Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Sci Fi Cinema... great things coming!

Before diving into a flood of great new movies on the horizon... or in the past...

== The Long View of Civilization ==

The Long Now Foundation is one of the funnest expressions of techie zealotry (with a bit of Stewart Brand/Ken Kesey thrown in.) Their new bar-slash-hangout-for-fulture-oriented-folk -- The Interval -- is one of the hottest new things in San Francisco.  Managed by my old ArchiTECHS chum, Alexander Rose, the Foundation is also running a brickstarter campaign to support the creation of a MANUAL FOR CIVILIZATION.... starting by collecting a library of essential books for rebuilding civilization.

I had the honor of joining the coterie of mavens helping make the list.  See this article showing my choices…which include Brunner's  Stand On Zanzibar and Heinlein's Tunnel in the Sky -- then take a look at the choices from epochal futurist sages Daniel Suarez and Bruce Sterling -- including Asimov's Foundation and Sagan's Contact

Donate to support the forward-looking vision of The Long Now Foundation.

And now... Science Fiction Cinema!

== On Ambition...and Creativity ==

I have hope for cinema, as I view some of the terrific short films of recent years. io9 now links you to one called “Ambition” that seems, at first, to be a whiney-mystical fantasy trip… but turns into a paean to human optimism and science and belief in our future.

Wow, just published online, for the first time, an original essay by Isaac Asimov about inspiration: On Creativity: How do people get new ideas?”....

"It is only afterward that a new idea seems reasonable. To begin with, it usually seems unreasonable..."

== SF'nal Visions of Tomorrow ==

On io9, Esther Inglis-Arkell offers a fascinating look at the trend of simplistic dystopias in fiction, presenting  10 Lessons From Real-Life Revolutions That Fictional Dystopias Ignore, " ending with, "Afterwards, there will be mythology for the losing side."

In novels as diverse as Make Room! Make Room! and Ecotopia, Science Fiction has explored and envisioned the city of the future...Can Science Fiction influence -- not just scientists, but urban planners?  Annalee Newitz writes about the Dystopian City -- and Why Urban Planners Should Read More SciFi.

I have my own take on why the helpful trend of critical, self-preventing warning talks has turned into a plague of cynical doom, undermining our faith in a can-do civilization.

But fight back! By buying the recently released anthology Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Tomorrow, filled with great tales about winning back our confidence in a hopeful future! Optimism as an antidote for dystopia...

== Science Fiction and Hollywood ==

The exciting rumor? HBO and Warner Bros. TV are teaming to produce a series based on Isaac Asimov's “Foundation” trilogy that will be written and produced by “Interstellar” writer Jonathan Nolan. As one of the authors of the Foundation universe — having tied up Isaac’s loose ends in Foundation's Triumph — I am very excited. Especially given the intelligence and thoughtfulness of the Nolan Brothers.

Meanwhile, Kim Stanley Robinson’s agent/producer (and mine) - Vince Gerardis - has “picked up” KSR’s famous (and fabulous) Mars Trilogy for some kind of cinematic or television adaptation.  

If so, terrific! Red Mars offers visions of a can-do society launching into the solar system.

Wow!  They are making a movie - Predestination - of the classic Heinlein story, All You Zombies. THE classic time travel story.  From this trailer, it seems they have tried very very hard to stay faithful to the basic structure and logic of Robert A. Heinlein's tale.  Though from what I can see, the Spierig brothers embellished several added layers of plot.  Nothing wrong with that, per se!  You have to, in order for a movie to work.  (Just as you must CUT layers from a novel, to go to film.) And from the clues, it seems likely they've done so pretty well.  I am looking forward to this.

Still, the tasty way this story - and other great stories - leave you breathless and hanging, with a TONE reverberating in the air... that aspect cannot survive the expansion.  All you can do is hope there will be enough filmic art to make up for that.  They are different works. They are different works. They are different works. They are different works. They are different works. They are different works. They are different works. 

Speaking of great media and the cross-fertilization of SF and science …See How building a Black Hole for Interstellar led to new scientific insights… 

Kewl, a fun article about 10 things you probably didn't know about Star Trek: The Original Series.

This would have been so cool if only they'd had the budget back then ... Nick Acosta frame captured scenes from Star Trek TOS that were panned across a set and turned them into freeze frames showing what the show would have looked like in Cinerama super wide screen.  I Wannit!

== Movies that could'a done better ==

Something I wasn’t sure I’d ever see… according to Movieseum, Kevin Costner’s film adaptation of my novel, The Postman, is right up there with Blade Runner, as one of the Top Ten Great Movies that Failed at the Box Office (at first).

Hey, it’s good to see The Postman movie get some positive recognition for a change. I have always deemed the first half of the film to be exquisite -- and I never really minded the directors' choices to simplify my plot. The character's core ethos is identical to mine. Indeed, the whole thing displays a great big, thumping lot of heart! Oh, and visually and musically? The Postman is visually and musically one of the most beautiful motion pictures of all time.  You can read my more detailed reaction here.

But ranking it up next to Blade Runner?  Even putting aside my personal feelings about Mr. Costner (who treated the original author with unearned and bewildering contempt), I have to say that the last third of the flick was something of an incoherent mish-mash that could have done with sincere story workshopping. This version of the ending left audiences with the kind of let-down that is death to any “classic” ranking. Alas.

The real disqualifier for the Movieseum list, however, is Costner’s other work that’s present.  Waterworld.  Really?  Sure, there were some creative visuals. But… really?  Please.

I am left bemused, falling back upon a standard piece of advice for all of you.  Read the original book!  I offer guarantees.

==And More Science Fiction ==

A podcast, Flotilla Online, poses  questions about writing to the great Sci Fi author Allen Steele - and me and rising star Dan Haight - in an hour-long interview.  And yes, after the first 10 minutes or so I do calm down!

Bizarre aliens, a genius heroine and fantastic new cover art for Jeff Carlson’s FROZEN SKY series!  

In his project Signs from the Near Future, blogger Fernando Barbella takes a wry look at how our street signs may also have to change to take account of driverless cars, internet-connected contact lenses and solar roads.

==  A worthy kickstarter? ==

Here's an interesting one. CounterCrop aims to teach people an innovative, modern way to grow their own food. A remote controlled, self-contained indoor gardening unit that's "so fun and simple literally anyone can grow fresh, abundant veggies on their kitchen counter." The video, at least, seems way-cool. Someone try it out and report back here? 

I've been asked to ask as many people to "back the project" as possible the morning of Dec. 4th. Jack Abbott also promises the first 50 contributors will get unites at a steep discount.  Oh, see what I do with this concept in the imagined future of my short story, "NatuLife"!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Peering at the Future...

This weekend's posting is mostly a potpourri of interesting miscellany. But we'll start and end with some items about... prophecy!

No, not reading tea leaves or goat entrails, but the kind that obsesses everyone from bureaucrats to corporate heads to school teachers to stock brokers to moms n' dads. Using those "lamps on our brows" -- our imaginative prefrontal lobes -- to poke a stick into the future we are running across, discovering opportunities and errors just in time.

I'll start with an item in the news.  Today -- very, very quietly -- the U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee finally issued its report on the tragic deaths of four American diplomats at the hands of terrorists in Benghazi, Libya.  The predictions about this report, touted for upwards of three years by Fox News and almost every Republican pundit and office-holder... (and many of you out there)... had been that the Obama Administration would be at-minimum revealed as incompetent and deceitful and more-likely criminally negligent cowards engaged in a Nixon-level illegal cover-up, possibly leading to impeachment.

Those of you who made -- or religiously repeated -- this forecast, do have the honesty to raise your hands?  

We'll have a look at the actual outcome from that committee -- chaired by my own republican representative Darrell Issa, lower down in this blog -- and see how you scored.

== Can we forecast the future? ==

Elsewhere, I explore this idea more formally, starting with the obsessively delusional methods of our astrologer ancestors and moving on to today's favorite delusions. For example, I have long called for a predictions registry that could track the simplest but most important metric of a public figure’s credibility… whether they turn out to be right a lot… or seldom!
 Go have a look at how I lay it out. There is probably no more-useful endeavor that some philanthropist might fund (cheap) than a service to score -- in a non-partisan way -- who in our civilization tends to be right a lot. 

It's a criterion we should use a lot more than the current standard for allocating power... those who are persuasive.

Is this a start?  Now Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight.com gives an A through F score for pollsters over the last decade... rating which ones have some credibility and which seem relentlessly biased or do poorly.

Can we use these scores to refine how to more accurately predict the future?

== Some people do want to achieve this? ==

In an article for Salon, Predicting the Future for the U.S. Government: Matthew Burrows -- author of the new book The Future Declassified: Megatrends That Will Undo the World Unless We Take Action (for which I provided a cover blurb) -- describes the work he has done in the past for National Intelligence Council’s Global Trends report. These reports explore changes that may take place in the near future -- over the next 15 to 20 years.  

I have read many of these reports and found them very useful cogently laying down a range of possible futures that policy-makers and implementers may have to face as we weave the minefield of the near future.

They are, of course, most useful when they offer choice points and potential branchings that might still be under human control

== College and Success: The miscellany begins! ==

My Ice Bucket ALS challenge video is up!  It's all YOUR fault!!!  (Those of you who ponied up for a good cause.  Clearly I suffered terribly, at the hands of my new-freshman son, who delivered the icy deluge! The important thing is -- not to view this as a prank -- but as an opportunity to give to worthy causes -- exercise your power of Proxy Activism.

Speaking about freshmen, heading off to college. Want them top get the most out of these university years? Every autumn I pull out my ten minute video of “Advice for College Students” and offer it to you all to pass along to that bright young person you know.  There are several tricks for making the most of his or her time at university, but the best and coolest one I save for last.  Any student who does this one trick is guaranteed — yes, guaranteed — to have a far more positive and enriched four+ years.

Ahem, while we're speaking of colleges, there’s news about college rankings....can I be forgiven for preening a bit about my alma maters? Okay I lucked out.  My bachelor’s degree is from the 12th best university in the world (10th in the U.S.) — according to the CWUR system.  My doctorate is from the planet’s 20th best campus (15th U.S.)  Oh, they’re #5 and #6 in the world, in the category of “influence.”  Gotta work on that.  Caltech would rank even higher if it weren’t too small to have a heap of majors.  

UCSD is still quite young (established in the 1960s) -- by far the newest in the top 20 --and we just set up the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination, which ought to boost the campus a few more slots!  

Bragging? Well, in fact, I kind of stumbled into attending both places.  And stumbled a bit, while there! But the key point is that I came away having squeeeeeeezed them both, using the methods I recommend in that advice video above... methods that any college student can use, to double value that they get out of their years at university. 

Again, my advice to college students.

== On Aliens and Religon ==

An interesting question: Which religions would have the hardest time accepting aliens? io9 starts off the discussion…

…referring to book: Religions and Extraterrestrial Life: How Will We Deal With it? by David A. Weintraub.

Alas, in this Scientific American interview, Weintraub displays some worrisome shallowness.  For example when he says: “In Judaism it doesn’t matter—there’s very little in Hebrew scripture that relates to the question.” But this is false when it comes to Talmudic and rabbinical commentaries.  Likewise, when I get the book I hope I will find the catholic discussions of C.S. Lewis and James Blish and other eminent science fiction authors who dealt with the theological implications of alien life with extensive thoughtfulness.

I do intend to buy this tome, which overlaps two areas of special interest to me.

== Miscellaneous Items ==

Giant Manta Ray Tangled in Fishing Line appears to 'Ask for Help' from Divers.  Actually, I mulled on events like this one long ago, in STARTIDE RISING... in that I sense that animals have a powerful sense of hierarchy in Nature.  Dolphins will play with orcas, till they sense they are hungry. Creatures who come to humans for help know that the humans are both powerful and not in a hunting mode.... All of this comes into whether it would be right to "uplift" animals.

Miscellany?  You want miscellany? Okay then let's veer to... scan through the photographs: all the stuff soldiers carried in battle from the 11th century to today.

What was that? A guide to the military gear adopted by police departments since 9/11 and used in Ferguson.

The Moscow Times is reporting that Bulgarian pranksters are repainting Soviet-era monuments so that the Soviet army types depicted are recast as American Superheroes.
A stunning video shows just how much skill and hard work goes into some of the fantastic “photo-shopped” images we are seeing nowadays.  Anyone who says we aren’t in an era of truly high art is crazy.  There’s never been a “renaissance” like this one, and we should shout it!  

Sci fi - historical-ish humor?  How to explain the Internet to an 1835 London street urchin.  

The more someone smoked pot as a teenager, the more likely that person would struggle as a young adult.

How prosthetic limbs are becoming more bionic. Amazing TED talk by Hugh Herr, with a very moving final ending.  

Okay, now I am just proud to be human. 3D gun makes - and shoots(!) paper planes.

Okay… here’s yet another reason to be proud to be human. ‘ The Airgonay drone club, based in the French Alps, organized a race in the forest for lightweight drones that bob, weave, and generally fly at up to 40 miles per hour. These are remote controlled drones, not autonomous, so operators have on-board cameras to see where their devices are going and take snazzy in-race footage.’  Reminiscent of the best scene in “Return of the Jedi.”  The report is in French, but you'll understand what's happening within a minute.

== Back to Benghazi ==

Okay, so, how did you fellows do?  You who predicted impeachment, prison terms and roiling scandals, when the GOP-run U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee finally issued its report on the tragic deaths of four American diplomats at the hands of terrorists in Benghazi, Libya.  How did you score?

Ah, let's see. "An investigation by the Republican-led House Intelligence Committee has concluded that the CIA and U.S. military responded appropriately to the attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012, dismissing allegations that the Obama administration blocked rescue attempts during the assault or sought to mislead the public afterward."

Further: "After a two-year probe that involved the review of thousands of pages of classified documents, the panel determined that the attack could not be blamed on an intelligence failure, and that CIA security operatives “ably and bravely assisted” State Department officials who were overwhelmed at a nearby but separate diplomatic compound."

And: "The committee also found “no evidence that there was either a stand down order or a denial of available air support,” rejecting claims that have fed persistent conspiracy theories that the U.S. military was prevented from rescuing U.S. personnel from a night-time assault that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans."

Earlier this year, the United States captured one of the militants accused of orchestrating the attacks in a raid in Libya. Ahmed Abu Khatalla now faces trial in the United States.

So... how did you score?  Note that this was issued by the most partisan U.S. House in 50 years, under a republican leadership that routinely and regularly threatens the president with impeachment for everything under the sun. Indeed, this house -- the laziest in 200 years -- held almost half of its total hours of hearings on just this one "heinous" matter. (They never showed the slightest interest in investigations the eleven "benghazis" that occurred under George W Bush, see accompanying image.)

No, there is only one "conspiracy" here. Delaying this stupendously exonerating report till after the election. Fox News covered this report in less than 30 seconds. Oh and Darrell Issa, chairman of the committee? After two years of grandstanding and tirades promising to "hold the criminals and traitors accountable?"

Mr. Issa's office ignored calls requesting a statement. He has been avoiding the press.  It seems... for once... he has nothing to say.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Sea Change or Swan Song: Part II: Deeper fundamentals of U.S. politics

Last time we explored the many reasons why the advance of the Republican Party, in the U.S. mid-term elections, may be a lot of sound and fury, signifying very little. For example, nearly all of the Senate contests this year inherently disadvantaged Democrats… but a large majority of those in 2016 imperil defending Republicans.

This time, I’d like to dive into some other factors that veer away from those wrangled-over by the media.

== Differences in personality ==

Lest anyone conclude “Brin is just a reflex liberal”… in fact, I have given keynotes at libertarian conventions (albeit as a representative of Adam Smith and not Ayn Rand!). I believe my party registration (it doesn’t really matter in California’s non-partisan elections) is still republican. 

In fact, I do weigh in fairly often against what I deem to be mad obsessions of a fringe on the left! Just because today’s entire-US-right has gone loco, that doesn’t mean we should trust the far-left, which sometimes reveals a level of nostalgic anti-science fanaticism that too-closely resembles their supposed enemies. 

(Oh, you new-age 'vaxxers,' go ahead and write in with your outrage! All you accomplish is to reassure me that my political spine can still turn and notice craziness in all directions.)

But yes, my main focus is on the GOPper right and its masters, right now, because their deliberate re-ignition of Civil War and their scheme to demolish American pragmatic negotiation constitutes bona fide treason against a civilization that has been very good to us. It is the clear and present danger. 

Mark my words, though. Someday, when we solve this crisis, we will need to turn our jaundiced gaze leftward again. 

And if your political spine is fused, making you only able to perceive threats to freedom and civilization in one direction, then you are part of the problem!  See a memic chiropractor.

== Suppose the feudalists get their wish ==

Indeed, all the more so, should the Koch-Murdoch-Saudi oligarchic putsch succeed!

In that case, lefty radicalisms like Marxism are guaranteed to revive. Along with talk of tumbrels. The surest sign that the Koch boys are nowhere near as smart as their sycophants say they are? Ignoring this blatant inevitability – that restored oligarchic feudalism will lead to worldwide radicalization of a kind that will not benefit them one bit.

See this turnabout illustrated in a book set in 2045, called Existence.

There is one cohort of American political life that remains sane and … well… American, in its attitude of pragmatic willingness to try an eclectic mix of solutions, to negotiate with their neighbors, to use politics, as a supplement to private endeavor. And for now, at least, that element – moderate liberals – still dominates the Democratic Party… no matter how many lies you are told by Sean Hannity.  As illustrated by this clear study and graphic, charting responses to the question: "Would you rather have a member of Congress who compromises to get things done, or sticks to their principles no matter what?":

== Compromise or not? ==

A recent Pew poll found sizable majorities of Americans think Republicans should try to work with President Obama and that Obama should work with them. But here again, there’s a stark partisan difference. 52 percent of Democrats and Dem-leaning independents think Obama should find common ground with Republicans, even if it disappoints them. But only 32 percent of Republicans and GOP-leaners say the same on their side, while 66 percent of Republicans say their leaders should stand up to Obama even if less gets done.”

This effect is illustrated by another chart from Pew, showing where folks like to get their news.  Missing from the survey is Jon Stewart’s Daily Show and the Colbert Report. Sure, it is kind of sad that millions of kids get their news that way… but well… I have pointed out elsewhere that Stewart is actually fairly balanced, often skewering the left and having more top conservatives on his show than all of Fox has top liberals, in any given year.

The dismal, near bankruptcy figures for MSNBC say it all. No matter how hard MSNBC tries to copy Fox’s lucrative formula, liberals get bored at Nuremberg Rallies of a single point of view, and wander away!  No-so, apparently, Fox viewers.

== The crux ==

Okay, so from last time, let’s zero in upon the question of 2016!

Only once, since the Roosevelt era, has a two term president been succeeded by a newly elected administration from his own party… when Ronald Reagan was succeeded by George H. W. Bush.  Does this pattern bode poorly for the next democratic nominee? Presumptively now Hillary Clinton?

It’s a puzzler. Certainly, the American voting public tends to get nervous with one-party strings.  Hence, if the GOP chooses a non-ideologue candidate in 2016, there might be some swing momentum.  (Especially if the GOP can make people ignore the crowd of Bushite officials who will surround their nominee, as they did the "mavericks" McCain and Romney.)

On the other hand, there are other explanations. For example, George H.W. Bush was the only Republican vice president in 50 years who was even remotely qualified for the executive office. All the other GOP VPs were simply awful. (I personally despise GHWB, but for other reasons, having to do with the worst stain on American honor in 70 years. But on paper, yes, he was qualified.)  

Democrats, in contrast, always pick responsible fellows as VPs, who are calm and qualified… but also boring and hence terrible candidates for the top job: e.g. Humphrey, Mondale, Gore, Biden. 

These two trends have tended to curse a majority of successor nominees, who were, in most cases, sitting vice presidents.

== Dynasty Fatigue ==

Another factor will be possible dynasty fatigue.  If the dems nominate Hillary and Republicans choose Jeb Bush, the whole world will mock us. Even if it is just Hillary… who by now is vastly better qualified than she was in 2008, and is a solid person in most respects… the dynasty effect will still be deemed somewhat of an embarrassment.  Here I offer a simple piece of guerrilla webtheater that might deal with this, well in advance. Or else inoculate her from the issue. 

Of course, the dynasty thing gets even more disturbing when you realize that the Bush family consider themselves to be a branch office of a certain middle eastern royal house, that co-owns Fox. Do not believe that influence has faded, even an iota. As I said, for all of their “maverick” pretensions, both McCain and Romney surrounded themselves with Bush administration figures and family retainers, top-to-bottom. Until the GOP has a true, inner upheaval, the “brain trust” that gave us Iraq quagmires, economic calamity and near-total destruction of the US Army and reserves -- and zero positive outcomes in any metric of US national health - is what you’ll get with any GOP presidency.

One more element that might affect 2016 would be if the tech billionaires -- like Gates and Buffett -- decide that too much is at stake, and get involved to a degree that counter-balances the Koch-Murdoch-Saudi-Adelson oligarchy that has been busy buying American politics. The miracle is that a large percentage of our current wave of billionaires are actually loyal to the American enlightenment experiment that has been so good to them! Perhaps more will step into help save us… till we finally fix the debacle and work with Larry Lessig to get the money out of politics.

Of course, many other factors will come into play by 2016. We'll be distracted, by then, by the War Against the Newts. The return of Jesus and his new show on Comedy Central. The Purple Plague will be a factor. The sale of the first million Robot-Buddies. That really effective IQ-boost pill (oh, pretty please?) may truly alter that pesky War on Science...

...and don't forget the vast revival of both reason and hope that will overwhelm all cynicism on Earth, with the release of StartideRising: the Motion Picture. Ahem. If Mssrs Spielberg or Nolan will only get on the phone, chop-chop.

Ah… the possibilities. It’s why I spend most of my life living in the future.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The U.S. election: a sea-change for the GOP? Or swan song?

A notion has spread -- foisted not just by cable news, but all media -- that the recent U.S. mid-term elections manifested some kind of tidal surge favoring Republican Party policies. Alas, the most disturbing thing about that meme is how pathetically easy it is to refute.

1) Democrats in 2014 had to defend 13 Senate seats in red or purple states. Mostly, the GOP reclaimed a number of naturally-red seats that had swung out of their grasp in a wave of revulsion toward the Bush era, amid Barack Obama’s first landslide. Here's your GOP "wave" - Montana, South Dakota, West Virginia, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alaska, Georgia, Virginia and North Carolina.  (In fact, the dems held on to Virginia, boding poorly for the GOP. See below)

Nothing makes more clear the dismal state of journalism than its inability to show this on a map.

Things will be different in 2016, when Republicans will defend 24 Senate seats, of which18 are likely to be competitive based on geography and demographics. Democrats will be in peril of losing just one seat that could be competitive. And it could get worse for the GOP. There is chatter about potential Republican retirements in Arizona and Iowa. If either John McCain or Chuck Grassley decided to call it a career, each of those races would be major Democratic targets. 

Further, says Chris Ladd, one of the few openly Republican commentators to lift his head and reject the connivers who’ve hijacked his party: 

Almost half of the Republican Congressional delegation now comes from the former Confederacy.” Illustrating my point that this is no longer about “parties or “left-vs-right” anymore. It is a re-ignited phase of the American Civil War.

2) Moreover, this election was just about the worst in U.S. history, for voter involvement. In 43 states, less than half the eligible population bothered to vote, and no state broke 60 percent. A first to be proud of. 

As Chris Ladd put it: “Republicans in 2014 were the most popular girl at a party no one attended.” Why? “Vote suppression is working remarkably well, but that won’t last. Eventually, Democrats will help people get the documentation they need."

(Elsewhere I describe how failure to provide compliance assistance is the smoking gun, proving that voter ID laws had only one intent, all along.)

Indeed, some factors that depress turnout during midterms have the opposite effect in presidential years. For example, good feelings. A sense that things are improving. Take the steadily improving US economy.  U.S. consumer spending rebounded last month, but confidence among consumers is surging at a faster pace. 

Deficits are declining steeply, as always happens in Democratic administrations. Throw in lower gas prices, engendered partly by U.S. shale but equally – say experts – by the 2009 CAFÉ increases in car mileage standards that sent fuel efficiency rocketing skyward, saving consumers billions… and which the GOP has sworn to repeal.

Midterms tend to say “relax” to folks who see times improving. But presidential elections bring such voters out, in force.

(Regarding budget deficits, any US citizen who sincerely cares about fiscal responsibility would have to be crazy ever to go anywhere near the GOP, ever again. The second derivative rate of rate of change of debt is always negative under democrats and always positive under republicans. Period. Always. A grownup faces facts that veer from expectation – and adapts. See: Do Outcomes Matter More than Rhetoric?)

3) Policy-wise, voter decisions were very different than this purported “landslide” would have you believe.  For example:

- Every major Democratic ballot initiative was successful, including every minimum wage increase, even in the red states.

- Every “personhood amendment” failed.

- Libertarian minded voters are starting to take note that the archaic-insane Drug War is being deregulated away only in Blue States. Hence, the current libertarian cant (fostered at great expense by the Koch Brothers and Steve Forbes) that “Republicans are less anti-freedom than statist democrats” is starting to shred.

Further, word is getting out that only democrats deregulate onerous government over-reach. Who abolished the ICC? The CAB? Or broke up Ma Bell? Or unleashed an unregulated Internet? Democrats. The GOP – for all its ranting about bad bureaucracy – has only ever deregulated one industry… Finance/Wall Street. And we saw how that went.

- But the biggest reason to doubt that this election reflected preference for GOP policies is simple.  What policies? 

Other than the Keystone Pipeline, there are no positive things on their agenda, only negatives -- explaining why this U.S. House of Representatives has been the laziest in the history of the republic. (See below.) And sure, Fox uses negative motivation effectively.  But it has driven away people who want to move ahead. (Also below, see stats on US scientists.)

5) The hypocrisy of those who now proclaim a “mandate” from the American people, based on a margin of 3% in actual votes, in the lowest-attended national election ever… after they shrugged off two landslide elections of Barack Obama as “meaningless,” is stunning proof of selective insanity.

6) All of the voting machine manufacturers are now owned by radical republican factotums, some of them with criminal records. This does not matter much in most blue states, where laws require that the process include a paper receipt that the voter can peruse and verify herself, and that can be hand-counted in random audits of precincts.  This means any large scale reprogramming of the voting machine results will eventually send the machine makers to prison.

In red states, there are often no such laws. No one knows how to audit the machines’ output and that is just fine by the party running those states. In other words, many tens of thousands of votes may be electronically altered without repercussions. No single fact more clearly portrays the fundamental difference in basic citizenship, between the Olde Confederacy and its blue opponents, in our ongoing struggle over American destiny.

7) As for future GOP prospects?  They are very dim in any election wherein women, minorities or the young actually vote. The map of “safe” states for a democratic presidential candidate is spectacularly good.  Mr. Ladd again:

 “…at the outset of any Presidential campaign, a minimally effective Democratic candidate can expect to win 257 electoral votes without even trying. That’s 257 out of the 270 needed to win.”

If one includes Virginia… and Ladd argues one should… then the total number of “safe” democratic presidential electors is 270, all that’s needed to win.

== So what will the GOP Congress actually do? ==

Almost certainly nothing. Or nearly so. Again, to be clear, under Speaker John Boehner the United States House of Representatives became the laziest, least productive and most corrupt in the history of theRepublic, with fewer bills passed or even introduced, fewer hearings held or subpoenas issued, and fewer days in session, than any Congress since congresses began. Oh, but the most days spent away from the Hill, raising mountains of money.

Sure, the pace of legislative deliberation may pick up, now that the GOP controls the Senate. One can hope. Take this headline. Mitch McConnell's Mission: Making The Senate Work Again.” We’ve seen a week of hype that Senator McConnell sincerely wants to get down to business! Or this from The Washington Post: Republican leaders, too, are inclined to clear the legislative decks of must-pass bills so they can start fresh in January, when they will have control of both chambers of Congress for the first time in eight years.”

Indeed we can hope! And that they negotiate with the President and their colleagues on the Hill.

But given six years of filibustering obstructionism and laziness, one can be excused some cynicism. Recall that the GOP controlled Congress for TWELVE years, from 1995 to 2007 and for the last six of those, they controlled every branch and lever of the US government, from presidency to courts to Congress and so on. 

What did they do with that perfect and complete lock on power?  Did they take control of our borders?  Solve the "entitlements crisis?" Balance budgets? Deregulate reviled agencies? Offer a plan for health care reform? Can you recall anything they actually did, during those years? Other than deregulate banks and Wall Street? 

No. If liberals are the manic side of our national bipolar disease, conservatives are the depressive side. In an era when we need agility while charging into an uncertain future, their reflex is to growl: “No! Let’s do nothing. And get off my lawn.”

== But 'NO" is a magic word ==

Take the accompanying graphic… it is obsolete. By now a vast majority of blockages – across all of US history - have targeted this administration alone, depriving the American people of a functioning government. But to the GOP's owners that is a feature! 

The deliberate destruction of politics as a pragmatic system for negotiating solutions to problems has been the great achievement of the Koch-Murdoch-Saudi axis. Earlier phases of the confederacy never accomplished such a thing. But this version has an openly stated goal that “government of the people, by the people, for the people SHALL perish from the Earth.”

Is all of this about to change? On the one hand, McConnell and his colleagues know the math for 2016. They can see they need to craft a better image or else go extinct. Perhaps there will be a few White House lunch meetings and one or two mentions of compromise.

But in fact, there truly is no chance of a détente. Across the last 60 years, democratic congresses have generally deferred to or negotiated with republican presidents, allowing them (with some big exceptions) to get their nominees passed. This has never been true in reverse. Not once, ever. Especially since the GOP openly declared its Hastert (“never negotiate”) Rule.

Indeed, few issues did more to divide the Senate over the past several years than the vetting of Mr. Obama’s judicial and executive-branch nominees.  

And now note: Supreme Court Justice Ruth Joan Bader Ginsburg is 81 years old.   You can be certain of a firestorm, when Obama appoints her replacement. (She of course should have retired a year ago.) 

No, the turtle does not change his scales.

== A Genuine paladin for reviving a sane GOP ==

I’ve mentioned before that there are glimmers, here and there, of what America must do, in order to end this deliberately re-ignited phase of our self-destructive Civil War.  

What is needed is for fifty million “ostrich republicans” – basically sane, pro-science, and pro-markets, but right now burying their heads in utter denial, staring at Sean Hannity and pleading with him to keep them hypnotized – what’s needed is for fifty million of them to finally wake up. To see and admit and get angry over the fact that their movement has been hijacked by (at best) crazies and (at-worst) outright traitors.

What will it take for ostriches to take notice and rebel, to save their movement? To return it to being about competitive enterprise, community empowerment and Adam Smith?

Signs of sharp divergence from those things have been visible for years.  For example, the American right, which used to admire knowledge and expertise, is now in full tilt war against science. (See The Republican War on Science, by Chris Mooney.) Thirty years ago, 40% of U.S. scientists called themselves Republican, now it is 5%. They are voting with their feet, the smartest, wisest, most logical and by far the most competitive humans our species ever produced. 

And not just science! Can you name for me one profession of high knowledge and skill that is not under attack by Fox and its cohorts?  Teachers, medical doctors, journalists, civil servants, law professionals, economists, skilled labor, professors… oh, yes and science. Should this brain drain matter?

Not according to Fox, which touts the notion that brains automatically correlate with stupidity and lack of wisdom. What a meme! But some of you believe it. Indeed, that noxious meme is shared in some quarters of the left.

Is anyone out there trying to ease the pain of Barry Goldwater’s ghost, or to stop the spinning in William F. Buckley’s grave? 

George Will – almost by his witty self -- could have done this thing and helped to save the country, if he weren’t a rationalizing coward. There are glimmers of an uprising over on the pages of The American Conservative… but that rebellion and re-evaluation is tepid, glacial, timid.

Still, one seeks hope.  Indeed, at last, we may have found a hero who has the intellect and courage to condemn the Koch-Murdoch-Ailes-Saudi hijacking of U.S. Conservatism.  I quoted from Mr. Chris Ladd, above. I know very little about the fellow, but his postings show that he is no shill for the statist left. His opposition to the Murdochian madness is based on a wish for the United States to have a party dedicated to enterprise and finding competitive, non-state solutions to real problems, in a flat-open-fair marketplace of products, services and ideas…

as Adam Smith prescribed -- and as every generation of Americans has had to redefine and refresh. It is not leftism that today’s oligarch-owned GOP opposes, but the very principles and practical miracles that it is supposed to defend.  Which is why conservatism today never mentions Adam Smith.

I hope Mr. Ladd gets some scrutiny and attention.  It will be interesting to see if his “GOPlifer” column maintains quality and gains traction.

== Continue to Part II