Saturday, September 25, 2021

Transparency, talk of tradeoffs - and pseudonyms

Returning to the topic of transparency...

An article about “Our Transparent Future: No secret is safe in the digital era” - by Daniel C. Dennett and Deb Roy - suggests that transparency will throw us into a bitterly Darwinian era of “all against all.”  What a dismally simplistic, contemptuous and zero-sum view of humanity! That we cannot innovate ways to get positive sum outcomes.   

Oh, I confess things look dark, with some nations, such as China, using ‘social credit' to sic citizens against each other, tattling and informing and doing Big Brother’s work for him. That ancient, zero sum pattern was more crudely followed in almost every past oligarchy, theocracy or kingdom or Sovietsky, where local gossips and bullies were employed by the inheritance brats up-top, to catch neighbors who offended obedient conformity. 

Indeed, a return to that sort of pyramid of power, with non-reciprocal transparency that never shines up at elites – is what humans could very well implement, because our ancestors did that sort of oppression very well. In fact, we are all descended from the harems of those SOBs.

In contrast, this notion of transparency-driven chaos and feral reciprocal predation is just nonsense.  In a full oligarchy, people would thereupon flee to shelter under the New Lords… or else…

 

…or else, in a democracy we might actually innovate ways to achieve outcomes that are positive sum, based on the enlightenment notion of accountability for all. Not just average folk or even elites, but for  those who would abuse transparency to bully or predate.  If we catch the gossips and voyeurs in the act and that kind of behavior is deemed to be major badness, then the way out is encapsulated in the old SF expression "MYOB!" or "Mind Your Own Business!"


Yeah, yeah, Bill Maher, sure we have wandered away from that ideal at both ends of the political spectrum, amid a tsunami of sanctimony addiction. But the escape path is still there, waiting and ready for us.


It’s what I talked about in The Transparent Society… and a positive possibility that seems to occur to no one, especially not the well-meaning paladins of freedom who wring their hands and offer us articles like this. 

== Talk of Tradeoffs ==

Ever since I wrote The Transparent Society (1997) and even my novel, Earth (1990) I’ve found it frustrating how few of today’s paladins of freedom/privacy and accountability – like good folks at the ACLU and Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) – (and I urge you all to join!) – truly get the essence of the vital fight they are in. Yes, it will be a desperate struggle to prevent tyrannies from taking over across the globe and using powers of pervasive surveillance against us, to re-impose 6000 years of dullard/stupid/suicidal rule-by-oligarchy.


I share that worry!  But in their myopic talk of “tradeoffs,” these allies in the struggle to save the Enlightenment Experiment (and thus our planet and species) neglect all too often to ponder the possibility of win-wins… or positive sum outcomes.


There are so many examples of that failure, like short-sightedly trying to ‘ban” facial recognition systems, an utterly futile and almost-blind pursuit that will only be counter-productive. 


But I want to dial in on one myopia, in particular. I cannot name more than four of these activists who has grasped a key element in the argument over anonymity - today's Internet curse which destroys accountability, letting the worst  trolls and despotic provocateurs run wild. 


Nearly all of the privacy paladins dismiss pseudonymity as just another term for the same thing. In fact, it is not; pseudonymity has some rather powerful win-win, positive sum possibilities. 


Picture this. Web sites who are sick of un-accountable behavior might ban anonymity! Ban it... but allow entry to vetted pseudonyms. 


You get one by renting it from a trusted fiduciary that is already in the business of vouching for credentials... e.g. your bank or credit union, or else services set up just for this purpose (let competition commence!)


The pseudonym you rent carries forward with it your credibility ratings in any number of varied categories, including those scored by the site you intend to enter. If you misbehave, the site and/or its members can ding you, holding you accountable, and those dings travel back to the fiduciary you rented the pseudonym from, who will lower your credibility scores accordingly. ...


... with no one actually knowing your true name!  Nevertheless, there is accountability.  If you are a persistent troll, good luck finding a fiduciary who will rent you a pseudonym that will gain you entry anywhere but places where trolls hang out. Yet, still, no one on the internet has to know you are a dog.


I have presented this concept to several banks and/or Credit Unions and it is percolating. A version was even in my novel Earth


Alas, the very concept of positive sum, win-win outcomes seems foreign to the dolorous worrywarts who fret all across the idea realm of transparency/accountability/privacy discussions. 


Still, you can see the concept discussed here: The Brinternet: A Conversation with three top legal scholars


== Surveillance Networks ==


Scream the alarms! “Ring video doorbells, Amazon’s signature home security product, pose a serious threat to a free and democratic society. Not only is Ring’s surveillance network spreading rapidly, it is extending the reach of law enforcement into private property and expanding the surveillance of everyday life,” reports Lauren Bridges in this article from The Guardian.


In fact, Ring owners retain sovereign rights and cooperation with police is their own prerogative, until a search warrant (under probable cause) is served.  While the article itself is hysterical drivel, there is a good that these screams often achieve… simply making people aware. And without such awareness, no corrective precautions are possible. I just wish they provoked more actual thinking.


See this tiny camera disguised in a furniture screw! Seriously. You will not not-be-seen. Fortunately, hiding from being-seen is not the essence of either freedom or privacy. 

Again, that essence is accountability! Your ability to detect and apply it to anyone who might oppress or harm you. Including the rich and powerful. 


We will all be seen. Stop imagining that evasion is an option and turn to making it an advantage. Because if we can see potential abusers and busybodies...


...we just might be empowered to shout: ...MYOB!


Monday, September 20, 2021

More (biological) science! Human origins, and lots more...

Sorry for the delay this time, but I'll compensate with new insights into where we came from... 

Not everyone agrees how to interpret the “Big Bang” of human culture that seems to have happened around 40,000 years ago (that I describe and discuss in Existence), a relatively rapid period when we got prolific cave art, ritual burials, sewn clothing and a vastly expanded tool kit… and lost our Neanderthal cousins for debatable reasons. Some call the appearance of a 'rapid shift' an artifact of sparse paleo sampling. V. S. Ramachandran agrees with me that some small inner (perhaps genetic) change had non-linear effects by allowing our ancestors to correlate and combine many things they were already doing separately, with brains that had enlarged to do all those separate things by brute force. Ramachandran suspects it involved “mirror neurons” that allow some primates to envision internally the actions of others. 

 

My own variant is “reprogrammability…” a leap to a profoundly expanded facility to program our thought processes anew in software (culture) rather than firmware or even hardware. Supporting this notion is how rapidly there followed a series of later “bangs” that led to staged advances in agriculture (with the harsh pressures that came with the arrival of new diets, beer and kings)… then literacy, empires, and (shades of Julian Jaynes!) new kinds of conscious awareness… all the way up to the modern era’s harshly decisive conflict between enlightenment science and nostalgic romanticism.


I doubt it is as simple as "Mirror Neurons." But they might indeed have played a role. The original point that I offered, even back in the nineties, was that we appear to have developed a huge brain more than 200,000 years ago because only thus could we become sufficiently top-predator to barely survive. If we had had reprogrammability and resulting efficiencies earlier, ironically, we could have achieved that stopping place more easily, with a less costly brain... and thus halted the rapid advance. 

It was a possibly-rare sequence... achieving efficiency and reprogrammability AFTER the big brain... that led to a leap in abilities that may be unique in the galaxy. Making it a real pisser that many of our human-genius cousins quail back in terror from taking the last steps to decency and adulthood... and possibly being the rescuers of a whole galaxy.
 
== And Related ==

There’s much ballyhoo that researchers found that just 1.5% to 7% of the human genome is unique to Homo sapiens, free from signs of interbreeding or ancestral variants.  Only when you stop and think about it, this is an immense yawn.  So Neanderthals and Denisovans were close cousins. Fine. Actually, 1.5% to 7% is a lot!  More than I expected, in fact.

 

Much is made of the human relationship with dogs…  how that advantage may have helped relatively weak and gracile humans re-emerge from Africa 60,000 years ago or so… about 50,000 years after sturdy-strong Neanderthals kicked us out of Eurasia on our first attempt. But wolves might have already been ‘trained’ to cooperate with those outside their species and pack… and trained by… ravens! At minimum it’s verified the birds will cry and call a pack to a recent carcass so the ‘tooled’ wolves can open it for sharking. What is also suspected is that ravens will summon a pack to potential prey animals who are isolated or disabled, doing for the wolves what dogs later did for human hunting bands.

 

== Other biological news! ==

 

A new carnivorous plant - which traps insects using sticky hairs -has been recently identified in bogs of the U.S. Pacific Northwest.

 

Important news in computational biology. Deep learning systems can now solve the protein folding problem. "Proteins start out as a simple ribbon of amino acids, translated from DNA, and subsequently folded into intricate three-dimensional architectures. Many protein units then further assemble into massive, moving complexes that change their structure depending on their functional needs at a given time. And mis-folded proteins can be devastating—causing health problems from sickle cell anemia and cancer, to Alzheimer’s disease."

 

"Development of Covid-19 vaccines relied on scientists parsing multiple protein targets on the virus, including the spike proteins that vaccines target. Many proteins that lead to cancer have so far been out of the reach of drugs because their structure is hard to pin down."


...and...


The microbial diversity in the guts of today’s remaining hunter-gatherers far exceeds that of people in industrial societies, and researchers have linked low diversity to higher rates of “diseases of civilization,” including diabetes, obesity, and allergies. But it wasn't clear how much today's nonindustrial people have in common with ancient humans. Until bio archaeologists started mining 1000 year old poop -  ancient coprolites preserved by dryness and stable temperatures in three rock shelters in Mexico and the southwestern United States.


The coprolites yielded 181 genomes that were both ancient and likely came from a human gut. Many resembled those found in nonindustrial gut samples today, including species associated with high-fiber diets. Bits of food in the samples confirmed that the ancient people's diet included maize and beans, typical of early North American farmers. Samples from a site in Utah suggested a more eclectic, fiber-rich “famine diet” including prickly pear, ricegrass, and grasshoppers.” Notably lacking -- markers for antibiotic resistance. And they were notably more diverse, including dozens of unknown species. “In just these eight samples from a relatively confined geography and time period, we found 38% novel species.”


Friday, September 10, 2021

Demolition of America's moral high ground

In an article smuggled out of the gulag, Alexei Navalny makes - more powerfully - a point I have shouted for decades... that corruption is the very soul of oligarchy and the only way to fight it is with light. And if that light sears out the cheating, most of our other problems will be fixable by both bright and average humans... citizens... negotiating, cooperating, competing based on facts and goodwill. With the devils of our nature held in check by the only thing that ever worked...

...accountability.

Don't listen to me? Fine. Heed a hero.

Alas, the opposite trend is the one with momentum, favoring rationalizing monsters. Take this piece of superficially good news -- "Murdoch empire's News Corp. pledges to support Zero Emissions by 2030!"

Those of you who see this as a miraculous turnaround, don't. They always do this. "We NEVER said cars don't cause smog! We NEVER said tobacco is good for you! We NEVER said burning rivers are okay! We NEVER said civil rights was a commie plot! We NEVER said Vietnam and Iraq and Afghanistan quagmires will turn out well! We NEVER said the Ozone Crisis was fake!..."
... plus two dozen more examples of convenient amnesia that I list in Polemical Judo.
Now this 'turnaround?' As fires and storms and droughts make Denialism untenable even for raving lunatics and the real masters with real estate holdings in Siberia? so now, cornered by facts, many neural deprived confeds swerve into End Times Doomerism? No, we will not forget.


== More about Adam Smith... the real genius, not the caricature ==

I've long held that we must rescue the fellow who might (along with Hume and Locke) be called the First Liberal, in that he wanted liberated markets for labor, products, services and capital so that all might prosper... and if all do not prosper, then something is wrong with the markets. 

Smith denounced the one, central failure mode that went gone wrong 99% of the time, in most cultures; that has been cheating by those with power and wealth, suppressing fair competition so their brats would inherit privileges they never earned.

6000 years show clearly that cheating oligarchs, kings, priests, lords, owners are far more devastating to flat-fair-creative markets than "socialism" ever was. (Especially if you recognize the USSR was just another standard Russian Czardom with commissar-boyars and a repainted theology.) Whereas Smith observes that “the freer and more general the competition,” the greater will be “the advantage to the public.”

Here in Religion and the Rise of Capitalism the rediscovery of Smith is taken further, by arguing his moral stance was also, in interesting ways, theological.


== Now about that Moral High Ground ==


The demolition of USA's moral high ground - now aided by the most indignantly self-righteous generation of youths since the Boomers - is THE top priority of our enemies.  

Let me be clear, this is pragmatically devastating! As I have pointed out six times in trips to speak at DC agencies, it's a calamity, not because we don't need to re-evaluate and re-examine faults and crimes - (we do!) - but because that moral high ground is a top strategic asset in our fight to champion a free and open future when moral matters will finally actually count.

In those agency talks, I point out one of the top things that helped us to survive the plots and schemes of the then-and-future KGB, whose superior spycraft and easy pickings in our open society left us at a huge disadvantage.  What was it that evened the playing field for us? 

Defectors. They'd come in yearly, monthly ... and once a decade, some defector would bring in a cornucopia of valuable intel. Beyond question, former KGB agent Vlad Putin made it his absolute top priority to ensure that will not happen during Round Two. He has done it by systematically eliminating the three things we offered would be defectors --

- Safety....
- Good prospects in the West... and...
- The Moral High Ground.

Safety was the first thing Putin openly and garishly attacked, with deliberately detectable/attributable thuggery, in order to terrify. The other two lures have been undermined with equal systematicity, by fifth columns inside the U.S. and the West, especially as Trumpism revealed what America can be like, when our dark, confederate side wins one of the phases of our 250 year ongoing civil war. It has enabled Putin and other rivals to sneer "Who are YOU to lecture us about anything?"...

... And fools on the left nod in agreement, yowling how awful we are, inherently... when a quarter of the world's people would drop everything to come here, if they could. 

(Dig it, dopes. You want the narrative to be "we're improvable and America's past, imperfect progress shows it can happen!" But the sanctimoniously destructive impulse is to yowl "We're horrible and irredeemable!")

But then, we win that high ground back with events like the Olympics, showing what an opportunity rainbow we are. And self-crit -- even when unfairly excessive -- is evidence of real moral strength.


== Evidence? ==


This article from The Atlantic, History will judge the complicit, by Anne Applebaum, discusses how such a Fifth Column develops in a nation, collaborators willing, even eager, to assist foreign enemies against democracy and the rule of law. (I addressed much of this in Polemical Judo.)


"...many of those who became ideological collaborators were landowners and aristocrats, “the cream of the top of the civil service, of the armed forces, of the business community,” people who perceived themselves as part of a natural ruling class that had been unfairly deprived of power under the left-wing governments of France in the 1930s. Equally motivated to collaborate were their polar opposites, the “social misfits and political deviants” who would, in the normal course of events, never have made successful careers of any kind. What brought these groups together was a common conclusion that, whatever they had thought about Germany before June 1940, their political and personal futures would now be improved by aligning themselves with the occupiers."



== And now… from crazy town … ==


Turkey’s leader met two E.U. presidents. The woman among them didn’t get a chair.


And here’s an interesting look at the early fifties, showing an amazing overlap between UFO stuff and the plague of McCarthyism. And it’s stunning how similar the meme plagues were, to today. “On any given night, viewers of the highest-rated show in the history of cable news, Fox News Channel’s Tucker Carlson Tonight, might find themselves treated to its namesake host discussing flying saucers and space aliens alongside election conspiracies and GOP talking points. Praise for former President Donald Trump, excuses for those involved in the Capitol assault, and criticism of racial and sexual minorities can sit seamlessly beside occasional interviews featuring UFO “experts” pleading conspiracy. Recent segments found Carlson speculating that an art installation in Utah was the work of space aliens and interviewing a reporter from the Washington Examiner about whether UFOs can also travel underwater like submarines.”


I do not like these Putin shills

I do not like indignant shrills

From Foxite liars aiming barbs

At every elite except thars.

Lecture us when mafia lords...

...casino moguls and commie hordes

Petro sheiks and inheritance brats

And despots and their apparats

Don't rule the GOP with help

From uncle toms who on-cue yelp!

Your all-out war on expert castes

has one goal, lordship that lasts!


And finally

...showing that we aren't the only ones... Dolphins chew on toxic puffer fish and pass them around, as stoners do with a joint.




Saturday, September 04, 2021

Should facts and successes matter in economics? Or politics?

The rigid stances taken by today’s entire- “right” and farthest*-“left” are both not-sane and un-American, violating a longstanding principle of yankee pragmatism that can be summarized: 

“I am at-most 90% right and my foes (except confederates) are at most 99% wrong.” (The Confederacy was - and remains - 100% evil.) 

That principle continues: 
“Always a default should first be to listen, negotiate and learn… before reluctantly and temporarily concluding that I must smack down your foaming-rabid, hysterically unreasonable ass.” 

And yes, my use of the “left/right” terminology is ironic, since adherents of that hoary-simplistic-stupid metaphor could not define “left” or “right” if their own lives depended on it!  

Nowhere is this more valid than in the ‘dismal science’ of economics. Some things are proved: Adam Smith was wise and a good person, who pointed out that true cooperation and productive, positive-sum competition cannot thrive without each other, or the involvement of every empowered participant in an open society. The crux of Smithian liberalism was "stop wasting talent!" Every poor child who isn't lifted to an even playing field is a crime against BOTH any decent conscience AND any chance of truly competitive enterprise. Hence, "social programs" to uplift poor kids to a decent playing field are not "socialism." They are what any true believer in market competition... or decency... would demand.


Also proved: Keynsianism mostly works, when it is applied right, uplifting the working class and boosting money velocity, while its opposite - Supply Side/Thatcherism - was absolutely wrong, top to bottom and in every detail, without a single positive effect or outcome or successful prediction to its jibbering crazy credit. Again "Supply Side" is nothing but an incantation cult to excuse a return to feudalism. (I invite wagers!)


Competition is good and creative of prosperity, but only when cooperatively regulated and refereed, like in sports, to thwart relentlessly inevitably human temptation for the rich and powerful to cheat! (Bet me on that, too. On my side is evidence from 99% of 6000 years of human history.)


If you’d like to Explore this non-left, non-right, non-dogmatic approach to using what actually works, getting the best from both competition and cooperation, you can do worse than start at the site that conveys the real Adam Smith. It shines light on how the rich and elites are often the very last people who should be trusted with capitalism! 


Read the Evonomics site! For example: “Eight Reasons Why Inequality Ruins the Economy.”  and “To Tackle Inequality, We Need to Start Talking About Where Wealth Comes From. The Thatcherite narrative on wealth creation has gone unchallenged for decades.”


== Doubling down on tax cuts ==


The ability of cultists to double down on the blatantly disproved is now our greatest danger. As in this dazzlingly evil-stupid call for more tax cuts for the rich.


Oh, if only we had my 'disputations arenas" or some other top venue for challenging spell-weavers to back up their magical incantations with cash! This doubling (sextupling!)-down on Supply Side 'voodoo' promotes what is by now a true and proved psychosis. Utter refusal by the tightly-disciplined Republican political caste to face truth about their 40 years of huge, deca-trillion dollar experiments in priming the industrial pump at the top.


You need to hammer this. Not one major prediction made for that "theory" ever came true. Not one, ever.


- No flood of investment in productive industry or R&D. (As Adam Smith described, the rich pour most of their tax largesse into passive rentier properties, stock buybacks, CEO packages, capital preservation, asset bubbles and now frippy "nonexistent" artworks, reducing available capital and driving down money velocity.)


- No surge of economic activity, leading to tax revenue.

- No erasure of debt. In fact, deficit curves reveal Democrats are always more fiscally prudent than Republicans, and that is always, always. (Escrow wager stakes on that, or admit you are dogmatist cowards.) Republican Congresses - the laziest in US history - have had one priority, to protect this vampire suck from America's carotid arteries. 

In contrast, Keynsian interventions - when balanced by pay-downs in good times (e.g. Jerry Brown, Clinton, Newsom) - nearly always raise money velocity, investment, tax revenue, production and middle class health, while turning debt ratios downward. Oh, and doing something for our kids, like infrastructure, Earth-saving and social justice.

I know several "economics pundits" who are very well aware of all this and admit it privately, but are terrified of their oligarchic masters. They do not dispute these facts, in private. They admit that the rich will have to go back to paying the legitimate shares that our parents in the Greatest Generation assigned to them, rates that correlated with the best growth and middle class health increases in the history of the human species. 

And yet, they are paid to drag their feet and distract from our desperate need to send today's GOP to the showers. They do their job for oligarchy by distracting with endless denunciations of the Federal Reserve. shouting "Fed! Fed-Fed-Fed!" Or... "squirrel!"

The longer we put off the Great Reset, back to the Greatest Generation's successful social contract -- that stymied Marx by co-opting the workers into a rising middle class -- the angrier will be the ensuing middle class and working class demands, and the more the right will succeed at what seems to be their main project... resuscitating Marx from the grave and setting his scenarios back in motion.

Put it off long enough? It will be too late for Rooseveltism. Tumbrels will roll.

I don't want that. These fools are acting like they do. 

Or else, as if they are being blackmailed. And that, alas, is the likeliest explanation of all.


Saturday, August 28, 2021

Space & science! (starting with a wee bit of pertinent theology?)

Before getting to news from and about Space and the Universe(!)… how about a marginally-related overlap of biology, current events and… theology?  This from Leviticus 13:45 – 46:

 

 “Anyone with such a defiling disease must wear torn clothes, let their hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of their face and cry out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ As long as they have the disease they remain unclean. They must live alone; they must live outside the camp.”

 

Cover the lower part of their face and social distancing? Alas, Leviticus is only for citing the parts you like at the moment. 


More generally/cogently, here's my talk about dozens of biblical riffs you might use to ease your cousins out of the dark corners that their parasite preachers have painted them into, including the War on Science. So You Want to Make Gods... one of my best speeches. Entertaining, funny (if I do say so) and a classic of contrarianism!


== Starship’s ‘mundane’ or Earthly use interests the Air Force ==


Recent ‘justification’ documents suggest Air Force officials are intrigued by the possibility of launching 100 tons of cargo from the United States and having the ability to land it anywhere in the world about an hour later.  The described capability – of course – can only be approached by SpaceX. Accordingly, the Air Force science and technology investments will include "novel loadmaster designs to quickly load/unload a rocket, rapid launch capabilities from unusual sites, characterization of potential landing surfaces and approaches to rapidly improve those surfaces, adversary detectability, new novel trajectories, and an S&T investigation of the potential ability to air drop a payload after reentry," the document states.


Available for Kabul? One could dream.


Mysterious Venus was the first planet NASA explored, in the groundbreaking Mariner 2 mission that flew by in 1962, breaking our hearts with news that there were no jungles or oceans of SF fame. Now our hot twin world will get two NASA missions with some concepts we first funded at NIAC. As for those oceans? Well, might a million comet-falls remake them? See my novella "The Tumbledowns of Cleopatra Abyss" (now also a cool screenplay!) in my new Best-of-Brin collection! 


Says NASA space biology researcher Chris McKay, the clouds of Venus hold far too little water to support any kind of life we now imagine, but – "Jupiter looks much more optimistic," McKay said. "There is at least a layer in the clouds of Jupiter where the water requirements are met. It doesn't mean that there is life, it just means that with respect to water, it would be OK." High levels of ultraviolet radiation or lack of nutrients could, however, prevent that potential life from thriving, the researchers said, and completely new measurements would be needed to find whether it actually could be there or not. 


== Both totally tubular AND globular? ==


Globular clusters are often considered 'fossils' of the early Universe. They're very dense and spherical, typically containing roughly 100,000 to 1 million very old stars; some, like NGC 6397, are nearly as old as the Universe itself.

In any globular cluster, all its stars formed at the same time, from the same cloud of gas. The Milky Way has around 150 known globular clusters; these objects are excellent tools for studying, for example, the history of the Universe, or the dark matter content of the galaxies they orbit.

But there's another type of star group that is gaining more attention - tidal streams, long rivers of stars that stretch across the sky. Previously, these had been difficult to identify, but with the Gaia space observatory… "We do not know how these streams form, but one idea is that they are disrupted star clusters." The Palomar 5 stream appears unique in that it has both a very wide, loose distribution of stars and a long tidal stream, spanning more than 20 degrees of the sky… 


... populations of black holes could exist in the central regions of globular clusters, and since gravitational interactions with black holes are known to send stars careening away, the scientists included black holes in some of their simulations.  sims suggest  more than 20 percent of the total cluster mass is made up of black holes," 


"They each have a mass of about 20 times the mass of the Sun, and they formed in supernova explosions at the end of the lives of massive stars, when the cluster was still very young."  In around a billion years, the team's simulations showed, the cluster will dissolve completely. Just before this happens, what remains of the cluster will consist entirely of black holes, orbiting the galactic center. This suggests that Palomar 5 is not unique, after all - it will dissolve completely into a stellar stream, just like others that we have discovered."


Oh, and then...

Cosmic filaments are huge bridges of galaxies and dark matter that connect clusters of galaxies to each other. They funnel galaxies towards and into large clusters that sit at their ends.” Hundreds of millions of light years long, but just a few million light years in diameter, these fantastic tendrils of matter rotate, a degree of angular momentum never before seen, on a truly cosmic scale.  “On these scales the galaxies within them are themselves just specs of dust. They move on helixes or corkscrew like orbits, circling around the middle of the filament while traveling along it.”

 It’s been supposed that there is no primordial rotation in the early universe. As such any rotation must be generated as structures form.

== Getting competitive up there? ==


Apparently China is further along in developing reusable rockets than many of us thought.  “China conducted a clandestine first test flight of a reusable suborbital vehicle as a part of its development of a reusable space transportation system. The vehicle launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center and landed at an airport just over 800 kilometers away at Alxa League in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.”

 

A burgeoning boom in venture capital and SPAC investment in space-related startups.

 

Peering inside Mars - an excellent WIRED article updates what has been learned about the Martian interior by the Insight seismic lander.

 

Long-predicted as the source of type 1a supernovae, a teardrop-shaped star has been found, caused by a massive nearby white dwarf distorting the star with its intense gravity, which will also be the catalyst for an eventual supernova that will consume both.” As soon as the dwarf has stolen just enough to surpass the Chandrasekhar Limit.  And since all such events have exactly the same mass-trigger, supernovas from such star systems can be used as ‘standard candles’ to measure expansion of the universe. HD265435 is located roughly 1,500 light years away, so don’t lose sleep. Over this, at least. But close enough to put on quite a show.  (Alas, this article has a couple of boner paragraphs.) 

 

The alternative, a supernova created by a sudden stellar merger… is not quite as ‘standard” as a pure type 1a.

 

== More space! More space! ==

 

For the first time, a NASA grant has gone to a joint team of astronomers plus the Breakthrough Listen Project to sift data from the TESS planet hunting mission that might (maybe) indicate alien mega structures. Or else big, natural light-blockers like comets. ‘If alien megastructures exist in our galaxy, there’s a decent chance that they might be hiding in the TESS data. But there’s also the possibility that the Breakthrough Listen team will come up empty-handed just like every SETI search before them.’ 

 

The Vasimir electric propulsion engine, ready for prime time, at last?

 

Caltech is announcing that Donald Bren donated over $100 million to form the Space-based Solar Power Project (SSPP), capable of generating solar power in space and beaming it back to Earth. The donation was made anonymously in 2013, but nears a significant milestone: a test launch of multifunctional technology-demonstrator prototypes that collect sunlight and convert it to electrical energy, transfer energy wirelessly in free-space using radio frequency (RF) electrical power, and deploy ultralight structures that will be used to integrate them. SPP aims to ultimately produce a global supply of affordable, renewable, clean energy. 

 

SSPP aims to ultimately produce a global supply of affordable, renewable, clean energy. The project's first test, in 2023, will launch prototypes solar power generators and RF wireless power transfer, and includes a deployable structure measuring roughly 6 feet by 6 feet.

 

Friday, August 20, 2021

Woke Media vs Bill Maher. A tiff that only serves the KGB-confederates.

First, a reminder to all Californians... to vote. Mail that ballot in! I assume, since you are visiting Contrary Brin, that you're sane enough to vote: "No." 


Only now, since I've gone several weeks without posting anything provovcative or controversial, let's see what a storm I can provoke.


== Bill Maher, sellout or standard bearer for the Roosevelteans? ==


Well, it's an ecological niche that only Bill Maher occupies, alas. 


While I like and enjoy many of the late-night liberal show hosts - especially fellow sci fi nerd Stephen Colbert, who gave me a cap! - I do wish more of them will draw lines in the sand and admit: 


"Yes, there does exist some crazy among the good guys, too. And that crazy sometimes hurts the cause of justice and progress, more than it helps." 


Before you scream in outrage and/or wander off in disgust, let me reiterate what you see here frequently, that our greatest danger is from an insane and treasonous Mad Right - a risen Confederate lunacy - that is waging open war - at the behest of oligarchs, mafiosi and Kremlin agents - against not only justice and tolerance but vs. every single modern fact-using profession. That last aspect gets underplayed in liberal media, but it is the core hate-and vendetta of the oligarchy. Especially Fox News.


Having said that, I assert also that you would be nuts not to grudgingly admit that our side has some flaws, including a passl of real nut jobs and bullies. With this major distinction!


* Yes, the FAR left CONTAINS some fact-allergic, troglodyte-screeching dogmatists who wage war on science and hate the American tradition of steady, pragmatic reform, and who would impose their prescribed morality and symbol-fetishes on you. 

 

* But today’s ENTIRE mad right CONSISTS of fact-allergic, troglodyte-screeching dogmatists who wage war on science and hate the American tradition of steady, pragmatic reform, and who would impose their prescribed morality and symbol-fetishes on you.   

 

There is all the world’s difference between FAR and ENTIRE.  As there is between CONTAINS and CONSISTS. 


So sure. We must spend 99% of our current attention reinforcing humanity's sole hope - a rationally-tolerant and self-critically improving enlightenment experiment, fighting for its very survival against Putin-Murdoch and their hirelings! 


And yet, our Union side of this desperate latest phase of the 250 year American Civil War is harmed by the far-fewer but still horrible nut-job bullies on our own side. Splitters who helped make today's demographically-challenged GOP the force that it is and remains. 


== More voices needed ==


I must cite especially, Maher's recent riff about "cultural appropriation," a far-left guilt trip fetish that has no redeeming qualities. It's not an exaggeration or conflation of something good... it's just simple, flat out insanity.

Oh, I'll grant that original sources should be credited and acknowledged! Like Greece always leading the parade of nations at the Olympics. 


Sure. If any Hawaiians show up at a surfing competition, they oughta get - in perpetuity(!) - the right to go first! And first-pick naming rights on anything in the entire universe that's discovered by mighty observatories now using the one, great and unambiguously miraculous gift of Poli'Ahu, the crystal clear skies on Mauna Kea. 


And if there's a Black musician or Jew in a Jazz band, they get to choose the order of their instrument solo.... fine. And for the record, real theft, like native lands, should get major redress! But that's not the purpose of "cultural appropriation!" Which is sanctimoniously chemical. 


Elsewhere I discuss the worst addiction and most harmful one in the modern age... self-righteous indignation and sanctimony, which poisons every political extreme, especially the extreme that has completely taken over the U.S. mad Right... 


...but that also fluxes across elements of a farthest-left that - while wholly justified to impatiently demand progress - rejects any notion that they are beneficiaries of generations of vigorous but pragmatic reformers who had (and needed) much thicker skins and suffered far worse indignities in order to open doors for today's "trigger-warning" activists.


The indignity of proclaiming that one is fragile - dealt crippling wounds by the slightest error of wording - is one that Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman and Robert Smalls and Mohandas Gandhi and Rosa Parks and MLK and Eldridge Cleaver and Malcolm X would have found puzzling, if not bizarre, even pathetic.


 The dissing and shit-hurling at ALLIES (as some will hereupon hurl at me) is less-surprising (read Orwell's Homage to Catalonia) but just as impractical, unhelpful and spectacularly self-indulgent.


== Loudness doesn't make you the leader of liberalism ==


In an article - The Specter of Illiberal Anti-Racism - by Nathan Gardels, Noema Magazine considers work by a person who takes this counter-argument farther than I would.  Into Bill Maher territory. But this passage is one to share:

"Fortunately, sober voices with irreproachable anti-racist credentials such as Barack Obama — “anti-anti-racists” in Torpey’s phrase — are calling out the extremists. Torpey cites Obama saying in 2019 that “This idea of purity and you’re never compromised and you’re always politically ‘woke’ and all that stuff … you should get over that quickly. … The world is messy; there are ambiguities. People who do really good stuff have flaws.” Obama, notes. Torpey, went on to say that “among certain young people, and this is accelerated by social media, there is this sense sometimes of: ‘The way of me making change is to be as judgmental as possible about other people, and that’s enough.’ … That’s not activism. That’s not bringing about change. If all you’re doing is casting stones, you’re probably not going to get that far."


On Bill Maher's show, he talked about "progressophobia", a term he claimed Steven Pinker coined to describe "a brain disorder which strikes far-liberals and makes them incapable of recognizing progress." Not a new observation for anyone who has spent time here. 


The punch line: "It's like situational blindness, only the thing that you can't see is that your dorm in 2021 is better than the south before the Civil War."


And yes, so much as mentioning Maher’s name makes me eeeeevil!  This despite the fact that he (and I!) have done more for progress in any month than most of those fuming at me right now have, across their entire lives. 


Alas that he and Barack Obama - along with Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and AOC (see below) - seem to be among the last voices for the most effective reform movement the US ever saw… Rooseveltism, that finally got progress in gear after beating back the oligarchs, invigorating labor unions, crushing fascist monsters and beginning a long, long, too-long grinding climb out of Jim Crow and the chasms that seem built-into human nature. 


Refusing to see how powerful that coalition was has led the left to make a series of mistakes that drove working whites into the arms of confederates, leading to Reaganism and our long slide. 


== Polling Americans ==


The Pew Research Center, which does some of the country’s best polls, classifies all Americans as being in one of nine different political groups. The categories range from “core conservatives” on the right to “solid liberals” on the left, with a mix of more complicated groups in the middle. While I am suspicious of many categorization attempts, this one makes a hugely important point, that on average most US racial minorities -- blacks, hispanics etc -- tend to be liberal of course, but also highly skeptical of the most-woke or leftish component.


"Much of the recent political energy in the Democratic Party has come from solid liberals. They are active on social media and in protest movements like the anti-Trump resistance. They played major roles in the presidential campaigns of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, as well as the rise of “The Squad,” the six proudly progressive House members who include Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.


"All six of those House members, notably, are people of color, as are many prominent progressive activists. That has fed a perception among some Democrats that the party’s left flank is disproportionately Black, Hispanic and Asian American.


"But the opposite is true, as the Pew data makes clear.


"Black, Hispanic and Asian American voters are to the right of white Democrats on many issues. Many voters of color are skeptical of immigration and free trade. They favor border security, as well as some abortion restrictions. They are worried about crime and oppose cuts to police funding. They are religious."


This is not to undermine "solid" liberals devotion to wokedness. You be you! And we'll get nowhere without conscience-prodding! 


And yes, as an old fart I know I must adapt to shifts in vocabulary and get more woke in some ways!  My kids, in their 20s, make sure of that!


Still, the fact that the very minorities that PC foks call clients sometimes sniff dubiously does help explain some electoral disappointments. And if you want these groups to be fully mobilized in 2022, it might be best NOT to assume all folks of color are clones of the most-visible activists. 


We need to be flexible enough to negotiate our coalition's best tactics...


...as I tried to point out in Polemical Judo.


== Oh, one last point about AOC ==


Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is rightfully hailed as one of the savviest politicians of a new generation. But many of her fans don't know the half of it. 


Look more carefully! She is playing her role as a left-ish gadfly working with Liz and Bernie to keep the DP's Overton window from conceding too much. But she is not at all like the rest of her 'squad' in many ways. She very clearly wants Joe Biden to succeed, for example. And, like Bernie, her goal is re-establishment of the Greatest Generation's Rooseveltean social contract.


Watch what'll happen in 2022, when some of you will start trawling around for excuses to denounce Biden as "corporatist" ruled by Democrat-lite sellouts, as you go prepping to sit on your hands or otherwise betray us... the way the left betrayed us in 1980, in 1994, in 2000, in 2010 and 2016. 


Just watch how AOC and Stacey Abrams and Jamie Harrison and Bernie will come after you. With a stick.