Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Put up or shut up, Don

"We support reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, which prohibits commercial banks from engaging in high-risk investment." A brand-new GOP platform plank, running completely opposite to the party's position just a year ago; in USA Today. Both presidential candidates now appear to back reinstating Glass-Steagall.
Before our main point: My wife - a HUGE Jon Stewart fan - felt perplexed and saddened by Stewart's departure (as did I) - at a weird time for him to leave, just as this bizarre, tragicomic election year got underway.
Her hypothesis is similar to this biting cartoon from the LA Times... only having the fellow on the other end of the conversation being Bill Clinton?  No way! Not worth the risk.  No, this year's genius merits replacing BC in the cartoon with Jon Stewart.
Oh, but it is not HALF of the American public. It's half of half. Remember folks; the Union has always been slower than the confederacy.  But we moderns outnumber the troglodytes. This IS a scientific nation

== Put up or shut up, Donald. ==

What's the magic bullet for dealing with this craziness?  Time to demand WAGERS. I'll give three examples.

Challenge Number 1) “I’ll bet 10% of my wealth vs 10% of yours - the loser to pay the winner’s favorite charity - that there’s no real evidence the election will be “rigged” in the democrats’ favor. In fact the the preponderance of rigging now favors the GOP.”  

Seriously. HC or Tim Kaine should drop everything and declare a national crisis! "You have impugned our entire electoral process. You insult the 250,000 election officials and volunteers. You set the stage for de-legitimizing our entire government. So PROVE IT!"

Demand that Donald Trump name six prominently grownup Americans for a commission. Six more to be named by the dems and 6 by retired Supreme Court justices like Sandra Day O’Connor. A commission to investigate right now Trump’s allegations that seek to undermine Americans’ confidence in their electoral process.

This is urgent. Lest after Trump’s trouncing on November 8, we then suffer a wave of delusional-wrathful Timothy McVeighs. And it should be couched in simple terms of confidence or cowardice. If he is too wimpy to step up to a simple wager, that is the only character trait his frothy followers would truly hold against him.

Challenge Number 2) Demand that Donald Trump right now give the IRS permission to tell the public whether he is currently being audited. And if the answer is no, to immediately release his tax returns. 

Trump has broken a 40-year-old tradition of U.S. presidential candidates making public their tax returns because he claims to be under audit by the IRS — but he has yet to prove he’s really being investigated. At his request, the Internal Revenue Service would produce a letter stating that he is under audit. I eagerly await his imaginative excuse for that one.

Oh… and add one more demand.  That Trump give the IRS permission to drop any current audit, in the national interest and to allow electoral transparency, without being thereupon accused by DT of plotting against him.

A SIDE-NOTE: The Clintons’ newly released tax return shows $10.6 million in income.  Not exactly the middle class levels from before and during Bill’s presidency.  Their profession since – as far as income is concerned, not time – was the same as mine. Public speaking. Only I don’t charge anything close to what they do! One thing I do know.  A speaking fee does not oblige you to do favors. Not when you are in demand.

They paid 48% in taxes and another 10% to charity. Ratios that Trump would sneer as making them “suckers” and thus disqualified for office.

Another SIDE-NOTE: At least they are consistent. Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, has so far refused to release his tax returns, as well. 

Challenge Number 3) Is President Obama an American? Hey Don. Show us the “amazing” things your investigators “found in Hawaii.” He will answer: “I’m not talking about that, anymore.” So make it a simple wager! He maligned the Chief of State of the United States of America.  That should be worth at least a bet as to whether he had anything.  Anything at all.

Challenge Number 4) Bonus question: Demand Republicans explain why the last six highest GOP officials - GHW Bush, Dennis Hastert, Tom DeLay, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and John Boehner - went un-mentioned across the entire span of the Republican National Convention? Or indeed by almost any of the folks running in the GOP primaries? 

What kind of party is so ashamed of its leadership, across 28 years, that it never mentions any of them? Or a single large, verifiable accomplishment? And you'd trust such a party with a burnt and doused match? 

And now the fellow who actually ran the Republican Party for 20 years, Roger Ailes, is exposed as a sexual predator. Oh it comes in floods.

No wonder they screech so at Clinton. Hysterical distraction from what they see in the mirror.

In fact, this is not about Trump at all.  It is about crazy

== Liberal Media Bias? ==

Complaints fume among DT supporters that the Lame-Stream Media are paying too much attention to Trump’s outrageous behaviors and statements. But absolutely nothing has changed since the Primary Season. Back then he bragged – and his rivals whined - over Donald getting ‘a billion dollars worth of free publicity’ each time he opened his mouth.

The only difference now is demographics. Back then, he was vying among fellow crazy candidates (a more accurate phrase than “conservative” these days) for pluralities of GOP primary voters – AKA Confederate crazies.  Hence, free attention to wild-ass statements helped him win support from 40% of the one-third of American voters who were vigorous republicans.

Now he is being the same guy and getting the same outsized attention. Only those behaviors that enamored him to the one-sixth of voters who got him the GOP nomination – and that are overlooked by another one-sixth who are in denial -- are hurting him with the 70% or so of U.S. voters who are not part of that cult.  It truly is that simple.

What’s not simple is returning to the Stewart Question.  My wife pointed out a very simple question. Why did Jon Stewart retire from fake-news comedy just when his skills and insights would be most-useful to the republic?  And just as the Trump phenomenon hit full stride?

You want to go full tilt paranoid over that? Knock yerself out. 

== Rats Jump Off ==

Here's a semi-comprehensive list of the many notable Republicans who have said they won't support GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, why they're opposing him and who they'll back instead.  It is a very, very long list of American leaders who in the past tried to propel sense and reason from inside the Bush-Cheney-dominated GOP tent. 

These “moderates” should have seen the Fox-ignited insanity long before Trump made it so blatantly obvious… and they still make the mistake of personalizing the symptom, rather than the deeper disease.  Still, they are now – Like Oskar Schindler in 1943 – saying “I can sink no lower. I must oppose madness.”

Skim to the bottom of the list.  You’ll find the smartest of them all, like Brent Scowcroft, and Richard Armitage, who are part of group of 50 leaders in the Republican foreign policy and national security community wrote an open letter condemning Trump and pledging to oppose his presidential candidacy.

 Only notice a funny thing. The really brainy and serious ones? They aren’t just opposing Trump. They are supporting Hillary.  She’s too-liberal economically, okay.  But geopolitically she’s “solid and capable.” They think of her as democrats viewed Eisenhower in the 1950s.

Shrug and murmur. “We’ll live.”

== False Equivalence ==

I'll concede that pharma and Wall Street have some voices in the Democratic Party, which is a vast and wide tent. Bernites & reformers will only get part of what they want.  Which is why "never Hillaries" are foolish. Because reformers WILL get part of what they want, and be able to build on that. 

Whereas goppers have run the laziest, do-nothing congresses since the beginning of the republic. Corrupt and slavishly devoted to Oligarchy.

"They're the same?" Equivalence zealots ignore the fundamental.  That there will be LESS oligarchy in America if HC & the dems get in. MORE laws requiring pharma openness and broken-up banks and bolstering the SEC. 

Ever heard of the CFPB?  Dems fought for it and Goppers blocked it every step of the way.  You know your false equivalence is flat out dumb.  Goppers have slashed the budget for auditors at IRS and the SEC and EPA and FDA... Dems will put them back to work. Want to run off to Jill Stein?  Grow the hell up.

Better yet, fight good fights down ticket!
Note:  We should all look around and find the geographically closest congressional or state assembly race where things are tight enough that a little cash or a little volunteer work could make a difference.  There is one such race near me.  There is likely to be one not far from you.

BTW volunteering in a local race can be fun!  You get a sense that your own efforts make a difference, unlike the Presidential circus.

== The Libertarian Gambit ==

Some of you have been opining on "what is libertarianism?" now that the "Never Trump" faction in the GOP is leaning toward supporting Gary Johnson & the LP.  Stop oversimplifying. It's an interesting and complex topic that most libertarians themselves do not understand. e.g. most think they can defend oligarchy AND competition at the same time. 

Wrong, those have been opposites for 6000 years, as described by Adam Smith.

Do I hope the LP will offer a home for 20 million quasi sane US conservatives fleeing th insane GOP?  Sure. From then on, they'll stop caring about controlling womens' bodies and bathrooms.  Progress. Terrific.  I just sent Johnson some money.

 But if the LP is controlled by oligarchs like Forbes, Kochs and Romney?  No, No. The revolution is ongoing. And that is not True Libertarianism.

== Is Putin supporting Trump? ==

Read: Is Vladimir Putin Taking Sides in the Election?  The article mentions the “Gerasimov doctrine,” formulated by Russian Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov in 2013, proposes that modern conflicts are waged and won not with guns as much as through dirty tricks. This 'hybrid warfare' aims to destabilize the opponent's political system in order to weaken the enemy.  I guess we’ll see how this works out for them, when HC is president and remembers what they did, on Trump’s behalf.

Side note. In EXISTENCE I have a character named “Genady Gorosumov,” the team’s xenobiologist.  Huh.

== And stooping… but no lower than this crazy year… ==

Okay, it’s gossip, with a toe dipped into nasty rumor.  But the link I am giving you is Snopes. Which appraises the following rant from Occupy Democrats: 

  Surprise, surprise! Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka and the ex-wife of Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch and current girlfriend of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, Wendi Deng Murdoch, are best buddies who just went on a lavish vacation together. Might that explain Fox News’s unbelievably slanted favorability towards Trump’s despicable brand of politics? Could you imagine the outrage by Republicans if one of President Obama’s daughters were hanging around with Putin’s girlfriend?”

To whatever degree it's true... even 1%... there is one word. Oy.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Science Fiction! Science Fiction!

An apropos moment for a SF'nal posting, as I report to you all from the World Science Fiction Convention in Kansas City, MO. Many fascinating people saying an doing interesting things. Lots of discussion of "da future." And congratulations to the winners of the 2016 Hugo Award! But that will wait a bit. For now...

 Something is missing. Sure SciFi has taken over popular culture -- especially cinematic, TV and web dramas -- a tsunami that has relegated grownup, literary SF (that explores deep ideas) to quaint backwaters, seeming a bit of a revered grampa.

But what's truly missing is connection to our past. No, I am not talking about silly-feudal fantasies, that bear almost no relation to our ancestors' real challenges and grueling lives. Rather, the oral rhythms and voluptuous wordplay of true, epic poetry! 

Now that tradition - beloved of our forebears - has a pulsing, with-it revival in science fiction!  Frederick Turner's wonderful Mars colonization canto led the way.  Now he expresses some of our deepest fears... and can-do spirit of hope... in "Apocalypse" wherein he puts into throbbing iambic beat a blending that Suzette Haden Elgin, Ray Bradbury, Marge Simon, Jonathan Post and many other SF poets aimed for with the Rhysling Awards ... and that some of the best hip hop guys* have stabbed-at. 

Only Fred creates an epic so fluidly readable you'll call it a compelling novel... that just happens to sing. Baen Books will start a ten-week electronic serialization of the poem on its very popular subscriber website. Ilium will simultaneously issue the book in inexpensive but handsome hardback and paperback editions.

== SF on the near horizon of reality! ==

What about a future where you could be sued by a door demanding micropayments? A prescient scene from Philip K. Dick's 1969 novel Ubik

"...he therefore vigorously strode to the apt door, turned the knob and pulled on the release bolt. The door refused to open. It said, "Five cents, please." He searched his pockets. No more coins, nothing. "I'll pay you tomorrow," he told the door. Again he tried the knob. Again, it remained locked tight. "What I pay you," he informed it, 'is in the nature of a gratuity; I don't have to pay you." "I think otherwise," the door said. "Look in the purchase contract you signed when you bought this conapt." In his desk drawer he found the contract; since signing it he had found it necessary to refer to the document many times. Sure enough; payment to his door for opening and shutting constituted a mandatory feee. Not a tip. "You discover I'm right," the door said. It sounded smug. From the drawer beside the sink Joe Chip got a stainless steel knife; with it he began systematically to unscrew the bolt assembly of his apt's money-gulping door. "I'll sue you," the door said, as the first screw fell out...

And yes, my work in micropayments may help make this (shudder) happen.

== Recent Science Fiction ==

Time Salvager, by Wesley Chu is a dystopian far future action tale. Humanity has largely abandoned a toxic Earth and established colonies in the outer solar system. But society has fallen through a Great Decay; brutal wars and a devastating plague have left civilization short of resources. Their only hope lies with time traveling Chronmen -- who undertake dangerous raids into the past to recover precious artifacts and power sources. To avoid timeline anomalies, they arrive just before known disaster strikes. Struggling with demons from his past, hard drinking Chronman James Griffin-Mars sets off on a final mission, and breaks the Time Laws, bringing back a female scientist from Earth’s past. They become fugitives, escaping the reach of the authorities and powerful megacorporations, even while seeking to save Earth. Time Salvager, the first of a trilogy been optioned by Paramount, with Michael Bay to direct.

 Infomocracy, by Malka Older This political thriller envisions a near future where nations are dead, borders are open, and war is a thing of the past. A new world order in the form of micro-democracy has taken hold. Global elections focus around “centenals,” groupings of 100,000 people who select governments led by corporate giants (PhilipMorris, Sony-Mitsubishi) or ideological parties (Policy1st, Heritage, Liberty). The coveted prize for the regime winning the most centenals worldwide -- the Supermajority. Information rules -- for every aspect of life (and the elections) is moderated by the all-powerful search engine known as “The Information.” A major election is underway, when sabotage shuts down Information and global communication. Mistrust grows as our main characters gather intel on propaganda, misinformation and fraud in a system that fails to live up to its idealistic promise. See an extensive review by Annalee Newitz: 

The Big Sheep, by Robert Kroese, is a noir/science fiction/mystery/humorous offering, drawing upon flavors of Arthur Conan Doyle, Raymond Chandler (The Big Sleep) and Philip K. Dick (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?). The novel is set in 2039 in a divided, post-Collapse Los Angeles, with a Disincorporated Zone left to the rule of gangs and warlords. But there are aircars! When a genetically altered, oversized sheep goes missing, PI “Phenomenological Inquisitor” Erasmus Keane and his Watson-like assistant Blake Fowler set out to investigate. Things get complicated when they take on a second case, helping celebrity-actress Priya Mistry unravel just who is threatening to kill her. But the next time they meet her, she has doesn’t recognize them. A fun, witty read.

 Central Station, by Lavie Tidhar, is set amid the rundown neighborhoods of Tel Aviv, aswarm with masses of poor refugees, cyborgs, robotniks begging for spare parts… as well as data vampires, robot priests and digital entities known as ‘Others’. Rising above the center of the teeming city is the towering Central Station spaceport, a link to the interplanetary colonies where much of humanity has gone. Brain nodes connect nearly everyone to the incessant chatter of man, machine and AI in the vast memory stream -- the ‘Conversation’. And certain genetically-modified children possess near magical powers to read minds and tap into the torrent of data streams. Tidhar presents a richly constructed future in this beautifully crafted world.

== Brin News ==

Just released: The audio version of my new short story collection, Insistence of Vision -- with stories that overflow with drama, strangeness, danger and hope -- nicely narrated by my friend, Stephen Mendel. 

A fan with both a whimsical sense of humor and a scrupulous eye for detail – William Taylor – has begun setting up Wikipedia entries for some of the races in my Uplift Universe. First up: the Hoon, featured in the Brightness Reef Trilogy.  Get in touch with him if you want to help. 

Trent Shipley's new (moderated) David Brin fan site, is just starting out but has big Ambitions. He is seeking  contributors. of fan fiction and art,* encyclopedia style articles (original), thought pieces, reviews and “anything else that can remotely be justified as Brin related.” Send questions to editor@davidbrinfans.org. Of course those wanting an encyclopedic approach should get their hands on Contacting Aliens!

The Walter Day company has issued a series of way-cool “Sci Fi Author trading cards.”  Mine has just been released, and I am honored to announce that my number is… is… 42!  Sorry, Douglas Adams! There’s also an interview at the site.

Here's another reader's choice poll! Science Fiction authors rankedOh, just a gentle reminder... but you sci fi fans could vote and affect these rankings. According to your own taste and standards, of course. Just sayin....

And finally...

Just got crackpot email from a fundie whose Book of Revelation (BoR) yammer came with an interesting twist - that Satan is behind all UFO sightings! 

There's a feral-crude SF'nal cleverness about this scenario: When the Rapture takes a select cream of 144,000 pure Christians bodily to heaven - (out of the world's 7 billion ensouled human beings) - corrupt media will foist an alternate explanation - UFO abduction! Otherwise, everyone would see the obvious and quickly confess-convert. (Duh?) The whole BoR scenario collapses in a fit of logical self-interest and the whole 'kill almost everyone else and send them to perpetual torment doesn't work! No need for sky scorpions, moon-eating dragons and the other maniacal BoR stuff Patrick Farley so well conveys in Apocamon.  (Seriously. If you read one web comic, read that one. It reveals a book that far too few modern citizens have actually looked at, in appalled disbelief.)

Only dig it. This cleverly explains how UFOs manage to stay blurry, just at the edge of clarity, even as the world fills with folks with HD cameras - because Satan and his angelic collaborators are masters of illusion!

Still, clever as this twist may seem, it's pathetically illogical, since everyone on Earth could see who was 'abducted' and draw obvious conclusions, whatever the media say. Sorry, you hate-spewing, nasty BoR junkies. It still won't work. Your scenario is probably the most sadistic thing ever conceived by any human mind. Diametrically opposite to every “red-letter” passage spoken by Jesus, the BoR is truly, the Christian Bible’s “satanic verses.”

But hey!  Twist this yet again! Suppose actual UFO aliens wanted to kidnap a hundred thousand humans and mess with our heads so that we won't go alien-hunting, but instead turn on each other? Simple!  Snatch up only fundamentalist Christians!  Rapturists will go all 'left behind' on us and we'll be too busy to send the air force hunting the real culprits.

Did I just give UFO-teaser-jerks the idea? Rats! Though I deal with their asses a dozen different ways, in EXISTENCE.

And that oughta hold you, for a while.