Skip navigation.
Write - Share - Read - Respond

News aggregator

A Thanksgiving Week Gift for You: “Automated Customer Service”

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Mon, 11/19/2018 - 16:39
Merry Thanksgiving week! To show my appreciation for you, my readers, here’s a short story I wrote to read aloud while I was touring with The Consuming Fire. It’s called “Automated Customer Service,” and it’s what happens when, in the near future, something goes wrong with a household appliance and you have to navigate an […]

Krissy, 11/17/18

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Sun, 11/18/2018 - 04:05
She’s pretty great. And she photographs well, as a bonus.

Political scandals and more

Contrary Brin - Sat, 11/17/2018 - 17:58
So, the U.S. midterms proved that the republic isn't dead yet, and has some gumption still. The most important elections many have been at the state level, where voters may have seized  back enough power to end many electoral cheats, like gerrymandering. Not in deep red states, of course, where citizens are fine with every kind of cheating. But democrats are realizing what Obama has preached -- that it's best to reform where possible, then let it dawn on every sane, reasonable and patriotic American that these are all Republican crimes.

It mustn't stop there. Over a few weeks, I’ll be offering my own proposals for how the transformed U.S. House of Representatives might act in important and effective ways, even without bills passing in the Senate or surviving presidential vetoes. 

One such endeavor – holding investigative hearings – is the talk of the nation. The prospect apparently has Donald Trump so depressed that he may go back to his one, reliable drug high, sanctimony rallies! (Why wouldn’t he? The taxpayer carries much of the expense.)

== Do this one the instant you are all sworn in ==

What is the number one priority I urge upon the new House of Representatives? 

Repeal the 2001 War Powers Resolution.

Passed in the panicky aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, separate resolutions in the House and Senate effectively abrogated the Congressional power over declaring war, giving the presidency carte blanche -- without even a time limit -- to order troops and attacks anywhere he chooses. 

By a simple majority in the House alone, that blank check can be canceled, with a coda stating clearly that Congress retains its Constitutional authority over declared and undeclared war. 

Moreover, given current circumstances in a dizzy-unstable White House, it would be irresponsible not to do this the very first day the new Congress opens session.

== States rights means letting some of them act sane ==

There are a number of hot-button topics on which states and the federal government don’t see eye to eye. Immigration, climate change, marijuana legalization, and health insurance are just a few. It’s no wonder that a July 2018 Gallup poll found that a record-high 77% of Americans believe the nation is divided. Even more shocking… a June 2018 Rasmussen poll showed 31% of Americans think a civil war will break out in the United States within the next five years.  

Given that Washington has been taken by dark forces, many states want more autonomy from the federal government. 

Now still just at the rumor stage, but: “Behind the scenes, 13 states are pushing through laws designed to undermine the federal government’s monopoly on issuing money…  Before President Lincoln banned the practice in 1863, states had issued more than 8,000 different types of money.  "The new currency would be digital, blockchain-based and grounded upon municipal bonds that offer real collateral. In other words, more secure than federal greenbacks."

== Killing one more advantage of the West ==

Elsewhere I pointed at one thing that helped the west to win the Cold War. Our adversaries had the advantages of a closed society, hampering information-gathering by our operatives, while theirs could roam the West openly. KGB spycraft was (and remains) often better than ours; we’ve learned the hard way how skilled they are. 

(I believe blackmail is the top method currently being used to suborn many of our leaders. There are dozens of reasons.)

One thing equalized intelligence gathering across the Cold War. Defectors. Frequently, we’d get spontaneous offers from highly placed adversary factotums, who supplied sudden waves of revelation, helping us survive. 

In return all we had to do was provide three things 
(1) safety, 
(2) decent prospects, and 
(3) the moral high ground.
Look at that list and see how all three have been targeted by Vladimir Putin’s New KGB, now in service not to an idealistic-if-mad socialism, but to a mafia oligarchy coated with a veneer of rabid-nationalism. 

Above all, VP wants it known that defectors to the west will be hunted down. The thuggish “we don’t care if you know we're doing it” blatancy of recent assassinations has been deliberate. 

“We will find you!” is the message.  

As for the moral high ground?  Well, Putin has one well-placed agent who is demolishing U.S. stature, almost single handed.

== Political scandals and more ==
Crum, has anyone tabulated sex scandals of politicians by political party? 

Start with divorce rates, that should be easy to do just from Wikipedia entries. Divorce used to be anathema among conservatives. Now, my back-of-the-envelope tracking suggests the rate is at least double among GOP politicians than Democratic ones. And an infinitely larger (literally) ratio between GOP vs DP presidents or presidential nominees. If this can be shown, it might sway some (alas, not most) “values voters.”
(Ah, irony. The party that once thought gambling to be immoral now is owned by casino moguls, and shrugs off signs of gambling addiction in its supreme court nominee. And there are many other reversals.)
Okay, to be fair let's now throw in regular, adult-consensual infidelity and things briefly seem a bit more even… certainly Bill Clinton was no role model, nor was Eliot Spitzer, or Mark Sanford, Gary Hart etc… though I’ll still bet on a GOP edge, since that much-higher divorce rate probably had cause. 

Indeed, a modifying factor ought to be whether the wife stays with him for a decade or more afterwards – isn’t she the best judge of redemption, after all? 

Further along the scale is kinky weirdostuff like Anthony Weiner -- obviously kinda sick  -- but that arguably didn’t damage anyone. Dems are probably competitive there! But hey, which party gets rid of its non-harmful weirdos?  Maybe too eagerly and stupidly, as in the case of Al Franken.
But where thing gets overwhelming is at the far end of the spectrum – the noxious, horrible pervert-predator end. There, the Grand Old Party appears to have a near monopoly, from Dennis Friend-to-Boys Hastert, a boy-buggerer who they made top Republican and Speaker of the House, whose “Hastert Rule” deliberately destroyed negotiation as an American political process, to Roy Moore and – well, you all know recent examples.

Only now –the very same day‼ -- there’s this fine fellow…  
… and this one. Yipe! I’ve never seen anything like it. (To be clear, this one is not about sexual deviancy, that we know of. But… criminy. I mean click on this political ad!) Where is Ronan Farrow when we need him? He could get an assistant to tabulate this in a day and a half.

== Beware of the worst clichés ==
Check out Peter Singer’s upcoming book  LikeWar: The Weaponization of Social Media -- how social media has changed politics and war.
From Evonomics, another proved case where oligarchic assertions are diametrically opposite to true: “They Go Together: Freedom, Prosperity, and Big Government.” 

Demonstrablly and absolutely provably. Countries with larger government sectors tend to have more personal freedom. 

Yes, it is a religious principle among our rightist and libertarian friends that “government” civil servants are the proper and only target for their Suspicion of Authority reflexes. But in fact, Adam Smith – who is studied and admired more at the liberal Evonomics site than anywhere else – recommended civil servants and regulatory laws to even the playing field that was always – always – spoiled in the past by feudal lords and other cheating oligarchs.  It is no accident that the Greatest Generation of Americans set up many regs and services… and as a direct result, flat-fair-open entrepreneurial capitalism became more healthy than at any time in the history of our species.
== Finally, be wary of "splitters and our own loonies ==

You think the Putin-Fox-mafia war against the Western Enlightenment only aims to rile up the anti-fact mad-right? Intel-analyses show that at least 20% of Moscow originating troll incitements are aimed at sparking dogmatic rage on the left, and that is sure to rise now. 

A good share of the "splitter" memes surging across the web, pouring hate at "DLC sellouts" and "Republican-lite Clinton-moderates" is coming from Kremlin basements. THINK before you give in to these sanctimony highs. Are we the pragmatic, fact-loving reformers? Or what?

The aim of all this is to get us to repeat the mistakes of 93-94 and 2009-2010, when two years of frenzied concentration on healthcare led to 14 years and then 8 years in the wilderness, helpless to do anything about the mad-treasonous GOP's central agenda: cheating. The only way they could hold onto power. 

Think. What are the "moderates" asking for? For example, in Nancy Pelosi's top priority bill, HR1? To ignore health care and immigration reform and all that? Or simply to stop the cheating, first! The voter-suppression, the gerrymandering and dirty tricks and secret PAC money and incredible open war against every fact profession. If we get rid of those, won't it be easier for you to then move on to your other priorities? Seriously!

Which makes sense? Use our current big coalition to fight the Kremlin-Fox war against fact and reason from destroying U.S. democracy? Or immediately split the coalition, drive millions back into the GOP and repeat the utter failures of 1993-4 and 2009-10? Kremlin trolls want that! Again, at least 20% of the unattributed memes that you see, demanding leftist purity, come right out of a Moscow basement.

Look, I want many of the things you want! I want expanded Medicare moving toward single payer! I want DACA kids fully and swiftly citizened. I want consumer protections etc. But reform comes first! Because if we end the cheating the mad-right will collapse. End the gerrymandering and secret-money PACs and take measures to restore American respect for the fact-professions and actual facts! If we deliver that, then you will get many of the things you want via a forgotten thing called "politics."

Don’t let yourself be bullied by such loons. Adult calm and willingness to negotiate only exists in one party, now. Don’t let it be wrecked here, too. Which leads us to: The Perfect Rant about PC
. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and (site feed URL:

New Books and ARCs, 11/16/18

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Fri, 11/16/2018 - 16:59
Once again catching up on new books and ARCs after my travels, here’s a healthy of stack of titles for you peruse. What here would you like to take to the couch with you after a Thanksgiving dinner? Tell us all in the comments!  

The Big Idea: Steve Nedvidek

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Fri, 11/16/2018 - 11:22
A love of family history and a desire not to wander the fairlanes in their spare time led Steve Nedvidek and his co-creators to make The Jekyll Island Chronicles, an alt-history graphic novel series. How did these motivations end up combined into a colorful artistic creation? Nedvidek explains it all. STEVE NEDVIDEK: I was a […]

What a Difference a Week Makes

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Thu, 11/15/2018 - 11:18
Same tree, a week’s difference in weather. Looks like it might be one of those winters. I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

Science Fictional Perspectives - and favorite individual SCENES from movies?

Contrary Brin - Thu, 11/15/2018 - 00:57
Alert!  The New Horizons spacecraft is just 49 days away from Ultima Thule! On New Year's morning. After that spectacular Pluto fly-by a few years ago, you are getting your money's worth from the few bucks of taxes you spent on this spacecraft. But, then, you almost always get vast returns on our shared endeavors in science and doing glorious things. You will get a disease sometime that is treatable because we do this. Do not let dour snarlers talk you out of acknowledging what mighty beings we can be. Already great.

Becoming greater by the day.

Before diving in to lots of news and controversy about science fiction… … here’s some interesting science for you. It seems that researchers surveyed readers of science fiction and fantasy score better than readers of any other genre on having “realistic attitudes about relationships.

I've long held that SF has generally been more enlightened than its time. Blatantly, many of today’s authors and fans are seeking to use our exploratory, courageous genre to push those horizons even farther, and that’s terrific! 

The only quibble I have is with any rage against those earlier waves in sci fi, calling them 'repressive,' when each generation of SF authors were – on average – bold at challenging assumptions in their own eras. Notwithstanding some genuine troglodytes and their racist/sexist works (you can always find anecdotes and particular villains), the field is – and was – ahead of its time, even in the eras of H. G. Wells, Mary Shelley, Alice Sheldon and Edward Page Mitchell, C.L. Moore and Leigh Brackett. We can wince at many of the Cro-Magnon infelicities of 1950s or 1980s sci fi, for sure! But failing to put them in context is a form of unreasoning hate that blinds us to what many of those creators were.  Fighters for justice and pioneers.
Spreading the blather around, my Wordpress blog now carries my riff about the Animated Storyboard, a concept that – if done properly (no one has, yet) – could unleash a wave of cinematic creativity like none yet seen, liberating small, writer-led teams to create vivid dramas, whether as first drafts or as final works of popular art. Some recent offerings suggest this day may be about to dawn.
== Favorite scenes from movies ==
We have favorite movies. What of individual scenes? I look back and find that most of my most-loved were moments when the music almost took over. Sure visuals and story were vital in each of these. But music brought your emotions to a peak.
In reverse order:- Lawrence bringing Gassim into camp off the Nefud desert.- Zulu warriors chanting a macho pas de deux vs. singing Welsh soldiers at Roarke’s Drift.- Diva’s Aria in The Fifth Element.- “Theology/Civilization”... Conan with Subotai… powerfully reprised when Subotai comes to save him from the Tree of Woe.- “The White Tree” The best scene in the Lord of The Rings is one that's all about communications tech and the connections among people.- Roy Blaty’s soliloquy -in the stunning, Vangelis-lifted finale of Blade Runner
And possibly my favorite scene in all of cinema — the pivotal moment in Quest for Fire, when our hero encounters a new technology and sobs as gradually — accompanied by low cello thrums of realization — it dawns on him that his people will have the power of gods, and they will never be cold again. Watch from 1:12 on this video clip.
Mason Rourman wrote in with some good ones:  - The moment in Serenity when Serenity exits the stellar cloud chased by the Reavers, and the Operative says "Target the Reavers. Target the Reavers! Target everyone! Somebody fire!"
- The "romantic" scene in The Name of The Rose when the peasant girl sneaks in to touch Christian Slater for his purity.
- The Wrath of Khan (original version), when Khan is gloating over Kirk after leaving him on Ceti Alpha V. (Heck, every scene of that flick.)
- The sequence from The Shawshank Redemption when Andy locks the door to the office, puts on Mozart, closes his eyes, and the entire prison stops to listen.
Scott Miller suggests: The flight to Station 5 in 2001 with The Blue Danube waltz, and the swelling brass section of John Barry’s score at the end of Dances With Wolves when Wind In His Hair proclaims his undying friendship from the ridge top.

Come down to the comments section and offer your own!
== More Moo-Vees ==
How cool would it have been, if Steven Spielberg had succeeded in getting Gene Wilder to play Halliday in "Ready Player One?" You know, the recent remake of Willie Wonka? A hugely fun film... though of course I'd have made suggestions. The shallowness of the characters' motives, when there's a world still to save, could have been resolved with minor tweaks and brief mention of Universal Income or "purple wage." Several concepts from my novel Existence would have - in a few sentences - laced some real gravitas -- and hope -- into the background, without interrupting the fun one bit. Ernie Cline did try, in his novel.Yeah, yeah, then there are the obvious things; like where were the cops (or any institutions) the whole time till the end? See my article The Idiot Plot.Spielberg is usually better at that.

Biggest flaw, alas... if "IOI" is the SECOND biggest corporation in the world, with the Oasis Company far bigger and richer, why does the Oasis Company do nothing for the whole film? We see no Oasis actions, employees, buildings... no one noticing they are being hacked by an evil competitor, what?

The tragic thing is that plot glitches like this are so easy to spot and fix. I should open a consultancy.
Others recently watched…
The new Tomb Raider remake with Alicia Vikander sure was a veer away from Angelina Jolie’s version. I enjoyed Jolie’s rendition of Lara Croft as an uber-confident James Bond with long braids – it was time – but the plots and stories were sillier than anything raved by a nine-year old. Vikander’s Lara is more vulnerable as she comes to realize her talents amid a great deal of painful-bruising transition. She earns her pay in action scenes of grueling relentlessness… hey, it’s Tomb Raider. But the plot realization was actually… pretty sensible, non-mystical and pleasing.  (Oh and always nice to see Derek Jacobi.)
A flux capacitor....dang they’re sold out! O'Reilly AutoParts catalog item 121G
== Why some ‘social scientists’ speak ill of SF ==
In contrast, an essay on Motherboard: “Science Fiction Is Not Social Reality,” by anthropologist S.A. Applin, proclaims the shallow uselessness of SF visions.“The tech industry is inspired to create our world from linear, scripted science fiction stories.” Alas, this person stacks paragraph after paragraph that are separably drivel, and but combine into much worse. Take this stunning assertion: "Those tech creators and tech billionaires who are influenced by Science Fiction seem to assume that because things in Science Fiction work in the society and culture of those created future-set universes, there is an expectation bias that they will work in our real life and present, without much testing or oversight."  
Examples, please? Cite one - even one example of that happening, even once? 

Waving loosely in the direction of five TV/movie franchises, without a sentence of actual, supporting evidence or analysis, Ms. Applin doesn’t even nod toward the higher craft of literary SF gedankenexperiments, from Ursula LeGuin to Neal Stephenson to Alice Sheldon to KS Robinson. Worse, she does the thing most-boringly common among all-too many “social critics.” She preens as if she inventedsuspicion of authority – or SoA - instead of imbibing it all her life from every movie she ever watched... and especially from science fiction. 
Take this stunning assertion: "those tech creators and tech billionaires who are influenced by Science Fiction seem to assume that because things in Science Fiction work in the society and culture of those created future-set universes, there is an expectation bias that they will work in our real life and present, without much testing or oversight."  
“Seem to assume…” Yes! We can see that’s the way things seem, to you. Yet, the challenge remains. Again, cite one -- even one -- example of that assumption appearing in a widely influential science fiction novel or film! Let alone your loony-counterfactual assumption that the message is ubiquitous. 

In fact, the very criticisms voiced in this article by Dr. Applin are almost omnipresent in most Science Fiction, especially in this era. Arrogant, over-confidant innovators abound in SF cautionary tales. Generally, protagonists react to some calamity-producing error, whether technological, personal, or societal.
We face dire problems of uneven distribution of power in modern society, including undue concentrations in the hands of tech zillionaires. I’ve long held – in fiction and nonfiction - that flows of information must be reciprocal and empowering of common folk. But Dr. Applin’s solution? "The time has come for these labs, offices, startups, corporations, and entities to hire Social Scientists to help them understand that their visions may not mesh with our realities..." 
Ah! So. We should hire "experts" like you, then, who cannot even tell us where they got their own suspicion of authority reflexes? Next time you treat us to a lengthy job-pitch, please leave out the ignorant, reflex diss at the one genre of literature that genuinely explores the realm of danger and opportunity looming ahead. 
Why give so much time to an ignoramus? Because you all need to be armed against this kind of loony  sanctimony that repeats clichés diametrically opposite to all fact. And now you know how to demand: "Name one example!"

In complete contrast, scholar Tom Lombardo cogently elucidates how science fiction has informed and nurtured to burgeoning field of futurism.
…which has led to commercial futurist companies like Scout and SciFutures.
== And the worse lunacy of the other side ==
You’ve likely heard of The Turner Diaries, a white supremacist wish-fantasy tract that sells like hotcakes at gun shows and inspired Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.  This article unveils a few others in the same sub-genre… though the best, by-far, was penned satirically long ago by Norman Spinrad – The Iron Dream

I hear that Spinrad's book is actually read straight now (by morons) in some places, while non-morons should read it for a chill. 

What this NY Times author probably doesn’t know – few do, in the West – is that there are similar Identity-Rage-Fantasies in a wide variety of languages. Quite a few in which Han Chinese wreak vengeance, for example, upon the West. Arab and Israeli, Serb and Croat, vengeful apocalyptic drool goes back to the Book of Revelation and beyond.
But the mother lode is in Russia, where turgid, poorly-written and over-the-top-gory novels celebrate spetznatz heroes who slaughter Americans by the truckload, by the city-load and often down to the last man. (Women are spared, if they can serve.) We are under a broad-spectrum assault by a world filled with frustrated males needing someone to blame… and the planet’s oligarchy would rather turn that ire toward other races and toward all the fact-professions, than let it focus where it’s deserved.
Where it’s deserved.
-->. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and (site feed URL:

And Now Are My All My Travels Ended, 2018 Edition

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Wed, 11/14/2018 - 12:45
Here’s a painterly view out of my front door today — I’ve arrived back home from work-related travel, once again, and finally, for the rest of 2018. If I travel anywhere else for the rest of the year, and to be clear I have no plans to, then it will be for personal reasons only. […]

The Big Idea: Nancy Kress

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 11/13/2018 - 11:40
Wiping out a terrible disease that kills millions each year: An unmitigated good, yes? Well, hold on there — Nancy Kress is here to explain how there are consequences to every action, and what those consequences mean for you, and her new novel, Terran Tomorrow. NANCY KRESS: Why should you care about gene drives? Right now, […]

View From a Hotel Window, 11/12/18: San Diego

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Mon, 11/12/2018 - 16:51
And the weather is perfect, because it’s San Diego and why wouldn’t it be. Tonight: Come see me and Cixin Liu at the Clarke Center for Human Imagination as we talk about our work, worldbuilding, and all manner of things science fictional! Here are the details. We’d love to see you there!

Science - Tech Updates - we're incredible

Contrary Brin - Sat, 11/10/2018 - 15:06
Let's get caught up on some of the reasons we should realize that we're already way-great...

== Travels & speeches on space and the future! ==

In October I participated in the annual symposium -- in Boston -- of NASA's Innovative & Advanced Concepts program, as a member of NIAC's external (advisory) council. My role, to ask targeted questions of the fellows who are using seed grants to probe the envelope of the usefully plausible. Some earlier NIAC concepts are incorporated in wondrous missions like the exciting Japanese Hyubusa2 probe and its ingenious landers.

You can see near real-time photos of that spaceflight action. This video is truly wonderful. A spectacular mission that has already has successes. But if they pull off both landings and the sample return it will be fantastic! The Japanese are smart, they know where the riches are. And thank you for not catching the insane Moon Fever that has infected so many others here on Earth.

And now some other amazing news from the frontiers of science!

== Tune in! ==

Moving toward our future in space: The Power of Synergy: was an amazing symposium - the Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop 2018 in October, in Oak Ridge. Speakers like Marc Millis and Arlan Andrews talked starships and Joel Sercel and Rob Zubrin argued asteroids and Mars. Several astronauts and Jason Derleth, head of NIAC revealed amazing things plus news about the quantum realm and the Starshot Program. 

SF author Catherine Asaro is an organizer and Allen Steele capped things off… oh, and I spoke a bit, by Skype, about human modification and conscious AI. Have a look.
== Environmental & science updates ==
A disturbing article about how some species of whale are suffering from living near human “civilization,” even after we stopped trying to kill them. It will take concerted effort to reduce the inadvertent types of harm that might lead to extinction, as surely as hunting almost did.
China wants to build a $50+ trillion power gridFor the entire world. And they want to have it in operation by 2050Talk about ambitious.

Fascinating new magnetotelluric imagery reveals a plug of solid rock in Oregon that diverts magma in different directions.  This new imagery solves mystery of why Mount St. Helens is out of line with other volcanoes.Calling the Prediction Registry! The Pentagon has put a contract to develop a dental implant letting wearers do tap-controls and sub-vocal speech input/output, as I depicted in EARTH (1989) and EXISTENCE (2012).
The latest IgNobel Awards. Turns out human flesh isn’t very nutritious, but you can to self-colonoscopies! And voodoo dolls have a useful function.
“Bio-feedback” is back under a new name: Neurofeedback. Using MRI and fMRI and EEG, researchers hope to revive a field that never panned out before, but we all know _ought to work! The signs have all been there, with lots of anecdotal support. I’d put money on it having a big future, especially if tied in with games, in just the right way. I have some ideas…

Stunning - and disturbing - new NASA satellite photo shows a planet on fire, with active wildfires raging from Africa to South America to California. It's just beginning. The world is changing. I'll get back to that.
Teller, the brilliant sleight-of-hand artist of Penn & Teller, contributed to a neuroscience paper about the mental phenomena that a magician uses in the art of misdirection. The concept of covert misdirection is exemplified by the cognitive-neuroscience paradigms of change blindness and inattentional blindness. With change blindness, people fail to notice that something is different from the way it was before. This change can be expected or unexpected, but the key is that it requires the observer to compare the post-change state with the pre-change state.” 
Will tissue culture meat - predicted in science fiction in the early 50s -- truly flourish and replace the whole 20,000 year old practice of herding and slaughtering animals for food? Certainly, if the quality is high and price acceptable, some will choose it for the low Karmic load. But it will be a game changer if the conversion of grain to meat is far more efficient than feed lots. Reducing greenhouse gas and a myriad other Earth-harms would be huge, and hunger could vanish... though so would some jobs and herder livelihoods. Cities would approach food autonomy. 

And we'd eliminate one more reason why (maybe) aliens aren't talking to us.
My old Caltech classmate Stephen Gillett has a provocative new book that proposes we may soon enter a post-scarcity world, because almost any scarcity will be solved by one bold technology. “Nanotechnology and the Resource Fallacy” asserts we won’t even need the fantastic riches of asteroids, let alone face “peak-oil” or any material scarcity, if vats of pico-nano-micro-machines are able to separate and refine into basic elements almost anything we choose to recycle. Of course it works both ways. Utter and total recycling ability will eliminate all great obstacles to human settlement of space. Invest... but not everything you own.
== And yes, science is a victim of politics ==
In the 42 year history of the post of Presidential Science Adviser, some of the smartest humans have been appointed to help U.S. presidents grasp how scientific matters — confirmed facts and gray-unknowns — might bear upon policy decisions. Never was the position unoccupied anywhere near as long as Donald Trump has left it.
Elsewhere I commented in detail when it seemed that the job might go to David Gelernter, a Unabomber victim who has veered down far right paths… but who undoubtedly told Mr. Trump “I’ll still tell you if something is clearly untrue.” Poof, there went his chances. 
All this time, “the highest-ranking science official in the White House has been a 31-year-old poli-sci grad who is a deputy assistant at the eviscerated Office of Science and Technology Policy.” (Not even ‘in’ the White House; OSTP (what’s left of it) is next door, in the Executive Office Building.)
Now, in a shock — possibly a sop to the RASRs (residually adult-sane Republicans) who still teeter inside the GOP tent — meteorologist Kelvin Droegemeier, an expert on extreme weather, has been nominated to the position. 
Extreme weather would seem to be a highly pertinent topic, nowadays, and Droegemeier’s former colleagues say his views on climate change align with those of most scientists. And… “There are other scientific policy concerns that would benefit from a fully staffed OSTP, like the ongoing opioid epidemic.” Here are ten topics for consideration by the future science advisor.
Something happened behind the scenes. May we all live to learn what it was. Because this is not in character for the Donald Trump who railed that “glaciers are advancing as never before!”  (Um they’re not and you should get big bar bets from your mad uncles about that.) In any event, there is no law that says the President has to ever meet with his Science Adviser.
(That would change, under my proposal: Enact the FACT ACT!). . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and (site feed URL:

How to Get Signed and Personalized Books From Me For the Holidays, 2018

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Fri, 11/09/2018 - 13:52
It’s that time of the year again, and once again I am teaming up with Jay & Mary’s Book Center, my local independent bookseller, to offer signed and personalized books for gift-giving. It’s a great way to get a unique gift for someone you love (even yourself!) while at the same time supporting a fabulous local business […]

Taking Pictures With the Pixel 3: Some Thoughts

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Fri, 11/09/2018 - 10:17
When I was heading to France last week, I considered taking my Nikon d750 with me, because I thought, not unreasonably, that France might be a photogenic country and that I might want to get some high quality photos of the place. I decided against it for a number of reasons, but one of the […]

Wandering Through Paris: A Photo Album

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Thu, 11/08/2018 - 15:47
As most of you know, very recently — just yesterday, in fact! — I was in Paris. And while I was in Paris, I wandered about the city, visited the Louvre, Notre Dame and the Musee d’Orsay, and took photos as I did so. If you’re at all curious to see my wanderings through city, […]

The Big Idea: Alexandra Rowland

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Thu, 11/08/2018 - 07:38
Sometimes you start write something for fun, and then suddenly… the stakes become higher than that. Just ask Alexandra Rowland about that, as it concerns her new book, A Conspiracy of Truths. ALEXANDRA ROWLAND: Stories are in everything. If the human brain has been optimized for one purpose, it’s storytelling. Well, okay, I’m being poetic. […]

Heading Home, 11/7/18

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Wed, 11/07/2018 - 04:15
It’s a rainy day here in Paris and it’s time for me to go home. I have a whole day in airports and planes before I get there. But then I get to be with my family, so it will be worth it. I woke up this morning, caught my breath and then checked the […]

Head On AND The Consuming Fire Are Semi-Finalists for the 2018 Goodreads Choice Awards

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 11/06/2018 - 10:45
Well, this is somewhat unexpected: Head On was an opening round nominee for the 2018 Goodreads Choice Awards in the category of Science Fiction, but The Consuming Fire was not, mostly, I expect, because it just came out and hadn’t garnered enough reviews, etc to make it on the initial ballot. But people can write […]

View From a Hotel Window, 11/5/18: Paris!

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Mon, 11/05/2018 - 11:42
The hotel I’m in is cozy and on a quiet street here in Paris, and the internet connection is, like, 50 times faster than what I have at home, which fills me with rage, but never mind that now. The view is, I suspect, typically Parisian. Tomorrow: Come see me and Robert Jackson Bennett at Librairie La […]

A letter to my sane-conservative friends

Contrary Brin - Sat, 11/03/2018 - 19:14
Normal 0 false false false EN-US JA X-NONE
And so, we are at the wire. And all of those who would stand up for the Republic appear to have already decided – like Jennifer Rubin and George F. Will – to step up at last.

Still, I know many residually adult-sane conservatives… I had lunch with one, yesterday. Another just sent me his economics newsletter, filled with brilliant insights and hints that he’s unhappy. And yet, they wring their hands, uncertain, fretful, even while knowing they might be the demographic to make a real difference.

They chant rationalizations and incantations like "everyone's corrupt," while refusing ever to let any Fox assertion be made the matter of a wager. Proving that they know, inside, it's all lies.
And so this letter, which started as a note to one of them, is my final effort to reach out. To summon decent men and women to their duty. It is said that one sinner-repentant causes Heaven to erupt in joy. May this letter help you to redeem a friend. An aunt. Maybe even that mad uncle.
My dear conservative friend.
You must have known this was coming -- my effort to reach out to you, in hope that you’ll turn away from hypnotic incantations and do what’s necessary… lending your generous, patriotic, logically-calm and decent hand to the great task of saving your nation and civilization… and a truly worthy version of American conservatism. Can we at least agree on some basics?
- We share a love of this exceptional experiment in freedom, individualism, flat-fair-open-creative competition and general fairness, moving together to make a better world. Can we agree it’s been a renaissance that’s unique in human history and not likely to be repeated, if we blow it?
- Alas, nearly all such experiments died of the same illness that is now assaulting us full-bore. Across the last 6000 years of human history, can you name more than one or two eras that weren’t dominated by powerful owner castes? Feudalism is arguably the core enemy, not just of freedom and opportunity and science but also of flat-fair competitive market economics! It is the foe denounced by Adam Smith and the American Founders, who saw the King and his cronies cheat to grab all the wealth and power and pass it to their sons. It is the tyranny against which the real Tea Partiers rebelled.
You know it. But admitting it aloud would open up for you a world of insights.  So squint at the last 60 centuries and please say which system crushed freedom and progress, all that time. It wasn’t civil servants. It was feudalism. It was oligarchy.
- When was ‘America Great’?  I happen to think it’s great today, with our fantastic space probes plumbing the secrets of the universe and with diseases toppling before our mighty minds. Even the poorest people on Earth can access all the world’s knowledge through devices invented by American ingenuity. Poverty around the globe is plummeting as 90% of the world’s children now go to school and get at least a basic diet. The last 70 years of “American Peace” – or Pax Americana were flawed -- there were crimes and mistakes -- but it also featured more calm and trade and development and progress and science and justice and opportunity than all other eras combined. Can’t we be proud of that?
But sure, MAGA? Then tell us when you think America was better! 

Was it the 1950s? When our parents' Greatest Generation, having defeated the Depression and Hitler, then contained communism, built mighty infrastructure, forged tech and industries and the flattest fairest, most confident middle class, and began the great work of curing their own hearts of racism and sexism? You mean that Greatest Generation? The generation with the highest participation in labor unions?
The generation whose favorite human being was Franklin Roosevelt and whose second-favorite was a scientist named Jonas Salk?
That greatest generation knew that capitalism works best when regulated.  They forged a balanced social contract in which the rich could get rich in safety, but were expected to help shoulder the burdens, and could not expect to be gods above the rest of us. The ideal was to work toward a society where your destiny was mostly in your own hands, and not much determined by what your parents owned.
That Greatest Generation you admire had high growth while taxing the rich. And every GOP-led pullback from that social contract has led to slower growth and middle class decline. Every... single... one. That's a pure fact. And not a single promise ever made by “supply side (voodoo) economics” ever came true, not one. Nor has any GOP administration ever put the brakes (as promised) on torrents of debt. 

Shouldn’t that absolutely perfect record of being wrongdiscredit the party that keeps repeating such lies?
- But those are facts. Horrid facts! Have you noticed that American conservatism has reversed itself in almost every way, especially when it comes to respect for facts? Every fact checking service, from Snopes to, is now denounced as “partisan” because they keep revealing Fox/GOP/Kremlin lies.
Have you wondered why not one major American conservative group has offered to help improve those fact-checking services, or help set up truly neutral ones? Is it because they know what would happen?
Here’s a dare for you: Name one fact-centered profession that’s not under attack by Fox/Trump & cohorts?  Teachers, medical doctors, journalists, civil servants, law professionals, economists, skilled labor, professors… oh, yes and science. Thirty years ago, 40% of US scientists called themselves Republican, now it is 4% and plummeting. They are voting with their feet, the smartest, wisest, most logical and by far the most competitive humans our species ever produced. 
And now?  The FBI and the US military and intelligence officer corps; all are dismissed as "deep state" enemies. The heroes who defended us from Hitler, Stalin, Brezhnev etc., these are now denounced! Because Naval officers are concerned about rising seas and because the CIA and FBI are confronting a worldwide assault on us by puppet states controlled by mafia clans.  This is not your daddy's conservatism.  
No, this is not about the ranting looniness of a narcissistic toddler, Donald “Two Scoops” Trump. He is a symptom, not the disease. Your early warning came when the leader of the entire Republican Party was Dennis “friend to boys” Hastert, whose infamous “Hastert Rule” deliberately ended adult negotiation in American politics.  (Look him up, see where he is today and why, and be so-proud.)
No, the newest Fox-rationalization won’t wash. The parties aren’t “all the same.”H
So what am I asking of you?
I am not asking you to stop being a market-loving conservative! But to admit that feudalism has been at least as wretched an enemy of freedom and human hope as civil servants and smartypants scientists. Moreover, feudalism is roaring back! Oligarchs have often used American conservatism to stymie important realizations: like tobacco is lethal, cars cause smog, it's bad for rivers to catch fire, or for kids to absorb lead. Or to wage a staggeringly stupid prohibition "war on drugs." Or to let the world bake because some of those lords are invested in coal. And other members of that elite have Russian and Saudi oil they still need to sell.
When a movement shifts from "gambling is a vice" to being run by casino moguls with mafia ties...
... shouldn't smart guys like you admit it? Can’t you admit that when the very same KGB conspirators who you used to fear, back when they wore hammer-sickle pins, switch to being billionaire mafia lords, that doesn't make them any less dangerous?
Okay, here's the crux, my dear residually-adult-sane-Republican (RASR) friend. Then maybe curiosity – the highest of all human traits – can take you the rest of the way!
Squint. Envision if the current mad-treasonous-corrupt GOP evaporated. 
Overnight(!) Democrats would split in two. And the "market" wing of the Democratic Party - now filled with retired military officers and entrepreneurs and scientists and governors who balance budgets would be absolutely everything you would ever want!  Fiscally prudent, pro-science, pro-defense, skeptical of too-much paperwork… and wanting only reforms like background checks, but leaving responsible gun owners alone.
Everything that embarrasses you and shames you about Putin's Party would be gone, leaving a new "conservative-lite" party that has an actual track record fighting debt, which the GOP has never done… not once… ever!.
I repeat. The moderate wing of the Democratic Party is the only political force in American life with a track record fighting debt.
Sure there'd also be a lefty party. So? Guys like you would oppose them from your new home! A home that respects science, that respects facts! That ends the political cheating. That wants capitalism to work the only way it can work, not under conniving oligarchs but flat-open-fair-competitive. One that has no grudge at all against white-males... but also no truck with wretched-evil racism.
Stop suckling diversion incantations from Fox, man! I would bet my house against yours that I could demolish any given hour of that Lie Machine, in minutes. And so, yes, let's bring back a Rebuttal Rule in journalism. What? You’d oppose that? Gee. I wonder why.
You know I could go on. But let’s just distill it down: 

I know you are a patriot. Please admit that I am one, too, vigorously opposed to an ongoing coup by a world mafia. Only you seem blind to the fact that those enemies have already taken Washington. 

It’s that serious. We are in phase 8 of the American Civil War and the Union is calling. We've had a long, slow Pearl Harbor, and you are summoned to the beachheads.
The greatest and best thing - the last, best hope - that ever happened to humankind needs you, desperately.
Stand up.
David B.
. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and (site feed URL:

New Books and ARCs, 11/2/18

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Fri, 11/02/2018 - 13:48
When I came home for a single day this week, I got together all the books that came to the Scalzi Compound whilst I was tour and put them together for a Super Sized double stack of new books and ARCs. Surely there is something here (more than one thing, I suspect) that you would […]
Syndicate content