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New Books and ARCs, 8/30/18

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Thu, 08/30/2018 - 16:51
Today we’re catching up on the new books and ARCs that arrived at the Scalzi Compound while I was traveling. There are some pretty excellent works in today’s stack — what here is intriguing you? Tell us all in the comments!

The alternative to Trump is scarier! The "Cyrus Effect." And what you can do.

Contrary Brin - Thu, 08/30/2018 - 16:50
Normal 0 false false false EN-US JA X-NONE
Obsessed with the midterms? Planning to help register folks and then join a Get Out The Vote effort, on election day? Maybe volunteer for a local candidate? Good for you. Then you aren’t an all-talk-no-action lazy bones. What Tom Paine called a “summer soldier.” 

Only dig it, Congress is not the most important show. Your excuse: “how will anything I do matter?” might apply at that level. But the real action is in statehouses, where corrupt GOP secretaries of state deliver the goods with cheat after cheat, while Republican-controlled legislatures gerrymander and close DMV offices, so women and young people can’t get ID.

Look at this map. In green and blue states, the future of America will be decided. Volunteers who help flip a state assembly seat will meet and work closely with the candidate! She’ll know your name. You’ll feel your efforts affecting the balance, day by day. 

A $50 contribution at that level can make a real difference. And you’d learn a lot. Maybe get a friend in high places. Especially Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania… but yes, also Texas, Colorado, Florida. 

If you’re not living near any of the colored states on this map, do you know someone who does? If you do live in those states, how far from a swing assembly district where you could make a difference?

== Don't trade acne for cancer ==

I've repeatedly asserted there are far worse things than Donald Trump. For one thing, almost every member of the “deep state” — or faithful/intelligent civil servants, FBI, Intelligence agencies and military officers — see plainly how dangerous an infantile narcissist controlled by foreign despots can be. They have cauterized around this fellow pretty carefully and Two Scoops currently has less practically-executable power (except the damned judicial appointments) than any president in modern history. But all of that might go away, in the outpouring of national relief, if our current, foul-mouthed schoolyard bully gets replaced by the smoother, more soothing-voiced Mike Pence. Smooth, but in fact vastly more dangerous.
Here’s an op-ed from The New York Times - Mike Pence, Holy Terror -  that lays this down in some terrifying detail. Frank Bruni points out that Pence "adds two ingredients that Trump doesn't genuinely possess: the conviction that he's on a mission from God and a determination to mold the entire nation in the shape of his own faith, a regressive, repressive version of Christianity. Trade Trump for Pence and you go from kleptocracy to theocracy." (Not scared by that? Read Robert Heinlein's prophetic novel Revolt in 2100.)

Mr. Bruni raises the possibility “that Pence could end up in the White House sooner than you think. In addition to the prospect of Trump’s impeachment, there’s the chance that Trump just decides that he has had enough.”
Consider how amplified Trump will be, in such a political martyrdom.  How freed and empowered. The only thing worse could be a Donald Trump who was actually, physically martyred. If that happened - and thousands of fools celebrated in the streets — then we would pass into a time of searing flames.  I pray for his health. Yes - and for several more reasons - I sincerely do.
(Mind you there are lesser versions of the same trap. Say, if Trump gets his “Big Parade,” and a few hundred lefty imbeciles gather along the route to spit on soldiers and vets, the resulting, edited images could drive millions of crewcut fact-people back into a mad GOP they’ve recently been fleeing, in droves.)
But the core element in this article… and in my own missives for a year… has been Mike Pence. He would transform today’s scatterbrained, demoralized, raving-leaky White House into one that is utterly disciplined, close-lipped, and stuffed with Dominionist fanatics eager to use the nuclear button to bring an apocalypse they already pray-for, daily. And I do not exaggerate, even slightly. They do. Pray for an end to human civilization. An end to democracy. An end to all human curiosity, striving, excellence, improvement or ambition. Damnation for 99% of their neighbors. An end to all further generations of children! And an end to the United States of America. Explicitly. They pray for exactly that.  And Mike Pence will be their Nehemiah Scudder, their deliverer on some or all of those promises.

== A Closer Look at Pence ==

A more detailed look at Pence can be found in the soon-to-be-released biography: The Shadow President: The Truth About Mike Pence, by investigative journalists Michael D'Antonio and Peter Eisner, who warn that Pence has become "perhaps the most powerful Christian supremacist America has ever seen."
Even the person I call the “worst American,” for having helped to forge today’s cynical confederate cabal, the conservative columnist George Will, has said that Pence had dethroned Trump as “America’s most repulsive public figure.”
So for all of you on the Union side in this phase of the civil war, I have one piece of advice — patience.  Bide your time. I mean, how long can the oligarchs maintain a universal and open war against every single fact-using profession? How long before some democratic politician stumbles into the polemical power of invoking the Greatest Generation and Franklin Roosevelt? 
(Fun fact.  Around 60% of military chaplains are Baptists. Oh, they are in it for the win, long term.)Stephen Colbert (bless him) and Rebecca Solnit (deep respects) are absolutely wrong about one thing.  Donald Trump is not the disease. He is a symptom. The disease is a cynical oligarchy waging open war upon the American/Western Experiment.  The disease is every single advertiser on Fox. The disease is you, if you buy anything from any advertiser on Fox! And the disease is Kremlin-promoted division in the Union’s great big, wide blue tent.
There are times when you need to buck up and stop whining about symptoms and unite over the long haul to cure the disease.
== The Cyrus Effect redux ==

Polls show that most Republicans are fully aware that their nominee and president is a deeply immoral person. So how do they rationalize continuing to avidly support him? Of course to the oligarchy "It's taxes and sweetheart contracts, stupid." To GOP pols "It's the courts, stupid," hoping to stymie any future reform of election laws or getting money out of politics. Okay, I can understand those evil, but rational motives.


But the rank and file are problematic. "For decades, Republicans, and especially conservative Republicans, insisted that character counted in public life," says Peter Wehner, who served in three previous Republican administrations. "They were particularly vocal about this during the Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky scandal, arguing against “compartmentalization” — by which they meant overlooking moral turpitude in the Oval Office because you agree with the president’s policy agenda or because the economy is strong. Senator Lindsey Graham, then in the House, went so far as to argue that “impeachment is not about punishment. Impeachment is about cleansing the office. Impeachment is about restoring honor and integrity to the office.”
But all that - like suspicion toward Kremlin despots - lies in the past. "A party that once spoke with urgency and apparent conviction about the importance of ethical leadership — fidelity, honesty, honor, decency, good manners, setting a good example — has hitched its wagon to the most thoroughly and comprehensively corrupt individual who has ever been elected president."

One rationalization offered among evangelical Christians is the "Cyrus Effect." The King of Persia who freed the Jews from Babylonian captivity was clearly a pagan, yet also "the instrument of God."  Likewise, the spectacularly un-Christian and dissolute-immoral Donald Trump delights heaven and believers every time he galls all the people they hate, especially city or university or fact-profession elites.

Of course there's a theological answer in the form of a question: "Is Cyrus in heaven?" If he is, for being a sacred instrument, then it means that you can get there without performing the rituals and incantations that fundies claim to be the only route to salvation. If not, then Two Scoops ain't going, either.

==The perfect hypocrisy storm ==

Those claiming that the president's acknowledged immaturity, narcissism and moral turpitude are "irrelevant" should read these op-eds by Mike Pence, back during the MonicaGate Scandal (so charmingly limited in scope.) Pence wrote:

"If you and I fall into bad moral habits, we can harm our families, our employers and our friends. The President of the United States can incinerate the planet. Seriously, the very idea that we ought to have at or less than the same moral demands placed on the Chief Executive that we place on our next door neighbor is ludicrous and dangerous. Throughout our history, we have seen the presidency as the repository of all of our highest hopes and ideals and values. To demand less is to do an injustice to the blood that bought our freedoms."

You can bet that when ... not if... Pence replaces his boss, he will claim there's no hypocrisy! That he had been merely biding his time. And sing hosannas that a decent man is in office! And fools will rush to proclaim relief, unaware that our danger will then multiply a thousand fold.  (See where I urge you all - don't be in such a rush to impeach!)
From The Atlantic"In 2011 and again just ahead of the 2016 election, PRRI asked Americans whether a political leader who committed an immoral act in his or her private life could nonetheless behave ethically and fulfill their duties in their public life. In 2011, consistent with the “values voter” brand and the traditional evangelical emphasis on the importance of personal character, only 30 percent of white evangelical Protestants agreed with this statement. But with Trump at the top of the Republican ticket in 2016, 72 percent of white evangelicals said they believed a candidate could build a kind of moral dike between his private and public life." In a head-spinning reversal, white evangelicals went from being the least likely to the most likely group to agree that a candidate’s personal immorality has no bearing on his performance in public office.
"Fears about the present and a desire for a lost past, bound together with partisan attachments, ultimately overwhelmed values voters’ convictions. Rather than standing on principle and letting the chips fall where they may, white evangelicals fully embraced a consequentialist ethics that works backward from predetermined political ends, bending or even discarding core principles as needed to achieve a predetermined outcome," writes Robert P. Jones in The Atlantic.
What this cogent article never says is that the predetermined outcome openly and eagerly desired by a large minority of these folks is the fulfillment of prophecy in the gore-drenched Book of Revelation, including death and torture for 99% of their neighbors, an end to all human curiosity or achievement or democracy, no further children born into the world, and an end to the United States of America. 
Truly, you never parsed it that way before? Is there any other way to parse it?
. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/ (site feed URL: http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/atom.xml)

The alternative to Trump is scarier!The "Cyrus Effect." And what you can do.

Contrary Brin - Thu, 08/30/2018 - 16:50
Normal 0 false false false EN-US JA X-NONE
Obsessed with the midterms? Planning to help register folks and then join a Get Out The Vote effort, on election day? Maybe volunteer for a local candidate? Good for you. Then you aren’t an all-talk-no-action lazy bones. What Tom Paine called a “summer soldier.” 

Only dig it, Congress is not the most important show. Your excuse: “how will anything I do matter?” might apply at that level. But the real action is in statehouses, where corrupt GOP secretaries of state deliver the goods with cheat after cheat, while Republican-controlled legislatures gerrymander and close DMV offices, so women and young people can’t get ID.

Look at this map. In green and blue states, the future of America will be decided. Volunteers who help flip a state assembly seat will meet and work closely with the candidate! She’ll know your name. You’ll feel your efforts affecting the balance, day by day. 

A $50 contribution at that level can make a real difference. And you’d learn a lot. Maybe get a friend in high places. Especially Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania… but yes, also Texas, Colorado, Florida. 

If you’re not living near any of the colored states on this map, do you know someone who does? If you do live in those states, how far from a swing assembly district where you could make a difference?



== Don't trade acne for cancer ==

I've repeatedly asserted there are far worse things than Donald Trump. For one thing, almost every member of the “deep state” — or faithful/intelligent civil servants, FBI, Intelligence agencies and military officers — see plainly how dangerous an infantile narcissist controlled by foreign despots can be. They have cauterized around this fellow pretty carefully and Two Scoops currently has less practically-executable power (except the damned judicial appointments) than any president in modern history. But all of that might go away, in the outpouring of national relief, if our current, foul-mouthed schoolyard bully gets replaced by the smoother, more soothing-voiced Mike Pence. Smooth, but in fact vastly more dangerous.
Here’s an op-ed from The New York Times - Mike Pence, Holy Terror -  that lays this down in some terrifying detail. Frank Bruni points out that Pence "adds two ingredients that Trump doesn't genuinely possess: the conviction that he's on a mission from God and a determination to mold the entire nation in the shape of his own faith, a regressive, repressive version of Christianity. Trade Trump for Pence and you go from kleptocracy to theocracy." (Not scared by that? Read Robert Heinlein's prophetic novel Revolt in 2100.)

Mr. Bruni raises the possibility “that Pence could end up in the White House sooner than you think. In addition to the prospect of Trump’s impeachment, there’s the chance that Trump just decides that he has had enough.”
Consider how amplified Trump will be, in such a political martyrdom.  How freed and empowered. The only thing worse could be a Donald Trump who was actually, physically martyred. If that happened - and thousands of fools celebrated in the streets — then we would pass into a time of searing flames.  I pray for his health. Yes - and for several more reasons - I sincerely do.
(Mind you there are lesser versions of the same trap. Say, if Trump gets his “Big Parade,” and a few hundred lefty imbeciles gather along the route to spit on soldiers and vets, the resulting, edited images could drive millions of crewcut fact-people back into a mad GOP they’ve recently been fleeing, in droves.)
But the core element in this article… and in my own missives for a year… has been Mike Pence. He would transform today’s scatterbrained, demoralized, raving-leaky White House into one that is utterly disciplined, close-lipped, and stuffed with Dominionist fanatics eager to use the nuclear button to bring an apocalypse they already pray-for, daily. And I do not exaggerate, even slightly. They do. Pray for an end to human civilization. An end to democracy. An end to all human curiosity, striving, excellence, improvement or ambition. Damnation for 99% of their neighbors. An end to all further generations of children! And an end to the United States of America. Explicitly. They pray for exactly that.  And Mike Pence will be their Nehemiah Scudder, their deliverer on some or all of those promises.

== A Closer Look at Pence ==

A more detailed look at Pence can be found in the soon-to-be-released biography: The Shadow President: The Truth About Mike Pence, by investigative journalists Michael D'Antonio and Peter Eisner, who warn that Pence has become "perhaps the most powerful Christian supremacist America has ever seen."
Even the person I call the “worst American,” for having helped to forge today’s cynical confederate cabal, the conservative columnist George Will, has said that Pence had dethroned Trump as “America’s most repulsive public figure.”
So for all of you on the Union side in this phase of the civil war, I have one piece of advice — patience.  Bide your time. I mean, how long can the oligarchs maintain a universal and open war against every single fact-using profession? How long before some democratic politician stumbles into the polemical power of invoking the Greatest Generation and Franklin Roosevelt? 
(Fun fact.  Around 60% of military chaplains are Baptists. Oh, they are in it for the win, long term.)
Stephen Colbert (bless him) and Rebecca Solnit (deep respects) are absolutely wrong about one thing.  Donald Trump is not the disease. He is a symptom. The disease is a cynical oligarchy waging open war upon the American/Western Experiment.  The disease is every single advertiser on Fox. The disease is you, if you buy anything from any advertiser on Fox! And the disease is Kremlin-promoted division in the Union’s great big, wide blue tent.
There are times when you need to buck up and stop whining about symptoms and unite over the long haul to cure the disease.
== The Cyrus Effect redux ==

Polls show that most Republicans are fully aware that their nominee and president is a deeply immoral person. So how do they rationalize continuing to avidly support him? Of course to the oligarchy "It's taxes and sweetheart contracts, stupid." To GOP pols "It's the courts, stupid," hoping to stymie any future reform of election laws or getting money out of politics. Okay, I can understand those evil, but rational motives.

But the rank and file are problematic. "For decades, Republicans, and especially conservative Republicans, insisted that character counted in public life," says Peter Wehner, who served in three previous Republican administrations. "They were particularly vocal about this during the Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky scandal, arguing against “compartmentalization” — by which they meant overlooking moral turpitude in the Oval Office because you agree with the president’s policy agenda or because the economy is strong. Senator Lindsey Graham, then in the House, went so far as to argue that “impeachment is not about punishment. Impeachment is about cleansing the office. Impeachment is about restoring honor and integrity to the office.”
But all that - like suspicion toward Kremlin despots - lies in the past. "A party that once spoke with urgency and apparent conviction about the importance of ethical leadership — fidelity, honesty, honor, decency, good manners, setting a good example — has hitched its wagon to the most thoroughly and comprehensively corrupt individual who has ever been elected president."

One rationalization offered among evangelical Christians is the "Cyrus Effect." The King of Persia who freed the Jews from Babylonian captivity was clearly a pagan, yet also "the instrument of God."  Likewise, the spectacularly un-Christian and dissolute-immoral Donald Trump delights heaven and believers every time he galls all the people they hate, especially city or university or fact-profession elites.

Of course there's a theological answer in the form of a question: "Is Cyrus in heaven?" If he is, for being a sacred instrument, then it means that you can get there without performing the rituals and incantations that fundies claim to be the only route to salvation. If not, then Two Scoops ain't going, either.

==The perfect hypocrisy storm ==

Those claiming that the president's acknowledged immaturity, narcissism and moral turpitude are "irrelevant" should read these op-eds by Mike Pence, back during the MonicaGate Scandal (so charmingly limited in scope.) Pence wrote:

"If you and I fall into bad moral habits, we can harm our families, our employers and our friends. The President of the United States can incinerate the planet. Seriously, the very idea that we ought to have at or less than the same moral demands placed on the Chief Executive that we place on our next door neighbor is ludicrous and dangerous. Throughout our history, we have seen the presidency as the repository of all of our highest hopes and ideals and values. To demand less is to do an injustice to the blood that bought our freedoms."

You can bet that when ... not if... Pence replaces his boss, he will claim there's no hypocrisy! That he had been merely biding his time. And sing hosannas that a decent man is in office! And fools will rush to proclaim relief, unaware that our danger will then multiply a thousand fold.  (See where I urge you all - don't be in such a rush to impeach!)
From The Atlantic"In 2011 and again just ahead of the 2016 election, PRRI asked Americans whether a political leader who committed an immoral act in his or her private life could nonetheless behave ethically and fulfill their duties in their public life. In 2011, consistent with the “values voter” brand and the traditional evangelical emphasis on the importance of personal character, only 30 percent of white evangelical Protestants agreed with this statement. But with Trump at the top of the Republican ticket in 2016, 72 percent of white evangelicals said they believed a candidate could build a kind of moral dike between his private and public life." In a head-spinning reversal, white evangelicals went from being the least likely to the most likely group to agree that a candidate’s personal immorality has no bearing on his performance in public office.
"Fears about the present and a desire for a lost past, bound together with partisan attachments, ultimately overwhelmed values voters’ convictions. Rather than standing on principle and letting the chips fall where they may, white evangelicals fully embraced a consequentialist ethics that works backward from predetermined political ends, bending or even discarding core principles as needed to achieve a predetermined outcome," writes Robert P. Jones in The Atlantic.
What this cogent article never says is that the predetermined outcome openly and eagerly desired by a large minority of these folks is the fulfillment of prophecy in the gore-drenched Book of Revelation, including death and torture for 99% of their neighbors, an end to all human curiosity or achievement or democracy, no further children born into the world, and an end to the United States of America. 
Truly, you never parsed it that way before? Is there any other way to parse it?
. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/ (site feed URL: http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/atom.xml)

Checking in With Smudge

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Wed, 08/29/2018 - 21:21
He’s still a kitten but he’s definitely not as small as he was two months ago, which of course makes perfect sense if you think about it. We’re letting him out on short, supervised trips since like the other cats he’ll be an indoor/outdoor working cat as well as a pet. He’s enjoying the outdoors, […]

And Now, a Word From 20-Year-Old Me: A Review of Depeche Mode’s “Violator”

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Wed, 08/29/2018 - 16:48
I was talking yesterday on Twitter about my writing when I was much much younger (i.e., in the years between 18 and 21) and how the world is much better not seeing that writing, which of course some folks took as a challenge. So fine, as a representative sample of my writing at that age, […]

Two Weeks of Books

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 08/28/2018 - 09:52
I was away from the house for two weeks, and in that time here are the books that arrived in my absence. There’s several dozen books here, some of them even ones I’ve written: two of the boxes here are author copies. But a significant number are from other authors. I’ll be posting a couple […]

Travel Day

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Mon, 08/27/2018 - 12:56
On my way home after two weeks away. I expect Smudge to be twice the size he was when I left. See you all on the other side.

This Is Goodnight and Not Goodbye

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Sun, 08/26/2018 - 23:02
Hello, everyone! Welcome to my final post. Today, I’m just here to say what a pleasure it has been, and close the curtain. I moved into my dorm at Miami today, and me being back here means summer is officially over for me, and that means after I post this, I am no longer a […]

Clouds of Conflict: Republican pacifism? Liberal war-mongering?

Contrary Brin - Fri, 08/24/2018 - 22:41
Normal 0 false false false EN-US JA X-NONE
Our topic this time is war. Who seems hell-bent to start one… while accusing their opponents of the same thing. 

Rightists are accusing liberals of ‘seeking war with Russia’… while liberals helplessly watch the right foment war with Iran.
== The war they want ==
As I’ve been warning for a year, a US-Iran war has long been a centerpiece of Putin-Murdoch-Trump plans. Moreover, GOP presidents almost always go to war mid-way through their first terms, especially when – as we now see – they are desperate for a distraction.
Is a US-Iran war ‘winnable’? Look at a map! After all the silly-useless tomahawk pips are done, there is only one end-game to such a conflict. It ends with Vladimir Putin extending the Russian umbrella to deter Yankee aggression and making Iran a protectorate, giving the Kremlin what's been a core Russian dream for 300 years. Geopolitically, no other outcome is even remotely possible. Look... at... a... map.
Who wins? Every tyrannical power, from Trump and Murdoch to the Iranian mullahs (who get the perfect excuse for their mis-governance and a rationale to crush their democratic modernist youth). But above all Vlad. Who loses? Look in a mirror. 
How might it start, in the wake of Donald Trump’s direct attack in the Iranian economy? ? Already, Iranian Revolutionary Guard boats are stepping up harassment attacks on a U.S. fleet that -- since we achieved energy independence under Obama -- no longer has any sane reason to be in the Strait of Hormuz, except to draw an attack. 

All it will take is a spark. So be familiar with these terms. Look them up. Know them. Teach them to your neighbors."Reichstag Fire.""Gleiwitz Incident." "Tonkin Gulf Incident." "Saddam's Weapons of Mass Destruction."“Remember the Maine!” “And the Lusitania!” “But believe Hitlers, because they can be trusted! As in Munich (Helsinki) ‘deals.’” 

(Or when "dealmaker Two Scoops gave Kim Jong Un everything on his wish list, and in return got empty promises that soon vanished in smoke. The U.S. and its staunchest ally are harmed, as in every trumpian deal.)
Oh, then there’s a phrase "the lying press"~ or ‘lugenpresse’ as Goebbels put it. (Showing where Rupert Murdoch gets his ideas.)
Tell your neighbors to be ready for the coming trumped-up provocation event. Ask them – in advance -- if that would suffice to be their "red line."
== A pot, accusing a new kettle ==Oh, but accusations of war fever fly both ways! The latest riff from the murdochian right is that any hostility toward the Russian mafia-oligarchy boils down to liberal ’war-mongering’. 

Even participating in NATO and ANZAC and other mutual defense treaties - that deterred aggression and kept the world’s greatest peace for 70 years - is now tantamount to fomenting World War Three.
“Better Russian than Democrat” said the T-shirt at a recent Donald Trump rally. This enlightening article compares Moscow's current cozy support of the US radical right to their 1930s subversion via the American far-left. There are no essential differences. Indeed, some of the very same men are using some of the very same methods against us, as they did back when they wore hammer-and-sickle pins and sang the Internationale. This time, though " it’s not a proletarian revolution. Instead, it’s a kleptocratic coup d’état: The modern Kremlin project seeks to undermine Western democracies, break up the E.U. and NATO, and put corrupt relationships rather than the rule of law at the center of international commerce."
Again, there is one demographic that will make all the difference in coming months — ten million or so decent-conservative neighbors who are not racist jerks, or science haters, yet who remain loyal to the GOP/confederacy out of habit, or by mainlining doses of uncut Hannity.
Losing just ten million from his fragile coalition is Rupert Murdoch’s (and Putin’s) worst nightmare. So peeling away just a couple is your mission. Yes yours. Moreover, you’ll never know which insanity might be the last straw, letting you pry one or two of these “ostrich republicans” out of the madness. This “liberal war-mongering” thing is just loony enough that it might turn the trick.         Only here’s an irony! As we’re about to see, “liberal war-mongering” is not a new riff. Nor is it 100% without historical justification.
== Democrats were soft on communism? ==
For starters, Republicans can claim zero credit for “containing communism” during the Cold War. Sure, they hated the left, diving into wild, divisive and hallucinatory crazes like McCarthyism. But starting with Taft, Dewey, Dirksen and onward, the actual GOP objective was isolationism. Some even said: “Let Stalin have Europe, and good riddance.”
When it came to acting assertively to counter Soviet aggression, that was almost entirely Democrats, beginning with George Marshall, Dean Acheson, Harry Truman and so on. In fact, vigor for containment of Leninism was especially propelled by the US labor movement and the AFL CIO. As I show in my article: The Miracle of 1947.
Yes, Eisenhower, Nixon and Reagan went along, though the latter two were zealous in seeking to make deals favorable to despotic leaders. And yes, the dems eventually went way too far in their eagerness to “contain,” falling for what we now know to be a well-planned trap in the quagmire of Vietnam. I’m not saying every Democratic reflex was executed wisely!
But what’s clear is that the GOP’s tendency toward isolationism and contempt for allies is nothing new. And they get no credibility or credit for the generally better world that emerged across the American Pax.
== Who benefits from war? ==
Look at the postings out there! Propelled by Kremlin-basement trolls and spinoffs from Fox News, the latest sally is for confederates to accuse America’s “deep state” - the FBI, civil service, intelligence agencies and U.S. military Officer Corps - of fomenting strife with Russia in order to make profits selling weapons!
Seriously. The very same guys yammering for war against Iran, and who quagmired us into Iraq and Afghanistan, are now the peaceniks denouncing any hostility to Russian aggression as motivated by War Profiteers!  (And many lefties are falling for it.)
Except… well, there’s a rub.
During the first World War, yes, there was some political manipulation of warring powers by spectacularly evil munitions makers, since that's what had to be replaced on the battlefield as massive numbers of shells were expended. But today's munitions are far more efficient. Contracts to replace a couple of hundred tomahawks ain't squat, nor worth risking damage to the home nation's policy and health. Nor worth the risk of getting caught.
Look at who actually benefited from the last three trumped-up GOP wars, in Iraq then Afghanistan, then Iraq again. It was not military contractors like Northrup, who do best with peacetime projects aimed at high-tech preparedness. (Note: levels of measurable military readiness are always better during democratic administrations. That’s always. And yes, I mean always.)
The only beneficiaries from those recent GOP wars were (1) the Saudis, of course, and (2) Bush-Cheney family companies that got sweetheart, no bid, logistics contracts to build giant U.S. bases filled with mess halls and video arcades, air conditioning and runways. Halliburton, Bechtel etc. made off with tens of billions in corrupt, “emergency” overcharges. (Along with the $12 Billion in raw cash bills that Cheney flew into Baghdad, never to be seen again.) And note this: our military folks hated all of it! But they saluted and obeyed.
There was a corrupt “deep state,” all right, but it was the GOP.  It was the Bush-Cheney clan. It was Fox.
. . ...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, 8/24/18: Albuquerque

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Fri, 08/24/2018 - 12:25
I’ve actually been in this hotel room since yesterday at around midnight, but I also stayed in bed all day yesterday which was delicious, so this is the first time I managed to haul myself over to the window and snap a shot. Hello Albuquerque! I’m here for Bubonicon 50, at which Mary Robinette Kowal […]

The Anxiety of a Non-Writer Surrounded By Writers

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Fri, 08/24/2018 - 10:13
Hey, everyone, hope you’re having an awesome Friday! One thing some of you might possibly know about me is that my dad is a writer. A successful one, at that! And as such, he knows a lot of other successful writers. Because of that, I’ve had the amazing chance to meet so many super cool, […]

My Slightly Longer Worldcon Recap

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Thu, 08/23/2018 - 13:06
Now that I am comfortably ensconced in the hotel for Bubonicon 50 and will not be required to drive or appear anywhere else for a few days, it’s time for my Worldcon 76 recap. Here are some thoughts, in no particular order: * It was good! I enjoyed myself tremendously over the course of the […]

Announcing the Consuming Tour, October 16 – 28, 2018!

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Wed, 08/22/2018 - 15:19
Yes! I am going on tour! Again! Twice in the same year (2.5 times, actually, since I am currently on tour with Mary Robinette Kowal)! This time I’ll be touring for The Consuming Fire, the sequel to the The Collapsing Empire. Tor.com has all details, but if you’re too lazy to link over, here are […]

Next steps in space? Go for water! But not on the moon. And why the Expanse can't happen.

Contrary Brin - Tue, 08/21/2018 - 20:28
Let's start with Important News. Water on the moon? Yes, but with a cavil.

The chairman of my PhD committee, the late Dr. Jim Arnold, had many fine accomplishments to his credit. One was his confident prediction that we would someday find deposits of water ice in permanently shaded regions at the lunar poles, and possibly even at the poles of broiling-hot Mercury. Both forecasts were bold... and later largely verified! Now, NASA's Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3), aboard the Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft (launched in 2008 by the Indian Space Research Organization), has confirmed the presence of solid ice near the surface polar craters on the Moon.

Without question, this is exciting news. At NASA's Innovative and Advanced Concepts program (NIAC), we've funded initial studies of some cool concepts for exploring those dark craters and characterizing the deposits, which could prove valuable in the future, especially if humanity ever comes up with a good reason to establish settlements on the "harsh mistress" surface of Luna.

But alas, many are interpreting this all wrong... as a reason to make such settlements. Supposedly to turn lunar polar ice into rocket fuel, a dismal misappropriation, when similar resources can be accessed elsewhere at lower cost, and the water could have vastly better uses, down the road.

But let's put all this in context.

== Return to the moon - or asteroids? ==
Many of you know that I have a low opinion of the cult that has declared all-out war on science and every other fact-using profession. With regard to space, this cult has declared absolute devotion to returning American astronauts to the surface of the Moon…. the most useless and counter-productive activity that could possibly be chosen out there.  Even were there anything of value to do on that dusty plain (with one exception, there are no “resources” and it definitely is not a 'way-station' to Mars), humanity will check off that box anyway, as China, Russia, India and every other Apollo wannabe does their rite-of-passage tourism thing at the bottom of that absurdly impractical gravity well.

There is no reason for us to "lap" the rest of the world by 50+ years, doing what they are going to do, anyway. Not when the U.S. should lift its gaze to goals that only it can achieve.
As for that polar water, we should leave it for use by future lunar colonists... and yes, there will be such colonies! Just not right away. And we shouldn't steal their water, when there are certain types of asteroids that offer vastly more, at far greater efficiencies.

Alas, the Trump Administration has canceled not only most Earth observing missions - (for blatant political reasons that betray our children) - but also most asteroid sample return activity, even though asteroids are where vast wealth might actually be found, taking a huge extraction burden off our home planet, while making us all staggeringly rich.

A moon-return fetish is just the thing to distract us from those riches, which could zero out value of moguls who own sunk-cost mines down here on Earth. The deep reason for this veer in national policy.
Am I focused only on right wing lunacy? Oh, there are others. In attempting to sabotage asteroid mining, the far-right has allies on the far-left, such as this person, conveying (if not supporting) drivel that: “Capitalism Will Ruin Other Planets After It Ruins Earth.” At a Left Forum Conference in Manhattan, a NASA researcher suggested that the drive to explore exoplanets and mine asteroids has been bred primarily out of a need to feed the beast of capitalism.
"Late era capitalism is feeling the pressure from resource scarcity, and therefore, it has to find its own way out. It cannot think outside its own box of solutions, and it will have to find another place, and another place, and another place to exploit."
There are so many levels this is dumb. For example, the environmentalism that these folks extoll only appeared in a scientific and outward-looking society that also generated and distributed enough wealth to create a truly vast, educated class. These smug finger-waggers always assume that they are the only ones who notice and care, when in fact a majority of their fellow citizens favor regulations and research aimed at ameliorating the side-effects of all that wealth generation. It is only people with zero-sum minds who buy into the tradeoff that we must shiver in the dark, in order to save the world.
Positive summers (like those who read my novel EARTH) know that it is a wealthy and educated and confident people who start to incorporate externalities, like the best interests of future generations and a living planet. And there's no better way to make a world of wealthy Earth-lovers than getting access to those riches out there.
Of course there’s guilt by association – that the two groups most rabidly alienated from this scientific renaissance happen to be today’s farthest left and today’s entire, insane right.

== How this fallacy applies in scifi ==

But the worst silliness of articles and ravers like this is their simplistic inability to grasp scale

Sure, one can imagine or envision a far future in which “capitalist” exploiters run wild, burning the galaxy.  Heck, I portrayed that back in the early 1980s. But – as much as I enjoy tales like THE EXPANSE – they are impossible across the time scales envisioned.  

Across a mere two centuries, you cannot have both a rapidly expanding and resource-rich techno-industrial/scientific society and a tech-empowered populace driven into poverty by overpopulation. Malthus based his calculations on there being a limited supply of arable farmland. But, in any Expanse-like future, that supply is rising geometrically faster than human women can pour babies out of their wombs. Perhaps exponentially faster. (And that leaves out the ability to make food and other goods more directly, out of energy and raw materials, something we seem to be verging on, already.)

Scratch figures on an envelope. The Expanse is way fun! But there is zero chance that there'd be the warrens of teeming, underpaid prols in a civilization that is simultaneously building starships and mining the moons of Jupiter. Human wombs just cannot keep up fast enough to save Malthus.
Oh, I am not insisting the future will be free of poverty.  For one thing, those who are currently trying to re-establish feudalism need poverty to be widespread for their own, selfish reasons.  As Orwell described, in 1984, A cruel state may grind the majority into dust as a means of control, and because feudalism is inherently sadistic. But that’s another matter. It’s not the future of The Expanse, where there’s capitalism aplenty, but a sufficiency of democracy and consumer society and actual competition for wealth production not to be artificially limited. And where women are having ten or fewer kids.
No, if we truly do get the wealth of asteroids and a plethora of new techs to use it and the freedom to ensure minimal justice, there will be a myriad problems! Negotiating with AIs of course, and preventing rogues from dumping asteroids at Earth. Preventing us from speciating into gods and servants. Maintaining a liberal and worthy culture, and so on.  But assuming we navigate those shoals well, there ought to be enough wealth to end both poverty and depredations against our garden homeworld. If we have, by then, learned the science of incorporating externalities into market prices, then this attack on “capitalism” will seem quaint.

As, I hope, will be the wrath-spasms of feudalist oligarch dinosaurs.


== The one use for asteroids... blow em up! ==

Hey, as an old fan of the eponymous video game, I don't mind preparing, just in case of the worst.  Thus, NASA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have issued an outline plan - across the next 10 years -- to both prevent dangerous asteroids from striking Earth and prepare the country for the potential consequences of such an event.  A  catastrophic asteroid strike is "a low-probability but high-consequence event" for which "some degree of preparedness is necessary."
In the third objective out of five in the plan (I'd have recommended five more), NASA is asked to come up with new ways to deflect an asteroid heading toward Earth. This involves developing new technologies for "rapid-response NEO reconnaissance missions," in which a spacecraft could launch toward an Earth-bound asteroid and somehow change the space rock's course so that it no longer posed a threat. NASA had plans to attempt this with the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) in 2021, but the Trump administration scrapped that mission in 2017. For reasons described above.
And yes, some of us have been preparing for decades. You can be involved in private efforts via the B6-12Foundation. And no, this is not the same thing as seeking the riches out there.

== Lots of fermis ==
new study conducted by Anders Sanberg, Eric Drexler and philosopher Tod Ord, from the Future of Humanity Institute (FHI) at Oxford University, has reevaluated the Fermi paradox is in such a way that it makes it seem likely that humanity is alone in the observable Universe.While the effort is worthy - seeking a spread of the various input parameters of the famed Drake Equation - it still winds up rather tendentious, alas.
Sanberg is quoted: “One can answer [the Fermi Paradox] by saying intelligence is very rare, but then it needs to be tremendously rare. Another possibility is that intelligence doesn’t last very long, but it is enough that one civilization survives for it to become visible. Attempts at explaining it by having all intelligences acting in the same way (staying quiet, avoiding contact with us, transcending) fail since they require every individual belonging to every society in every civilization to behave in the same way, the strongest sociological claim ever. Claiming long-range settlement or communication are impossible requires assuming a surprisingly low technology ceiling. Whatever the answer is, it more or less has to be strange.”
As many of you know, I’ve long been involved in SETI – the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence – but am opposed to METI, or purposely beaming (yoohoo!) “messages” into the cosmos. Not so much because I lie sleepless, worrying about alien invaders. (See a scary-plausible scenario, though, in Liu Cixin’s The Three Body Problem.) But rather, because it is arrogant and unscientific and immoral to commit all of our children to a fateful course without thoroughly discussing the potential risks with both the public and humanity’s top sages.
U.S. Federal Appeals Court judge David Tatel lately raised another aspect about the arrogance of METI endeavors that seek to peremptorily bypass all of our institutions of wisdom and deliberation. One of the very first laws passed by the U.S. Congress, the Logan Act of 1799, prohibits any US citizen from negotiating with other nations on behalf of the United States without authorization.  

No one in 250 years has been prosecuted under the Logan Act, but it served a cautionary function, reminding would-be amateur diplomats to let professionals do their jobs. No act of private “diplomacy” could ever be more presumptuous and dangerous than drawing attention from potentially dangerous foreign powers in the sky.
And finally, from the sublime... to the...

== Aliens - or not? ==
Read up on the administration’s plans to get out of the business of managing and supporting the International Space Station by 2025, seven years from now.  And...


In a paper entitled “Cause of Cambrian Explosion – Terrestrial or Cosmic?” published in the Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology journal, 33 scientists researching the cause of the Cambrian Explosion – the mysterious point in Earth’s history when complex animals erupted in our oceans – add to the panspermia or cosmic cause hypothesis another layer: “the equally mysterious and sudden (later) appearance of octopuses.”  Hey, I do not deem this to be plausible! Still, it’s another example of the boldness of our scientific (sometimes more sf’nal) exploratory spirit.

“Octopuses are a special and highly unusual species that can edit their own RNA and slow down their evolution – a process that science can’t explain yet. It’s interesting that many scientists think the idea of intentional panspermia as their origin on Earth “should not be discounted.”  Oy!. . ...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, 8/21/18: Scottsdale

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 08/21/2018 - 18:13
It’s a very mid-century hotel, and I’m here for it. Tonight: Mary Robinette Kowal and I are at the Poisoned Pen bookstore at 7pm. Mary’s terrific new book The Fated Sky is out today, and we’ll be celebrating that and chatting about writing and doing other fun stuff. Please come on down to see us. […]

Some Fantastic, Awesome, Super Cool Music

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Mon, 08/20/2018 - 23:15
Hello, everyone! Today I’m here to share with you some awesome music from a very talented friend of mine, Jon R. Mohr. He’s a composer/musician, plays piano and writes music, all that jazz, and he has some pretty awesome sounding stuff I thought was worth sharing. He’s got slow, pretty piano pieces, action-y ones that […]

Quick Hugo Update

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Mon, 08/20/2018 - 11:37
Last night I did a thing that no one else in the entire history of the Hugo Awards has ever done, an achievement so singular, so unique, that no one could have possibly have imagined it for me or for anyone else: I came in second in the Best Novel category to someone who has […]

Sunday Smupdate!

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Sun, 08/19/2018 - 20:04
Howdy, everyone! How’s your weekend going? Hopefully, it’s going well, but if it’s not, I’d like to offer you a Smupdate in this trying time. Smudge is getting bigger and becoming even more of an asshole than before, but I’ll be darned if he ain’t the cutest thing I ever did see. One down side […]

An Interesting Song I Found

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Sat, 08/18/2018 - 16:33
Hey, everyone! As I’ve been packing and sorting clothes and junk, I’ve been listening to a lot of music, and I stumbled upon a song I think is really interesting. It’s got that old sound to it, like it’s from another era of music, but I think it’s really good and I like the lyrics […]

Gearing Up For Back to School

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Thu, 08/16/2018 - 21:55
Hello, everyone! Summer is coming to a close, which means I only have one week left of posting on here. It also means that I move into my dorm next week, and will be starting classes soon after. Last year, I definitely went overboard on back-to-school clothes and supplies shopping, but that just means I […]
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