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March/April Big Idea Housekeeping Notes

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Thu, 03/02/2017 - 14:25
Which are: March Big Idea slots have been filled. If you asked for a March Big Idea slot and have not heard from me, sorry, full up. April Big Idea slots will be filled probably in the week of March 12. If you’re waiting on a response for an April Big Idea slot, don’t panic! […]

The Big Idea: Chuck Wendig

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Wed, 03/01/2017 - 09:20
When Chuck Wendig is not drinking Febreeze smoothies or arguing with people about their burrito choices, he writes books! For example: Thunderbird, the newest entry in his Miriam Black series. In today’s Big Idea, Chuck talks about what it took to extend the series into new territory… and how the real world might have caught […]

Economics under Trump

Contrary Brin - Wed, 03/01/2017 - 00:19
Please. We have one hope. That a civilization built by pragmatic idealists -- who used fact-grounded skills to craft a nation and a gradually better society -- can somehow use facts to save it. We will win this on two fronts: 

(1) by steadily peeling away from the rabid confederacy more adult Americans, one by one... and 

(2) by showing die-hard confeds that their self-interest does not lie with the plantation lords. That eventually happened in 1864, as desertions from Lee's army doomed that wretched "cause."

Neither of these things will be accomplished by yelling and marching... though yes, yell we must. And march we must. (And I will be out there, especially on Earth Day.) A movement must energize, after all.

But both (1) and (2) will require tenacious argument, repetition, and cornering the fact-evaders with wagers! (More on that, soon.)

== It's the economy, stupid ==

While there certainly are many Trump voters who have legitimate economic complaints, millions more are doing just fine. Back during the primaries, Nate Silver at 538 tracked Trump supporters and found that their average incomes were higher than average in those states, not lower. Such folks still felt rage! Their core grievance is culture war, about which we've spoken often.

But this time, let's focus on economics. Among my patented Name an Exception Challenges, one of them asks: Name one major metric of U.S. national health that did better across the spans of either Bush administration than across the spans of the Clinton and Obama admins. Nearly all such metrics declined - many plummeting - across Bush regimes.  Nearly all rose, many of them by a lot, across both Democratic Party terms. 

Still, no one can deny the vast transfer of wealth from the middle to upper classes that sped up during the Reagan, Bush and Bush terms... but only reversed under Clinton... not Obama. Indeed, below I will cite an article in Commentary that seems to undermine -- yes by citing facts -- every optimistic thing you have seen me write! A missive of doom and gloom that can be answered!  But an honest adult first faces such things, and does not hide from challenge.

A little further down, I will exercise host privilege and rant for you a dozen spectacular outrages, all of which are about one thing -- opening the middle class carotid artery, to be sucked by vampires.
== What will happen to jobs? ==
My friend John Mauldin points out: “The simple fact of the matter is that United States is producing more manufactured goods than ever before. And the growth trend in manufacturing, which was established in the 1920s, has shown no signs of slackening, even through recessions. The chart below is from a study done by two professors at Ball State University. It’s a fabulous analysis that shows that 80% of the jobs that have been lost in American manufacturing have been lost due to technology. American workers are now dramatically more productive than they were in just the year 2000. The authors point out that our 12 million manufacturing jobs today produce the same amount of goods as 21 million manufacturing jobs did in 2000.”
John continues: “That trend is not going to change. Technology is going to continue to increase the productivity of American (and global!) manufacturing. With companies like Foxconn in China creating robotic production lines, the cost of labor is truly becoming a rounding error in manufacturing. Prediction: Apple will soon be manufacturing the iPhone 9 or 10 in the United States. But producing those iPhones here won’t create that many jobs, because the work will be done on a robotic assembly line.”
John alternates this sagacity with lapses into… well… rationalization that today’s American right has not gone insane.  A stunning act of willful hallucination.  But well…
== The Collapse of Supply Side Rationalizations ==
Mauldin runs a prominent - conservative-leaning - investment newsletter.  And John's a really nice guy who laments the anti-intellectualism and vulgarity of his party’s right wing… without ever admitting that there are no other wings remaining, or that all the knowledge and fact people are fleeing the madness.  To be clear, he does offer up economic insights of real value and I use them to balance the sage wisdom you all can get from the Evonomics site, where the truly wisest heirs of Adam Smith reside.
Like so many “ostriches”… sane and decent Republicans who must cover their eyes and ears with sand, in utter denial over the hijacking of their movement by monsters - my friend called for ‘sensible negotiation’ during the Obama years, especially using low interest rates to finance infrastructure investments that are both needed (lest bridges collapse) and that would boost money velocity among the working classes. 

Alas - like all ostriches with their heads buried in denial - he persistently excuses the Republican Party of any fault for their intransigent unwillingness to negotiate, even over menu choices at a restaurant. (The ‘Hastert Rule’? Punishing any Republican who ever negotiates with a Democrat? Never heard of it!)
So, I was unsurprised when my friend’s recent newsletter quoted Lacy Hunt, of Hoisington Investment Management, who recently offered up a stunning example of denial by tunnel-vision. Hunt critiques the proposed Trump-Ryan tax cuts for the rich and sensibly says they’re “unlikely to work as well” as the huge tax gifts for the wealthy that were done under Reagan, Bush and Bush.
Now note that the premise - conveyed slyly by assuming it - is that those tax cuts ever “worked” at all. But did they? 

Yes, there was some growth across the Reagan years, compared to the post Vietnam collapse under Nixon, Ford, and then Carter.  Carter got all the blame, even though he was the grownup who unleashed Pal Volcker to dry out the nation’s runaway binge-inflation. That medicine spread short term pain and crushed Carter’s re-election chances, but it set the stage for recovery, which everyone credited to Reagan. What? Nothing for Volcker and the President who supported him? Well, I have learned never to slam conservatives’ deity. Let Ronnie have it.

(Note: at the recent CPAC gathering, Trump never mentioned Reagan even once, completing the dismissal and abandonment of every single GOP figure since Lincoln.)
But let's admit there was some tepid growth under Reagan. Only, growth, which did not happen after either Bush tax cut, is just one supply side prediction!  Others include absolute promises that tax cuts on the rich will wind up erasing budget deficits

Now, repeat that aloud a few times. Yes, that is the core catechism of a madness that transfixes today’s right. Voodoo? Never once ever happened? Sure. But millions believed the incantation, repeating it with increasingly urgent desperation.
Ah, but back to Lacy Hunt, who says that Supply Side tax cuts may not “work as well” this time (they never worked at all)… because ever since those huge Reagan/Bush/Bush tax cuts for the rich, federal debt ratios skyrocketed from 30% or so to over 100%, with economic pace and money velocity plummeting, and hence there is now less slack for big tax cuts to leverage…
...and my jaw dropped. Seriously? Sagacious conservative economists can lay those sentences together, in a row, and not draw the blatantly obvious and true conclusion?  
That vast tax gifts to the rich under Reagan, Bush and Bush maybe caused the spectacular increase in debt and the decline in economic activity? Also skyrocketing wealth disparity? Seriously. Is there any more direct proof that smart people can be crazy, than when they cannot connect blatant dots?
Is it possible that the supply side cult can or will ever respond to relentless disproof? I repeat: every single huge Supply Side tax cut on the rich resulted directly in skyrocketing deficits and wealth disparities, along with plunging economic growth. Not just at the federal level.  Look at Kansas. Oklahoma. Almost every confederate state. 
Here's an impudent notion. Ponder that perhaps the Greatest Generation - just maybe - knew what they were doing, back when their program of strong unions and high taxes on the rich led to the greatest boom in the history of our species. Back when the GGs built continent-spanning highways and universities, defeated Hitler, overcame Depression, contained Stalinism, went to the moon and began our forward progress against racism, sexism and environmental neglect. Might they have known their stuff? And perhaps the fanatic voodoo doctors Chicago School - subsidized by the beneficiaries of those massive tax cuts - did not?
No wonder science and all the knowledge professions who deal in fact are now Public Enemy Number One.
The Evonomics folks are fighting for Adam Smith and for the mixed and successful system the Greatest Generation built, now being smashed by oligarchy & confederatism. You conservatives may disagree with much that's said at Evonomics.  But the weight of their argument belongs on your scales. See: Extreme Inequality Causes Economic Collapse and Inequality and Unearned Income Kill the Economy.
== A dozen examples of outright economic/political rape ==

Okay so let's indulge in some choice ranting:

First: after supply side voodoo has been disproved at every level, the GOP is talking about a $3 trillion tax cut, 99.6 percent of which would go to the top 1 percent of households. 

So much for the stunning delusion nursed by so many that: "Trump is not really a Republican." Name one major effective action Trump takes that does not favor oligarchs. I said effective, not populist confederate theater or cranky toddler stuff. Top priority has gone to taking off even slight restraints on the 5000 CEO golf buddies voting each other vampire sucks out of our arteries. 

Or take the House voting to kill the Federal Electoral Commission. Or the separate Election Assistance Commission, which inspects and vetts the voting machines that we rely upon for honest tallies, a service which the GOP Congress now plans to abolish because, of course, why should anyone worry about our voting machines being misused or hacked? (In most blue states, at least paper ballots can be audited after an election, limiting the cheating. In many red states, that capability has mysteriously vanished.)

 Or to end equality of Net access. The newly minted head of the FCC is a vocal opponent of net neutrality. 

Yep. It's oligarchs, all the way down. But confederates care about only one criterion -- does an action OFFEND the snooty smartypants professional castes? If we hate it, they have to love it.

And hence, we have the following example, so stunningly egregious that it boggles the mind anyone can see it as anything but outright rape. Of us.

President Trump proposes to cancel an Obama era rule that financial advisers have a "fiduciary" responsibility to protect their clients' interests.  Believe it or not, financial advisers can urge you to buy certain products that they know will harm you but that will benefit the adviser... all of it legally, thanks to GOP legislation that Obama tried to reverse. 
What? You thought Republicans were on the side of the little guy? Dig another example: Trump just caved to the pharmaceutical industry, after promising, fervently, during the election, to let the government negotiate drug prices (a GOP law forbids it.)  Oh, and now coal companies can dump into streams and groundwater and the EPA can't investigate.  And that is the tip of the tip of the tip.
Silly confeds claim that Trump appointing almost all billionaires and Goldman-Sachs execs to his cabinet is goooood! Because 'it takes foxes to guard the henhouse.' Numb. Skulls. Feathers are already flying. Enjoy being eating, Johnny Reb.

== The gloom!  The gloom! ==

All right, after that gloomy rant (!) let's get back to a master gloomcaster! 

A long, fact-rich tirade by Nicholas Eberstadt - “Our Miserable 21st Century” - against optimism ran in Commentary, and yes, every polyanna should read it in detail.  We have a full plate of problems to solve. It was a good contrary tonic vs pollyanna optimism... which is ironic, of course, since optimism is almost nonexistent and the reflex toward gloom is exactly the tool used by oligarchy to promote Trumpism and hatred of the "elites" who are trying to fix these problems.  Problems that are almost entirely caused by the oligarchic putsch.
Notice how the author focuses almost solely on the U.S., because some of our high metrics peaked a while back.  All over the planet, though, those metrics are climbing fast, with a billion children now in school who would have been child labor slaves, twenty years ago.
The crux is that gloom serves a function when it piles proposed corrections on our to-do list.  It is our enemy when it screams "give up!" Or when it undermines our can-do spirit. Or when it leads millions to seek salvation with the nearest "strong" simplistic fast-talker. 
Somewhat in parallel to Eberstadt’s gloom is this article in the New Yorker by Evan Osnos: “Doomsday Prep for the Super-Rich." Some of the wealthiest people in America—in Silicon Valley, New York, and beyond—are getting ready for the crackup of civilization.” 

Oh, the mail I am getting about The Postman, from folks genuinely concerned that they see proto-Holnists arising... and some even from those proto-Holnists who (gulp) give me strange credit for their "movement."

Agh. I was trying to argue against...

... oh, never mind.  Buy and distribute more copies of the book! Heck, let's make a better movie.
. . ...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)

Chuck, I Am Your Father: Another Bit of Twitter Nonsense Featuring Me and Chuck Wendig

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 02/28/2017 - 18:35
Last week was EMPIRE'S END. This week is THUNDERBIRD. Two new books out — which means, in five years, I've published 20 novels. Um. Huh. — Chuck Wendig (@ChuckWendig) February 28, 2017 @ChuckWendig SETTLE DOWN CHUCK — John Scalzi (@scalzi) February 28, 2017 @scalzi MAKE ME, DAD — Chuck Wendig (@ChuckWendig) February 28, 2017 @ChuckWendig […]

The Big Idea: Erika Lewis

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 02/28/2017 - 09:45
Ghosts! How do they play a role in the genesis of Erika Lewis‘ new novel, Game of Shadows? Lewis is about to tell you. You’ll just have to imagine her telling you, in the dark, with a flashlight illuminating her face from under her chin… ERIKA LEWIS: It all started when I was seven. I […]

My Brain is Apparently a Fallow Field Today, So Here, Have a Chvrches Video

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Mon, 02/27/2017 - 17:40
It’s animated! I know you like animated stuff.

Revenge of the Deep State?

Contrary Brin - Sat, 02/25/2017 - 16:36
"Deep State" is a buzz phrase that's been around. It stands for the obstinate obstruction that political reformers may face - even when they win elections - from a nation's civil servants, bureaucrats, contractors, influential stakeholders and - especially - the security apparatus.  The term was used for many years on the left, citing the last moderate Republican president, Dwight Eisenhower, who warned of excess influence by a "military-industrial complex." But the term faded a bit into the worm-eaten woodwork of paranoid fringes.

Now, "Deep State" is back, big-time. Suddenly it's being pushed by the far-right to explain the hostility they face, not just from bureaucrats but from all of the security services and "entrenched elites." Or, as my neighbor, Jordan Greenhall put it recently, in a highly circulated posting, we find ourselves in a manichean struggle  between a conservative “Red Religion” vs. the liberal “Blue Church” globalist establishment -- our current “Deep State."

As Greenhall put it: "My assessment is that the Trump Insurgency has identified the Deep State itself as its central antagonist and is engaged in a direct existential conflict with it."

For a very different take on the Deep State meme, see: "How the Trump regime was manufactured by a war inside the Deep State," by Nafeez Ahmed, who traces how Donald Trump's Goldman-Sachs-Bushite (Skull n' Bones) cabinet may be at war against other elements in Washington. Ahmed's detailed listing of administration appointees and their ties is unmatched.  

Of course, there is an element of basic human psychology, here. We all have been trained - by Hollywood - to view ourselves as heroic and insightful rebels against some authoritarian elite. The meme - and I talk about this a lot - is called Suspicion of Authority (SoA) and we were all raised, suckling its core premise.

But which authority? If those on the left dread Big Brother arising from conniving oligarchs and faceless corporations, conservative Americans fret over different "controlling elites," ranging from snooty academics to faceless bureaucrats. Alas, both wings ignore the plain fact, that they share an underlying reflex that is especially American. A very well-founded fear that - yes - freedom does have enemies.

This reflex has been manipulated though. Today's "Red Religion" (to borrow Greenhall's term) lumps together as hate-targets every profession in U.S. society that deals in facts and knowledge. Their narrative is that these professions -- the same ones that were maligned for decades in right wing media, from science, teaching, economics, skilled labor and journalism to the civil service, law professionals, medical doctors and judges -- have colluded to create a truth-bending, Orwellian cabal! Yes, all the people who know stuff ... those who you trust to cure your cancer, teach your kids, keep the electricity running, investigate corruption, ask questions, explore the laws of nature, invent better phones, deliver honest justice, make or inspect your cars... they are all conniving haters of freedom and truth. They are all your enemies.

 And now, two of the last knowledge castes have been added -- members of the Intelligence Community (IC) and the U.S. Military Officer Corps (MOC).  See: Is Michael Flynn the first casualty of a 'deep state' coup? from Salon.

This Deep State - the story goes - has been responsible for both liberal tyranny and American decline from greatness.  
Never mind that these same professions empowered the great burst of creativity and invention and entrepreneurial drive that multiplied our wealth a hundred fold, since the Second World War.
Never mind that every metric of U.S. national health improved, across the spans of both the Clinton and Obama Administrations, while nearly all such metrics plummeted across both Bush regimes. That only makes statistical "facts" the enemy.
Moreover, the lack of any significant foreign-planned Islamic Terrorism on U.S. soil can only be explained by conspiracy among roughly a million highly competitive journalists, cops, jurists and security experts who all magically agreed never to mention the true, bloody rampage.
Never mind that American lives were statistically safer, under President Obama, than at any other time in the history of the republic. Or that blue cities take in most of the refugees, yet blue citizens don’t feel in much danger.
Or that Iranians have harmed U.S. lives or interests far, far less than the graduates of Saudi-financed madrassas. So, why is almost every member of the Trump administration beating a drum for war (of some kind) with Tehran? Michael Flynn was a leading drummer. Indeed, if you want a more plausible “deep state” conspiracy theory, how about you start with the fact that no one in our military wants an Iranian War? 
I'll admit, when you compare the different ways that Democratic and Republican presidents wage war, any sage officer would loathe the idea of a GOP commander-in-chief, ordering our troops into battle. 

== Notice the trial balloons ==
Articles like this one – denouncing the “Deep State” – are trial balloons that test possible justifications. Sales pitches to rally the confederacy. They set the stage for actions against all the knowledge castes, but especially security professionals. And more harbingers have blossomed in recent days. President Trump is considering tapping billionaire friend and New York financier Stephen A. Feinberg to lead a broad review of U.S. intelligence agencies…. The appointment of Feinberg would send shock waves through the intelligence community, a frequent target of Trump’s ire both as a candidate and as president,” reports The Washington Post.
“Feinberg rarely gives interviews and once said of private equity executives, “We try to hide religiously. If anyone at Cerberus has his picture in the paper and a picture of his apartment, we will do more than fire that person,” Feinberg told shareholders in 2007, according to Rolling Stone magazine. “We will kill him. The jail sentence will be worth it.”
Even allowing for polemical exaggeration, the zeitgeist here seems chilling. Now look up the word: “Cerberus.” Dang, these guys aren’t even trying to be subtle, anymore.
The trumpists and other murdochians know it will be dangerous to try pulling Erdogan-style purges of the IC and the MOC. Those officers whom they fire will make lovely recruits for the Democrats to run in Red congressional and assembly districts. (I'll speak more about this, later.) 

Moreover those who remain will continue to be sources of leaks that (betrayal!) keep the public informed. And yet, what choice have the alt-righters, but to attack? Among all the despised fact-based professions, the IC and MOC are cadres who present the greatest obstacles to any oligarchic putsch. If forced to choose between the Chain of Command and their oaths to the Constitution, the People and the republic... a choice they desperately want to avoid... I put my money on their oaths.

Conservative by temperament, their resistance only drives home a key point that we all must remember: This civil war just isn't about "liberal-conservative" anymore. 

It is now blatantly revealed to be what it's always been. Culture war between an anti-knowledge Confederacy and the forward-looking, scientific and progress-seeking Union that it periodically betrays, about once per generation. Jordan Greenhall uses "Blue Church" cleverly, but he and others know that is a way of using the blue-scientific side's own fears against it. The implicit insult is as inaccurate as it is unfair... as it is devilishly clever. Like the "deep state" meme.
== The ("Evil") Empire Strikes Back ==

We should have no energy crisis, now that Ronald Reagan has joined Barry Goldwater, William F. Buckley, Dwight Eisenhower and Teddy Roosevelt, all spinning in their graves. But Ronnie is whirling at 50,000 rpm.  Why?

There is another buzz term that you'll get to know, promulgated in this article. "Anti-Russian hysteria." The notion being that the Deep State is rife with mongerers trying to re-ignite the Cold War, or worse. This despite the fact that a U.S.-Iran War is both a top administration goal and lusciously desired by the Kremlin. (And, in truth, it is desired by the Iranian mullahs, who see it as a rationale to crush moderate-secular elements in Persian society.) This catch-phrase -- along with "Deep State" -- will spew forth.  

(Oh, the richness of pleasure watching the silly confeds at CPAC waving little Russian flags with the word "Trump" on them!)

And yet…
…And yet, I have to figure that the murdochians have gone too far, this time.
Do you remember what finally brought down the equivalent of Steve Bannon, back in during the 1950s heyday of the Greatest Generation? The sceeching firebrand Joe McCarthy? It was when he attacked the U.S. Military Officer Corps. But, weaned on stereotypes, movie clichés and pop-paranoid philosophers, I doubt that Bannon has a clue who he's leveling his lance against. The best-educated, most-pragmatically grownup and loyal clade of men and women in American life.

(You lefties, if you reflexively spit on these crewcut men and women, then you will be the fools. We need them, now, more than at any point in the last human lifetime.)
Moreover, whenever I think of those folks, I can sleep at night, and so should you, knowing that they are -- deep in their guts and bones -- on our side.  Normal 0 false false false EN-US JA X-NONE

. . ...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)

Today in Portraiture

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Fri, 02/24/2017 - 20:34
Today I decided I was going to make an actual effort to get some mileage out of the prime lens (50mm 1.8f) I got with my dSLR. So I did a little portraiture. Here are the results. Result: Acceptable!

New Books and ARCs, 2/24/17

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Fri, 02/24/2017 - 17:25
Already the last weekend of February — yikes! Fortunately here is a fine stack of new books and ARCs to help ease us into March. What here would you want to read next? Tell us in the comments!

The Big Idea: Jake Bible

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Fri, 02/24/2017 - 09:47
What’s in a name? Sometimes, as Jake Bible relates about his new novel Stone Cold Bastards, there’s quite a lot there indeed. JAKE BIBLE: Stone Cold Bastards. I have no idea the exact date or what influence triggered the name to pop into my head, but I do know I was in bed, it was […]

The New Laptop, February 2017 Edition

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Thu, 02/23/2017 - 23:00
A couple of months ago I realized I was going to need a new laptop; the Dell XPS 12 I have, while still working perfectly well while plugged in, will only last for a couple of hours on battery — this is what happens to old laptops. I have a Chromebook Flip, which I actually really […]

The Expanding Tour is Expanding: Santa Fe, NM and Southfield, MI

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Thu, 02/23/2017 - 16:56
My tour for The Collapsing Empire is already pretty long, taking place as it does over five weeks — and now it’s about to get longer! Because I’m showing up at two new places: Monday, April 17 Jean Cocteau Cinema Santa Fe, NM and Friday, April 28-Sunday, April 30 Penguicon Southfield, MI The Santa Fe […]

Reminder: There’s No Such Thing as an Automatic Award Nomination

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Thu, 02/23/2017 - 12:00
Over at Inverse, writer Ryan Britt is annoyed that two of his favorite science fiction books of the year, Death’s End by Cixin Liu, and Babylon’s Ashes by James S.A. Corey, are not on the Nebula list of nominees for Best Novel. His argument for both basically boils down to they’re both amazing so they […]

Trump's Divided America

Contrary Brin - Wed, 02/22/2017 - 20:06
This reporter tried hard, for a week to live life with no reference to the President. But this mother of storms exceeds any combination of known attention storms. Sci fi offers a simple explanation.  He is an attention vampire. However many hate him... however little he actually accomplishes... an attntion vampire will flourish as ever-more humans look at him, feel emotions about him, say his name.

== Crit that added weight to the other side ==
Hillary Clinton thought that the things that 55% of Americans and all the smart people found deeply offensive would pile up on scales against Donald Trump.  What could not enter her mind or other Democratic leaders was how many American saw Donald Trump's outlandishness not as a bug, but as a feature. The fact that all the smart folks were offended is what turned every outrageous Trumpism into a point added to his side. Indeed, they wound up being the only things necessary. The angrier and more upset we got, the better the reflexive response from what can only be called the Confederacy.
No other theory can explain why fundamentalist Christians rallied behind the most unchristian and most opposite-to-Jesus candidate ever to run for high office in the United States.  None of those traits mattered! Not so long as he satisfied the one great, rallying criterion: "Trump hates the same wiseguy nerds and lectury chiders I hate!" A shared enemy is all it sometimes takes. Indeed, it is the only diagnosis and explanation that correlates, across the board.
Anyone who thinks it was a decline in white middle class incomes has paid no attention to statistics or studies showing that many Trump supporters are doing just fine and - in fact - have done vastly better across the spans of Democratic administrations than Republican ones.   
So let’s get back to those post-mortems of why so many of our fellow Americans feel such rage at all their smart or professional neighbors.
== Some of it may be simple ==
Aiming to understand what drives white-rural or white working class political fixation must include some understanding of pain. Not so much financial or social, but physical. Pain of the organic-body kind. So writes Vinnie Rotondaro, in The science of white working class pain on Salon. And at one level or another, this should be considered. 
The underlying tensions, urban vs rural, liberal vs conservative, are covered in the Associated Press release: Divided America: The Fracturing of a Nation.
Sarah Pulliam Bailey, in the WaPost, talks of how nostalgia for white Christian America drove so many Americans to vote for Trump
“In Andy Griffith’s rural North Carolina home town, people wish life were more like the Mayberry of TV… Seventy-four percent of white evangelicals believe American culture has mostly changed for the worse since the 1950s — more than any other group of Americans — compared with 56 percent of all whites, according to a 2016 survey by the Public Religion Research Institute. In sharp contrast, 62 percent of African Americans and 57 percent of Hispanic Americans think the culture has changed for the better, the survey said.  With his promise to “Make America Great Again,” Trump appealed directly to this sense of dispossession, and 81 percent of white evangelicals voted for him, according to exit polls.”
Recall last time how I referred to George Lakoff’s advice – ignored by the snooty Democratic Establishment – to pay heed to the “strong father” reflex that underlies so many of those who are rejecting the western enlightenment’s emphasis on a nurturing civilization.
== Oh, but there are other monsters ==
What stunning hypocrisy – one among hundreds – that the Republicans, having blocked for 8 years an infrastructure bill that would have stimulated economic growth, now, suddenly, are abandoning their commitment to fiscal responsibility and embracing this Keynsian notion. 
Why? Because they know it would work. They always knew infrastructure spending would work, which is why they did not want it happening during a democratic administration.
Is climate denialism a “pillar” of conservatism? It would seem so. And every day you wonder when the crazy will reach limits. Example. The polar vortex is slipping south again as our climate changes. Record cold will strike middle America, even as the Arctic thaws, under unprecedented high temperatures, without sunlight. If you are curious and sapient, read this informative article. If not? If you are a member of the hate-science cult? Welcome to the world you helped create.
No, everyone has it backwards.  They are not attacking science (and every other knowledge/fact profession) in order to undermine action on climate change. Rather, they have spread and pushed climate denialism as a cudgel for their main pillar and agenda: attacking science. And every other knowledge/fact profession that might dare to question a feudal oligarchic putsch.
Representative Mick Mulvaney, who was recently selected as the Trump administration's nominee for director of the Office of Management and Budget, posted “Do we really need government-funded research at all?” Yep, the one thing that doubled all U.S. productivity since World War II. Heck, the thing that enabled us to win World War II. We do not know the balance yet between the two traits most telling for Trump appointees. But those two chief traits are becoming clear. 
So… what’s gonna happen? Singer/thinker/SciFi reader Janis Ian suggests that Trump and Putin will join forces against China.  A tasty story… and unlikely, I think.  I doubt very much that the oligarchy wants anything like the super recession that a major tiff with China would cause. Though they do know they need something symbolic for the rallies.
I do expect some Potemkin "trade War" in which some tits for tat will be traded in pre-arranged ways that make both countries leaders look tough to the home audience. It will be tightly choreographed.  Those who dream of a Russo-U.S. coalition against China are dreaming.  Indeed, Putin is probably selling off Siberia as we speak.  We, too, will be sold. Alack.
AM I saying there won't be hot war? Are you kidding? Republican presidents always do war, big time. Democrats too, only their doctrine is to go surgical, as Clinton did in Bosnia. Republicans like pushing whole divisions around, and to hell with the cost.  Hence, I would put money on some scheme - some Gulf of Tonkin provocation - that triggers some shooting between the US and Iran. It would serve the needs of both Trump and the Iranian Mullahs, and especially Vladimir Putin. Heck, even the Saudis would foolishly want it. Though our own military wants anything but!

Highly apropos of which:  Day of the Oprichnik is a 2006 novel by the Russian writer Vladimir Sorokin. The narrative is set in the near future, when the Russian Empire has been restored, and follows a government henchman, an oprichnik, through a day of grotesque events. Notably, it foresaw a future when Russia’s only income would come from selling off natural resources including – piecemeal to China – most of Siberia. 
== AmericaNewsX ==
I sometimes cross-post to this brash site. And on occasion they get a bit melodramatic for my taste.  Still, their eagerness to fight back is evident and approval-worthy. For example:
Trump Will Be The Oldest President In U.S. History, And Why That Matters A Lot.   The Evidence Is Growing That The Trump Dossier Isn’t “Fake News”
Obama The First President In 36 Years To Leave Office With A Diminished Prison Population.
And video shows a right wing provocateur with Breitbart connections as she tries to manipulate a liberal group into accepting bribes for acts of violence and disruption. Maass has previously been caught trying to infiltrate three liberal campaigns; those of Russ Feingold, Bernie Sanders, and Hillary Clinton.  Memorize that face. Next time, do a reverse sting.
== Oh, lest we forget ==
Just in case you imagine I have forgotten the loony left, here’s an example of why that direction remains a very real (albeit much smaller and less immediately lethal than the mad right) danger to our enlightenment civilization. Are STEM Syllabi gendered? The syllabi for college-level STEM courses—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—are "gendered" because they promote the idea that knowledge can be ascertained through reason. This is a masculine concept that hurts women's feelings and makes it difficult for them to succeed…. that certain stylistic choices—command words like "will" and "must"—are inherently masculine and anti-woman, and then sets out to determine whether these words show up in STEM syllabi.”
Mind you, these indirect quotations of "Are STEM Syllabi Gendered? A Feminist Critical Discourse Analysis" are taken from an article in REASON, a libertarian journal, sure to take a mocking response.  Still, this is exactly the sort of thing that is used by Hannity & company a bludgeons to imply that “both sides are just as subjectively biased” (i.e. crazy). 

No, they are not equivalent, Sean. The FAR left CONTAINS some dogmatic crazies. Your ENTIRE American right CONSISTS of such.

There is a difference between FAR and ENTIRE.  As there is between CONTAINS and CONSISTS.
. . ...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)

On the Matter of Empathy For Horrible People

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Wed, 02/22/2017 - 12:42
Yesterday I was having a conversation with a friend regarding the implosion of Milo Yiannopoulos, the remarkable two-day period in which the public bigot and Breitbart editor lost a high-profile speaking engagement, a lucrative book contract, and a job, because one of his positions (regarding sexual contact between adults and young teens) finally crossed a […]

The Big Idea: Meg Elison

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 02/21/2017 - 09:42
Ideals are a great thing, if you can afford them. In The Book of Etta, award-winning writer Meg Elison takes a look at ideals and what they cost, and who can afford to have them in a world where ideals are very dear indeed. MEG ELISON: There comes a time in the life of every […]

Anticipating upcoming Sci Fi Movies of 2017

Contrary Brin - Mon, 02/20/2017 - 22:02
Here are my quick takes on 31 sci fi movies to expect in 2017 (as selected by Bobby Bernstein on NerdMuch):
1. Underworld: Blood Wars: Kate Beckinsale is very watchable and there are moments of irony in the Underworld series, and action. But it betrays the essence of the lycanthrope - wolfman - mythos, making them just smellier vampires. If vampires are the aristocratic monsters, and zombies the proletarians, then wolfmen have always been the bourgeoise, middle class monsters! With a mortgage to pay, a lawn to mow, kids who don’t understand him, and now the full moon is approaching and “I don’t have time for this!” Hence, I bear a grudge. Feh, but very watchable.
2. Death Race 2050: Geez, a cliché take on the cliché ripoffs of a cliché.

3. “The Discovery movie will follow a love story set one year after the existence of an afterlife is scientifically verified.” Oh, so now you listen to science? Sounds like Sheckley’s Immortality Incorporated. (Get it.) Otherwise, it sounds interesting.
4. The Space Between Us - already bombing in theaters - follows a youth “raised by scientists on Mars who returns to Earth to find his father, falling in love with a street smart girl.” 90% of you know which Heinlein classic this steals from.
5. Life: Astronauts find life on Mars that tries to eat them.  I suppose an eightieth interpretation of this hoary cliché might click.
6. The Ghost in the Shell movie with Scarlett Johansson. Likely to be mindless garish great fun.
7. The Circle is based on the international best-seller by Dave Eggers.  Eggers’ use of reverse-voice propaganda is almost as skillfully effective as Orson Scott Card at getting you to despise average citizens and hate the only thing that ever gave us privacy in the first place, or kept us free.  So sure. Just watch the method of this propaganda, having the villains self-righteously rant and rant and rant and rant how virtuous they are.  Once you notice the technique, it will never work as well on you, again.
8. Alien: Covenant  will continue the garish, utterly illogical, but vividly watchable Prometheus alien cycle.
9. Transformers, directed by Michael Bay. The most vivid way to go deaf. The aliens who are stealing our media without paying a dime in royalties probably love this stuff and as long as we produce it, there’ll be no first contact.  There’s your Fermi Paradox explanation. ETs are all 12 year old boys.
10. I don’t know why I did not want to like this series, but its sheer intelligence won me over. War for the Planet of the Apes, continues a version of this fable, this time meant for people with some thoughtfulness. Oh, but expect this round to be way overly-preachy.
11. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets: based on the Valerian and Laureline graphic novel series, is being helmed by Luc Besson. That is all you need. Luc Besson is the Zemeckis of our time. I will watch anything he does. This one looks to be way fun.
12. The Dark Tower. I like Stephen King. This adaptation of King's book The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger stars Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey. I may wait for the DVD though.
13. Iron Sky: The Coming Race. A follow up to Iron Sky, in which Nazis plot world dominance from their base on the moon. I’ll wait for the DVD. Then lock the doors, pull the blinds and wear a paper bag over my head so no one will ever be able to confirm I sat there, munching popcorn and laughing my ass off.
14. Blade Runner 2049, directed by Denis Villeneuve, starring Harrison Ford, Ryan Gosling and Robin Wright. They listed this down at 14? Seriously. You had me at “Bla-” 
15. Geostorm & 16. God Particle…. yeah… well…
17. Steven Spielberg’s filming of Ernest Cline’s best-selling novel Ready Player One should be terrific.
18. Disney’s takeover of the Star Wars series meant that the films no longer relentlessly preach evil messages in almost every scene. That plus enabled me to sit, zone out, soft-reboot at very low IQ, and thus enjoy the vividness of The Force Awakens. 

I expect more the same from Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Little ships diving to blow up hapless big ships - or really big ships… or really, really, OMG you won’t believe how big ships! This is not what I happily expected after first seeing the magnificent Empire Strikes Back, back when I thought we’d be gifted art, fun, beauty, wisdom and more fun, all at the same time, in an epic truly worthy of our time. Instead we got years of outright propaganda for evil -- described in Star Wars on Trial -- followed by a recent return to harmless bubblegum. Sure, bubblegum is far better than evil. One learns to take one one can get.
19. The Six Billion Dollar Man. Yep, inflation. There may be fun. Indeed, the number of remakes on this list is lower than expected.
20. Replicas with Keanu Reaves.  Hm, well.
21. The Blob. What was I just saying about reboots? I shouldn’t scribble these lists in real time.
22. Come on. Nowadays, movies should be counter-cyclical. And with real apocalypse looming…shouldn't we get a respite on screen?  The Last Broken Darkness is a post-apocalyptic sci-fi film that follows the story of Sam, one of the last surviving human beings left on Earth who teams up with a small community of survivors who are suddenly faced with a new impending danger threatening to wipe out mankind’s existence forever. Zzzzzzzzzz.
23…. okay I am outta steam… I cannot slog to 31. There look to be some good things. Still. Come on. We can do way better.
. . ...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)

Quick Note re: Comments

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Mon, 02/20/2017 - 21:22
It is: My spam filter seems to be unusually aggressive recently and more legit comments are finding their way there; I just released a bunch. So if for some reason you’ve been trying to comment and your comment doesn’t appear, don’t panic, I’m (probably) not intentionally moderating you, it’s just a hyperactive spam filter. It’s […]

The Last Temptation of Chuck Wendig: A Twitter Tale, Involving a Liverwurst Burrito

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Mon, 02/20/2017 - 14:51
CONTENT WARNING: Features liverwurst, and the end times. Today's burrito involves liverwurst, so I just want you to live with that for a while. — John Scalzi (@scalzi) February 20, 2017 @scalzi IT'S TIME FOR AN INTERVENTION — Chuck Wendig (@ChuckWendig) February 20, 2017 @ChuckWendig LOOK CHUCK IF YOU WANT ME TO MAKE ONE FOR […]

Hamilton, and Thoughts on the Uncanny Valley of Musicals

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Mon, 02/20/2017 - 09:54
On Saturday night Krissy and I went and saw Hamilton in New York. This was a moment greatly anticipated by a large number of my friends who had seen the show (or at least listened to the soundtrack) had fallen head over heels in love with it, and who wanted to induct me into their […]
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