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October Flowers

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Wed, 10/10/2018 - 15:57
I’ve been traveling today, to Michigan to sign a whole bunch of books, but saw these flowers and thought that they would be nice to share with all y’all. A little bit of color in your day, as it were. Hope you enjoy them.

Toward a transparent (and safer, tolerant and more free) world

Contrary Brin - Wed, 10/10/2018 - 13:46
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In an important step toward an accountably transparent world, offshore owners of British property will be forced to reveal their true identities or face jail sentences and unlimited fines under draft laws that aim to end the UK’s reputation as a high-risk jurisdiction for money laundering. Overseas criminal gangs were using British property transactions to launder billions of pounds in corrupt funds. Parliament’s foreign affairs committee went further earlier this year, saying that corrupt Russian funds laundered through the UK, including via property, posed a threat to national security.

The Brits and Europeans are the ones with guts right now, peeling away layers of what amounts to open warfare against the West by wold mafias. See how Russian GRU (KGB) agents have been running amuck, committing acts or sabotage, espionage and murder with increasing impunity, while Russian agent-hackers are caught red-handed spying on the investigation into the crash of flight MH17, as well as the World Anti-Doping Agency. 

And God bless Europe for keeping a candle lit. Light is our last, best weapon. This has got to be just the beginning, or we will have that Helvetian War.
So how does this relate to China’s Social Credit system? It’s probably the largest social engineering project ever attempted, a way to control and coerce more than a billion people… Smartphone apps will also be used to collect data and monitor online behavior on a day-to-day basis… The system will be enforced by the latest in high-tech surveillance systems and facial recognition as China pushes to become the world leader in artificial intelligence.”  

Moreover, as in the chilling Black Mirror episode “Nosedive,” your crucial score will be harmed if you associate with the “wrong people,” meaning anyone who dissents or even displays eccentricity.
How do I reconcile one form of coercive transparency while denouncing another? Duh? One is aimed at reinforcing the things that have kept us free, safe from coercion by topmost castes, by applying light to all elites who would exercise power. The other is a method elites can use to force obedience and conformity from the masses, from us. 
Dig it well, something like social credit is inevitable. We’ll see each other and adjust whom we want to hang or associate with. But there are two failure modes that we know how to evade, if we prove smart and wise and assertively determined.
1) If light is vigorously applied upward – thoroughly and habitually! – then these tools might hold elites accountable. More important, we can sic elites against each other, which was the great innovation set up under the U.S. Constitution. If that includes NGOs with millions of middle class members, then there’s a chance that transparency might serve and protect freedom, not crush it.
2) Okay, suppose we do that, then everything is open and democratic, right? No Big Brother. Only then what’s to stop a 51% prudish, oppressive majority from democratically and openly voting to cram conformity upon all the eccentrics and unusual folk out there? It’s happened before, and it is the style of democratic despotism portrayed in Ray Bradbury’sFahrenheit 451.  

Will a paramount Big Brother be replaced by millions of nosy, judgmental Little Brothers? See how there's great news... that the world population is now majority middle class! But that doesn't necessarily translate into pro-tolerance, diversity and eccentricity. Middle classes can be bigoted, too.

Only step back. The fact that I am asking that pointed question… and YOU are nodding with shared worry… is a clue to the answer. 


Transparency will empower the majority to impose its values. But if that value system extolls diversity, tolerance and MYOB… or Mind Your Own Business… then think about the effect. Bullying others to repress their  differences will be deemed a worse crime than any harmless eccentricities they exhibit. Let me repeat that, because it is what you believe should  be our future. If bullying and conformity-oppression are among the worst social sins, then that is what gets socially punished. And light just might be our friend.

No. You still don't get it. In all my life, I've found no concept to be harder to convey. This is the fundamental wellspring of all our freedoms and individuality, yet it seems utterly counter-intuitive to most folks. So let me illustrate with an example from mass culture-media.

Picture that scene from the movie version of The Circle, in which nasty putzes use cell phone cameras to torment a shy person. Blatantly, that is the kind of thing the director wants you to hate! Only dig it, in today’s America, those bullies would likely be shot - in turn - by the cell cams of better folks, who will show the bullies' nasty behavior to their moms.
Oh, you are steaming now, I bet. Fuming that we aren’t that vigorous at defending diversity and eccentricity. And you’re ignoring the very value system that taught you to feel that way! That drives you to be unsatisfied with our partial progress toward tolerance. 

And you’re right! We’re only vastly more tolerant and diverse and eccentric than all other human societies, combined. It’s not good enough! Those values must be reinforced, before the tools of social credit sweep the world! 

And here is just one example - out of many happening every single day - that should inspire you!
Hey… I… am… on… your… side in this. Now is not the time for complacency. If we don’t achieve miracle #1, then modern tech tools will enable some cabal of the rich and Mafiosi and demagogues and other fanatics to shut down this Periclean renaissance, possibly forever. Ferociously upward-aimed transparency is the only thing that can prevent it, and bring us miracle number one…
…but in order to achieve the second wonder - and stymie the pernicious scheme to repress diversity with things like "social credit" - it will be up to us to ensure the coming flood of light empowers our best values, encouraging a humanity whose wide stance – based on diversity and tolerance and MYOB – leaves us ready for whatever may come.   == Five Myths about Transparency ==
There is a clever "five myths" feature that appears in the Washington Post outlook section every Sunday.  For example, detailing and appraising five commonly held assumptions about recycling, or artificial intelligence or presidential pardons. I’m occasionally told I should write one of these perspectives… or ten, on different topics… but I never find the time.
Philosopher Arnold Kling has suggested especially something related to transparency. "Five myths about each new revelation of surveillance"  — or things that happen every single time the news reveals that we’re being seen, starting with the mythology that any of it is surprising. These surveillance myths are:
Myth #1.  We should be shocked by the arrival of new tools for surveillance. We should be surprised that elites (e.g. government, criminal, foreign, corporate, aristocratic or technological) will try to exploit them in secret.
Myth # 2.  That laws limiting surveillance tools have ever worked in the past, or can possibly work in the future.
Myth #3.  That such tools cannot be turned around to equalize the playing field, by letting average folk look back at power (sousveillance.)
Myth # 4.  That it even matters what elites knowabout us, instead of controlling and deterring what they can do to us.
Myth # 5.  Our culture must ban technologies rather than adapt to them.
Your feedback on rephrasing this set would be welcome.
== Can we even believe our eyes, anymore? ==
Which photos are real? We’ve all seen the recent videos, showing Barack Obama saying (harmless, so far) things he never said. It’s only a matter of time, before counterfeit “reality” floods our perceptions, the way fake news did, earlier.  San Diego startup Truepic raises $8 million to develop methods to certify the authenticity of online photos - and debunk "deep fakes.”
It’s a problem with deep roots.  In my nonfiction book The Transparent Society, I had a chapter entitled “The End of Photography as Proof of Anything At All?”  Even earlier, in my novel EARTH (1989) I discussed the likelihood we’d be dealing with this, by now.
Google's DeepMind computer vision artificial intelligence showed that it can generate an accurate three-dimensional map or graphic from a set of two-dimensional images. For many years, computer “vision” was poor and image fakery easily detected.  But that was during the Moore’s Law Era, back when hardware advanced swiftly, but software remained leaden and far behind.
In what I’ve called the “Big Flip,” we see Moore’s Law finally in its long predicted taper-off… while suddenly software has gone on a tear, accelerating in capabilities almost exponentially. And nowhere is this more apparent than in image processing.  Or “deep fakery.”
And yes, there is a solution — I talk about it, in The Transparent Society. It can work, because it is the only thing that ever worked against skilled liars. Unfortunately, it will only be done after (as Winston Churchill put it) we’ve “tried everything else.”
. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and (site feed URL:

The Consuming Fire Contest Winner + Notes One Week Out From Release

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 10/09/2018 - 13:39
Hey! We’re one week out from The Consuming Fire officially being released and me starting my book tour! Let’s talk about these things! 1. First, congratulations to Shatle, who for the Consuming Fire contest yesterday correctly guessed (and was the only one to correctly guess) that the city I was thinking of was Kingman, Arizona. […]

The Big Idea: Amy S. Foster

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 10/09/2018 - 10:21
Why do writers write books? One reason is to figure out who our characters are, and who they need to become to be fully realized. Amy S. Foster explains the journey one of her characters makes, across a trilogy of books that ends with The Rift Coda. AMY S. FOSTER: Almost three years ago I […]

Win a Signed, Personalized Copy of The Consuming Fire

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Mon, 10/08/2018 - 13:53
I got my author copies of The Consuming Fire! So now I’m going to give one away! Specifically, the one behind Smudge there. Also, I will sign it and personalize it to the winner or whomever they choose. You want it? Here’s what you have to do: I’m thinking of a city, in North America, […]

The Big Idea: D.B. Jackson

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Mon, 10/08/2018 - 11:50
Think time travel is disorienting for the characters who use it? Think about the poor author who has to plot it! D.B. Jackson knows, and explains all the nitty-gritty details about it in this Big idea for Time’s Children. D.B. JACKSON: Anyone who has written a time travel novel knows that they can send an […]

Acrobat at the Renaissance Festival, 10/7/18

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Mon, 10/08/2018 - 10:30
Yes, the world is a flaming dumpster, but forget that for a tenth of a second and enjoy this picture of a talented acrobat performing on silks at a renaissance festival. It’s nice to appreciate someone who is good at their work, and sharing that work with a crowd. What thing(s) did you take a […]

Looking for destiny ... in false historical parallels

Contrary Brin - Sat, 10/06/2018 - 19:32
Teleology is a quality of humans -- the pattern-seeking animals -- to ascribe foregone destiny to both history and the future.
Yes, I admit there are some undeniable historical patterns, like the tendency for groups of males who have an advantage -- muscles, swords, money  or persuasive voices -- to take advantage... using it to cheat, crushing fair competition by giving their sons overwhelming, inherited advantages.  Inheritance-hierarchies dominated across 99% of history. The truest "attractor state," feudalism (in its general sense) is what Adam Smith and the American Founders successfully (at last) rebelled against. 

Much of U.S. history has been about efforts by cheaters to restore feudal hierarchy, ending our brief experiment in flat-fair-open-Smithian systems. The Greatest Generation did a great job of staving off that failure mode, establishing the most creative, productive, and progressively-improving nation ever seen. Alas, one of the worst oligarchy putsches is happening right now, but that’s not today’s topic, which is teleology.
Is history ordained or cyclical? I’ve been talking a lot about this human obsession. Religions obsessed on it, almost everywhere. Mystics sought to predict using auguries and oracles and prophets. Recently I laid out a fascinating overlap -- how romantics of the left are remarkably similar those on the right. Both groups believe in a compulsory future. Leftists tend to see it as an often-violent upward climb toward zero-coercion utopia.  (In this end goal, they are amazingly like libertarians.)
The right is enamored of a different forecast of gloomy futility -- Cyclical History -- the notion that societies go through life cycles of youthful vigor, senescence and decay. Take Oswald Spengler's The Decline Of The West, for example. Or the Nazis’ notion of rhythmic collapse via plunging ice-moons, followed by a resurrected reich. 

Or the insipid Tytler Calumny.
As far back as Toynbee, historians have debunked this jibbering nonsense, yet pattern seekers keep rushing to embrace it, finding solace in a sense of "historical inevitability."  The latest version, beloved across the American right, is The Fourth Turning, by Neil Howe and William Strauss.  (Not related to the University of Chicago's Leo Strauss, who trained a generation of neoconservatives to undermine every American strength.)  I critique this just-so story in detail, elsewhere. But we need reminding that it has become a cult bible to many of our neighbors.
Yes, in this case, Strauss and Howe provide a lovely, symmetrical tale fitting the dyspeptic narrative. According to their story, it seems that, despite their near-total victory at demolishing the Greatest Generation's Rooseveltean social contract, every value held by today's U.S. majority is destructively self-indulgent. Hence, cheating is justified to prevent that benighted majority from having any say.  Moreover, despite Republican dominance for 30 years, things have reached a pass where only a horrific cleansing will bring a new, vigorous generation out of the ashes.
There are countless problems with this narrative of hand-rubbing glee over looming catastrophe:
1)  Very few metrics suggest such a crisis is a foregone conclusion. Yes, there is a rising wealth and influence disparity, reversing the Greatest Generation's (GG) finest accomplishment: the flattest and most dynamic free market society the world ever saw.  And - oh, yes - there is a looming ecological crisis. But other than those two dangers, most indicators are rather positive. And those two could be fixed with some GG pragmatism.
2) Not satisfied with inevitability, the most vigorous Fourth Turning believers, like Steve Bannon, have openly declared their intent to provoke the crisis.  To thwart (as the Fox-GOP has done for 25 years) any processes of negotiation by which adults might resolve issues without crisis. They proclaim that they’ll be satisfied with nothing less than violent Civil War. 
3)  It is assumed, because Fox succeeded at riling up proto-fascist populism among the more ill-educated white males, that this trend can be maintained forever, under tight control by the Murdochs. But history reminds us:   a) The oligarchs in 1930s Germany lived to regret riling up a similar, Know-Nothing hate movement, that served its initial purpose against the left, but then turned on them, as we are now seeing Trumpist fascism start to turn on the Kochs and other oligarchs.   b) In America, 1930s populism instead veered leftward, but not to communism. Rather, to Rooseveltean reforms and that flat-dynamic free market success story. The most successful – by all measures - social contract the world ever saw, and the very one that Republicans have proudly dismantled since 1981.
4) None of the scenarios promulgated by Bannon and others realistically assess whom the millennials – who are presumably the next "hero generation" according to Fourth Turning theory -- will blame for the crisis, and which direction they will veer.  Think about this irony: Bannon, Alex Jones and the Murdochs and Putin are all utterly depending on riling-up unwise, precipitative wrath out of aging American white male Baby Boomers, exactly the "dupe Generation" disparaged by Howe and Strauss! So… why would Bannon assume that the subsequent hero generation will march in lockstep down the same path?
Um, doesn’t  the Fourth Turning theory suggest that millennials will reject everything crisis-making boomers like Steve Bannon have done? (Raising an intriguing deep-conspiracy notion, that’s probably occurring to you, right now.)
Millennials are already swinging soft-left, emulating the Greatest Generation and rejecting their grandparents' raving, boomer inanities.  Millennials can clearly see what every single "reform" made by the GOP since 1981 has wrought -- steadily declining growth, except in skyrocketing debt, disdain of the science that delivered a myriad miracles, and a new gilded age of neo-feudalism. The works of Karl Marx – moribund in the 1990s – are now flying off the shelves.
Exactly where do the Murdochs, Kochs, Mercers and Bannons think this is likely to end?  Especially when the well-educated whites (and others) in the fact-professions feel warred upon every day, by every reflex of a mad right?
Sensible men and women conservatives need to try actually parsing this out. 

Even if Howe and Strauss are correct, the crisis scenario does not bode well for any aspect of a moderate, free-market American right. And every day that passes without U.S. conservatism awakening to its duty, we come closer to a climax that will make even Vladimir Putin writhe with regret over what he and Murdoch and the other rich fools awakened...
...either a Rooseveltean outcome of overwhelming, resurgent strength... or a Huey Long... or a Hitler.
== Prepare for a “U” to turn sideways ==
As Samuel Johnson wisely observed, scoundrels run to “patriotism” when they feel cornered and have no other recourse. And abandon patriotism when anything is asked of them, like their word. In particular, confederates are always the most fervent wavers of the red, white and blue, swearing oaths to America… until it becomes even slightly inconvenient.  Like when a Lincoln wins an election.
Then just watch as the “U” in their shouted “U S A!” turns sideways, into a “C,” and the confederacy drops all pretense. Signs are already erupting. See this anecdotal preview: Neo-Confederates reach out to their ‘Russian friends’ in new project : "Once again, racist secessionists are looking to Moscow for succor.” Then the League of The South, an organization described by analysts as a neo-confederate hate group, has launched a Russian language page on their website to explore shared ideas on "Southern nationalism."
Yeah, yeah, one can find anecdotes for almost anything. Indeed, the #1 Fox trick is to show anecdotes of absurd-pathetic “social justice warrior” flakes and then declare that “all liberals and democrats are like this!”  I hope I’ll prove just as wrong about the trend toward a deeply violent phase of the American Civil War.
Still, you need to be thinking ahead. And it’s not too early to order that Halloween costume I’ve been urging on all loyal Americans for two years.  A blue, union Kepi hat.  It will speak volumes this fall, one week before the mid-terms.
== Another hat idea ==
I still prefer the kepi. But one of you chimed in with an alternative:
I want to have a hat made with the letters moved around: AWGA. ‘America Was Great Already!’"
Indeed, recall the trap I suggested for your mad, confederate uncle. Demand of him: “Okay then, when do you think America was great?”
Spring the trap! If they say “the 1950s,” you can both show that we got way-better, still… and that the “Greatest Generation” of that era were mostly liberals, who adored Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
(See my earlier posting: Was 1957 America better than today? 

. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and (site feed URL:

The Big Idea: Julie E. Czerneda

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Fri, 10/05/2018 - 09:36
Today in The Big Idea, Julie E. Czerneda tackles the subjects of time, memory, intelligence, friendship.. and slime. They all have a role in her novel, Search Image.  JULIE E. CZERNEDA: Twenty years ago, when my host, John Scalzi, started this amazing blog of his, my second novel was published by DAW Books. It concerned […]

View From a Hotel Window, 10/4/18: Minneapolis

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Thu, 10/04/2018 - 16:19
The view is on a grid. I’m here in town for a trade show, so unfortunately will not be doing public events, sorry. But I’m always happy to be in Minneapolis. It’s a lovely city, if twenty degree cooler than where I just left. How is your Thursday?

The Big Idea: J. Lincoln Fenn

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Thu, 10/04/2018 - 09:23
Living on an island means a different way of thinking about life — and death. J. Lincoln Fenn explains why, and how it made a difference for her latest novel, The Nightmarchers. J. LINCOLN FENN: I was driving the long, flat road from Kihei to Kahului, sugarcane fields and the distant rainforest mountains of Iao […]

A long one. Collusion, conspiracy, corruption - and the one absolutely undeniable fact about Donald Trump.

Contrary Brin - Wed, 10/03/2018 - 21:59
First a quick announcement:  My uplift novel Brightness Reef - beginning to answer your many questions from Startide Rising and The Uplift War - is now on sale at BookBub! And on ebook daily and Bargains. Ideas galore, an awards nominee and Michael Whelan cover, all for just $2.99.

"Refugees from six alien races - including strange "earthlings" -have made their home on the forbidden planet Jijo… but a mysterious starship may soon determine their fate, linking it to chaos in the Five Galaxies."

Now on to a nation and world so weird it might be Serling's The Twilight Zone, or Heinlein's The Crazy Years. This will be a long one, in hope that some of you can use bits as weapons against the madness. 

But action speaks louder than blogs! The most-effective thing you can do in a red or purple state is find a nearby swing district for State Assembly or State Senate and work for that candidate.  It's where the fight is most important. It's where one more volunteer could make a difference and the candidate may remember your name!  And if you live in a deep blue state and district? Well, then seriously. Money. Now.
== The Undeniables ==
Let's put aside for now the furor obsessing everyone else -- the Brett Kavanaugh mess -- which has artfully served the political purposes of Rupert Murdoch and the Fox cabal. As evidenced by a rise in electoral enthusiasm on the far-right base. Terrified of a blue wave, they need that base to come out, bringing vote tallies close enough to tip over with cheating.
You will not win over your mad uncle with arguments about Brett Kavanaugh's youthful crimes or indiscretions, or even last week's smorgasbord of lies, under oath. No, you must turn to facts which are so clear, so self-evident that Fox doesn't even try to come up with magical incantations against them, only distractions.
Call these pure bullets "The Undeniables," in a blatant riff off of the Untouchables. Here's a powerful one:
For a fellow who brags that he is a great judge of people, who “always picks the best,” and who puts loyalty (to him) above all, Donald Trump sure winds up hating on his appointees and staff and counselors
I mean, it’s almost Shakespearean how often he plaintively howls: “I’ve been betrayed!”
Now, any one case may be an honest mistake. One or two or three appointees or aides might be suborned by the Deep State, or 'bribed by the Clintons,' or prove unworthy of the "Best!" title that DT hands out like candy. But seriously, even if your MU (mad uncle) adores everything Two Scoops rails at rallies, don't we know by now that he's an awful judge of character? 
Ponder his "falling in love" with Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin and other dictators, for having flattered him. 
It's an undeniable.
== Why does nothing change their loyalty? ==
The topmost endearing trait of our conservative neighbors is loyalty. It's handy when you need to borrow a lawnmower or get help against a zombie horde! Alas, they've been coaxed into giving tribal devotion not to the world, the future, their children or America, but to a narrow partisanship that portrays black as always black. White as always white. (And take that as you like.)
As things progress with the Mueller probe - or the Kavanaugh Offshoot - another tactic that sometimes works on a RASR (Residually Adult-Sane Republican) but not on a mad uncle is: WODI: "What if Obama had Done It?" 
So now Donald Trump tries to order a halt to those investigating him? (As Nixon did.) Imagine the shrieks if Clinton/Obama tried that? Dig this well. Half a billion dollars of mostly our money was spent — across 25 years — investigating them, the most thoroughly probed humans in history. Every document scrutinized, every micro assistant grilled or offered "whistleblower rewards." Half of all subpoenas issued by GOP Congresses were for that futile, desperate search. But Clinton/Obama never demanded the investigations stop.
Okay, you've seen some of this rant before: George Bush diverted federal investigators from anti-terror duties, before 9/11 (which should have been a huge scandal) to sift every federal filing cabinet for some smoking gun. Fox offered lucrative commentator posts. And what did we wind up with? A husband fibbed about some third base adult-consensual infidelity in a hallway... and the wife was caught using exactly the same sort of email system as Colin Powell, Dick Cheney, John McCain, Mike Pence, George Bush and Jared Kushner. 

That's... it. Zero indictments or convictions. Zero aides "ratting out."
Compare that to Mueller already filing almost a hundred charges against almost two score individuals with confessions and convictions already piling up. And that leaves out secret meetings with hostile dictators, ongoing acts-of-war against our elections and infrastructure, and top GOP tiers filled with pedophiles, drunken frat-boys, playmate-bribers, casino-mafiosi, kremlin-stooges and monopolists.
Now Fox howls against our 250,000 loyal professionals in the FBI, Intelligence Agencies and US military officer corps, as part of open war against every fact-centered profession. And every national strength that won us the Cold War is being systematically demolished, as if by an enemy occupier.

Okay then, shall we switch to MAGA? Ponder the Greatest Generation that defeated Hitler, contained communism, built the great American Middle Class, joined strong unions, broke up monopolies, built strong alliances... and adored FDR. And now comes supporting hard evidence from the Evonomics site. "They Go Together: Freedom, Prosperity, and Big Government: Countries with larger government sectors tend to have more personal freedom."
But worst of all... what a whiner! The U.S. president with a friendly Congress and Court , moans daily that "the government" is after him in order to ... to show the people what's been hidden from them. That's it. "Stop revealing stuff!"
WODI. You wanted a birth certificate? How about you release the tax returns. Better yet, tell the IRS to verify that there's an 'audit'... at all.== Who's a judge of people? ==
In this articleMichelle Goldberg ponders the “servility of congressional Republicans before a president many of them hate and believe to be compromised by a foreign power. Yes, I know they’re thrilled about tax cuts and judges. Given how Russia has become a patron of the right globally over the last decade, some Republicans might welcome its intervention into our politics, believing that the Democrats are greater enemies of the Republic. And some are just cowards, afraid of mean tweets or base blowback.
“But that doesn’t explain why, for example, Speaker Paul Ryan, a Russia hawk who is retiring in January, allowed his party to torpedo the House Intelligence Committee investigation into Russian interference in the election. Ryan, after all, knows full well who and what Donald Trump is. In a secretly recorded June 2016 conversation about Ukraine, obtained by The Washington Post, the House majority leader, Kevin McCarthy, said, “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump.” Far from disagreeing, Ryan said, “What’s said in the family stays in the family.” If he were patriotic — or even if he just wanted to set himself up for a comeback should Trump implode — he would have stood up for the rule of law in the Russia inquiry. It’s hard to see what he got in return for choosing not to.”
Goldberg goes on to ponder preliminary evidence for what may have them terrified… that the corruption goes deep, e.g. the House GOP voted to shut down all hearings about  Russia / NRA connections. That same week, the Trump Administration suddenly issued rules allowing the NRA to keep secret their sources of major foreign funding.
“The N.R.A.’s political spending increased by more than $100 million in 2016." Um, are your neighbors even slightly curious where that money came from?
Want more irony? One of the few Republicans going into these matters is George F. Will, syndicated columnist and man whom I call “the worst American.”  Not because he is one of the craven toadies – he’s not. In fact, most of his recent articles are cogent and make excellent ammo for you to use, in peeling away one or two residually sane American conservatives from the  Murdochian treason.

==  They used the left against us… now it’s the right ==
More undeniables. The Kremlin and KGB remain the same, With the same goal, to undermine the western experiment in open-fair-accountable rule of law. This enlightening article compares Moscow's current cozy support of the U.S. 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."

Another excerpt: "Precisely because the analogy is so exact, it’s worth remembering why Golos and his network failed. In large part, it was because the center-left — especially the anti-Soviet wing of the American trade union movement — rejected Soviet-style communism in the United States. It’s also because, in the 1940s and 1950s, the American political establishment, Democratic and Republican, unified around the need to defeat Soviet-style communism in Europe. And it’s because, even in the depths of the Depression, the majority of Americans were never beguiled by the appeal of authoritarianism.'
Indeed, as I point out elsewhere, the most powerfully anti-communist element in the US was the American labor movement... the AFL-CIO etc., which pushed for containment of the USSR, not just isolationism. It was the Greatest Generation - and their favorite living person, FDR - who won the fight against extremism of right and left and led us into the most productive and free era in history.
But back to Anne Applebaum"It’s not at all clear that we are in the same situation now. A wing of the Republican Party is preparing to double down and support the Russian autocracy, which it believes, mistakenly, is “Christian.” While the Pentagon and parts of the bureaucracy — the State Department, the FBI — certainly understand the need to push back in Europe, the White House certainly does not. Which side the Republican Party will end up on is anybody’s guess."

Oh, we are past guessing. It is down to individual Republicans, now. If just one million of them decide to turn away from Rupert Murdoch's raving-traitorous teat and rejoin an advanced, adult, scientific, fact-centered, compassionately practical civilization, then we'll prove we are not lesser men and women than our forebears, but worthy of the title, citizens.
== Hack the voter ==
On his estimable blog site - Stonekettle Station - combat veteran and man of many rural virtues, Jim Wright, powerfully skewers the alt-right, infowars insanities and treasons. For example, from his posting Critical Path:
“Information Warfare can, and is, used as a primary warfare area, as powerful or more so than any bomb. I've done it myself in combat. But when used in this manner, as the Russians are using it against us right now, it is a warfare support function. An enhancer. A force multiplier, one that makes other weapons, both kinetic and political, work better.
“You don't need to hack election machines, if you can hack the voter. You don't need to hack democracy if you can hack the citizen. You don't need to physically destroy the United States if you can make Americans distrust the fundamental institutions of their own republic.
“If you show that the election machines are vulnerable before the election and you do so in a manner that is purposely detectable – that you know will be detected and thus reported hysterically to the population by the target’s own media -- then you don't have to hack the actual elections themselves. You only have to show that you can.”
His postings are long but riveting and less frequent than my endless firehose. Jim Wright continues:
“You don’t have to destroy America, when Americans are willing to do it for you.
“Now, the most effective countermeasure in this particular example should be obvious. Secure the election. By whatever means necessary secure the election, paper ballots, secure isolated non-networked machines, validated public audits, whatever methodology of validation and integrity is most provable to the population. Instead of closing voting stations, open more. Get citizens to polls. Make it easier for the population to vote, not harder.”
If the Democrats win the House, no other priority should be higher, and we must put fire to the feet of the waffling “human” GOP senators like Collins and Murkowski. 

And if they have any sense, they will expand this by passing my FACT ACT.

Heck, we could do much worse than to have some rambunctious new congress-critter summon, as a vital aide, Jim Wright.
== More than a bit of hypocrisy ==
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." It’s unclear whether Pence still believes what he wrote in his old essays. Trump is accused of multiple extramarital affairs and coverups with hush money payments. And he was recorded bragging about sexually assaulting women."

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.
== After- thoughts ==
Some readers of this web-log send in cogent observations. For example, one of you pointed out: Trump has spent an order of magnitude more of OUR money playing golf than Mueller's investigation has cost so far. And much of that golfing money got funneled back to him because he's charging us to have his security detail and entourage stay at properties he owns. The levels of corruption and graft are staggering.”

Another made a cogent observation about the recent Helsinki summit.  “In meeting Putin, Trump did not act in the capacity as a private person, but rather as the official representative of the United States (all expenses paid by U.S citizens). Then why do we not have an official record of the meeting? No president since Washington ever made ‘agreements’ with a foreign power, let alone a hostile one, without some transparency, records, and involvement by skilled professionals.”
Well, I can think of one time. Though Ronald Reagan was not yet president when he secretly agreed with the Ayatollahs to keep Americans hostage till he was elected and inaugurated.
The whole trend on the right is toward Private Armies. Blackwater and so on. And any U.S. conservative who has not noticed all this and realized where it leads. 

With the greatest leader above them,people barely know one exists.Next comes one whom they love and praise.Next comes one whom they fear.Next comes one whom they despise and defy.When a leader trusts no one,no one trusts him.The great leader speaks little.He never speaks carelessly.He works without self-interestand leaves no trace.When all is finished, the people say“We did it ourselves.”

Tao Te Ching
. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and (site feed URL:

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Whatever (John Scalzi) - Wed, 10/03/2018 - 19:49
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