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New Books and ARCs, 5/5/17

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Fri, 05/05/2017 - 15:13
For your Cinco de Mayo delectation, this lovely stack of new books and ARCs! What seems especially tasty today? Let us know in the comments.

The Big Idea: Gwenda Bond and Christopher Rowe

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Fri, 05/05/2017 - 08:44
Gwenda Bond and Christopher Rowe are writers, spouses and collaborators on the middle grade detective novel The Supernormal Sleuthing Service: The Lost Legacy. So it’s only natural — and indeed perhaps inevitable — that they would collaborate on this Big Idea as well! GWENDA BOND and CHRISTOPHER ROWE: Gwenda: We decided to write our Big […]

The Short Straw Gambit: facing down madness with cleverness

Contrary Brin - Thu, 05/04/2017 - 17:06
I've suggested this before. Donald Trump is about personality disorders, not ideology! Indeed, the "worst American" George F. Will has reached the same conclusion about the man occupying the Oval Office.  This overlap of diagnosis does not persuade me to cozy up to Will the Traitor. 

Still, by all means read the man's dissection.
Viewing the problem as psychological, instead of fundamentally ideological, opens up an interesting possibility. For example, last month Trump declared war on the GOP's Freedom Caucus -- the 30+ Republican Tea Party radicals who torched Paul Ryan's "Obamacare replacement" bill, though in fact, he was aggrieved personally not politically. His "dealmaking" for the next version (which just passed the House) was entirely about loyalty. He shows no sign og having read or understood the changes.

Hence, this impudent thought: Trump's short attention span and egomania move offers an opening for what I call "Short straw Democrats."
== The principle is simple: flattery words! ==

 Donald Trump responds ferociously to those who dislike him and warmly to those who say nice things. Period. Full stop. There is nothing more. There is nothing less. Nothing left or right. Or anything else. So let me repeat it.
Donald Trump responds ferociously to those who dislike him and warmly to those who say nice things.  Period.
And hence, Democrats should hold a caucus to draw straws. Those with short straws must say nice things about Donald Trump.
This does not demand betraying principles! Your stances and votes can all remain the same! But you'll simply and deliberately end any statement about the president with a compliment. 

Example: "While I respectfully disagree with the President on this and a myriad other issues, I will admit that he is among the best-looking leaders this nation ever had."
Will the pandering be obvious? Sure! Will there be nods and winks? Uh-Huh. Will Hannity & Co. scream denunciations of an obvious ploy? Yep! And Trump's inner circle will rail at him to ignore the blatant manipulativeness of the other side's "short straw" volunteers.
But it won't matter! The compliment will stick in Trump's head, where facts and policy positions do not. He will invite the complimenters to dinner, to golf. He'll listen. He'll sway. I'll put money on it.
(Al Franken could pull this off. So could Chuck Schumer. Nancy Pelosi shouldn't try, but Elizabeth Warren?)

Surely there are a few Democrats with the intelligence and strength of character and stomach to do what clearly must be done?
Well.  No.  I guess we've seen the answer to that one.
== The Siberian Candidate – follow the connections ==
Here’s a fascinating timeline, for those who want to study hypocrisy.  If even one or two of these “coincidences” had been done by Obama or Clinton, it would have raised screams of conspiracy! 
What do you do when the “coincidences” pile up and beggar Goldfinger’s Law?
== Sinking their fangs deeper ==
Marissa Mayer Set to Receive $186 Million for Failing...Because... This Is How Corporate America Works.  In addition to $200M in other "compensation."   How is this justified? Our companies are vampired of value in order to "get top talent into management."  Instead of spending to develop new products, members of the CEO-oligarch caste heap on debt to do stock buy-backs that boost their golden parachutes.
Think.  In any other field, high pay would draw in talent from other fields to compete with these 5000 golf buddy CEOs. That flood of competitors should then pull CEO pay down. It's called supply & demand capitalism -- the thing these folks claim to favor!  But it hasn't happened for 40 years.  Instead, this closed cabal appoints each other onto boards that then hire "indispensable" pals at rates that would fund many world nations.
And now they are so rich that wealth disparities have reached levels of 1789 France, affecting politics so that correction is impossible, short of revolution.
See where I decrypt how we came to this. How "business" leaders became the conniving enemies of Adam Smith:
There are still sectors of the U.S. economy that do capitalism and competitive enterprise.  Autos are vibrant and deliver better products, every year. Elon is forcing competition into spaceflight. Silicon Valley is still filled with folks who emphasize product innovation. I do not want the revolution that the Wall Street and CEO caste seem determined to provoke!
We need to remember how FDR and the Greatest Generation staved off Marxism.  With reform.
== Economic and personal freedom: Victims  of government? ==
Libertarians! Does Size of Government (SoG) negatively affect freedom? Is Big Government the enemy of both Personal Freedom (PF) and Economic Freedom (EF)?  The Cato Institute - supposedly the center of libertarian intellect - collected data to study EF and PF and well-being across 160 nations. Some conclusions were expected - EF and PF tend to rise and fall together.

But a simple analysis at Evonomics - using Cato's own data - shows that economic and personal freedom both correlate positively - strongly - with size of government.   That is strongly... positive. Countries with more government tend to have higher PF and EF.  Blatantly so.
Should you be surprised?  As proved during the Greatest Generation - (who adored FDR) - shared investments in infrastructure, schools, health etc. all result in vastly raising the fraction and number of children who can then confidently participate as competitors in vigorous markets, or do the science that stimulates all growth. 
Yes, government bureaucracies can stifle!  But history shows that danger to be far smaller than the threat of re-established cheater-oligarchy.
Finally, it's time to banish the mythos that "democrats favor personal freedom and republicans favor economic freedom."  It is an outright lie.  If 'economic freedom' stands for healthy entrepreneurship, small business startups, competitiveness, innovation, level-competitive playing fields and strong economy-metrics, then democrats score vastly better in that freedom, too.

Republicans only serve the concentration of economic power in an ever-narrowing aristocratic class. Name one exception, a vigorously enacted GOP policy that did not pursue that one and only, central Republican goal.

One. Name one.
== Weaponized satire ==
Borowitz is brilliant. "Appearing at his first public event since leaving office, Obama fired off a punishing fusillade of grammatically correct sentences, the likes of which the American people have not heard from the White House since he departed... in what was widely seen as a brutal attack on his successor, without ever once referring to or mentioning Donald Trump." -- writes Andy Borowitz in The New Yorker.
“About five or six sentences in, I noticed that all of his sentences had both nouns and verbs in them,” Carol Foyler said. “I couldn’t believe he was going after Trump like that.” "Obama’s blistering deployment of complete sentences clearly got under the skin of their intended target, who, moments after the event, responded with an angry tweet: “Obama bad (or sick) guy. Failing. Sad!”

. . ...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 Brain Eater

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Wed, 05/03/2017 - 14:19
So, let’s say, there’s this writer. (It doesn’t have to be a writer. It could be a musician, or painter, or actor, any aspirant in any creative or indeed competitive field, in which there will be many who participate but few who will end up on top, commercially or critically.) Let’s also posit this writer […]

The Beehive Shrinks

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Wed, 05/03/2017 - 08:39
Well, this is sad news to me: The Fresno Bee, which is the newspaper I wrote for lo those many years ago, has basically killed off its local arts and sports coverage, in the process laying off eight reporters, including my very dear friend Donald Munro. Donald worked at the Bee for 26 years and […]

New Books and ARCs, 5/2/17

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 05/02/2017 - 16:57
Lots of books came to the Scalzi Compound while I was out on the last leg of the tour — and here’s the first stack. What in here calls to you? Tell us in the comments!

The Big Idea: Malinda Lo and Alaya Dawn Johnson

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 05/02/2017 - 08:47
After reading this Big Idea piece by Malinda Lo and Alaya Dawn Johnson about Tremontaine, the serial novel written by them and a host of others, based on the Swordpoint novels by Ellen Kushner, I guarantee you won’t think the same way about… chocolate. MALINDA LO: I first read Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint after I had already […]

Catching Up On the News, Alas

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Mon, 05/01/2017 - 17:17
Hey! Hey, Scalzi! It’s me, your imaginary interlocutor! Oh, you again. I thought I got rid of you. Only while you were on tour, pal! Now I’m back and here to ask you more leading questions about politics so you can rant! (sighs) Fine, but I’m keeping my answers short. Sure you are. Shut up. […]

Tax "reform" or not?

Contrary Brin - Mon, 05/01/2017 - 16:35
In Edinburgh I just posed for pictures next to one statue of Hume and then in front of Adam Smith, the founder of liberal economics.

(Oh the handsome scotsman posing with me? Edinburgh science fiction legend Ken MacLeod. Look up his fine novels, such as The Corporation Wars.)
Back to Adam Smith; it’s clear where he would be writing, were he alive today -- at the website that mentions his name most-often. Evonomics is the fast-rising site where liberals and moderates in the commercial and academic worlds of economics offer spirited resistance to fanaticism. 

While the far-left and the entire-right seem hell-bent on betraying the system that brought us all this vast wealth and opportunity, moderates are rediscovering Smith, who knew that creative-competitive markets can only work when they are regulated to keep them flat-open and fair.  

6000 years of cheaters have showed us that vast disparities of wealth do not lead to healthy market enterprise, but stifle it. (Try running a competitive sports league without "regulation." Alas, leftists reflexively despise the word "competition" and rightists despise "regulation" when it is only the combination that works.) See my posting on Competition and Regulation.
If our parents in the Greatest Generation could stymie oligarchic cheaters, spurring lively market competition by keeping things relatively flat and fair, then can't we?  These re-sets have to be made about once per U.S. generation, and the plantation lords - desperate to prevent it - know that feudalism might be prevented permanently, if we perform just one more.  
Which brings us to…
== The Tax Bill: fool me ten times…. ==
The one and only actual priority of the plantation lords is now forefront in the hilariously sob-worthy new 'tax bill':
"Our expectation is that with the growth we create and the elimination of many deductions that we will make it revenue neutral," said Marc Short, the White House Director of Legislative Affairs, doubling down yet again on Supply Side Theory.
Well, it's a theory that sounded plausible when JFK pushed the first big tax cut in the 1960s. It still sounded conceivable when Reagan pushed the next round in the 80s. 
Then ridiculous when Bush Sr. got us to go a third time with this “voodoo” that has never once worked, ever, in any way. At any level. Even once. At all.Ever.

Then came the big tax cut for the rich under Bush Junior, when most economists and a majority of Americans asked: “Are you kidding me?” It didn’t work (again) and deficits skyrocketed, along with wealth disparities now approaching those of France in 1789.

So now the Trumpists are doing it again. Read the details, like elimination of inheritance tax so that oligarchy can preserve its feudal power across generations, and the alternative minimum tax, so they do not have to pay for wars they declare. Oh, and you lose your medical expense deduction. And the old excuses aren’t even being pushed hard. The masters want this. And that’s that. It’s no longer “fool me once.”  See: This Isn’t Tax Policy; It’s a Trump-Led Heist.

Heck, there aren't even fig leaves to actual stimulation. R&D credits? Nope. Depreciation for domestic productive capacity? I don't see any. Credits for public-private infrastructure investment? None that I can spot.

What is in the bill is a set of provisions that openly and savagely attack the finances of blue states. The confederates seem determined to wake us up. This is Fort Sumter, guys.

== Tax Simplification? ==
If "reform" means wanting to simplify the system, so it is no longer a 10,000 rule monstrosity, I have long offered an absolutely guaranteed way to do it.  The non-partisan method is technical, using computer optimization. But my "No-Losers" method not only can work... it works almost by definition. 
In contrast the Trump "reform" has one aim. At risk of repetition, in the 1980s and again in the 2000s, "supply side" tax cuts poured wealth from our carotid arteries into open oligarch maws without once, ever, at all, even one time, having the predicted outcomes. 

Nothing so well proves the stunning stupidity of these neo-feudal lords, that they think this has any logical conclusion, other than tumbrels.
== The Influence of Propaganda ==
From the new Scout site: Welcome to the age of Weaponized AI Propaganda, by Berit Anderson:
"By leveraging automated emotional manipulation alongside swarms of bots, Facebook dark posts, A/B testing, and fake news networks, a company called Cambridge Analytica has activated an invisible machine that preys on the personalities of individual voters to create large shifts in public opinion. " 

This company helped elect Donald Trump and helped with the Brexit Leave campaign. "The company is owned and controlled by conservative and alt-right interests that are also deeply entwined in the Trump administration. The Mercer family is both a major owner of Cambridge Analytica and one of Trump’s biggest donors. Steve Bannon, in addition to acting as Trump’s Chief Strategist and a member of the White House Security Council, is a Cambridge Analytica board member. Until recently, Analytica’s CTO was the acting CTO at the Republican National Convention."
This report on the science reporting site “Scout” explains: In the past, political messaging and propaganda battles were arms races to weaponize narrative through new mediums — waged in print, on the radio, and on TV. This new wave has brought the world something exponentially more insidious — personalized, adaptive, and ultimately addictive propaganda.”
Speaking of weaponized info: recall he beat up on Hillary about how incredibly irresponsible she was by allowing her email, and classified documents, to be exposed to hackers, by using email exactly the way her predecessors had. Now a congressman calls for House investigation of Donald Trump's terrible Android phone In the month since he took office, Donald Trump has refused to drop his Samsung S3 in favor of the standard secured phone. That's a huge security problem, since conventional phones are vulnerable...
== A Ray of Light ==
The United States Is Not an Apocalyptic Wasteland, explains Steven Pinker in this interview with Phil Torres. Professor Stephen Pinker, along with Peter Diamandis (Abundance: The Future is Better than You Think) has used evidence to shatter the delusion that everything is spiraling into hell. That mythology doesn’t help inspire us to save the world, but rather spreads nihilism and cynicism. In fact, statistically, there are dozens of reasons for (guarded) optimism!  Which, in turn, ought to inspire a can-do spirit and belief that we can act vigorously, to solve problems.  See his book, The Better Angels of Our Nature. One special insight: When people believe that the world is heading off a cliff, they are receptive to the perennial appeal of demagogues: "What do you have to lose?"  Sound familiar?Yes, both right and left contain critics, who admit the veracity of Pinker’s impressive statistics, yet cast clouds. Conservative writer Tom Nichols’s book -- The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters -- details aims at dangers that he (largely erroneously) believes Pinker is overlooking.  What makes Nichols significant is that he calls the Populist Rejection of Expertise not just damaging, but potentially deadly for our future, with potential to turn large portions of the USA into what are "Apocalyptic Wastelands."
I used to have a fantasy that fellows like this were simmering all over American conservatism. If Nichols' version of Conservatism were to prevail, we could see a GOP that returns to sanity, promoting science, adult argument, mature, success-oriented negotiation based on appraisal of real facts and outcomes. Alas, year after year I see most of the best conservative thinkers just burrow deeper into their ostrich holes of denial. Oh, they are able to admit: “my side has gone insane.” But this only propels them to guzzle the murdochian koolaid rationalizations that “all the scientists, journalists, professionals, democrats and blue Americans are just…as… crazy.”  And of course, that’s plain crazy.
Sure, there are occasional exceptions, willing to stand up and step forward.  Who would imagine that Glenn Beck would be one of the brave ones? But there is no critical mass. No core that is courageous enough to emulate what democrats did to save their party from radicalism and treason, in the “Miracle of 1947.”

== Muddled speech ==

Seriously.  Read every word of this interview with our president. It is verbatim, so he’s not being treated unfairly… though note how many places were marked “unintelligible.”  Transcript of AP interview with Trump.  
Let’s be fair. I am interviewed a lot and I’m well aware that spoken English doesn’t always look so good, when directly transcribed.  I try to speak in sentences and paragraphs, as does any careful and experienced hand. Still – despite lots of practice – I know there’ll be passages that come across either unclear or sounding repetitious or distracted. We should make allowances.  And yet, even so –
-- see if you can pick out one passage, even one, that is cogent and/or uttered as an adult might speak. One. Even one. Heck, find more than a couple that are coherent at any level.

BTW, which seems more likely? That we just saved $70 million on each F35 plane because of hard audits set in motion months ago by the Obama Administration… or because Donald Trump shouted the word “Boeing!” at Lockheed. (The former is what actually happened.) Even if there weren’t firm contracts, does he believe Boeing could underbid the contractor who is now fully tooled and in production, just because the president shouts their name as an incantation?  Bluffing your partners out of some real estate is not the same as managing a complex, 21st Century defense contract.

. . ...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)

May Day Kitten Picture Plus Other Various Things Upon My Return Home

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Mon, 05/01/2017 - 13:40
First: Look! Kitten! A very serious kitten, it appears, taking the first of May very seriously. Second (and so on): So, I’m back home after two weeks on the road and after five weeks of touring in general, which means a lot of catch up — dealing with non-critical emails and business-related things and stuff […]

The Dispatcher: Now Out in Print and eBook!

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Mon, 05/01/2017 - 12:27
Look at what gorgeous thing was waiting for me when I came home yesterday: The Subterranean Press hardcover edition of my novella The Dispatcher, complete with fabulous cover and interior art from Vincent Chong. It’s a work of art, it is. And it can be yours, because it’s now available in print and eBook at […]

And Now Have All My Travels Ended

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Sun, 04/30/2017 - 15:53
Back at home. For good, this time. For a whole month and change. I hardly know what I will do with myself! (What I will do with myself: 1. Catch up on sleep. 2. Pet the cats. 3. Write more on the next book.) To everyone who came to see me on tour, all the […]

India Rising! And our decline…

Contrary Brin - Fri, 04/28/2017 - 15:35
We’ll go all “good news, bad news” on you, today, contrasting one of the globe’s astonishing bright spots with the decline of the erstwhile Leader of the West.  
But first: Have you been floundering to get a handle on this weird time we are in?  Lately there’s been a surge of interest in my “Horizons Model” to explain why our divides - especially in America, where market enterprise does better, under democrats - have less to do with any classic “left-right axis” than how far outward - in time and space - extend your horizons of worry, hope, and inclusion. 

Why do so many of our neighbors seem drenched in fear, and thus are prey to angst-propaganda? Why do other neighbors seem obsessed with rights extension and nothing else?
Have a look at my own incantation-explanation. And - whether or not it convinces - I promise more new concepts that make you go “huh!” than anything else you’ll read this month.  
== A new leader of the renaissance? ==
Sometimes – as forecast in Earth and The Transparent Society – positive trends can be rooted in sapient use of technology.  And this may be a big one.
According to investment maven Raoul Pal: India’s Project Aadhaar became the largest and most successful IT project ever undertaken in the world. As of 2016, 1.1 billion people (95% of the population) now have a digital proof of identity, including biometrics of fingerprints and retinal scans. The next phase was to get them into the banking system. The Government fostered the creation of eleven Payment Banks, which can hold money but don’t do any lending. To motivate people to open accounts, it offered free life insurance with them and linked bank accounts to social welfare benefits. Within three years more than 270 million bank accounts were opened and $10bn in deposits flooded in.
(Note, if we did this - or even just re-opened the Post Office Savings Account system with ATMs, poor Americans would overnight be richer, no longer having to use parasitical check-cashing services. Those who have opposed this in the U.S. are evil people. Period and full-stop.)
Pal continues: "The Aadhaar card holds another important benefit – people can use it to instantly open a mobile phone account. Mobile phone penetration exploded after Aadhaar and went from 40% of the population to 79% within a few years. Payments can now be made without banks, using mobile phones, fingerprints and an Aadhaar number. And with IndiaStack it is all cloud stored and secure."
Prime Minister Modi then risked his career on a sudden ban of the 100 rupee cash notes (with 1 month deposit deadline), which pushed the largely cash Indian economy into Aadhaar and undermined corruption and the black economy. To everyone’s surprise, it worked. (Russia is now the #1 cash economy. Guess why?)
I have two quibbles with this picture: First, India was not the first country to roll out such an integrated system for its citizens and economy.  Estonia was there earlier (see e-Estonia) and I would wager that Estonian consultants played a big role in formulating Aadhaar.
Second and obviously, we are propelling toward systems that could be horribly abused by national elites who control the guts of such system. Technologies like these are unrolling in China, with added layers like “social credit” that seem chilling. 
On the other hand, as the world’s biggest (and possibly now greatest and most genuine) democracy, India is positioning herself to be the leader of the “Western Enlightenment Experiment.”  Make that “Global Enlightenment Experiment,” and hurrah for our successor!  
With the USA floundering in mania, lunacy and phase 8 of its recurring Civil War, we had better hope that the seeds of liberty, science, accountability and grownup maturity that we spread will bear wondrous fruits of freedom and productivity and factual knowledge and adventure, in better soil. 

== Ah, La Belle France ==

It’s said that history repeats, as farce. 

We’ll know in a week whether Vladimir Putin will achieve his hat trick, getting another puppet into a western presidency.  
If so, then one of you who wrote in will be a prophet. We might see a final confrontation -- with the US, Britain, France, and Russia lining up to impose fascism on the world... while Germany and Japan defend freedom.
And India, it seems.

Who wrote this simulation?
== Alas, it couldn’t last for us ==
I’ve referred before to novels that foreshadowed a possible hot phase of the recurring American Civil War. Most phases have been tepid or cool, though the 1860s fever was near devastating, and some think that the current one (phase eight, by my reckoning) could go volcanic. This was portrayed – in retrospect – by my novel The Postman, which has been receiving a surge of attention lately, for its depiction of “holnists” whose rationalizations sound very much like Steve Bannon.

(Note that the rebooted Omni-Online has featured Ten science fiction books that "changed the genre forever." Very flattered to be included on this list - though not sure I deserve to be.)
One "new civil war" novel that I’ve touted is the recent Tears of Abraham, by Sean T. Smith, that takes you through a disturbingly hot and deadly struggle against ourselves. 

Another just hitting the shelves – that I haven’t yet read – is American War by Omar El Akkad - a dystopian novel about 'a Second American Civil War breaking out in 2074, after a presidential assassination, a virulent plague arising from a weaponized virus and a militantly divided North and South. A doomed country is beset by refugee camps, guerrilla raids and relentless violence.'  In other words, a triple whammy, like the one I look back on, in The Postman."
Also worrisome, given recent absolutely proven efforts by foreign powers to sabotage our democracy and economy, is The Cool War, by Frederik Pohl.  In fact, I deem no novel to be of more immediate pertinence to any member of our defense and intel communities.  Even the popular WWIII novel Ghost Fleet does not penetrate as deeply to reveal a nasty way the whole world might turn.
== You don’t think there are world leaders that crazy-fierce? ==
“The brazen daytime slaying of a Russian politician outside a Ukrainian hotel this week brings to eight the number of high-profile Russians who have died over the past five months since the US presidential election on November 8,” reports CNN.  
Here are 10 critics of Vladimir Putin who died violently or in suspicious ways.
Hey, fools who claim “we’re no better.” How about an actual tabulation-comparison of freedom and productivity and happiness and any other measure of humanity between America and Russia?  And yes, democracy and behavior in the world?

You: "we're all the same" jerks are really something. You dropped American Exceptionalism like a live grenade, when it inconveniently pointed at your Russian pals. Sure the U.S. has  done some bad things, that we ourselves usually uncover and criticize, in order to improve. We are doing that now. With your weird choice to lead us.
Oh but clarity can be found: "In a fiercely defiant statement, White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, denied that any member of the White House staff has ever worked “in any way, shape, or form” for the benefit of the United States." (Okay, that’s a snork! But we’ll need laughs as we gird ourselves.)
== Want a clear view of the problem? ==

Last time I revealed eight underlying factors driving our current civil war. Some are deeply painful. A couple of them are even "our" fault.
A disturbing and credible description of the rock-ribbed obstinacy that underlies hard-shelled rural-white-christian-fundamentalist Red America.  It verifies what I’ve long suspected, that these neighbors and fellow citizens of ours will never admit that we are neighbors and fellow citizens. They passionately support the most opposite-to-Jesus person they could ever have found, for one reason – he galls and infuriates and hates the same smartypants types that they hate. And that's good enough to ignore everything else.

It is the same underlying – confederate – fever that has periodically tormented our national character since 1778.
This doesn’t mean we should stop empathizing! Indeed, as I described last time, one of those eight underlying reasons for civil war is deeply traumatizing -- the "theft" of our neighbors' children!

One can feel for the rural(ish) trauma that happens every June, when the local High School -- center of all life in most towns -- holds graduation. The teens who are the pride of the community hug and cry... whereupon the best and brightest then streak out of town as fast as their legs can carry them, heading toward the city strongholds of The Enemy. 

That implicit rebuke happens every single year and it must wear on the souls of those who stay behind, who thereupon create a mythology of the city-as-Mordor. A cesspit  of iniquity, lacking all the wholesomeness of small town America...
...despite the real truth about which America has higher rates of teen sex, teen pregnancy, domestic violence, divorce, STDs, unwed mothers, dropouts, gambling, alcoholism... and if you leave out a few truly dismal cities, higher crime rates. See Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right, a compassionate look at the poorer regions of Red America, by sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild.
The remainder of Blue America pays vastly more taxes, gets less back (yet whines far less) while Red America suckles net benefits, then bitches about taxes.
Oops!  Facts are inconvenient to the narrative .  And hence...
...fact-based thinking itself becomes the enemy.

. . ...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, 4/28/17: Southfield, MI

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Fri, 04/28/2017 - 15:33
Not just a parking lot, a parking structure. An auspicious way to finish up this tour’s series of Views from a Hotel Window. I’m in Southfield, Michigan, at the Penguicon convention. Tomorrow I sign books, do my final reading of the tour, and participate on panels. If you’re in the area and have a hankering for […]

View From a Hotel Window 4/26/17: San Francisco

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Wed, 04/26/2017 - 16:10
Behold, the penultimate hotel window view for this tour! It’s also the view from the highest floor (I think). Hello, San Francisco. Tonight! If you’re in Santa Cruz, come see Cory and me at the Santa Cruz High Theater at 7, sponsored by Bookshop Santa Cruz. It’ll be my first time in Santa Cruz ever. […]

Declining trust in our expert castes: what are underlying causes?

Contrary Brin - Tue, 04/25/2017 - 14:31
Having recently participated in the worldwide March for Science, I can only repeat my assertion that the "War on Science" is about a lot more than nerds and EPA grants.  You cannot name a fact-centered profession -- from teaching and medicine, to accounting and economics, to the U.S. military officer corps -- that's not under direct assault. 

Given that these professions created the vast profusion of wealth that uplifted our nation and planet, this is not a matter of classic "left" or "right." So how in the world did we get to this point?

In the recent issue of Foreign Affairs, Tom Nichols (professor at the Naval War College) appraises: "How America Lost Faith in Expertise And Why That's a Giant Problem." An incisive discussion -- from his book, The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge

Nichols is cogent and on-target. But today I want to dig even deeper, down to the very roots of this phenomenon, showing that the War on Fact People is rooted in core mythologies that all Americans share! (Along with millions of others, around the world.)

I'll get back to that. But first, what some others are saying about it.

== Fear is key ==  

Let's start with civil servants.  “Declining trust in government has spread across nearly all advanced industrial democracies since the 1960s/1970s,” writes political scientist Russell Dalton“Regardless of political history, electoral system, or style of government, most contemporary publics are less trustful of government than they were in the era of their grandparents.”  
This despite the fact that we are richer and better off by almost any measure you can name.

We all knew that Congress is the least trusted institution in American life, according to polls (yet, in each district, we keep re-electing our own crook.)  But surprisingly, churches have also taken a steep hit, and are now trusted by much less than half. Well, maybe not so surprising, giving the hysterical harpies who make up most of the boomer generation of pastors.  

Moreover “at last count, 1 in 4 Americans supports the idea of their state seceding from the union.”  Oy. What is driving this?

In a recent Stone Kettle blog, Jim Wright says: 
      "Conservatives, and many liberals too, have been conditioned by three generations of fear-mongering. It’s always something to be afraid of. Commies and Rooskies,  Red Chinamen and Black Panthers, Ebola, the brown horde south of the border, gangs and gays and atheism, with terrorists around every corner....
"75 years ago, in America’s darkest hour, a crippled man in a wheelchair told Americans that the only thing to fear was fear itself. Americans hitched up their pants, squared their shoulders and faced their fears. Today? Politicians tell people to be afraid. Media networks  invent things to fear, from Truthers to Pizzagate. Americans are addicted... we wallow in fear. But conservatives own the market...."
Wright is a veteran with a tough, rural background and the sort who might, in a different setting, be amiably libertarian-conservative. But he is also science and progress loving, sane and hence deeply angry over the hijacking of American conservatism. Indeed, he is on target about the role fear plays in our civil war. I'll get back to it soon.
== Don't trust people who know stuff! ==  
All right. I promised a set of different perspectives on why tens of millions of Americans -- who benefited  spectacularly from the rise of science and other kinds of expertise -- let themselves get talked into bilious rage toward all expert professions. I've been exploring this for years. This capsule summary (with links) reveals hidden factors:

1) Suspicion of Authority or SoA is the central lesson taught in almost every Hollywood film along with countless popular novels and songs, going back to the origins of the Republic. As a general reflex, this core mythology kept us free! No authority figures should be exempt. "Faceless bureaucrats" and "faceless corporations," snooty academics and zillionaire oligarchs. Any power center could be a source of Big Brother -- including elites you happen to like. 

And yes, in theory, one can imagine a technocratic dictatorship of nerdy know-it-alls -- pushy, conformist, patronizing perfessors. It's unlikely, for dozens of reasons! (Have you ever tried to herd cats? Now try getting ten million highly competitive, confidently curious and irksomely well-informed scientific "cats" to agree on an Orwellian agenda.) 

But sure, it's healthy for some citizens to express wariness toward that 'elite.' Even (ungratefully) toward all of the smartypants castes who engendered way more than half our wealth. Skepticism and criticism are fine.  Only...

2) One elite using another as distraction.

... alas, all this ire toward nerds-as-dangerous-oppressors is blatantly a scam! One that has latched onto Suspicion of Authority (SoA) as a propaganda tool. 

We've seen zillionaire oligarchs finance relentless propaganda -- on Fox and alt-right media -- aimed at riling millions into hating knowledge 'elites.' They accomplish this by stirring up that pre-existing SoA reflex to aim in just one direction. Never at neo-feudal aristocrats!  Always at the very fact-people who stand in oligarchy's way. 

(And just to be clear: there is a portion of the far-left that does the same thing.)

Flattery is a big part of the technique. Hollywood teaches us to admire authority-resisting underdogs!  So every American political movement (yes, liberalism too) portrays its followers as brave underdogs, striving for righteousness against the momentum of a majority that marches, lemming-like toward cliffs of tyranny. It brings to mind a comment by A.A. Milne.


The third-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the majority. The second-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the minority. The first-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking. 


This "you are bthe brave underdogs" approach has been especially effective in neutralizing the Libertarian movement.  In theory, libertarianism - which distills the very core of Suspicion of Authority - should have offered millions of liberty-oriented Republicans a place to flee, upon seeing that their party has gone mad. Given that the GOP now stands for repression of both economic and personal freedom, this should have been a no-brainer. 

Yet, there has been to mass desertion of Republicans to the Libertarian Party. Those would-be recruits nearly all scurried 'home' to the GOP on election day, exactly as the owners of the LP - the lords Steve Forbes, Rupert Murdoch and the Kochs - intended, when they set out to suborn and buy the movement. 

Elsewhere I explain (and even deeper here) why those millions of libertarian-minded republicans have clung to a loyalty that makes no sense, while confident that they are the wise ones, and not tools.

3) An Age of Amateurs.  

There's a wholesome side to questioning the authority of know-it-all experts. As I explain in this video, the 20th century's professionalization of everything served humanity well, but could not continue. That vast trend is fast being replaced by an era when hundreds of millions will have side avocations, wherein they are almost as capable as their day-work. 

It's already happening with burgeoning expertise among amateurs, ranging from black-smithing to inventing to volunteerism to (yes) science!

Naturally, there will be an adversarial edge to this. People rightfully fear that scientists will act like old-time priests and lords and guild-masters, erecting barriers, preventing interested outsiders from joining the fun. And yes, at times we do see glimmers of old fashioned guild-protection. Fortunately, it's not substantial. 

Today's experts have been largely welcoming of the amateur trend. Scientists compete with each other to get on PBS shows explaining the latest discoveries! And there are now countless opportunities for citizen science -- ways for aficionados to get involved in projects in astronomy, biology, ecology and so on.

Still, suspicion of jealous, careerist exclusion lurks, and the oligarchy's propagandists have exploited it.

4) Back to fear

As Frank Herbert put it in Dune -- "fear is the mind-killer." One study showed that just mentioning the word death in passing will bias what fraction of people soon after are willing to sit next to a person of another race, or prioritize terrorism, or even listen to scientific facts. And yes, study after study shows that Republicans are more fearful than Democrats

Says Sheldon Solomon (author of The Worm at the Core: On the Role of Death in Life) in Human Mortality Denial and Terror Management: “When people are reminded of their mortality, they think more about money, alcohol, consumption, short-term satisfactions, close-in loyalties and chauvinistic politics.”

As I've described elsewhere, fear controls so many of our perceptions, such as where we perceive our "horizons."  
   Horizons of worry -- whether you fret over whether you can scrape together your next meal, your next harvest or preserve an ecosystem a century from now. Fear controls the range of worry.
   Horizons of inclusion -- whether you hunger to expand the tribal circle to include others... or resent constant pressure to do so.
   Horizons of acceptable change -- whether you dread/resent the modern flood of disruptions (and the expert castes who propel change) or else hunger to leave feudalism far behind us and seek a better tomorrow. Perhaps even inspired by science fiction. 

Going back to Jim Wright: "Republicans have been leveraging fear to get elected for decades, they’re coming for your guns, they coming for your religion, they’re coming for your daughters, they’re coming for your jobs, they’re coming for your way of life. Be afraid! Be afraid!  Trump was just better at tapping into that fear than anybody else."
Is this consistent with the bluster and macho preening of so many red-confederates? How can it not be? Blue Americans live in the cities that are terror targets, yet they mostly want to get on with life and big projects, aware that death-by-terrorist ranks way low on any list of likely dangers. 

Our parents in the "Greatest Generation" experienced more loss during any week than we have from the entire War on Terror. Our greatest defiance of terrorists would be to deny them our fear. 

5) The Strong Father.

Here's one that a few smart pundits have at least mentioned. The brilliant master of language, George Lakoff, tried to tell the Clinton campaign they were combatting Trump in all the wrong ways. 

“They decided that the best way to defeat Trump was to use his own words against him. So they showed these clips of Trump saying outrageous things. Now what Trump was doing in those clips was saying out loud things that upset liberals, and that’s exactly what his followers liked about him. So of course they were showing what actually was helping Trump with his supporters."

Indeed, why would fundamentalist Christians support the most opposite-to-Jesus human on the planet? As I explain elsewhere, it is because he so galls and infuriates all the same people they also hate!

Lakoff continues: “All progressives and liberals have a moral worldview, what I described as the nurturant-parent worldview. (But despite his many anti-hispanic statements,) many Latinos voted for Trump. Why? Because “strict father” morality is big in Latino culture. The campaign was not looking at values. They were looking at demographics, and they missed the role of values.”  

Indeed, this is why I will soon post my big demand!  That the Democrats recruit 3000 retired U.S. Army and Marine colonels and Navy Captains to go forth and run in every deep red district in America.  We have stronger fathers - and tough mamas - in the reality-based community.  Strong enough to be calmly confident. Strong enough not to be hysterics. Strong enough not to be afraid of strong women.  Strong enough not to be afraid of facts and science.

6) The Old Switcheroo

Often, lies are rooted in truths. Take, for example, how propagandists justify the War on Science - and against every single knowledge caste - from teaching and economics to medicine and now the Officer corps. They begin by rooting it in an aphorism that everyone knows to be true!

"Just because someone is smart and knows a lot, that doesn't automatically make them wise."

Well, when it's put that way, I doubt you'd find a single human on the planet who disagrees. We are all delusional, at one level or another. Which is why science - one of the most competitive of all fields - teaches us to admit "I might be wrong."

Only watch the way the War on Science and Smartypants is conveyed on Fox etc. Listen carefully, and you'll notice that the aphorism is implicitly re-stated as:

"Just because someone is smart and knows a lot, that automatically makes them unwise."

It's not a huge leap... one that's easy to imply by leveraging all the other resentments (like SoA) described here. Of course it's also insane, which is why you never hear it said explicitly!  

How else could these svengalis get millions to reflexively despise all the folks who study and  understand ten thousand topics... including fine-grained, cellular, gas-vapor models that accurately model weather and climate on six planets? How else can they cast spite toward the men and women you will run to, when cancer looms?

I have found that the best way to fight this sneaky attack is to lay it bare, as I just did. And then to point out again and again that scientists are among the most competitive humans our species every produced.  And hence, whenever they agree on something, perhaps it's unwise to ignore them.

Question them! But also assume that - till proved otherwise - they are wise.

7) Racism and bigotry

Some of you wrote in and -- okay, okay, I admit it -- old fashioned xenophobia, bigotry, prejudice and all that play major roles in the re-ignition of the Confederacy, our 250-year old fever that seems to boil up, once per generation.  The dark side of our force.

In fact, this falls under "fear" and limited "horizons" of inclusion.  But all that seems a bit abstract, in the face of a skyrocketing of nasty racist and anti-semitic attacks.

Still, I believe our average, conservative (red) neighbors are mostly good-hearted people. They don't feel racist, in their hearts, even if their habits are wince-worthy. Indeed, my final listed deep-motivation is a grievance that's based on real (if psychic) injury. Something that "we" in the North-Union-Blue-Urban America do to our neighbors, every single year. In some ways, the worst thing you can do to another human being.

8) The June Trauma.

Underneath all the other causes for confederate hatred lies a grudge with some real basis. Something searingly traumatic that Blue America does to Red (or gray) America every year... 

...stealing their children.

What hurts is an annual brain drain. Every June at the local high school (the center of all life in rural towns), the brightest kids weep and hug and swear to keep in touch… then scoot away as fast as they can to universities and bright cities. 


See this portrayed in... Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right, by Arlie Russell Hochschild.

Those cities and universities and smartypants fact-professions thereupon, at a deep, psychic level, become associated with blandishment and the theft of hope! Quite essentially robbing small town America and Americans of their children.

The city as Mordor. The university as a witches coven. The "fact people" as satanic tempters and ruiners of good boys and girls. 

And yes, it is that bad. That is how they see us, kids. The very same cities and universities that created the wonders and medicines and toys and wealth that citizens take for granted... the cornucopia that pays nearly all the taxes and where urban populations soldier on, shrugging off the threat of terrorism... those glittering realms are viewed - with some cause - as child-stealing molochs.

Face the truth: it will do no good to use facts and evidence to show we aren't Sauron worshippers. Or that Blue America is in no sense less moral than Red America. Compare rates of teen sex/pregnancy, domestic violence, gambling, divorce, obesity, STDs, crime, bullying, and so on, then show us the purported rural superiority! Think about how urban Americans have been portrayed for all your lives, as rude, immoral, thoughtless, uncaring, deceitful, filthy, cowardly and unneighborly. (Well, that final one seems a fair cop.)  

 Sure we must confront lies and slander, but actual victory - resuming our confident, pioneering push into the frontier of tomorrow - will come only if we start by acknowledging these undercurrents.

There are ways to deal with each of these underlying causes... but we won't accomplish a thing by ignoring that they are there.

. . ...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)

Declining Trust in - Rising Fear of - our expert castes

Contrary Brin - Tue, 04/25/2017 - 14:31
Having recently participated in the worldwide March for Science, I can only repeat my assertion that the "War on Science" is about a lot more than nerds and EPA grants.  You cannot name a fact-centered profession -- from teaching and medicine, to accounting and economics, to the U.S. military officer corps -- that's not under direct assault. 

Given that these professions created the vast profusion of wealth that uplifted our nation and planet, this is not a matter of classic "left" or "right." So how in the world did we get to this point?

In the recent issue of Foreign Affairs, Tom Nichols (professor at the Naval War College) appraises: "How America Lost Faith in Expertise And Why That's a Giant Problem." A cogent discussion -- from his book, The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge

Nichols is cogent, as far as he goes. But today I want to dig even deeper, down to the very roots of this phenomenon, showing that the War on Fact People is rooted in core mythologies that all Americans share! (Along with millions of others, around the world.)

I'll get back to that. But first, what some others are saying about it.

== Fear is key ==  

Let's start with civil servants.  “Declining trust in government has spread across nearly all advanced industrial democracies since the 1960s/1970s,” writes political scientist Russell Dalton“Regardless of political history, electoral system, or style of government, most contemporary publics are less trustful of government than they were in the era of their grandparents.”  
     This despite the fact that we are richer and better off by almost any measure you can name.


We all knew that Congress is the least trusted institution in American life, according to polls (yet, in each district, we keep re-electing our own crook.)  But surprisingly, churches have also taken a steep hit, and are now trusted by much less than half. Well, maybe not so surprising, giving the hysterical harpies who make up most of the boomer generation of pastors.  

Moreover “at last count, 1 in 4 Americans supports the idea of their state seceding from the union.”  Oy. What is driving this?

In a recent Stone Kettle blog, Jim Wright says: 
      "Conservatives, and many liberals too, have been conditioned by three generations of fear-mongering. It’s always something to be afraid of. Commies and Rooskies,  Red Chinamen and Black Panthers, Ebola, the brown horde south of the border, gangs and gays and atheism, with terrorists around every corner....
"75 years ago, in America’s darkest hour, a crippled man in a wheelchair told Americans that the only thing to fear was fear itself. Americans hitched up their pants, squared their shoulders and faced their fears. Today? Politicians tell people to be afraid. Media networks  invent things to fear, from Truthers to Pizzagate. Americans are addicted... we wallow in fear. But conservatives own the market...."
Wright is a veteran with a tough, rural background and the sort who might, in a different setting, be amiably libertarian-conservative. But he is also science and progress loving, sane and hence deeply angry over the hijacking of American conservatism. Indeed, he is on target about the role fear plays in our civil war. I'll get back to it soon.
== Don't trust people who know stuff! ==  
All right. I promised a set of different perspectives on why tens of millions of Americans -- who benefited  spectacularly from the rise of science and other kinds of expertise -- let themselves get talked into bilious rage toward all expert professions. I've been exploring this for years. This capsule summary (with links) reveals hidden factors:


1) Suspicion of Authority or SoA is the core lesson taught in almost every Hollywood film along with countless popular novels and songs, going back to the origins of the Republic. As a general reflex, this core mythology kept us free! No authority figures should be exempt. "Faceless bureaucrats" and "faceless corporations," snooty academics and zillionaire oligarchs. Any power center could be a source of Big Brother -- including elites you happen to like. 

And yes, in theory, one can imagine a technocratic dictatorship of nerdy know-it-alls -- pushy, conformist, patronizing perfessors. It's unlikely, for dozens of reasons! (Have you ever tried to herd cats? Now try getting ten million highly competitive, confidently curious and irksomely well-informed scientific "cats" to agree on an Orwellian agenda.) 

But sure, it's healthy for some citizens to express wariness toward that 'elite.' Even (ungratefully) toward all of the smartypants castes who engendered way more than half our wealth. Skepticism and criticism are fine.  Only...

2) One elite using another as distraction.

... alas, all this ire toward nerds-as-dangerous-oppressors is blatantly a scam! One that has latched onto Suspicion of Authority (SoA) as a propaganda tool. 

We've seen zillionaire oligarchs finance relentless propaganda -- on Fox and alt-right media -- aimed at riling millions into hating knowledge 'elites.' They accomplish this by stirring up that pre-existing SoA reflex to aim in just one direction. Never at neo-feudal aristocrats!  Always at the very fact-people who stand in oligarchy's way. 

Flattery is a big part of the technique. Hollywood teaches us to admire authority-resisting underdogs!  So every American political movement (yes, liberalism too) portrays its followers as brave underdogs, striving for righteousness against the momentum of a majority that marches, lemming-like toward cliffs of tyranny.

This approach has been especially effective in neutralizing the Libertarian movement.  In theory, libertarianism - which distills the very core of Suspicion of Authority - should have offered millions of liberty-oriented Republicans a place to flee, upon seeing that their party has gone mad. Given that the GOP now stands for repression of both economic and personal freedom, this should have been a no-brainer. 

Yet, there has been to mass desertion of Republicans to the LP. Elsewhere I explain why those millions of libertarian-minded republicans have clung to a loyalty that makes no sense.

3) An Age of Amateurs.  

There's a wholesome side to questioning the authority of know-it-all experts. As I explain in this video, the 20th century's professionalization of everything served humanity well, but could not continue. That vast trend is fast being replaced by an era when hundreds of millions will have side avocations, wherein they are almost as capable as their day-work. 

It's already happening with burgeoning expertise among amateurs, ranging from black-smithing to inventing to volunteerism to (yes) science!

Naturally, there will be an adversarial edge to this. People rightfully fear that scientists will act like old-time priests and lords and guild-masters, erecting barriers, preventing interested outsiders from joining the fun. And yes, at times we do see glimmers of old fashioned guild-protection. Fortunately, it's not substantial. 

Today's experts have been largely welcoming of the amateur trend. Scientists compete with each other to get on PBS shows explaining the latest discoveries! And there are now countless opportunities for citizen science -- ways for aficionados to get involved in projects in astronomy, biology, ecology and so on.

Still, suspicion of jealous, careerist exclusion lurks, and the oligarchy's propagandists have exploited it.

4) Back to fear

As Frank Herbert put it in Dune -- "fear is the mind-killer." One study showed that just mentioning the word death in passing will bias what fraction of people soon after are willing to sit next to a person of another race, or prioritize terrorism, or even listen to scientific facts. And yes, study after study shows that Republicans are more fearful than Democrats

Says Sheldon Solomon (author of The Worm at the Core: On the Role of Death in Life)
in Human Mortality Denial and Terror Management: “When people are reminded of their mortality, they think more about money, alcohol, consumption, short-term satisfactions, close-in loyalties and chauvinistic politics.”  


As I've described elsewhere, fear controls so many of our perceptions, such as where we perceive our "horizons."  
   Horizons of worry -- whether over your next meal, your next harvest or the ecosystem a century from now.
   Horizons of inclusion -- whether you hunger to expand the tribal circle to include others... or resent constant pressure to do so.
   Horizons of acceptable change -- whether you dread/resent it (and the expert castes who propel change) or else hunger to leave feudalism far behind us and seek a better tomorrow. Perhaps even inspired by science fiction. 

Going back to Jim Wright: "Republicans have been leveraging that fear to get elected for decades, they’re coming for your guns, they coming for your religion, they’re coming for your daughters, they’re coming for your jobs, they’re coming for your way of life. Be afraid! Be afraid!  Trump was just better at tapping into that fear than anybody else."
Is this consistent with the bluster and macho preening of so many red-confederates? How can it not be? Blue Americans live in the cities that are terror targets, yet they mostly want to get on with life and big projects, aware that death-by-terrorist ranks way low on the list of likely dangers. 

Our parents in the "Greatest Generation" experienced more loss during any week than we have from the entire War on Terror. Our greatest defiance of terrorists would be to deny them our fear. 

5) The Strong Father.

Here's one that a few smart pundits have at least mentioned. The brilliant master of language, George Lakoff, tried to tell the Clinton campaign they were combatting Trump in all the wrong ways. 

“They decided that the best way to defeat Trump was to use his own words against him. So they showed these clips of Trump saying outrageous things. Now what Trump was doing in those clips was saying out loud things that upset liberals, and that’s exactly what his followers liked about him. So of course they were showing what actually was helping Trump with his supporters."

Indeed, why would fundamentalist Christians support the most opposite-to-Jesus human on the planet? As I explain elsewhere, it is because he so galls and infuriates all the same people they also hate!

Lakoff continues: “All progressives and liberals have a moral worldview, what I described as the nurturant-parent worldview. (But despite his many anti-hispanic statements,) many Latinos voted for Trump. Why? Because “strict father” morality is big in Latino culture. The campaign was not looking at values. They were looking at demographics, and they missed the role of values.”  

Indeed, this is why I will soon post my big demand!  That the Democrats recruit 3000 retired US Army and Marine colonels and Navy Captains to go forth and run in every deep red district in America.  We have stronger fathers.  Strong enough to be calmly confident. Strong enough to not be hysterics. Strong enough not to be afraid of strong women.  Strong enough not to be afraid of facts and science.

6) The Old Switcheroo

Often, lies are rooted in truths. Take, for example, how propagandists justify the War on Science - and against every single knowledge caste - from teaching and economics to medicine and now the Officer corps. They begin by rooting it in an aphorism that everyone knows to be true!

"Just because someone is smart and knows a lot, that doesn't automatically make them wise."

Well, when it's put that way, I doubt you'd find a single human on the planet who disagrees. We are all delusional, at one level or another. Which is why science - one of the most competitive of all fields - teaches us to admit "I might be wrong."

Only watch the way the War on Science and Smartypants is conveyed on Fox etc. Listen carefully, and you'll notice that the aphorism is implicitly re-stated as:

"Just because someone is smart and knows a lot, that automatically makes them unwise."

How else could these svengalis get millions to reflexively despise all the folks who study and  understand ten thousand topics... including fine-grained, cellular, gas-vapor models that accurately model weather and climate on six planets? How else to cast spite toward the men and women you will run to, when cancer looms?

I have found that the best way to fight this sneaky attack is to lay it bare, as I just did. And then to point out again and again that scientists are among the most competitive humans our species every produced.  And hence, when they agree on something, perhaps it us unwise to ignore them.

7) The June Trauma.

All very well and bad. But I think the pain and anger run even deeper! Underneath all the confederate hatred lies a grudge with some real basis. Something searingly traumatic that Blue America does to Red (or gray) America every year... 

...stealing their children.

What hurts is an annual brain drain. Every June, at the local high school that's the center of all life in rural towns, the brightest kids weep and hug and swear to keep in touch… then scoot as fast as they can to universities and bright cities. 

See Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right, by Arlie Russell Hochschild.

Those cities and universities and smartypants fact-professions thereupon, at a deep, psychic level, become associated with blandishment and the stealing of hope! Quite literally the stealing of your children.

The city as Mordor. The university as a witches coven. The "fact people" as satanic. 

And yes, it is that bad, boys and girls. The very same cities and universities that created the wonders and medicines and toys and wealth that citizens take for granted... those glittering realms are viewed (with some cause) as child-stealing molochs.

Face the truth: it will do no good to use facts and evidence to show we aren't Sauron worshippers. Or that Blue America is in no sense less moral than Red America. (Compare rates of teen sex/pregnancy, domestic violence, gambling, divorce, obesity, STDs, crime, bullying, and show us the purported rural superiority.) Sure we must confront lies and slander, but actual victory will come only if we start by acknowledging these undercurrents.

There are ways to deal with each of these underlying causes... but we won't accomplish a thing by ignoring that they are there.

. . ...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: Maurice Broaddus

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 04/25/2017 - 10:45
April has been light on Big Idea posts because I’m on tour (don’t worry, May’s gonna be packed), but let’s make sure we don’t get through this last week of the month without a fine piece of work for you to consider. Today: Maurice Broaddus brings you all the details on his new novella Buffal0 Soldier, […]

Checking In on Monday

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Mon, 04/24/2017 - 20:26
O hai, Whatever readers! Here’s me and Cory Doctorow just hanging out, as we do. For those of you in the LA area, remember that he and I are going to be a Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena tomorrow at 7pm, talking about our new books and life, the universe, and everything. And then on Wednesday, […]

View From a Hotel Window, 4/21/17: Los Angeles

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Fri, 04/21/2017 - 20:19
Look, it’s LA, being LA.  I’m here for a few days! I get to catch up on my sleep! Wheee! No event today, but tomorrow I am signing books at the Mysterious Galaxy booth at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books (3pm-4pm booth 368), and then on Sunday at 1:30, Cory Doctorow and I […]
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