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Propaganda, dirty-tricks cheaters and "prodigal" Boehners

Contrary Brin - Tue, 11/28/2017 - 20:05
The  Honest Ads Act, introduced last week by Democratic senators Mark Warner of Virginia and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, would require online platforms with at least 50 million monthly users -- think Facebook, Google and Twitter -- to make a public record of advertisers who spend at least $500 on political ads regarding campaigns or significant legislative issues. The record would include information regarding the ad's content, its target audience and its cumulative views, as well as its cost. It would also list any candidate referred to in the ad and contact information for the entity that purchased it. 
“This is a cause that transcends both commercial and partisan concerns -- the bill has the support of Republican Senator John McCain. Congress should pass the Honest Ads Act. Then build on it.” Indeed, it is only a start on the needed reforms.
Yeah, there are two chances of this happening…”fat” and “slim.” In other words, zero under this Congress, whose GOP leaders are absolutely counting upon a tsunami of cheating to stay in power, in 2018.  

Note that they already dismantled the earlier measures we had in place, to help keep a calm and informed and balanced voting public -- e.g. the Fairness Doctrine and rebuttal rules in mass media, requiring that major outlets allow on-air replies to any stretch of biased opinion.  The "lamestream media" were fine with this, encouraging give and take and rebuttals, even sometimes retractions! It was Rupert Murdoch, Fox and Clear Channel ravers who fought like hell to get rebuttal requirements ended. Why? Because any five minutes of rebuttal on Fox, by someone using facts well, would leave that lie festival a smoldering ruin.

The use of billionaire bucks to consolidate mass media into biased houses was also constrained by old media dispersal of ownership rules.  Now the Koch Brothers own Time.  Stay tuned. We may have to up the boycott.
Ronald Reagan famously said:

 "I didn't leave the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party left me.” 

Whatever you think of Ronnie’s rationalization, he expressed perfectly what any sane or grownup Republican should be paraphrasing right now about the party that’s utterly betrayed them and their country and even honorable conservatism – along with science and every other fact-using profession. Alas, show me one of today's Republicans who has Reagan's cojones! One. Even Senators Flake, Corker and McCain, who found guts to denounce the Symptom-in-Chief (Trump) are too weak kneed to take on the diseas. Rupert Murdoch. And his overseas pals.
Ah, here’s a link to how you can boycott – even just a little – the confederate propaganda machines.
 == Gerrymandering & healthcare ==
Cheaters. They cannot win except by cheats that range from treasonous-foul gerrymandering to "losing" thousands of voter registrations, always a week or two before an election, to rigged voting machines, to voter suppression... and now this: "A computer server crucial to a lawsuit against Georgia election officials was quietly wiped clean by its custodians just after the suit was filed, The Associated Press has learned. The server’s data was destroyed July 7 by technicians at the Center for Elections Systems at Kennesaw State University, which runs the state’s election system."
Hey cheaters, be proud... but where do you think this will all lead, when we finally get fed up?
The recent election in Virginia showed popular revulsion by reducing GOP seats in the House of Delegates from 2/3 to 50%, But gerrymandering means that a 10% lead in votes nets 50% of the seats in Virginia. In other words, to get their statehouse back, Virginia voters have to reject the cheaters by super-majorities. Is there any way out of this cheat?
Based on the simple way that children divide a cake, the "I-cut-you-choose" solution to gerrymandering seems workable and plausible and avoids the inherent problems of independent commissions. It does entrench the two-party system and does not preserve state sovereignty and legislative privilege as well as my "Minimal Overlap" approach. Both should be presented to the Court, allowing Justice Kennedy no more waffling room. There are solutions that satisfy his every objection. Our descendants will look back at our inability to end this blatantly treasonous and criminal cheat and ask: "what kind of people were they?"
See my approach: The Minimal Overlap Solution.
== An ineffective Congress ==
Why the GOP tries and fails to do a thing in Congress. “The most surprising thing about last summer’s many attempts to repeal ObamaCare wasn’t that they failed. It was the peculiar way that the legislation proceeded in both houses of Congress: without meaningful committee hearings, with minimal debate on the floor of either the House or Senate, sometimes without analysis from the CBO, and often without a even draft of a bill until the last possible moment. Again and again, Republicans were urged to vote Yes, not because the plan in front of them was good for American healthcare, but to “keep the process moving”. 
== Too little, too late John ==

Oh, my. Says retired GOP Speaker John Boehner about Hannity and Limbaugh diving into the Dark Side: “I had a conversation with Hannity, probably about the beginning of 2015. I called him and said, ‘Listen, you’re nuts.’ We had this really blunt conversation. Things were better for a few months, and then it got back to being the same-old, same-old. Because I wasn’t going to be a right-wing idiot.”
Oh, oh, the cognitive dissonance! As Speaker of the House, John Boehner was a horrible villain who damaged our republic and our civilization, by helping to enforce the Hastert Rule against negotiation in the US Congress, effectively destroying the adult art of pragmatic politics that underlies so much of our success as a nation. The U.S. Congress - once the greatest deliberative body for agile, responsible, balanced and innovative governance in the history of our species - became, under Boehner, the most lazy, useless, corrupt and dogmatic in over a century, passing laws to benefit plutocrats and almost nothing else, holding fewer days in session, hearings etc but vastly more in “fund-raising.”
They were good at two things, passing legislation benefiting the party’s individual oligarch owners… and symbolism.  Example, see where I appraise their obsession with naming ships! Especially aircraft carriers.

There many sane-conservative wishes never seriously pursued. One example: there had been a deal to reform entitlements, negotiated in good faith between several Democratic and Republican Senators. It would have secured Social Security and cured inefficiencies, reduced deficits... and Boehner trashed it. Oh, and he knows that "Obamacare" is almost identical to the GOP Health Care Plan the he had pushed for! But will he say so?
Sure, this killer-of-American-politics was not as awful a human being as his predecessor leading the GOP -- Dennis “friend-to-boys” Hastert -- or the chain of perverts and multiple divorcés and gambling-subsidized shills who “moral” Republicans keep nominating and electing. Heck, I will even cheer if Boehner joins Flake, Corker, McCain, Collins, Romney and the lot, forming a Party of Sane Adult American Conservatives and calling quits with Rupert Traitor Murdoch. 

There is precedent for such a bold move!  See "The Miracle of 1947."
But while we may receive the repentant sinner back at the table as a prodigal son, if he later fights for righteousness and the Union he betrayed, we are not obliged to forget the role he played into guiding us into phase 8 of the American Civil War.
 == Looking to China ==
The Globalist’s Nathan Gardels warns: “While the West — including a Europe riven by populist and separatist movements — stalls in internal acrimony, China is boldly striding ahead. It has proactively set its sights on conquering the latest artificial intelligence technology, reviving the ancient Silk Road as “the next phase of globalization,” taking the lead on climate change and shaping the next world order in its image. If the West does not hear this wake-up call loud and clear, it is destined to somnambulate into second-class status on the world stage. Waiting for China to stumble is a foolish fallback.
“That is not to suggest, of course, that open societies ought to turn toward authoritarianism to unify the body politic. But it is to say that unless democracies look beyond the short-term horizon of the next election cycle and find a way to reach a governing consensus, they will be left in the dust by the oncoming future. If democracy has come to mean sanctifying the splintering of society into a plethora of special interests, partisan tribes and endless acronymic identities instead of seeking common ground, there is little hope of successfully competing with a unified juggernaut like China.”
A number of interesting articles follow up on this introduction, and they are cogent as far as they go… 

...but alas, the grand conclusion of the whole issue is dead wrong. It is based upon the fallacious assumption that the China Miracle of development was a Chinese accomplishment, alone.
Yes, a billion hardworking Chinese people did the hard work of building new cities and industries and power. But history will show that the capitalization of this revolution-miracle was funded by one thing and one thing above all else — vast flows of funds from the West and especially the U.S., via a counter-mercantilist system that was created deliberately by George Marshall, Dean Acheson, Truman and Eisenhower and others at the end of the Second World War, with one goal — the development of the world.  

No other “empire” ever did this, at their apex. Moreover, no endeavor in the history of humanity has ever worked so well.
Chinese leaders nurse the same illusion touted by the earlier Japanese — that they invented a new and cleverly predatory form of economics that sucked vitality from a decadent west without our awareness or sapient consent. But they did not invent predatory mercantilism. Every previous empire or rising nation practiced it, as did the Ming and Manchu, and all suffered from its ills, over the long run. Yes, in the short run, predatory mercantilism has led to fantastically rapid development, but let me ask: “who is sapient here?”
The “empire” of this era - the U.S. - could have shut down counter-mercantilist subsidy of the developing world at any time in the last 70 years. We can do it now, at any time. And in the event of a sudden trade war, who do you think will suffer more? WalMart customers, suddenly unable to buy cheap underwear anymore, and having to relearn how to darn socks? Or those whose utter livelihoods depend on making and selling hose and skivvies to Americans?
Asian mercantilists have always flattered themselves that we are helpless before our consumer appetites. And so it never occurs to them that the last 70 years were the result of deliberate design. Our design, not theirs.
Today, prodigiously, the U.S. economy is lifting both China’s and India’s, at the same time. Future historians will deem this to be the greatest American accomplishment of all. Those historians’ AI assisted models will not be biased by self-loathing or self-flattery, but clear and revelatory facts.  They will know what we did, and why.
Is it essential for the U.S. to snap out of its current funk? Its current “phase 8 of the American Civil War?” Sure. And many powers are investing heavily - both funds and manipulation - to keep us at each others’ throats. They rightfully dread how dynamic we will be, if we recover our national skill at fair-argumentation, negotiation and fact-based pragmatic politics. And yes, that can happen under the aegis of a democratic and diverse - not ‘disciplined’ - society.
== And finally ==
Here's something most of you saw, so hilarious you wind up sobbing: At Halloween The U.S. president’s son tweeted a picture of his three-year-old daughter with her Halloween candy haul, threatening “I’m going to take half of Chloe’s candy tonight & give it to some kid who sat at home. It’s never to early to teach her about socialism.”  

While mis-spelling “too,” he raised a storm of satire and derision, some reactions very clever. For a silver-spoon spoiled-heir to talk about anyone “earning” their candy is rich. 

Note: Ayn Rand, for all her faults, portrays her own scion characters taking ‘The Dare,’ dropping out, changing their names and starting over in a farm or factory, spending a decade earning a fresh fortune of their very own, before accepting a penny of inheritance. She was a loony, but capable of more honesty than most of these petty lordlings.  (OTOH, she disapproved of procreation and never once showed or implied any of her characters doing it; at least Don Jr. has a sweet face to love (and alas, exploit). Happy Thanksgiving, Trumps. I mean that! But then let’s all have a Merry Christmas and great 2018.
====

Addendum: I have many times called for a "year of the colonels." Not in the old sense of latin caudillos grabbing power by force, but retired U.S. officers stepping up to confront confederate treason at every level. Now that the mad right's war on all fact-using professions includes everyone from science, medicine and journalism to the "deep state" FBI and intel and military officer corps -- these are the only folks who can grab our neighbors by the lapel and insist: "this is not about sane-conservatism, anymore. It is about insanity."

We need such men and women running not only for Congress but in every single red state assembly district, in both the Republican primaries and as moderate or even slightly conservative Democrats, in the General. 

Now we have such a fellow stepping up in Alabama. "A retired Marine colonel and former top aide to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly -- Lee Busby -- has launched a write-in campaign in next month's Alabama Senate race, seeing an opening after multiple women accused Republican Roy Moore of sexual misconduct."  

And yes, if he wins, I'll be happy enough with a 'pro-life' moderate representing the deeply conservative folks down there, so long as he's a sane, pragmatic fact-user who can sniff the stink of betrayal from the current, Kremlin-run GOP and who's willing to sit down, negotiating like an adult.. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/ (site feed URL: http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/atom.xml)

Science Fiction News & Updates and... yes... Bladerunner

Contrary Brin - Sat, 11/25/2017 - 16:27
Starting off, on NAUTILUS, Brian Gallagher interviews me on whether Star Wars got any better, after George Lucas handed the franchise over to Disney. Brian did a great job riling me up to give another choice rip on that wretchedly evil and unwise little green oven mitt… Yoda.

(Here's a funny re-dubbed Star Wars pastiche.)

Jerry Pournelle, RIP. News can simultaneously be both unsurprising and shocking. He had been in ill-health for a very long time, yet seemed forever perseverant - determined to diagnose what his nation and the future needed. None of today’s activists - any stripe or polemical persuasion - could teach Jerry Pournelle a thing about passionate dedication to the long term success of the human experiment.
I was supposed to sit on a Mars Society panel next to him last month, in Irvine.  Larry Niven, Geoff Landis, Greg Benford and I were disappointed that Jerry sent his regrets, being too tired to come down. There will be no reprise of the panel-that-might-have-been… though JP’s devoutly envisioned heaven would likely feature less harp strumming and more endlessly fun disputation… an ever-changing sci fi convention.
In the 1980s, Pournelle's Byte magazine column powerfully influenced the developing world of consumer computing, perhaps more world-affecting than even his epic science fiction collaborations with Larry, such as Footfall and The Mote in God's Eye.
A unique American, in so many ways. We differed over many - perhaps most - policies, but never over the fundamental -- that we must be a forward looking people, negotiating fairly (if often loudly) with each other, ready to admit mistakes and move on, peering ahead in order to make fewer new ones, but bravely enduring and admitting those, as well. And moving on.
And while we’re on post apocalyptic themes … an interesting article on how many ways you can spend your doomsday prep money.
== SF News ==
Available for free download: Overview: Stories in the Stratosphere, a collection of near-future stories collected ASU: Center for Science and Imagination, edited by Ed Finn – with tales by Karl Schroeder, Brenda Cooper, plus one I collaborated on with Tobias Buckell. “Each story presents a snapshot of a possible future where the stratosphere is a key space for solving problems, exploring opportunities or playing out conflicts unfolding on the Earth’s surface.” It was sponsored by one of the new strato-balloon companies - World View - founded by Pluto pioneer Alan Stern.
I love this short-short, Legale (published in Nature) - especially the abstractly future-computer voices. Vernor Vinge is at the top of his form.
== Podcasts worth a listen ==

Newly posted… here’s a podcast interview packed with a wide range of future-oriented topics, ranging from transparency and privacy, future societies, political systems and cultural renaissances, all the way to science fiction, and fermi paradox.

And consider "Masters of Scale," the podcast about Venture Capitalism and the tech-innovation world, run by Reid Hoffman, founder of Linked-In. Top interview guests. Very well-produced and always forward-looking.
And until the Novum podcast comes off hiatus, it's backlist of shows remains one of the very best, ever, about science fiction.

== SF Cinema ==
Netflix has announced the episodes for “Black Mirror’s” fourth season, to premiere on the streaming service later this year: “Arkangel,” “Black Museum,” “Crocodile,” “Hang the DJ,” “Metalhead,” and “USS Callister” (an apparent Star Trek takeoff).  Anyone know these guys? I have acouple of concepts that could change world politics overnight.  I mean it. The very day after an episode aired. Worldwide.
At the Burbank International Film Festival, on September 10, 2017, Mark Hedges won the award for best adapted screenplay, for the adaptation of Glory Season by David Brin. An accomplishment, even if it never sees the silver screen. Watch this book trailer for Glory Season.
My wife & I blame each other -  while each of us denies responsibility - for PIXELS appearing on our Netflix dvd queue. Like most Adam Sandler flicks, it was just divertingly stupid enough to play in background while we exercised and did paperwork. Though, also as usual, there were two or three rock-you-back moments. Like when the paranoid conspiracy theory guy explains what really happened in Dealey Plaza, November 1963:
"They altered the Zapruder film to frame Lee Harvey Oswald. JFK shot first!"
Whaaaaa? I dropped my papers and guffawed. An involuntary spasm. 

And I pondered --

== -- the roots of humor ==

Innumerable have been the attempts to theorize what makes things funny. My own notion builds upon earlier insights.

The best humor has shock value, made more delicious by the shame/guilt of laughing harmlessly at something so awful. Example, we watched the wonderful 1960s flick The Great Race, last night and adored Jack Lemmon's campy, hammy "Professor Fate," simultaneously rooting for the villain to achieve his next, slapstick comeuppance... and... well.. actually rooting for him

But jokes are another matter. What stands out is how the joke assertion is entirely logical within its own framing, tempting a fast-reacting part of your brain with "that's logical; why did I never think of that before?" ...

...while the much slower grownup brain takes several extra milliseconds, flails and sputters, refutes the assertion, then surrenders in a bark of laughter.

I think I have plenty of funny stuff in my newly finished sci fi comedy! And so far, no publisher offers. Ah well. Your loss.
Speaking of which, Seth MacFarlane is interviewed about his new science fiction show “The Orville.” And dang, he is part of the revolution against dystopia addiction.  Can’t help liking this guy. Tempts me to re-attach my cable.
== A Hugo nominee, for sure ==

I mean it, consider this genuinely sci-fi-ish piece for nomination in the short dramatic subject category. Incredibly fun and tightly edited to match the wonderfully apropos music, with themes that are simultaneously sexy and feminist.

I'm talking about this homage to Diana Rigg (Mrs. Emma Peel) weaving images with Cake’s great song ‘Long Jacket.’ It reminds me of everything we adored about her, back in the 1960s. Rigg's predecessor on The Avengers was the first female character who fought and spied and kicked-butt on screen -- a breakthrough moment that led to Xena, Buffy and Gal Gadot. But for most of us, it was Emma Peel who pioneered the wave of kick-ass heroines.  
And yes, someday you should watch a few episodes of The Avengers.  We cavemen did have a few way-cool things, way back then.
== I promised my reaction to Bladerunner 2049... == 

Spoilers are present!  Overall, a terrifically enjoyable and top notch film! Though maybe a hair's breadth flawed and below utter classic.

Ambience and music -- grade A.  Not quite A+.  Oh, the visuals and depressing urban scenery were cranked up effectively and the music was excellent.  It just didn't rock me back quite as much as Scott & Vangelis did, way back when. Likewise, the (spoiler) final scene with Joe lying back on the steps? The music intentially recalled the death scene of Roy the Replicant, Rutger Hauer's character in the original, who stole the show in one of the 10 best individual scenes in all of cinema history... and I'd have liked to tweak that scene with Mr. Villaneuve. I think we could have done slightly better.

Don't get me wrong!  I meant that grade of A!

Acting? Grade A throughout! I am miffed that the five actors who deserved to appear below the film title -- all of them women in a voluptuously female-centered film -- did not appear that prominently.  You expect and get a lot from Gosling and Ford. Those women made the film, though.  (Seriously, Gosling is good enough we didn't need so many long reaction takes. A few seconds from each one and we'd have saved 15 minutes. Trust your actor.)

Plot? Oy. Villaneuve, Fancher & Green had a tough job. They can be forgiven for bending a bit too hard on homage-ing the earlier Bladerunner. (Though it was great seeing Olmos as Gaff!) Less would have been better.  

Likewise, have we had enough of the chosen-one child thing, yet? Jiminy. And what kind of people would consign their chosen-one to that orphanage? And why don't we see the new slave race at work, being exploited? And with all that free labor, why isn't this world rich? And I could go on. And on. Seriously, the fact that I'm not used as a plot consultant more often than I am is ... well... a tragedy for you film lovers!  ;-)

And yet, well, they had a tough job and they obviously worked very hard to make a logical path. Plot grade B+.   
I respect these folks. But give those fine actresses better billing.

== Valerian ==

Oh, we also watched Luc Besson's mostly French (with American actors) production (with Chinese funding) of the classic French comic series Valerian. And like all Besson films, it is filled with light and joy and fun and hope.  Like Spielberg, Besson refuses to buy into the dystopia cheat! As in The Fifth Element, humanity is shown at least a bit better than we presently are, but with dangerous faults. 

Each individual scene conveys Besson's energy, color and entertaining verve. Again, I wish these fellows would consult someone about stitching it together in a cohesive story arc and plot.
== Miscellaneous updates == 
El Comics: Here’s a pretty good web-comic, nicely paced with a heavy but bearable moral. Of course, the fact that we’re a people who would create tales like these… (See my earlier roundup of Science Fictional webcomics.)
The Saskatchewan Center for Science and Religion invites submissions of paper proposals for its inaugural conference on “Spiritualities of Human Enhancement and Artificial Intelligence.”
All you ambitious would be writers with a manuscript in process… Alex Bear - talented literary heir to both the (Greg) Bear and (Poul/Karen/Astrid) Anderson legacies -  is also a dynamo editor. Here is a link to Alex’s skilled fiction editing service. 
A worthy cause if you can help! Author Lezli Robyn, on Shahid Mahmud’s staff at the Science Fiction publishing house Arc Manor has a rare eye disease which is progressive and she is now legally blind...and her eyesight is getting worse every year. If you have a monthly tithing and are looking for something worthy within our “tribe,” have a look at her fundraiser. See When Parallel Lines Meet, her recent collaboration with Mike Resnick. 



. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/ (site feed URL: http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/atom.xml)

Taxation and failed strategies. And how sane conservatives could pull this off.

Contrary Brin - Wed, 11/22/2017 - 20:42
Jennifer Rubin has long been one of the conservative columnists who spoke up for a politics of adult negotiation. Yes, she made excuses - sometimes infuriating ones - for the Bush-Boehner era.  But she is capable of seeing what’s happened to the American Right, and she's among the first to call upon the remaining adults in US conservatism to stand up. To avow that there is something worth saving in the movement - a voice and perspective we badly need in the national conversation. But that 'something' will not be saved in, or by, the Republican Party.
“The GOP, I think, is kaput. The real question is what sprouts up to fill some of that space, the ground occupied by those who favor reform conservatism; responsible internationalism; free trade and sensible immigration; tolerance and the rule of law; and market economics with an ample safety net. I don’t have the answer. I only know it cannot be the GOP.”
Alas, any move to revive adult conservatism will draw fury from the Murdoch Clan and Fox News… and behind them Putin and the Saudis, the Mercers and Clear Channel radio shock jocks. DOminionist apocalypse-seekers and heck, the entire Confederacy.
Is this why Senators Flake and Corker announced they won’t run for re-election? To free themselves for this battle? Is the prospect daunting for Collins, Murkowski and anyone else pondering their political future? Plus all those on whom the Murdochs have blackmail goods?
Way back in 2008 I published a look into the past — “Can We Perform Another 'Miracle of 1947’?” — which told the story of a similar crisis, long ago, when it was the Democrats' turn to choose country and future over their dogmatic wing. 
Dear Jennifer Rubin, David Brooks, John McCain and all the rest of you out there who want desperately to save something of the soul (and effective usefulness) of American conservatism… may I recommend you have a look? 
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== The taxation Imbroglio ==
Lowering corporate taxes will not benefit the broader economy: Nick Hanauer is one of the smart, tech billionaires who get it... that the restoration of feudalism will only lead to revolution. On the other hand investment in R&D and in infrastructure and middle class wages will spur economic growth. The Tax Bill might have been about those things, but instead they chose feudalism.

This article's deceitful interviewer ignores that: 
(1) Carter unleashed Volcker to cure the economy of stagflation and that got the economy rolling again, and 
(2) Reagan retreated from the 28% rate a year later, and 
(3) going back 70 years, only one tax cut (JFK’s) actually correlated with increased rates of growth. All others led to declines. 
A careful Bloomberg analysis of the Tax Bill shows that it will very likely slash Donald Trump's own taxes by 2/3 or more! The biggest reason is abolishment of the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), that ensures the rich pay at least something, when they have a year with huge income but also many gimmicks and dodges. 

Eliminating the AMT and the Inheritance Tax are the core goals desperately wanted by Republican donors, who arm-twist GOP congressmen to pass what their constituents already hate. (Which explains why Darrell Issa, the richest man in the House, is demurring while his fellow CA GOP Reps are caving in, even though the bill savages California.)
Consumers lose chance to sue banks in win for Wall Street. Um, this is “populism? Take the reversal of Net Neutrality and the gutting of the CFPB and the ending of restrictions on K Street lobbyists, and you get the truth about "draining the swamp."  They are draining their cesspits into our aquifer and expanding the swamp.
== And you’re surprised? ==

Dig it. Supply Side predictions of tax cuts erasing deficits have never come true. 

Not once, ever, even remotely.
But the “opposite happened” after every single tax cut for the rich -- no "growth" of Main Street, but instead inflated asset bubbles like stocks and the 2007 housing bubble, that always burst. But very little investment in productivity that “supply side” is supposed to stimulate. These patterns were known 250 years ago! Adam Smith rightly blamed asset bubbles on a bloated, rentier aristocracy.  Aristocrats who do not invest in productive capacity but in passive rent-seeking.
While you pay full rates on income earned by the sweat of your brow, passive income is taxed at ever-lower rates, every time the GOP takes power. Do read Adam Smith. He describes this - not socialism - as the disease that wrecks all competitive markets.
Fox anchors never explain why the top 1% pays the most taxes, despite their kinds of income being taxed at far lower rates than your hard-earned income. The reason is simple. They have all the money! 
== Our (ongoing) Civil War ==
Absolutely stunning: Trump's Chief of Staff John Kelly claims Civil War caused by "lack of compromise." In fact, Lincoln offered compromise after compromise. Southern leaders sent not one delegation to find out Lincoln's intentions. 

Yes, Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence does assert that oaths of union can only be broken, but only as a last resort, after everything else has been tried.
As Ben Franklin and the Founders did try, sending repeated delegations to the King & Parliament. Royal refusal to compromise led to that breakup.
Note: Jeff Davis and his peers had sworn "undying and eternal allegiance" to the United States, repeatedly and continuously, until the very moment that an election went a way they didn't like, whereupon they blithely broke solemn oaths, because the secession documents declared refusal ever to even talk compromise over slavery. There's no better example of treason in any dictionary... 

...or there wasn't, till the GOP became a New Confederacy, selling America to Murdochs and the Kremlin.
Refusal to compromise? Choke-sputter. Republicans fired Newt Gingrich for daring to negotiate Welfare Reform and the Budget Act with Bill Clinton, in 1995. They made Dennis "friend to boys" Hastert the head of the whole GOP for 6 years, and his "Hastert Rule" consisted of the following rigid anti-compromise declaration: "No Republican is allowed ever to negotiate with a Democrat, ever, even in the national interest."
You dare to bring up... compromise???
"I would tell you that Robert E. Lee was an honorable man," Kelly said. "He was a man that gave up his country to fight for his state, which 150 years ago was more important than country. It was always loyalty to state first back in those days. Now it's different today. But the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War, and men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand where their conscience had made them stand."
Bull. That is oft-claimed and utterly false. Jefferson Davis administered the oath to cadets at West Point many times, and to Congress! An oath only to the United States of America. Historians find almost no oaths to individual states. Robert E. Lee never swore one to Virginia, but he did many times to the USA.

I often say that the US Military Officer Corps is the third best-educated clade in American life, after professors and medical doctors, and it's generally (so to speak) true!  It's why that fact-centered community is now under attack by the mad right as "deep state" enemies... along with all other fact-using professions.  I had vested real hope in this.  And in Kelly.

But the stunning degree of historical ignorance that he displayed was... disturbing.

. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/ (site feed URL: http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/atom.xml)

Away From the Internet Through 12/3

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Wed, 11/22/2017 - 20:05
Hey there! I have a book to finish with a hard deadline of, uh, next week, so I am going to hide from the Internet until it is done, or through December 3rd, whichever comes first. This includes Twitter, Facebook, etc. Basically there will be a Scalzi-shaped hole in the Internet for the next ten […]

Athena, 11/22/17

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Wed, 11/22/2017 - 16:46
My kid is pretty great. That is all. For those of you in the US, I hope you’ve gotten all your shopping done for Thanksgiving and that any traveling you do will be bearable, and that your time with family and friends tomorrow is delightful and with no extended political arguments. For everyone else in […]

The Big Idea: Molly Tanzer

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 11/21/2017 - 11:43
Absinthe makes the brain grow more creative — at least in the case of Molly Tanzer, whose encounter with the spirit helped to inspire her novel Creatures of Will and Temper. Want to find out how? Sit back and pour a stiff one as Tanzer tells you. MOLLY TANZER: I’m delighted to do my very first […]

Sunset and Moon, 11/20/17

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Mon, 11/20/2017 - 19:29
It was lovely here today. Hope it was where you were, too.

The Big Idea: Tracy Townsend

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Mon, 11/20/2017 - 14:59
Take Borges, toss in a library, add a touch of sub-atomic physics, and what do you get? If you’re Tracy Townsend, you get her novel The Nine. Here she is to tell you how all of these came to be a part of her story. TRACY TOWNSEND: The best creative decision I ever made was to […]

Cat Amongst the Stringed Instruments

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Sun, 11/19/2017 - 14:03
Don’t worry, Sugar. They no longer make strings out of catgut. I mean, probably. How’s the weekend going, folks?

Your nerdy love of sci fi could save the world! Announcing… TASAT

Contrary Brin - Fri, 11/17/2017 - 22:00
Here’s a Major Announcement of a project that's been in my thoughts for a long time. A way that you -- yes you -- can be part of an action team of science fiction readers who might someday use your powers of SF'nal story memory to help save the world!

Bear with me while I explain. 

Fretting about potential threats to civilization, members of the Protector Caste (intel agencies and all that) keep inviting authors of “hard” or realistic science fiction to offer big perspectives, or terrifying possibilities. “You sci fi guys think up the scariest things,” one official lauded. The same can be said for tech innovators and visionaries seeking insights into where we're heading. 
Yet, there's a frustration. When pondering some real or hypothetical scenario, I often think: hasn't some earlier author considered this, amid the vast number of past tales?
== A solution? TASAT (There’s a Story about That!) ==
Consider the vast library of science fictional thought-experiments published since Mary Shelley first wrote about how the creation of new kinds of life might be mishandled—a warning with new variants in Planet of the Apes, Jurassic Park, I Robot, and Ex Machina. 
Some are “self-preventing prophecies” like Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, Soylent Green, Dr. Strangelove or Silent Spring. Other SF projections come true.

Alas, for every SF thought experiment that achieves renown, hundreds molder in back issues of Astoundingor Galaxy, or some novel only recalled by a few dozen fans out there—tales about how the world might veer in unexpected directions. Shouldn’t those concepts be available, as a background library of worked-out scenarios, in case we ever face some sudden choice?
== Activate group memory! ==
Imagine some government or NGO must respond quickly to a First Contact situation, as in the film Arrival. In a hurry, they gather “experts” who leap to premature conclusions.
So they call on the TASAT hub—part of sci-fi fandom’s collectively sagacious Group Mind— to cite and provide stories published across the last century. Short tales, novels, movies, think-pieces and art that offer unusual scenarios, potential mistakes, or surprise twists, helping our leaders or emissaries to perceive a wider picture. 
Or take the developer of an augmented reality app, a spacecraft designer, or a company revolutionizing communication technology. Might even some outlandish tale help to inform the next wave of science fact? 
You can be part of this informal network. The only qualification? Having read a lot of stories! Watched a lot of flicks. Played bunches of realistic games. There may come a time when you — by pointing to some obscure tale— could help to save the world!

== Examples! ==

Suppose a company has developed a new bacterium that pulls Nitrogen out of the air faster and better than anything known, creating massively cheap fertilizer? What could go wrong? A TASAT alert on this prospect would likely cause someone to cite Hal Clement's novel The Nitrogen Fix, along with a warning to be careful.

Take the "Flynn Effect" ...where the last three generations of children in the West have had successively higher average IQ. Suppose it accelerates, suddenly and rapidly. While some might ponder the "Children of the Damned" flicks, or cite Poul Anderson's novel Brain Wave. Others might suggest Thomas Disch's Camp Concentration, wherein IQ-rise is triggered by a venereal disease. No one suggestion need ever be right! It could be enough that such examples cause the responsible parties to widen their horizons, and not leap to the first, logical theory.

Then there's the almost infinite supply of alien First Contact tales. If ever we find ourselves in a possible contact situation, our very survival might depend on having available a wide variety of scenarios, suggesting: what's "obvious" ain't necessarily so.

== Sign up! ==
So browse the TASAT Site! Join the community to get TASAT alerts. Even pose one, now and then! 

This is not just another sci fi discussion/argument site, but a place to cite actual, accessible stories, perhaps even pertinent to hurried decision makers.

(Did I mention the TASAT Facebook site, as well?)

Harness your nerdiness for the good of civilization!
TASAT is affiliated with the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination at the University of California, San Diego.  
So sign up for TASAT! Be part of the nerdy community that might save us all, someday, by chiming up with an obscure link, saying: 
"There's a Story About That!"
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. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/ (site feed URL: http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/atom.xml)

New Books and ARCs, 11/17/17

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Fri, 11/17/2017 - 18:06
And here’s this week’s stack of new books and ARCs, freshly arrived at the Scalzi Compound. What do you see here that floats your proverbial boat? Tell us all in the comments.

The Big Idea: Matthew De Abaitua

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Fri, 11/17/2017 - 12:07
Work sucks. In The Red Men, author Matthew De Abaitua has come up with an answer. Uh, maybe. He’s here to explain that whole “maybe” part. MATTHEW De ABAITUA: From an early age, I was terrorised by the prospect of getting a proper job. A summer spent working as a security guard on the docks […]

The Big Idea: Leanna Renee Hieber

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Thu, 11/16/2017 - 13:25
Yes, my friends, the 80s are back! No, not the 1980s: The 1880s, where author Leanna Renee Hieber has spent much of her creative life, culminating in her new novel The Eterna Solution, the third book in her Eterna Files series. And what has Hieber been doing, back there in the 1880s? Just you wait. […]

The Collapsing Empire a Finalist for the 2017 Goodreads Choice Award in Science Fiction — Vote This Week

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 11/14/2017 - 20:58
Yes! That overly descriptive headline says it all! The Collapsing Empire is one of ten Science Fiction books to make it to the final round of the Good Reads Choice Awards in the science fiction category, and if you are so inclined, you may vote for it at the following link: https://www.goodreads.com/choiceawards/best-science-fiction-books-2017 Alternately, if you […]

The Postman Persists… and delivers…. (plus more SF news...)

Contrary Brin - Tue, 11/14/2017 - 18:51
Let me remind you that my post before this one - about looming clouds of war -- remains pertinent and important. The best way to prevent it from coming true is by making as many as possible aware of how many of the world's despots want this. These things tend to shrivel when everyone is looking! I'd rather prove wrong and a "Cassandra" than right, looking out my window at ruins.

== Speaking of "posts" amid the ruins... ==

From fiction to reality… a lot of people emailed me about this! The Postman delivers....
Drone captures eerie footage of USPS truck delivering mail to still standing mailboxes on the street in a devastated Santa Rosa neighborhood burned down by fire.” - with footage by drone operator Douglas Thron.
And while we’re on the subject… I’m putting out a call! If any of you know genius cinematographer Stephen F. Windon, or genius cinematic composer James Newton Howard, I’m hoping to invite them to a special, 20th anniversary screening of The Postman at UCSD's Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination. Whatever its faults, the film is musically and visually one of the dozen or so most gorgeous films ever made. (With a small but growing cult following.) 
I’d invite Kevin Costner – who certainly gets some credit for that beauty - and screenwriter Brian Helgeland too - (or any of the younger Costners in the film) because I think the flick had more heart that any other from that era. Alas, no method I've researched seems to penetrate the Hollywood protective barriers, not even for Mr. Windon. And Tom Petty is now beyond reach, alack.
If you'd like to delve into the novel again, my website has a Reading Group discussion guide with questions to ponder.


== Will we transform? Bring some thought to it ==
A French journalist recently asked me: - "As a futurist, do you think transhumanism describes a future bound to happen, especially the Singularity? Does humanity really have the need to enhance itself to fight the exponential development of AI?" 

My reply starts with perspective: there have always been human beings who were dissatisfied with the ‘hand we’re dealt’ in life, who preached that we can get a better deal. For most of history and pre-history, these transcendental mystics proclaimed that the method for achieving this better deal would be through incantations of magic or faith, because words and thoughts were the only means they had, to effect change among the most powerful beings around them — the lords and kings and priests.
Scroll forward to the 19th Century and the same mystical thinking focused on sociology. The notion that a better society might be achieved through revolution, or through a “natural” progression of class struggle. Then Freud unveiled the sub-conscious and the locus of transformation shifted, again.
In the 1980s, many of the same personality types were obsessed with space colonies. Then came the computer-internet age, and artificial intelligence seemed more plausible. And Vernor Vinge coined “the Singularity” to stand for a transformation that we might soon achieve through science and technology.
I do not say all of this to deny the possibility of a coming transformation. Indeed, one form or another of “singularity” is clearly coming. Whether it will be a “hard-landing” arrival of super-AI, with organic humanity left behind or crushed…or a “soft-landing” in which we get enhanced and can come along as transformed beings, or something else… is another story that I explore in these videos:

(1) The “Neo” Project aims to create a vividly beautiful film, combining science and art with optimism. They feature my blather about peering into the future. Vivid imagery and remarkable sound editing. 
(2) Video of my talk on the future of A.I. to a packed house at IBM's World of Watson congress in Las Vegas, October 2016. A punchy tour of big perspectives on Intelligence, as well as both artificial and human augmentation. 

(3) At the Smithsonian - "Will we diversify into many types of humanity?
But in this Q&A I focused on the fact that we have heard such promises before. The personality type that propels such promises has always been there, with only the details of transcendence changing, from one generation to the next.
== Speaking of pertinent media ==
You podcast viewers should see these guys! John Michael Godier and Isaac Arthur.  Their casts are great, very detailed, fascinating, logical and comprehensive, regarding all sorts of mind-expanding topics from spaceflight to the Fermi Paradox. In this collaboration, Arthur does part one of an extensive appraisal of the concept of Uplift, and Godier concludes in part 2. Of course, I kept coming up with quibbles… half of which they answered before each episode ended. An admirable score!
Want a show with brains? You might enjoy “Novum,” the science fiction podcast produced by Ari Brin. 
Stephen Spielberg is reviving his ‘80s anthology series Amazing Stories for Apple. The deal is for 10 episodes at a budget of more than $5 million per episode.    
Terrific Sci Fi Short by Andrew FinchThe lone survivor of the first mission to Mars uses his last moments to pass the torch of inspiration. 
A young, pre-Trek William Shatner stars in that weird film INCUBUS, with dialogue entirely in Esperanto. Now available on YouTube!


 == Science Fiction Miscellany ==
My novel Kiln People made ComputerWorld, in an article about future mobility and many ways that we might become bigger and greater than we are.   
The Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative at Arizona State University is seeking submissions for its second climate fiction contest. First prize: $1,000 | Deadline: February 28, 2018. Judged by science fiction legend Kim Stanley Robinson  
What if the pandemic you thought would kill you made you more intelligent instead? In David Walton's The Genius Plague, a fungal infection grants astonishing powers of communication, memory, and intellect. But is the human race the master in this symbiotic relationship, or are we becoming the pawns of a subtly dominating and utterly alien species?  
In order to read this printing of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, you have to heat the pages to guess what temperature?
Let Go is a web comic that earnestly takes us to a darker Jetsons’ future. Not a dystopia, as such, but a family groping their way forward through technological unemployment, video addiction and dominance by social scoring. A sincere effort to peer ahead a few years. Here’s the sampler & kickstarter
Adam: The Mirror: a gorgeous – if clichéd – robotic morality tale intro to Neill (District 9) Blomkamp’s new science fiction film.
== Women propel sci fi! ==
Amazon has made Linda Nagata’s new book THE LAST GOOD MAN- a very near-future, high-tech thriller with a military theme - a “monthly deal” in the US and Canada, at just $1.60. Science Fiction was poorer when Linda tapered her career and we’re richer now that she’s back in such a big way. 
Romania has always been crazy for science fiction. At the recent Sci+Fi Fest in Bucharest, Ona Frantz won top honors for the translationof my novel Existence. Congratulations! 
Farah Mendelsohn’s new critical new book, a study of the work of Robert A. Heinlein, will be published by Unbound, in 2018. E-book £12; Hardback + e-book, £35.  Pre-order at  https://unbound.com/books/robert-heinlein
Oh, a quirky thought. I propose we nominate - for the short subject media Hugo - this fun tribute to the indomitable and remarkable Mrs. Emma Peel. In her day, no concept was more science fictional than a woman protagonist who was fully equal to the hero (and then some!) in all ways, and who could both solve mysteries and utterly kick-ass. The true fore-runner of Gal Gadot. And the quality of this video, down to the last nugget and musical riff and snip of editing, is terrific. 
And now back to our weird - (I hope it's a simulation) - world. Normal 0 false false false EN-US JA X-NONE /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:14.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-bidi-font-family:Times; mso-fareast-language:JA;}

. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/ (site feed URL: http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/atom.xml)

The Big Idea: K.C. Alexander

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 11/14/2017 - 15:36
Books can take a lot out of you as a writer. And sometimes, as K.C. Alexander explains for Nanoshock, you go through a lot to get to the end of them. K.C. ALEXANDER: So here we are, you and I. Back again some year and change later. Last time, I talked about Necrotech, and how […]

A Q&A For the Post-Weinstein Era

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Sun, 11/12/2017 - 16:14
(Note: this piece contains general discussion of sexual harassment and assault, so heads up on that.) Hey there! As most of you know, I’m a dude. And like most dudes, I’ve been watching this whole post-Weinstein era we’re in with some interest. And because I am reasonably well-known on the internet for talking about things, […]

War Clouds Gather -- track all the signs.

Contrary Brin - Sat, 11/11/2017 - 14:06
Today we’ll update you on the many puzzle pieces that (surely) some in our military and intel services are putting together, about our looming War With Iran. These pieces include Donald Trump's recent swerve away from confrontation with North Korea and China... along with Jared Kushner's Riyadh visit to Crown PrinceMohammed bin Salman, followed immediately by the latter’s Saudi power putsch. 

Here I’ll lay out the implications of Vladimir Putin’s recent trip to Tehran, followed by Putin’s personal tete-a-tete today with Donald Trump, much of it beyond the reach of cameras, in a communist dictatorship next to the Gulf of Tonkin. And now the Saudis are ordering all their citizens out of Lebanon, and several other places, as well.
More on all of this below.  But first…
Are you frustrated seeing neighbors — and yourself — trapped in tired ideological rifts and fixations? I've revised my famed questionnaireto probe beneath clichés like "left-vs-right," illuminating why you feel as you do about modern issues... and why other smart humans weirdly disagree. 
Take the survey. Have your friends and crazy uncles take it! Like Socrates, I hope questions will provoke new thoughts.


== Turmoil and consolidation among our Saudi masters… while our Kremlin masters prepare for the next phase ==
Is it disturbing that Jared Kushner was in Riyadh, consulting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, just days before the latter staged a major power putsch? Or that Donald Trump’s praise of that coup was instantaneous? Is this just another example of Trumpist collusion with a foreign power who long meddled in U.S. political affairs?
Or is it about finalizing a long-planned war vs. Iran? See my earlier list of how many forces want this, from the Saudis and Trump/Breitbart to Putin and the Iranian mullahs. But like one of Glen Beck’s conspiracy corkboards, I keep finding threads to connect -- only with blatant facts, not innuendos. For example…
Not covered by the U.S. news services: Russian President Vladimir Putin, visited Tehran on November 1.  That proves nothing, but it is consistent with the scenario we’re building here, and it leads to an important test, which we’ll get to, in a moment.
First, back to that secret meeting between Jared Kushner and Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The image of an orthodox Jew dickering with the Saudi leader... might a silver lining to all this be an Arab-Israeli rapprochement? Discussions have been going on since early in the Obama Administration. Strategically, it makes sense for the Sunnis to make peace with Israel, though any deal will go nowhere without a real Palestinian solution. 

Indeed, one alternative or supplement to an Iran war would be such a peace deal, giving Trump a victory to crow about. And I'd be the first to cheer... if that's all it were.
But consider Saudi Arabia’s Great Big Purge, which toppled foremost Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, one of the world’s richest men. Media reports cite him as a major investor in CitiBank and other western institutions. Alas, few mention the holding that mattered most. Long before the Russians or Chinese or gambling lords or even Wall Street meddled on behalf of the GOP, there was Rupert Murdoch, whose Fox News empire could never have grown so, or survived several crises, without the reliably endless backing of Murdoch’s #1 partner — Alwaleed bin Talal. Not even Vladimir Putin played a greater role in the deliberate destruction of American political process.
Alwaleed recently made the mistake of insulting Trump, tweeting “I bailed you out twice,” but now calling DT mentally ill. Big Mistake.
So should we celebrate? Hold on. Sure, the arrests and power shifts are - at one level - clearly about consolidating the dominance of the current Crown Prince - who propelled the Yemen war that's killed half a million civilians, so far. And yet, frankly, I don’t care about their internal power struggles.  What I fear is they are clearing the decks - eliminating all Saudi elements who might resist war.

== All God’s chillen want this ===
“They got guns; we got guns; all God’s chillen got guns!” – The Marx Brothers
Alas, no one in the media or politics seems able or willing to list the powers who will benefit from a US-Iran War. I did, in an earlier posting.  But summarizing - all the world's despots and fanatics are salivating for this:
The Saudis want the Iranian military hit, but above all seek high oil prices, which will skyrocket when the straits are closed.
The Breitbart-Fox-Trumpists have been openly slathering for war with Iran for years, and it would distract from Trump's domestic political troubles. Remember GW Bush's "weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq? Expect some kind of pretext event. Perhaps finalized today, in that meeting by the shores of the Tonkin Gulf.
Some of the dumber factions in Israel want it.

...And the Iranian Mullahs, themselves! They won't be harmed by a hundred tomahawks going pippety-poppety in a few places. It will give them an excuse to crush modernists and young people all across Iran, who are the real threat to their theocratic power.  
And what I’ve seen no one point out is that the Tomahawks will stop the very instant that the mullahs call on Putin to step in and protect them! That is the thing our own crazy GOP warmongers never consider. Russia is right next door. They can stop such a “war” any time they like.  All it would take is positioning Russian diplomats and aid workers and observers at every likely target site.

Above all, Vladimir Putin wants a U.S.-Iran War. The resulting high oil prices will save his regime. And Russia will gain a new, Persian dependency under Kremlin "protection" -- the warm water satrapy they've always wanted, going back to the Czars. (That simple fact is so blatant, I used it to get several officers to flip on this issue.)
Let’s return to that November 1, visit to Tehran by Vladimir Putin. And this is a key telltale! If Putin’s aim were to preventwar, he would have announced the Russian umbrella for Tehran now. In advance.

“We will protect our dear neighbor, Iran.”
With that declaration, the Tomahawks would be deterred. U.S. missiles simply would not fly. But Putin wants a wave of Tomahawks to fly, and so do the Ayatollahs!  Just one round, going bing-bing-bing, raising oil prices and unleashing the mullahs to crush their own democrats, while doing little lasting damage. Oh, and it will let Kremlin observers measure our missiles’ parameters… 

Then Vlad steps in, announcing the umbrella, acting as peacemaker and protector while America fumes and waffles, falling back in toddler rage and impotence. 

Let me couch this as a challenge. Name one way that we benefit. Name one way that despots won’t see a U.S.-Iran War as their win-win. But especially Putin, who calls the shots in U.S. foreign policy. And who just met with President Donald Trump, poorly observed, in communist Vietnam.
Who doesn't want a Iran war?  Not the sane/sober members of the U.S. military who would be sent to fight it. 
"The nation’s top military leaders stated unequivocally on Tuesday that they believe the United States should stay in theIran nuclear deal, staking out a position at odds with President Trump’s only days before he decides whether to certify that Tehran is in compliance with the deal."

Others will benefit! Enemies of our civilization. But not us. 


== Vlad our impaler ==
Lest you dismiss me as a Glen Beck–Alex Jones style conspiracy nut, let me commend your attention to an important report by the Defense Intelligence Agency on the rising Russian military and its new, highly aggressive doctrines. Take this excerpt from the section on Cyber and Propaganda Warfare:
“Information confrontation,”or IPb (informatsionnoye protivoborstvo), is the Russian government’s term for conflict in the information sphere. IPb includes diplomatic, economic, military, political, cultural, social, and religious information arenas, and encompasses two measures for influence: informational-technical effect and informational-psychological effect.
 • Informational-technical effect is roughly analogous to computer network operations, including computer-network defense, attack, and exploitation.
 • Informational-psychological effect refers to attempts to change people’s behavior or beliefs in favor of Russian governmental objectives.
 IPb is designed to shape perceptions and manipulate the behavior of target audiences. Information countermeasures are activities taken in advance of an event that could be either offensive (such as activities to discredit the key communicator) or defensive (such as measures to secure Internet websites) designed to prevent an attack.
… The variety of techniques for disseminating Russian propaganda include pro-Kremlin “news” websites and TV and radio channels such as Russia Today and Sputnik News, bots and trolls on social media, search engine optimization, and paid journalists in Western and other foreign media…
Trolls. Russia employs a troll army of paid online commentators who manipulate or try to change the narrative of a given story in Russia’s favor.
Bots. Another way Russia manipulates the information space is through automated pushers of content on social media. These bots can continuously push content or imitate real life patterns
== The DIA report continues… ==
Major themes of Russian propaganda include:
The West’s liberal world order is bankrupt and should be replaced by a Eurasian neo-conservative post-liberal world order, which defends tradition, conservative values, and true liberty.
The West demonizes Russia, which is only trying to defend its interests and sovereignty and act as an indispensable nation in world affairs.
The United States is determined to interfere with and overthrow sovereign governments around the world.
Now mind you, as many on today’s Confederate right will point out, there are certain angles and degrees to which we must admit some truth to these accusations! 

The expansion of NATO, the earlier memic-meddlings funded by George Soros, that helped shatter the old USSR – and especially the way Obama and Clinton helped democracy activists in the Ukraine get free elections, ripping that nation out of the Kremlin’s orbit – plus frustration over the rise in secular individualism all over the world – these re-ignited Russian traditions of paranoia and commitment to feudal hierarchy.
Hence, I don’t call Putin evil, per se. He is a savvy warrior for the ancient human mode of governance. He cleverly arranged an anti-western alliance stretching from Ankara and Minsk and Moscow across the great steppes all the way to Manila, and now including millions of nostalgist-romantics in North America, all of them aiming at the destruction of our Great Experiment and a return to 6000 years of feudalism. 

He's quite open about it. Moreover, from Putin's perspective, there are real grievances! Take this from Vladimir Putin’s address to the Russian Federal Assembly following the referendum on annexation of Crimea, 18 March, 2014:
“The USA prefers to follow the rule of the strongest and not by the international law. They are convinced that they have been chosen and they are exceptional, that they are allowed to shape the destiny of the world, that it is only them that can be right. They act as they please. Here and there they use force against sovereign states, set up coalitions in accordance with the principle: who is not with us is against us.”
Yes. From his perspective, Obama and Hillary Clinton were very aggressive, pushing western values of liberty, democracy, freedom, individualism etc., e.g. in stealing the Ukraine from the Russian Sphere. Hence his devotion to defeating her and putting in his own puppet. Again, from the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency on their open war against us via cyber and propaganda and sabotage:
“Major themes of Russian propaganda include: The West’s liberal world order is bankrupt and should be replaced by a Eurasian neo-conservative post-liberal world order, which defends tradition, conservative values, and true liberty.”
You can tell a lot by what your adversary says in order to make himself out to be the hero. According to the Putin Doctrine:
“The West demonizes Russia, which is only trying to defend its interests and sovereignty and act as an indispensable nation in world affairs. The United States is determined to interfere with and overthrow sovereign governments around the world.”
And yes! We should squint to see how they see themselves as heroes and the injured party!  Well. Except that:
1) Their complaint boils down to growling that we have interfered in their traditional right to repress others. Ukrainians, Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Poles and so on. All the former Warsaw Pact subject nations desperately wanted NATO to move in. They applied every lever to arm-twist Obama’s reluctant consent.  What Putin leaves out is that the subject peoples that we “stole” from his realm do not want a Russian boot on their necks, anymore.

To reiterate, it was never U.S. policy to expand NATO. It was invited by people living in desperate fear.
2) Blatantly, the U.S. could have destroyed the USSR and then Russia at any point across 70 years, especially the last 20. We… did… not. That bald fact is the overwhelming refutation of Russian reflexive paranoia. But that's not all. It's also clear that they would not have been so restrained, were the role ever reversed. Ask the Ukrainians, Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Poles and so on. If the Putinists lose this struggle, they will lose only their current political model - rule by mafiosi-oligarchy - in favor of democracy. 

I they ever get the upper hand, we will lose all freedom. Possibly all our lives.
3) The system they want the world to return to – “traditionalism” and top-down command hierarchy -- was tried for 6000 years and utterly failed. Governance in every such society ranged from crappy to horrendous and progress was negligible. The Periclean-democratic experiment was spectacularly successful – if unstable – way back in 500 BCE. At its second trial run, idemocracy has been even more successful at delivering every single metric of human success, for 250 years in America and for all of those who followed our lead. More successful at every measure than all feudal hierarchies, across 60 centuries. All of them, combined. That comparison puts a steep burden of proof on Traditionalists.
4) Were he to allow his people a consistently fair and open choice, VP knows they would drift our way.

5) His use of "international law" is ironic. The one thing all despots fear is transparent application of the rule of law. Every time I am invited to speak at a Washington DC "alphabet agency," I focus on what should be the one topmost fact of international strategy: 

All our adversaries are lethally allergic to light. 

Western institutions are not; they generally improve under light. Hence, while we do still need tactical secrecy in order for our intel and military services to function, our only long-term victory condition is a world awash in vastly pervasive transparency and lawful accountability.

If/when that happens, the result can be summed up in two words.

We win.


== The fundamental refutation of Putin’s accusation ==
But the ultimate answer to Kremlin rationalizations - and to our own re-ignited Confederacy - can be found in human history. Across time, wherever there were urban and agricultural societies, there existed one of two conditions:
(1) An imperial power or “pax” enforced peace, though often at a cost of oppression.

(2) Ceaseless chaos and war between petty nations.
Past empires – Pax Romana, Pax Sinica (China), Pax Brittanica and so on – featured countless crimes by the dominant power! Crimes that fostered resentment, then hatred and finally the regime’s fall. But along the way, most people were able to get on with their lives, doing business and raising their families in peace. 

Wherever situation #2 reigned, cities burned. Brutally and often.
When it became clear that the USA was about to become the pax power for the second half of the 20th Century, some real geniuses – George Marshall,Acheson, Dulles, Truman, Eisenhower – put serious thought to doing things differently. The empire gets to set the trade rules, for example. And so, instead of the usual imperial mercantilism that cheats the periphery in favor of the capital, Marshall & co. broke with every past empire to set up a counter-mercantilist trade pattern that favored industrial production in less developed nations. The incredible result was that the US consumer has uplifted almost every nation in the world!

Our core "imperial" project has been to shout at the world: "We'll buy trillions of dollars worth of crap from you! And you can't stop us!"

Under Pax Americana, most nations’ expenditures on defense plummeted from a historic norm of 50% of budget to 5% or less freeing up vast funds for development…. while the U.S. continued at roughly a 50% level, maintaining the pax, or peace. And please, before you howl, just ask any thoughtful European – especially in the east – whether they resent that, or feel deeply grateful. Ask the Japanese, or Koreans.
Do all empires commit crimes? Excesses and over-reactions? Abuses of power? Every single time a nation or people was tempted by great power, they did such things! We're human! There's much to atone for, e.g. in Chile, Nicaragua, Iran, and especially Southest Asia. But the ratio of good to bad deeds was never anywhere near as high as under Pax Americana. 

Ask folks in Vietnam or Chile if they hold a grudge, or instead want to come to California, to visit or to live. Yes, there are special cases -- they shriek “Death to America” in Iran and Iraq. But for the most part, we are the least hated empirein history and even mostly liked! Find one other people who were ever tempted by imperial power, who did better. One. Find one. Just one ever.
Even one.
 Does that let us off the hook for crimes of empire? For brashly stomping around all holier than thou? No. But we are the first paramount nation to raise generations of its own kids to be self-critical. Critical of their own country, the way you are, right now! Simmering and seething at my words, eager to point out mistakes and crimes made by your own empire. 

If anything proves we are above average, it's you. Because criticism is the only known antidote to error. And we train our best and brightest to criticize.
Should we come to an era when there are no empires? When a calm and mature humanity rules itself fairly, without need for order to be imposed from above? Absolutely! That dream – portrayed in Star Trek (and undermined in Star Wars) – is one that we have pushed through our national propaganda system called Hollywood. And again, you are an example. 
Only dig it, there has never been such rapid progress toward that goal, as under Pax Americana, the “empire” that dreams of an era without empires.  For 70 years, poverty has plummeted, science has skyrocketed. Per capita, there is less violence than ever (though islands of horror persist). Technologies offering abundance loom. We are learning the secrets of the brain-mind and sanity. And never before have so many cared so deeply about learning the art of planetary management and care.

If all of this is too-little, too-late, then it will be barely. And if we squeak by, to a better future, it will be because of the overall plan enacted by George Marshall and the other geniuses. And because we Americans prevailed over another recurrence of confederate madness in this phase eight of the American civil war, and came out able to lead for a few more decades, till a "pax" is no longer needed.
Look back on those accusations issued by Vladimir Putin! Notice that they are couched in terms that we taught the world. But they boil down to “under Pax Americana we don’t get to oppress others!”
Violins of pity and sorrow, Vlad.


== Yes, there are other possibilities  ==
In due diligence, let me point you to an Al Jazeera article that claims the drumbeat for an Iran War is just for show.
It’s possible!  Unlike most conspiracy theorists, (1) I have real world evidence and (2) I pray to be proved wrong! And there are agencies of our civilization who are fighting, right now, to make the insanely stupid scenario not happen.

There is a scenario I briefly alluded to, before... that also fits the facts I've listed here. Putin may have gone to Tehran to get the mullahs to agree to peace. Kushner's Riyadh visit might have been about an Arab-Israeli settlement, followed by bin Salman toppling all the hardliner's  who would block it. What a glorious victory for Trump to announce, reversing his fortunes! I mention it as an alternative hypothesis that fits many of the observed facts... but that does not fit any of the personalities of the secretive, viciously aggressive players.
Still. Never think for a moment that Putin and Murdoch and the Kochs are the only masters of today’s GOP. There’s one that’s pulled the strings for decades.

Now is the time to be wary, fellow citizens of the renaissance. Watch for that pretext. Gunboats in the Gulf of Tonkin... I mean Hormuz. Or a Reichstag Fire. Better fretfully watchful than sorry.
. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/ (site feed URL: http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/atom.xml)

How to Get Signed and Personalized Books From Me For the Holidays, 2017

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