists often use in their studies in order to minimize natural weather variations — the world’s annual temperature has warmed 0.54 degrees Celsius, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. And the temperature in the United States has gone up even more — nearly 0.85 degrees.”  

Are the Kochs and their pals backing off?  Or preparing their case against the inevitable lawsuits?

Nope. As I'll tell in a coming missive, they are preparing freehold redoubts in Patagonia... where they will die at the hands of the very guards they have hired to protect them.  The ones left? Surviving "fact people" will know how to find them and have the ability and means to dig them out, or bury them with their useless gold...

...before we resume upward progress, and mine gold from asteroids.. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and (site feed URL:

The Big Idea: Ruthanna Emrys

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Wed, 07/11/2018 - 09:42
Community matters, even when or if your community is something… eldritch. As Ruthanna Emrys explains in her Big Idea for her newest novel, Deep Roots. RUTHANNA EMRYS: I’ve never lived among my own people. This was obvious to me, growing up, and I came to the logical conclusion that I must be an alien. Maybe […]

What Does Death Look Like?

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 07/10/2018 - 21:58
Hey, everyone! I’m writing a story that has Death as a main character, and it’s been really fun coming up with what I think Death looks like, what Death wears and sounds like, and basically Death’s personality overall. In my head, Death is a guy with pale skin who wears pretty much all black, but […]

Private Lives in a Public Era

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 07/10/2018 - 16:41
Writer Ella Dawson posted a piece on her blog (subsequently posted to Vox) entitled “We Are All Public Figures Now,” in which she tackles what she sees as the erosion of personal privacy due to social media and other factors, and what she thinks it all means. It’s an interesting read and I recommend it, […]

John and Athena Talk About Stuff, Episode Three: Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Mon, 07/09/2018 - 20:30
Athena and I are back at it again with another dive into the cinema’s sequel-mad summer, this time visiting Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom to see what we think about dinosaurs this time around. We talk about the movie, the differences between the Jurassic Park and Jurassic World films, and whether we’d ever go pay to […]
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