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Is Class War as Inevitable as the Return of Karl Marx?

Contrary Brin - Tue, 02/07/2017 - 15:39
I've long written how we should envision America as a continuing revolution against the failed feudal model that crushed human hope in 99% of human societies, across 6000 years. Indeed, our major issues today have little to do with the hoary, lobotomizing “left-right axis.” Not when Enterprise, markets, entrepreneurship and national defense all do vastly better across Democratic administrations, and the state gathers more power into its hands, across Republican ones. 

As shown repeatedly by varied thinkers and economists at the Evonomics site, if he were alive today, Adam Smith would be a vigorous Democrat. (Liberals who reflexively denounce Smith are fools.)
Yet, the “left-right” metaphor, reclaims a bit of meaning, if you go back to its roots

Way back in 1789, a bankrupted Louis XVI summoned the French Estates General. When, to his shock, nobles and clerics joined elected commoners in common assembly, the nobles and churchmen sat on the right and the levelers on the left. That is the source of the metaphor.

Then (as now) most (not all) of the nobles insisted on retaining their gross taxation privileges and spectacular disparities in wealth – their inherent right to cheat and not compete fairly. Short-sighted to the last, they would pay a high price for insatiability.
Fast forward to 2017. We’ve been warned for years that rising disparities in both wealth and power would warp the flat-open-competitive arenas that made our civilization the wonder of all ages. Democracy, markets, science, courts – all fail when distorted by cheating.
As Will and Ariel Durant said in Lessons of History: 
"…the unstable equilibrium generates a critical situation, which history has diversely met by legislation redistributing wealthor by revolution distributing poverty.” 
Karl Marx and his followers were stunned that Americans kept choosing the former over the latter! The Marxists’ jaundiced view of humanity saw our species as reflexive pawns of class imperatives, not sapient beings, able to recognize the edge of a cliff and steer away from it. 

Dogmatists of both the right and the left ignore how the American Founders, in the 1780s, seized up to a third of the land in the former colonies from lordly owners and redistributed it to a favored middle class. A "leveling" far greater than anything done by FDR. That class re-set was accomplished peacefully over here… but with much blood in 1790s France.
Each generation faces trends in human nature that try to re-assert feudalism. Hence, one more anti-feudal re-set was performed by the Jacksonians. Another came after bloody Civil War. Later the Progressives, led foremost by Theodore Roosevelt, gave us a neutral Civil Service and laws against market-warping monopolies. (Both reforms under vigorous attack, today.)
Then again, when plutocracy threatened to drive average Americans into radicalism, another Roosevelt led our parents in the Greatest Generation to perform the most successful re-set of all, both reducing disparities to their lowest levels in history and fostering the greatest burgeon of enterprise and wealth of all time. Moreover, the smartest of the rich – those capable of reading Marx and seeing the alternative – supported FDR! The Gates-Buffetts of their day, they figured it was better to be merely very rich, in a happy, middle-class society, than to lose it all in revolution.

== Enemies of Marx keep him alive! ==
Indeed, the terrific Evonomics site (one of the best online) repeatedly shows that our moderate-reformist ancestors had the right idea. This article “The Science Is In: Greater Equality Makes Societies Healthier” by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett (authors of The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger) agrees with one catechism of the right: that the Greatest Generation of the 40s and 50s were smart and wise! 
Everyone benefited from that era – which the Trump-lumpens dimly nostalgize as the very time when “America was Great.” Forgetting that their parents adored FDR above all other living humans. The creative tsunami that happened then -- under high Rooseveltean tax rates and with strong unions -- made us wealthy enough to take on many challenges, like racial and gender justice and discovering planetary care. 

But the lesson of history is clear: all class re-set solutions tend to get undermined, over time. Cheaters find ways to cheat ... and hence...
...those pesky Marxists never really went away. Naturally, they hold that every successful re-set only saves capitalism for another generation. Their dismal assumption – clutched tenaciously - is that human nature is fixed!  (No wonder Marxists hate science fiction, despite old Karl being one of the greatest sci fi writers of all time.)

Moreover, they forecast that a wave of plutocrats will come that is too stupid and self-obsessed to realize how much better off they are, to be merely-way-rich in a confident, middle class society.
Seeking, by dullard reflex, to restore feudal lordship, they will perch above a festering maelstrom of resentment. Oh, and the folks they oppress will have technologies that make WMDs seem tame. Oh, how very smart you Murdochs and Kochs are. Driving all the scientists and techies to the left. Real smart.
== The crisis of capitalism ==
Some are less foolish. Klaus Schwab, founder and president of the World Economic Forum (WEF), might seem a central figure of the whole Davos-Bildeburger cabal of giga-aristocrats that some see behind every world conspiracy. But – as I depict happening in Existence – some of the top elites on this planet aretrying desperately to figure out how they can make a soft landing… to stay rich and privileged in a world that’s healthy and prosperous and (above all) not stewing with revolution.
“As well as getting growth higher (and dealing with wealth disparity) , the WEF identified four areas that need to be addressed urgently: the need for long-term thinking in capitalism; a recognition of the importance of identity and inclusiveness in political communities; mitigating the risks and exploiting the opportunities of new technologies such as driverless cars; and strengthening global cooperation.”
Oh, but the Marxists do have a point about human nature. Those born and raised in wealth tend to, like the French nobles and like Donald Trump, envision themselves the way flatterers describe them, as geniuses. The Saudi Royal House, for example, whose relentless efforts to plant the seeds of caliphate have borne bitter fruit. Or Rupert Murdoch, who worked so hard to train the populist-confederate beast, only to see it seized by a new rider, an impudent Svengali.
Trump frightened the Lords of the Right for a bit. Throughout the presidential primaries and the general election, the Koch brothers were steadfast in their refusal to support Trump, consistently critical of his candidacy. Charles Koch even once described choosing between Trump and Clinton as picking “cancer or a heart attack.”
Only now those masters think they have the Trump Problem sussed. Knowing how dangerous the brothers are, DT has surrendered to them control over much of his cabinet! See this chart to grasp just how many fingers the Kochs now have, pulling strings over our heads.  No wonder enemy #1 is a free press.

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

The Big Idea: Lara Elena Donnelly

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 02/07/2017 - 10:37
Difficult times are complicated, not only for themselves but what they do to people — who are themselves complicated even at the best of times. Or so Lara Elena Donnelly might argue, both here in this Big Idea piece, and in her novel Amberlough. Is she correct? Read on for her argument. LARA ELENA DONNELLY: […]

The Big Idea: Ryan David Jahn

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Mon, 02/06/2017 - 10:15
Author Ryan David Jahn has given a fair amount of thought into the nature of violence, and guilt, and other primary emotions and urges. They’re present in his novel The Breakout; Jahn explains why, and how they influence him as a writer. RYAN DAVID JAHN: In daily life, I’m surrounded by a cloud of free-floating guilt. […]

Start planning the revolution! In real life and in sci fi

Contrary Brin - Sat, 02/04/2017 - 00:09
First items you all have probably heard by now - news that Donald Trump's senior staff all use the same RNC email server that mysteriously disappeared 22 million messages during George W. Bush's administration and one that U.S. intelligence services believe was compromised by the Russians at the same time as the DNC's. The Trump campaign hammered Hillary Clinton for her using a private email server, during her tenure as Secretary of State.  Alsofive members of DT’s staff turn out to have been registered to vote in more than one state.  Ah, consistency.
But onward…
For all of the drama surrounding the Million Women Marches and cabinet appointments and critiques of the inaugural address, it is important to recognize that little is achieved by preaching to the choir. Urban wailing will be dismissed as Blue State Noise, unless some crucial factors change.  The factors that empowered the Republican Party to control all three branches of the federal government, plus two-thirds of the states... all with minorities of the vote in every 21st Century election except 2004. The hard lesson: simply having 60% of Americans on your side is not enough to win.
That will require a multi-front approach, and demonstrations rank way down the list, along with righteous petitions, late night comedian sketches and grand statements by celebrities. (Madonna, please go away? You're not helping.)
Far more significant will be efforts, led by former president Obama and former Attorney General Eric Holder to confront electoral cheats, like gerrymandering.  Indeed, I wrote recently about how liberals should start practicing judo, by accepting Trump’s demand for a commission to investigate electoral fraud.  A call that is now echoed in this article on Salon
== The only thing that will make a real difference ==
But most important of all will be one simple thing – chipping away at the Confederate coalition.
(And let there be no doubt of that terminology, when nearly all of Donald Trump’s cabinet appointments hail from Olde Dixie! My assertion, that we are in a later phase of the Civil War, has been proved.)  
Among the lessons of the recent election is that the confed-coalition, while effectively deployed, is razor thin. Hence the goal should be simple. Peel away just a few more millions of the sane or partially sane. Just a few will do it.

If the Fox coalition can be pared to -- or below -- one-third of the electorate… if we can draw away from the madness those decent and sapient American conservatives who still believe in facts and science and competitive enterprise… then the edifice collapses. These “ostrich” conservatives" have been in denial for decades, clinging with endearing loyalty to a movement that long ago was hijacked by monsters and that has betrayed them at every level.
Urge them to ponder Ronald Reagan, who famously in the 1970s said "I didn't leave the Democratic Party; the Democratic Party Left me."  We can argue over whether his justification made sense, at the time. But it makes for a great paraphrasing, that should make your ostrich wince. Urge him or her to jump off the train wreck, because:

"You aren't leaving the Republican Party; The Republican Party left you."

Oh, it won't be easy. They may have to be coaxed out of their holes, one at a time. And that means you might actually need to listen to your own ostrich a bit, as well. But one by one, that is what will make the biggest difference. Conservatives who at last accept the testimony of all facts and reason — that their movement has gone mad. And that whirring sound is Barry Goldwater, spinning at 5000 rpm.
== Ostriches are starting to lift their heads ==
Oh, most of the truly-sapient ones have already fled, like all the scientists, teachers, journalists, economists, doctors and every other knowledge profession warred-upon by Fox. 

As for those who remain, many of them, like George “the Worst American” Will, still cling to the mantra incantation that “Yes, my side's gone crazy... but... but at least liberals are just as bad!”  - thereby concocting rationalizations for otherwise-intelligent folks to keep watching hypnotic poison on Fox. 

(Again, set your calendars to remind you monthly about the Fox Boycott.) 
Delusional obstinacy is a primary attribute. Hence, it is especially noteworthy when one of the master-poisoners awakens, pulls his head out of the hole of denial, then speaks up for his country and civilization, as — (and I shudder to speak it) — Glenn Beck has done.
Yes, Glenn Beck, who railed that George Soros mustbe a master world oligarch manipulator, because Soros personally “toppled eight foreign governments!”  Beck, whose chalkboard incantations convinced millions of nodding dittoheads that the rise of oligarchy is all the doing of liberalsand that he (Beck) was the primary heir of Martin Luther King. 
Only now Beck proves that he has one hallmark of sanity… the ability to notice a precipice under his own feet. And Beck confirmed this - a bit - in his make-up session with Samantha Bee
 Now, can rising ostriches actually get others to lift their heads? Hold that thought. Soon, I will speak of the one thing that can and will save the Union and our revolution: the Year of the Colonels.
== Sci fi predicted it all ==
Wowzer: both Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Fourand Huxley’s Brave New World are back in the best seller lists, for obvious reasons. But then, recall that all Americans are weaned on legends of Suspicion of Authority (SoA). Nearly all of the propaganda issued by Fox and alt-right portrayed their side as the brave heroes, resisting plots by nefarious elites to turn America into Oceania. Sure, nearly everything they said was lies – and not one of the things they claimed Barack Obama would do in office came true, or ever even crossed his desk. 

Never mind that, right now. I want you to look at what you have in common with your ostrich! but look to the common, underlying mythos! The same, identical theme of Suspicion of Authority or SoA.
Sure, the "authorities" they hate are scientists, teachers, journalists, economists, doctors and every other knowledge profession... but the undercurrent is the same, and you can start there.

If you understand the shared impulse… romantic belief that YOU are in-the-know and part of a heroic-historic resistance movement, defending freedom against scheming elites… then you will better be able to reach out to those frightened, quaking ostriches. Especially, you can ask:
“Are you really more afraid of scientists, journalists, teachers, doctors and every other knowledge profession, and think they are plotting against your interests, more than the oligarchs who are re-establishing feudalism? The lords who ruined freedom for 6000 years?  Really? You trust them over scientists? Teachers? Doctors?”
== It boils down to Sci Fi! ==

But science fiction is pertinent to our crises today.

Here’s a novel that dives straight into the worst case scenario… that our current Phase Eight of the American Civil Warmight suddenly go deadly hot. Tears of Abraham,by Sean Smith is an action-packed page turner, that's also thoughtful about loyalty, honor, courage and what it takes to be American, especially when the chips are down. Those chips tumble as the U.S. spirals into a violent frenzy of our recurring civil war — a fate we can avoid, helped by warnings like this one.

Only... how can it be avoided, when the Rasputin who is actually in charge of our destiny seems to want destructive chaos?  I'll comment more about this later, though it is as scary as any novel. 
In sharp contrast to Tears of Abraham is a very different depiction of near future civil war written by one of Steve Bannon's favorite authors, Empire, by Orson Scott Card, whose fiction almost always extols demigods and mutant chosen-ones while dismissing any chance that democracies, institutions, and open citizenship might ever, ever work.  In Empire, Card portrays civil war brought on by liberal do-gooders and too much open accountability. The victor – whom we are supposed to admire, reveals that he had manipulated the entire thing, in order to transition America – like Rome – from a foolish republic into a confidently overwhelming empire. And we are supposed to cheer.  Well, Scott is good at that, getting millions to sob admiration toward demigod, chosen-ones in his Ender universe.
My own The Postmanhas an ironic role in all of this. The novel is experiencing a sales surge as folks realize that my “Holnist” characters are alive! With major roles in the new administration. That cautionary tale – whose moral and heart  elements were faithfully conveyed in the film(even if the brains weren’t) – is a both a warning and a tribute to the stunning power of the very thing Card despises… citizenship.  And yet I have to tell you that, disturbingly, I also get fan mail, now and then, from fellows who blithely call themselves Holnists!
What…?  How…? Well, it’s simple. A good writer gives his villains strong lines. He conveys how they are likely to speak, giving voice to their best rationalizations and justifications. In this case… well… maybe I did too good a job.
Worrisomely on-target is a novel by my friend Gregory Ness - Antioch - that combines hard SF with fantasy and fretful observations on a new American Civil War and dark age. “In 2025 the U.S. disintegrates into angry mobs fueled by social media and misinformation. The once great nation turns away from science and tech in an effort to protect entrenched interests and preserve economic stability. Scientists are killed or exiled and laws passed to regulate innovation. … An American biologist’s dreams take him back to the Great Library of Alexandria where he witnesses the birth of western civilization. During the day he watches its disintegration.”

In the near future I will post about Robert Heinlein and his eerily on-target predictions from 1953, that are coming true before our eyes.
Yes, let us explore SF scenarios! And be stirred or chilled. And yet. Let us remember. There is nothing more inspiring than our present and ongoing revolution. The one sparked by Ben Franklin and his lads. A militantly-moderate revolution that was designed to be ongoing, as each generation pushes forward, not only profiting from a flat-open-fair-competitive-cooperative system, but also taking on injustices that their own parents took for granted.
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We are an ongoing revolution! And if we fail – as Athenian democracy failed – the oligarchs will make damn sure it isn’t tried for another 2000 years.
. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and (site feed URL:

New Books and ARCs, 2/3/17

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Fri, 02/03/2017 - 17:16
The say that when a stack of books and ARCs this high pops its head out during the first week of February, you’ll have lots of good reading for months afterward. I would tend to agree. See anything here that you’d like to curl up with during the winter cold? Tell us in the comments!

The Big Idea: Fonda Lee

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Fri, 02/03/2017 - 09:20
There’s more to alien creatures than green skin or an extra set of eyes. Fonda Lee, author of Exo, comes around to tell you why, and how it affects her new novel. FONDA LEE: You know, there just aren’t enough aliens in YA science fiction these days. I’d argue there isn’t enough YA science fiction […]

The Big Idea: Jess Nevins

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Thu, 02/02/2017 - 11:36
One day author Jess Nevins decided to see how far back the origin story of “superheroes” went — it wasn’t Batman or Superman, folks — and the answer to the question (or the answer he arrived at) was both further back in time and more complicated than he could have ever expected. The result: His […]

Crescent Moon, 2/1/17

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Wed, 02/01/2017 - 23:08
Proof the what the eye sees and the camera sees are different things: When I was looking through the viewfinder I could see details in the crescent and nothing of the non-illuminated part; here in the picture it’s entirely the other way around. I like it.

In Which a Cover Strapline Does Not, Alas, Reveal a Vast Conspiracy For My Benefit

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Wed, 02/01/2017 - 11:38
I was pointed this morning to a blog post by an author not previously of my acquaintance who was making a bit of noise about the UK cover of The Collapsing Empire; the June 2016 cover reveal of the UK cover featured the strapline “The New York Times Bestselling Series” (above, to the left), and […]

The Big Idea: Thoraiya Dyer

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Wed, 02/01/2017 - 09:12
Bread is the staff of life, as it said, but what happens when bread doesn’t make sense for your world? Thoraiya Dyer has given this question some serious thought for her novel Crossroads of Canopy, and invites you to discover with her where these thoughts lead. THORAIYA DYER: I’ve always wondered, even as a child, why […]

The Short Straw Gambit – flatter him! And more post mortems

Contrary Brin - Tue, 01/31/2017 - 21:04
I'm about to offer a very important possible/practical strategy for the opposition. A tactic of which I've seen no sign, so far.

Before that, though, may I make a point about the chaotic and crazed ructions that have ensued from the Keystone Kops shutdown of refugees and normal travelers from several Muslim countries? While millions march against the injustice of this awful and sweeping ban -- and some criticize its incompetent execution, with even the Homeland Security Department taken by surprise -- I must point out something else.  That is shows a dullard inability to distinguish between actions of calm policy and those made in an emergency.

Elsewhere I show how the first Iraq War - expelling Saddam's forces from Kuwait and rescuing the Saudis - might have been an intervention of urgency. But the second one could never be justified that way. I show how - even if Saddam had WMDs, there was no imminent excuse to call up (and ruin) the US Army reserves in an intervention of policy.

This distinction relates to the Muslim ban quite directly. The rushed, ill-considered and ill-planned nature of this executive order might have been justified if radical islamic terror cells were slaughtering Americans by the tens of thousands. But given the complete lack of any sign of imminent threat - plus the fact that ZERO refugees from any of the countries included in the travel ban have ever killed anyone in organized terror attacks on US soil... the sheer rush to implement a clumsy ban reflects poorly on the skill set of those who made it. The betrayal of US friends in Iraq and Iran - by failing to craft calm exceptions - is just more evidence for stunning unprofessionalism.

This distinction - between actions based on emergency vs policy is one that may escape average voters.  But we have professionals who should grasp the difference and strive to make it clear. 

Woe unto us, if those pros are being ignored by keystone amateurs.

== What tools do the opposition need? ==

The Democratic Party is soliciting ideas on the future of the party on their website.  And sure, go ahead, offer your input. But seriously, they ignored the advice of George Lakoff. So what are the chances they’ll listen now? My initial suggestion? Firethe dunces who ignored George Lakoff. (More on him, below.) 
This time, I want to focus on what may be the most critical lack in our arsenal.

Clever manipulators.
== All the varied autopsies ==
Probably the most-telling difference in reactions to the election that I have seen, between red and blue media and politicians and even voters, has been the countless liberal and moderate hand-wringing evaluations, as to whyso many less-educated whites, especially males, seem so filled with rage.
One could hope for similar introspection on the other side, over the fact that their presidential and Congressional victories over-ruled large majorities of fellow citizens, including nearly every member of the fact-using professions, in all but one of the last eight elections. Elsewhere, I describe ways that Trump and Ryan might have reached out to the American majority, with peace offerings. (Inaugural day platitudes don’t count.)

Indeed, that might have happened, if clever Democrats had reached out to stroke Donald’s easily provoked ego. A notion that need explanation.
Look we are in a fight for civilization. And in a battle against immaturity, we cannot afford the kind of self-indulgences that so many marching liberals display. For starters, we need to know the word that best describes our president is not‘immature,’ or ‘egotistical,’ or ‘right-wing,’ or ‘oligarchic,’ or ‘solipsistic.’ As pertinent as those may be, they pale in comparison to ‘reactive.’ 

Normal 0 false false false EN-US JA X-NONE Peter Wehner, a longtime conservative stalwart and senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, served in the previous three Republican administrations. His dissections of the President’s personality are especially caustic. “Donald Trump is a transgressive personality. He thrives on creating disorder, in violating rules, in provoking outrage. He is a shock jock. This might be a tolerable (if culturally coarsening) trait in a reality television star; it is a dangerous one in a commander in chief. He is unlikely to be contained by norms and customs, or even by laws and the Constitution. For Mr. Trump, nothing is sacred. The truth is malleable, instrumental, subjective. It is all about him. It is always about him.”

== The core truth about Donald Trump ==

History shows that if you make yourself seem to be his enemy, he will attack. If you seem pleasant toward him – even just for an instant – he will make nice. And the transition can be almost instantaneous. Hence, after his one transition meeting with President Obama, Trump kvelled about what a “nice man” and a “leader” Obama was.  All of this has been transparent for a long time. And I can see in the eyes of Paul Ryan and his pals on Fox their delight that Democrats cannot act on this, seizing the opportunity it presents.
The blatantly obvious strategy for Democratic politicians and leaders would be to hold a meeting and draw straws… whereupon the short straw folks would have to make nice-nice with Donald Trump.   
Sure, limit this to public figures who have perfectly safe seats, and strong stomachs! Adults who are capable of immense self-control and savvy word-use. But from then on, those volunteers will reach out to “P45,”with compliments and gestures of friendliness.
Not knuckling in on policy matters! “I disagree with that policy” is just fine.  Trump does not internalize policy as a reason to hate; but he boils toward those who dislike him.

Moreover, it can be plain to all, what these folks are doing. With a nod or wink, or with some pundit calling them the ‘short straw sacrifices.’ Hell, it will be plain to Bannon, Conway and company what’s going on. They will rail about it to Trump… and that won’t make any difference!  We now know that if you are nice to him, it doesn’t matter what’s beneath. He will react. He will answer expressions of dislike with nuclear hate. And if you compliment him over anything, he will gush appreciation.
“I disagree with almost everything he says… but boy is our president good-looking for a man his age. Perhaps one of the most-handsome presidents in history.”
Or even better?  "I'll vote against the bad things that racists and the Kochs and Saudis are forcing on President Trump; but he's a very savvy fellow and I'll bet he's just giving them plenty of rope, biding his time, and he will come around."

As transparent as this might seem, if it is delivered with manifestations of sincerity – not sarcasm – you will likely get lunch at the White House, and thereupon have a chance to slip in slivers of wisdom about policy.

Will liberals attack the flatterers? Sure. But word can spread, along with the openly known code-word -- "Short Straw." They will survive, and some of us will know they are heroes.
Given this obvious fact about P45, there is only one explanation for the democrats’ complete inability to exploit it.  Stupidity.
== What might have happened ==

Nothing could possibly have proved my case more than Trump’s transition to the White House, appointing by far the most right wing and confederatecabinet in U.S. history. This does not actually benefit him, in any practical way. This excessive and extreme reaching out to pick the most unpalatable folks possible can only be explained by the reactive syndrome I discussed above. There is only one motivation at work here – to gall those who dislike him.
Elsewhere, in “Honoring the Losing Majority” -- I spoke to what a decent person would do, if you were the one taking office so disliked by a large minority – in this case majority – of the American people.
As a businessman, he might have accepted the notion of consulting over mainstream cabinet appointments, or my idea of letting democrats control his meeting agenda, once a month. But that proved emotionally impossible. Again. Flatter him and he can be your friend, in an instant. Confront him, and he’ll do the opposite of what you want, to spite you. So far, it’s entirely the latter.
Yes, someone as smart as Al Franken may learn the trick of using reverse psychology. But it won’t come easy to American liberals or moderates. I’d wager they’ll never get it.
To be clear, I am not saying don’t fight! Indeed, I fizz with ideas how Americans should switch from sumo – which the confeds want – over to judo. Indeed, in What Went Wrong with the Democratic Party, Sean McElwee attributes the Democrats’ debacle to one big failure - a continuing delusional tendency to reach out to opponents, in expectation they’ll be willing to negotiate. That this isn’t – pure and simple – war.

Alas, though, political war calls for a wide variety of tactics. Moreover, if you cannot see the difference – and compatibility – of having a few assigned flatterers while answering the confeds policies as they deserve well… then you aren’t thinking it through.
== Lagniappes ... ==

There are always codas. A shotgun splattering our sensibilities. For example:

Within a week of the DT administration and days after Steve Bannon takes over national security, some of our top assets in Moscow get ratted out.

Finally...This will make you laugh and cry at the same time!  The Netherlands appeals to Trump to make them "second"!
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. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and (site feed URL:

A Fortnight of Trump

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 01/31/2017 - 14:32
It’s been two weeks since I’ve written about Trump here! And what a two weeks it’s been! Herewith, not-especially-well-organized thoughts on a fortnight of a not-especially-well-organized administration: 1. I mean, these are remarkable times, aren’t they? There are moments in life when you are very truly aware that you are living in history — things […]

The Big Idea: Mur Lafferty

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 01/31/2017 - 10:02
Rules for clones? According to Mur Lafferty, you need to have them. But why do you need to have them? And what are the rules, as far as they apply to her new novel Six Wakes? She’s here to give you the details. MUR LAFFERTY: Cloning stories are hard to tell because they’re such a […]

Sun Pillar, 1/30/17

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Mon, 01/30/2017 - 18:50
The first sun pillar of the year! I thought you might enjoy the view.

New Books and ARCs, 1/30/17

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Mon, 01/30/2017 - 17:54
As the month of January draws to a close, there’s just enough time to get in one more stack of new books and ARCs! What here looks tempting to you? Tell us all in the comments!

Want to Investigate Electoral Fraud? Start with whistle blowers and judo!

Contrary Brin - Sat, 01/28/2017 - 16:13
== Calling all henchmen! ==
I’ve called for this since way back in the last century, illustrating it in The Transparent Society and in novels like EarthWe must unleash whistleblowers on the world. Envision Edward Snowden and the Panama Papers revealer, only far more extensively, with protections and rewards that lure secrets out of shadows. 

Basics are already in place – Whistleblower Laws that offer big commissions to tattlers in certain circumstances, for example, but these are far too limited. Expanding such protections and lures could be more important to our planet and civilization than any other matter.
Remember, our kind of society is almost never seriously damaged by revelations or leaks. Spills can be irritating or irksome and even tactically harmful in the short term. But we generally find the light bracing and adapt quickly, as our services did, after Snowden. 

Our deadly enemies, in contrast are all – every last one of them – lethally allergic to light.  

Sure our Protector Caste needs some tactical secrets. Still, there is one and only one long range victory condition. In a world that moves progressively toward light, we win. “We” – enlightenment civilization – just win. In part because none of our enemies can endure light.

As illustrated by most of the wildly diverse stories by brilliant authors in Chasing Shadows, illustrating all sorts of ways that people and societies will have to cope with an increasingly transparent world. And yet, for all its irritations and disruptions, such a world will be more just. Less rife with evil.
And this applies to... the Trump Era? Especially and spectacularly so. 

Like Bushites, he and his team will lay the hammer onto whistleblowers. But some billionaire might solve this.  By offering incentives outside of government for the kind of revelations that cleanse and invigorate our kind of society, unlike any other.
See how far back  I’ve been making this call.  Especially, asking that rewards be offered to bring out information about electoral fraud.

== A little Judo ==

Take President Trump's call for a major investigation of voter fraud. By reflexively opposing this, foolish liberals play their game - which is sumo... grunting against each other, chest to chest... when democrats should instead be practicing judo.

By opposing an investigation, liberals look like they are opposed to getting to the truth! And thus they fall for a trap. Instead they should say:

"At last you are offering something that's not about delusion, but about getting to truth! Fine! Let's agree to form a top level, blue ribbon commission, drawing from the finest statesmen and stateswomen! Start with retired US Supreme Court Justice (and Republican nominee) Sandra Day O'Conner.

"Only the commissioners will look into more than just the voting-dead. They will also examine rigged voting machines. And states that deliberately make it hard for women and poor people to get ID. And gerrymandering.

"Let's go! Let this be our first joint project with the new president. Meet our reasonable offer and let's get started!"

And yes, the heart and soul of any such investigation should be whistleblower prizes.

In the long term… this matters far more than just the results of one election. Out of a dozen major “suggestions” I have offered, over the years, none is more important than making it harder – ever-harder – for conspirators, would-be lords and other elites to trust their own henchmen.  Think on that.
Then ponder how this is not a uniform effect. The Koch brothers offered lavish rewards for scientists who would sell-out, regarding climate change. The tactic worked a bit in the pharmaceuticals and tobacco industries, biasing some reports. But almost never do top researchers accept the bribes. As I said, the forces of enlightenment can withstand light, but not their enemies.

So what I really want - what's needed - is some non-governmental Henchman's Prize. A big reward for whoever reveals "the worst thing" in any given year. Prize competitions are all the thing, right? This one could cost some real money.  But nothing else I can think of would more efficiently and effectively tip the balance in favor of a true... civilization.

== Siberian candidates ==
Hillary Clinton blames  Russian President Vladimir Putin for meddling in our election, as confirmed by the FBI, CIA and other agencies who will soon feel the heel of Putin’s revenge.  But Clinton attributes Putin’s grudge to have been due to her own past criticism of Russian elections

Really lady? You don’t think he might hate you for something more tangible?  Like the huge coup that you and President Obama are credited for, in the Russian Press and by Putin’s own words?  They accuse HRC and BHO of cleverly and aggressively “stealing the Ukraine” by stage managing the Velvet Revolution that ousted Russian puppet Viktor Yanukovych, in 2014.  I give far more credit to the Ukrainians, frankly. But it helps to put Putin’s later, “brilliant” moves in Crimea etc in perspective as very small nibble-backs from a geopolitical catastrophe. That is what he hates you and Obama for, Hillary.  Learn to take some credit. 

No wonder DT  would refuse even to look at evidence collected by our professionals, that a foreign power has waged acts of war against us - or even accept standard security briefings.
But seriously, what do you need? Could the Kremlin have picked a more favorable U.S. cabinet than Donald Trump has, including Exxon head Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State, who has received lavish honors - and billions in favored contracts - directly from the Putin Administration and who hangs with Russian klepto-oligarchs? When the U.S. imposed sanctions against Russia in 2014 pursuant to the invasion of Crimea, one of the items put on indefinite hold was a contract between the Russian government and Exxon to exploit a wide variety of off shore drilling zones off Russia's Arctic coast. Estimates made the contracts worth up to half a trillion dollars to Exxon, and even more for the Russian government.
So? All is symbolism on the right.  And hence, President Putin has ordered officials to start planning a celebration of next year’s centennial of the Russian Revolution. It will be awkward, since Putin has simultaneously encouraged restored adulation of Joseph Stalin and the toppled Romanov Czars… both the lamented Soviet Union and the Russian Orthodox Church. 
Sound a bit like Putin’s biggest western fans – Republicans? Who simultaneously declare adoration of the Greatest Generation of the 1950s while pouring hate upon every aspect of the nation that generation built -- from strong unions and high taxes on the rich to the living person those folks adored, above all others, Franklin... Delano... Roosevelt? 

As in Russia, it seems the central goal is to use emotion to drive out logic.  And hence, the outright war – in both nations – against the scientists and other fact-professions.

Oh, while we’re peering east. An interesting revelation about a Russian weapon that purportedly could sneak bombs underwater into American seaports. I would be wary of this article, though, as there are some telltales of exaggeration. Example.  There has never been a 100 megaton bomb.  One was planned but that method is probably long lost. The tsunami thing and the Cobalt thing are likely lurid arm-wavings. Their aim would be to cripple us, not to poison all our children, triggering a spasm to kill all of theirs. A ten Kt drone-mine in each harbor would leave us impotent at sea while leaving the main California cities still available to hold hostage.
== Political miscellany == 
More perspectives on how China feels about TrumpAnd why DT has so many fans in China.

The New York Times notes that, “As recently as last year, Breitbart published an op-ed article urging that “every tree, every rooftop, every picket fence, every telegraph pole in the South should be festooned with the Confederate battle flag.”  
Alt.right “hit lists” against professors and intellectuals of all kinds. 
One of the leaders of a recent alt-right convention quoted Nazi propaganda in the original German. America, he said, belonged to white people, whom he called the “children of the sun,” a race of conquerors and creators who had been marginalized but now, in the era of President-elect Donald J. Trump, were “awakening to their own identity.”  As he finished, several audience members had their arms outstretched in a Nazi salute.

Someone at the podium shouted, “Heil the people! Heil victory,” the room shouted it back. Later: “Mr. Spencer suggested that the news media had been critical of Mr. Trump throughout the campaign in order to protect Jewish interests. Mr. Trump’s election, Mr. Spencer said, was “the victory of will,” a phrase that echoed the title of the most famous Nazi-era propaganda film.” These are exultant times for the alt-right movement.
And finally some ironic quotations:
“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”  -- Ronald Reagan
“We’re going to build a beautiful, huge wall.”  -- Donald Trump
“Moscow’s evil empire…” –Ronald Reagan
“"I looked the man (Putin) in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy.”  -- George W. Bush
"Will he become my new best friend?" Donald Trump asked of Putin in a tweet before bringing the Miss Universe pageant Trump to Moscow.

Consistency? Confederates despise consistency.  The only thing that matters is whom do you hate? If you hate the same folks they hate, then you must be okay.

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

This is My Life This Weekend

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Sat, 01/28/2017 - 11:45
Signing signature sheets, drinking Coke Zero and watching Teen Titans Go.  Hope your weekend is similarly activity-filled.

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