Sunday, August 09, 2020

Poison fruit and why libertarians are tricked into hating civil servants more than tyrants.

I'll start with tools to pry libertarians out of fanaticism into negotiation. But if that bores you, skip ahead to where I demolish the fundamental premise of the current Senate hearings trying to demonize the FBI.

Note. Midweek I'll have a very important posting.

== Putting fundamentals to libertarians. Start with architecture! ==

A couple of months back I posted about how one of the recent campaigns by the New Confederacy was to rail against - and even crush - modern architecture. The far right's campaign includes demands for consistent fealty to Greco-Roman or plantation styles. At the time, I urged folks use this latest MAGA obsession in dealing with followers of Ayn Rand! 

Seriously, read THE FOUNTAINHEAD or watch the movie. (It’s Rand’s best and only bearable work of writing, actually making a few solid points about villainy in art & architecture, while keeping the rants under control.)  In fact, this is a matter of architectural innovation-repression is fundamental religion to Randians, spearing their very hearts!

This one fact alone - that MAGAts are ranting against creative freedom, exactly like The Fountainhead's villain Ellsworth Toohey, to demand orthodoxy-slavery of design — could actually sway some members of that wing of libertarians to realize something crucial… that confederates and inheritance brats and corporate looters are not 'lesser evils' than mere liberals. Where they are unmoved by the fact that Blue states are ending the damned Drug War, or that entrepreneurship flourishes under democrats and never Republicans... they cannot refuse to face this, when confronted!

== It can be worth the effort ==

Oh, most of us have libertarian friends. These range from some real freeping loonies all the way to truly sincere folks who see themselves fighting for the unique benefits of freedom and individualism, just as you are — though fearing Big Brother tendencies among bureaucrats. (And can you honestly assert that fear is always wrong?) 

There is a way to approach such folks. It’s not impossible! But like confronting most rigidly sanctimony-based systems, you need agility and judo. You start by making clear that you got no problems with the basic premise of many libertarianisms (and there are many)… the Adam Smith premise that competition is the greatest creative force in the universe, and hence that the widest variety of empowered, confident, knowledgeable and unafraid individuals and teams can - with competitive eagerness - come up with the most and best solutions to most problems.

Now comes the insane part. Almost no “libertarians” today ever actually use the C-Word… “competition”… anymore! They refuse to glance at 6000 years of the horror show called human history, and ask why flat-fair-open-creative competition failed in almost every other society, across all those dark eras. They don’t look and deliberately remain history ignoramuses, because any attention at all to facts would show that the destroyers of fair competition across 99% of those eras were kings, lords, priests, thugs and inheritance brats… almost never socialists or “bureaucrats.”

Oh, the latter can be another version of the same thing, power hungry mostly-males trying to build inheritable empires by suppressing others. The Soviet Union was essentially a czarist despotism slathered over with a thin veneer of egalitarian/socialist symbolism and incantations.

But to fixate only on bureaucrats, while ignoring the real enemies of freedom and competition across all those centuries?

That’s… just… stooopid. 

In fact, we got our spectacular (and spectacularly rare) renaissance of freedom, science, justice and vast productivity because we broke up centralizations of power and used bureaucrats carefully (as Adam Smith recommended) to make sure all children got at least a minimum of food and education and hence could actually start to… compete! 

Yes, compete even with the sons of the rich, those spoiled brats like Trump & Kushner who even Ayn Rand always portrayed as her chief villains. Let's repeat that. The top villains in every Rand tale weren't socialist saps but elite cheaters and inheritance brats. It's in your own sacred tomes, guys.

Dig it, Adam Smith would approve of most liberal “programs” that increase the number of competitors and lower the number of ignorant serfs. If it increases the number of skilled, competent and confidents competitors, it should be deemed "good" even by libertarian standards. And yes, that means a majority of 'liberal programs' should be deemed libertarian-good… though libertarians are welcome to offer alternative ways to achieve the same ends, with less complex bureaucratic meddling. (In that goal, I deem myself to be a libertarian!)

 And hence libertarians are utter hypocrites if they favor oligarchs over liberals. 

The latter differ with you over how to fill society with millions of vibrant competitors. The former disagree with the goal and will crush it with all their might.

== Their last refuge... The Fruit of a Poisoned Tree ==

The current Senate hearings of hypocrite (and blackmail victim) Lindsey Graham and other GOP shills is just more of the same baseless distraction. The essence is this: The FBI counter-intelligence division found plausible evidence that Russia was waging many kinds of information war on the U.S. including election meddling. The record shows that some agents expressed an eagerness to hunt down evidence of collaboration with those efforts by influential Americans. Because those officers expressed eagerness to find such evidence... all evidence that they subsequently found - including all proof of crimes - should be tossed out!

Yes, that is what the whole and entire 'logic' of the Foxite defense of the GOP and Trump amounts to. They should never have looked at all, because the investigators were biased! They wanted the investigation to succeed, therefore anything they found - including evidence of crimes and treason - must be tossed!

In essence, instead of defending the GOP and Trump for their actions, it is entirely "Don't look! Nobody look! Tax returns, Deutsche Bank, Russia, blackmail... don't anybody look!"

If your life depended on it, you cannot explain that logic. So it's never spelled out that explicitly. But syllogistically that is what it all boils down to.  "Never look!"  And the Roberts Court has supported ending 240 years of Congressional oversight. 

That is not how the principal of fruit from a poison tree works. And dig it, that is the ONLY straw that Fox has been able to clutch. And they extend it to mean: “We don’t want to know about any crimes that these FBI ‘deepstaters” might have been looking into!”

That's your "Obamagate." People charged with finding out if a crime is being committed... looked.  On receiving intel reports of secret dealings between the soon-to-be National Security Advisor and Kremlin spy handlers, they committed the criminal felony of glancing for fire under tons of smoke. They looked. Oh no! Criminal FBI!

But... but if there's no 'collusion' why the desperation not to let us - and congress - see the Deutsche Bank records, which clearly will show billions of Russian oligarch money flowing not just to Trump but McConnell and dozens of others? 

How can you side with obstruction of standard subpoenas and witnesses and 250 years of congressional oversight... After cheering for 25 years and half a billion dollars of "clinton investigations"?

"Investigations" that - after 25 years grilling every single Clinton aide and accountant and dog walker - offering millions of Koch dollars for 'whistle blowers'  - wound up finding nothingZip. Nada. Zilch.  The most-probed humans in history are proved to have been among the most-clean.

So now you defend ending 250 years of oversight when the flashlight is showing mountains of Republican turpitude? Why? What's the cult hiding?

Saturday, August 01, 2020

Faithless electors? Revisiting the Electoral College

Folks on both right & left rejoice over the near unanimous decision that states can force 'faithless" electors to vote as the state's voter majority declared, for president. Well, you'll not be surprised to learn that I have a more complicated opinion. This decision might - maybe - scotch scenarios where -say- Wisconsin GOP legislators try to steal the state's electoral votes from Biden. And yes, as-is the Electoral College is a travesty, not behaving like a "college" of sages, at all. 

OTOH, for Kagan to write that electors were never meant to be anything other than mathematical conduits is disingenuous. The very word "College" suggests that in the ideal case they might meet and deliberate to choose the very best person as Chief Executive.

Distance made that ideal impossible, in olden times. Today, it's a mockery because parties assign slates of names as electors pledged to their candidate... and in most states voters never even see the electors' names. But that doesn't have to be so! Especially in these modern, cyber-times. One could envision a dozen different ways that electors themselves might be chosen with voter input, making them more than honorary rewards for party service.

But something else. Back in late November 2016, I tried to circulate a notion... that one moderately rich person might rent a luxury resort hotel somewhere, provide extra security, and simply declare: 

"All recently elected Electors may come at free business class travel and stay for two weeks, unbothered by anyone except hotel service staff. They may do or say anything they like, relax, argue, be a 'college' or not. Hands-off."

Three sentences that would rock the nation. 

If more than 270 did show up, there'd be a 'quorum' of sorts for conversation and argument, though the voting would still come back home in each state capital, in mid-December. And sure, the electors would mostly be party loyalists, even hacks. Still, faced with the intolerable, a deal might be struck.

Still, picture it. Envision this had happened in 2016... and the subsequent Kaine-Pence Administration...

Oh, I agree with most of what Lawrence Lessig and his colleagues at EQUAL CITIZEN try to accomplish re electoral reform. Even when I disagree a bit, as in their Electoral College endeavor, I still urge you to swing by and give it a close look. 

Oh finally note this case was actually very specific: "Monday’s ruling upholds a $1,000 fine against Peter Chiafalo, one of three Washington state electors who cast their ballots for Colin Powell rather than for Democrat Hillary Clinton, who won the state’s popular vote." 

Hence the Court declared that states may “punish” electors who decide to go their own way. It still doesn’t prevent the actual act of voting for someone other than their party’s candidate. Hence, an elector might vote against a monster as a willing, sacrificial act… or else take the penalty as the cost of a bribe. As usual, the Court has ‘clarified’ almost nothing.

== What this cathedral stands for, really ==

The new, 6 billion ruble Cathedral of the Russian Armed Forces, in Moscow, is a grand statement of Vladimir Putin’s vision of what is most important in Russia: Russian Orthodox faith, national pride and the armed services. Steps are made of steel from captured Nazi tanks.

And yes, Papa Stalin was a wise leader and father of the nation who never signed any pacts with Hitler! Try to put it all together. Putin's glorification of the Eastern Orthodox Church while keeping the Soviet KGB intact, except for its name, and filling the ranks of Russian government and billionaire oligarchy with former commissars who were raised for decades reciting Leninist catechisms as sacred scripture. Putin once declared that the fall of the USSR was "history's greatest tragedy."

What do these contradictions mean? It's simple. Marxism-Leninism was always just another "potemkin" surface of symbols and incantations to justify a streltsy-feudal system - augmented by secret police - that has gone unchanged since the czars. So they switched symbols and incantations quicker than a Vegas magician backstage between scenes? So?
They had tried and utterly failed to suborn the Western left and trade unions for 80 years. But switching emblems and chants to "traditionalism," with strong mafia flavors and by flattering/blackmailing western aristocrats, they have swiftly and completely take over the Right in America and Europe.

Again, these are the very same men, using the same tools aimed at the same end, with different lipstick. And the western Right has thrown themselves at their feet. 

Alexis de Tocqueville predicted - long before there was a Karl Marx - that the final struggled over humanity's fate would be between Russia and America. It was understandably narrowminded to leave out China! But impressive, nonetheless.

PS... Get and read Sorokin's amazing short sci fi novel "Day of the Oprichnik."

Here’s a link to the Obama Administration’s pandemic guidance booklet - and then to a line by line comparison vs. the fumbled, murderously incompetent actual behavior of the entire GOP establishment and Fox-zone.

== They are on our side, get used to it ==

My longstanding assertion that we can count on the US military officer corps is backed up in powerful stuff by Luncian Truscott IV - a West Point graduate - who is scion of five generations of American military heroes (including one featured in the movie ‘Patton’). He’s also a Jefferson descendant (like many black folks). This Truscott article about the military’s loathing of Trump concludes with:

“It's getting serious out there, folks. The word "treason," as in giving aid and comfort to the enemy, is being thrown around not only on op-ed pages but in Congress. This may turn into yet another Ukraine aid scandal, in which Trump commits impeachable offenses and simply gets away with it because Republicans refuse to confront his treachery, let alone  do anything about it. But he's surrounded by people in important, powerful positions who are privy to big, important secrets, and they want him out of office. With their leaks about the Russian bounties, they have in effect put a bounty on Trump's head. He has been wounded by the coronavirus, he's wounded by the economy, he's wounded by Black Lives Matter demonstrations in the streets and he's getting grievously wounded by this. 

“You know he's desperate when he starts calling a real threat to the lives of our soldiers fighting on foreign soil a "hoax." Trump is a threat to our national security. He's not a president. He's a co-conspirator with dictators who are enemies of this country. He's a traitor, and he needs to go."

Oh, it's not just Kremlin "bounties" on US soldier lives, or the endless "deep state" insults or the slavish devotion and kowtowing to Putin or the relentless destruction of our alliances. The officer corps is furious that this miserable narcissist ordered an entire valuable, irreplaceable West Point graduating class to congregate and risk infection by a disease with longstanding CHRONIC repercussions just so he could yammer at them for 20 minutes then stumble down a ramp.

Any of you lefties who kneejerk refuse to accept as allies the brave women and men who wear crewcuts and hairbuns... you are too stupid for words.

== Last chance for unusual tactics? ==

We're getting locked in to the campaigns for November. I have tried everything to get my book of political ideas - Polemical Judo - before the eyes of anyone who might be interested in agile, new tactics (any one of which could have made a big difference, this year), and have got nowhere. Alas.

Well then, some humility. I'll do what I can, like urging many of you to step up, across the next few months. For example, this site offers not only ways to donate, but direct methods  for you to volunteer. Voter registration, for example. Phone banks. (Now you can do however many hours you feel like, from your own home.)  Or watch Trevor Noah who will give you links to volunteers as a poll worker, thus helping to thwart the coming wave of cheating.

== And finally… ==

A professor in Shanghai has offered a controversial solution to two major problems in China, an excess of 34 million males, plus a reluctance of Chinese women to have more than one child. The “solution”: allow women to have multiple husbands, and they will have multiple babies. What starts out almost sounding woman-liberating soon gets spoiled, however: “Plus, it would just be more efficient, he continued, suggesting that women would have no trouble meeting the physical needs of multiple husbands…. It’s common for prostitutes to serve more than 10 clients in a day,” Ng wrote, before taking off on another offensive tangent. “Making meals for three husbands won’t take much more time than for two husbands,” he added.

Okay, one starts to see a pattern why Russian, Japanese and Chinese women have been going on a low-simmer reproductive strike.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Economics and investment gurus abandoning the GOP... and John Roberts's agenda... and again with this "Fourth Turning" voodoo?

Starting with economics: How are my investment-pundit friends reacting to these insane times? Here's one denouncing a second round of ripoffs.

"$1,000,000,000,000. Or a TRILLION dollars. That's enough to give all 1,000 Billionaires in the World another Billion. Wait, we did that already. Well it's enough to give a Million Millionaires another Million. We did that too? Well it's enough to buy 3,000 masks for each American so we wouldn't need to spend Trillions propping up the economy or to accelerate money velocity by giving $600 to 30M people for a year."

"ROFL!!! Who are we kidding, this is America, we're going to give it to the rich people again!" ---

-- And that from a stock investment guru... one of those who love markets, but who get that driving average folks toward revolution may not be good for values.

"The funny thing is the rich people are pissed that they are only getting $1Tn this time (got $6.7Tn last time) ...The biggest stimulus issue will hit us on Friday, it's the end of the $600 weekly unemployment bonus and the Democrats in the House wanted to extend it through Christmas while the Scrooges in the Senate said not only do they want it dropped to $200 now but they want all unemployment capped at 70% of wages AFTER it's combined with any State Benefits people are receiving."

There's more. But you get it. The rich are swiftly dividing into two camps: the unsapient and insatiably greedy that I depicted in Existence... versus those who understand what ol' Joe Kennedy did, when that SOB mogul shocked his peers and backed Roosevelt: 

"I'd rather have half my wealth taken to foster a happy middle class than lose it all to revolution."

And again, I know a dozen ways that some sub-billionaire could make a huge difference, the next two months. And go down in history.

Meanwhile... continuing with economics...

The FCC has approved a petition from Cumulus Media to permit more than 25% foreign ownership of US media, up to and including 100%. Yep. Part of the steady effort to give puppetmasters all the strings.

The best online zine about economics in the modern context – and the top venue that discusses the deeply compassionate and moral ways that Adam Smith first broached the stunning advantages of flat-fair-open-transparent competitiveness – is the EVONOMICS site.  Highly recommended.  And yes, I have one of the channels there, talking about Smith… and why advertising can no longer carry the weight of supporting the Web. 

And see their piece on the economic effects of the pandemic.

== Roberts the "moderate" or "liberal"? ==

Again and again. The top oligarchs don't care about race or gender or abortion, except as dog whistles to rile up red-heads and confeds. John Roberts will side with the Court's liberals on those topics, in order to get balance cred. But he will never side with the people or precedent, or the Constitution, or honesty, when it comes to power. 

And now someone else is pointing at the emperor's nakedness:

"Conservatives really aren't paying good attention to [chief justice] Roberts. He knows what is important and what is not. He knows that LGBTQ rights and religion get lots of media coverage, but what really matters to him is keeping Republicans in power via gerrymandering, voter suppression etc. On the latter kind of cases, he is an unwavering supporter of the Republican Party. 

"To mask that, he votes with the four liberals from time to time in the hopes that everyone is distracted by bright shiny objects and fails to notice that what he really cares about is keeping Republicans in power. With this mix of rulings, he can claim he is just calling balls and strikes (even if baseball itself is in trouble, as described below). Conservatives seem to be unable to comprehend that he is on their side on the stuff that really matters long term."

At last. A pundit who isn't denser than lead.

== Again with this garbage? ==

One of the most-absurd pieces of pattern-seeking nonsense is "The Fourth Turning" by Strauss & Howe, a fable about American "generations" that both ignores the rest of the world and all the rest of human history... plus biology, evolution and almost any inconvenient facts... but has become a touchstone catechism for the US right, feeding into a conservative proclivity toward CYCLICAL HISTORY.

As some kind of cause-effect predictor, it is nonsense... though as a metaphor for what we are going through, the fable does have some charms. It does seem as if millennials will be forced into "hero generation" status akin to the World War II clade. Not because of some teleological 'cycles,' but because imbecile believers in such nonsense, like Steve Bannon, have circled the globe hell bent on helping the enemies of our Great Experiment to provoke such a crisis, where none had been necessary at all. Ironically, they are doing it for evil reasons that the millennials themselves utterly reject. And those millennials will hunt them down, if this gets really dark.

I go into these cycles & such in an earlier posting as well as here and here.

==  The mumbo gets more Jumbo... ==

This interesting piece surveys the notions of William Strauss and Neil Howe that led to their famous prediction of a Great Crisis around the year 2020. I am much less impressed… in fact I have a chapter in Polemical Judo about "patterns of history" - or "teleology" - dissecting how mystical-minded folks on the left view such patterns quite differently from the way folks on the right generally adore "cyclical" incantations about nations going "decadent" and "falling" in rhythmic fatal sequences. (The Nazis believed in cyclical-history crap, proving decisively that they were a phenomenon of the right.)

Ironically, Strauss and Howe... authors of Generations and The Fourth Turning were actually quite upset over how fervently their thesis -- that US history obeys prim 80 year cycles -- was embraced by the radical right. Excuse some repetition, but Howe repeatedly stressed that the asses gleefully calling for a 2020 era crisis - many of whom, like Steve Bannon, helped artificially to cause it -- are exactly the sort of boomer dogmatists whom the new, millennial "hero generation" utterly despise!

  If millennials swing any way politically, it will be to emulate the previous "hero clade," the so-called Greatest Generation who adored one living human above all others... Franklin Roosevelt.

Oh, but now comes a "paper" that takes this nonsense to the nth degree, using Sciencey-jabber and impressive looking "charts" and inapropos 'citations.' There's hardy a sentence in this scroll of dreck that isn't easily disproved babble and confabulation with tables and graphs that are outright LSD fantasies... but wow what an incantation!

Again. In this link I point out the both leftists and rightists tend to desperately seek patterns of teleological ordained history. The left often sees this as heading inexorably in a particular direction, while the right nearly always plunges into "cycles." They draw comfort from the notion that all efforts will fail.

Oh, by the way... Did you know that private banks have police - and can arrest you? Without any Congressional hearings on the matter, the USA Patriot Act in 2001 bestowed on the 12 regional Federal Reserve banks domestic policing powers. While the Federal Reserve Board of Governors in Washington, D.C. is deemed an “independent federal agency,” with its Chair and Governors appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate, the 12 regional Fed banks are private corporations owned by the member banks in their region. … The Fed’s police officers are technically known as FRLEO, short for Federal Reserve Law Enforcement Officer. The system has its own police academies for training, their own patch and badges, uniforms, pistols, rifles, police cars and the power to arrest coast to coast without a warrant.”

And finally...

See this: The most surprising revelations from Mary Trump's just-released tell-all book about the president: Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man - which joins the shelves along with Bolton's The Room Where it Happened.

Inside the luxury nuclear bunker protecting the mega-rich from the apocalypse. “While humanity is still dealing with an ongoing pandemic of disastrous proportions, some Americans are preparing for a very different doomsday scenario: waiting out a nuclear winter inside a condo complex of luxurious underground bunkers.” 

First, these jerks think they are so modernist and even science fictional, and they haven’t a hair’s breadth of logic or imagination among them… like remembering that we nerds know where every single one of these hidey holes are, including those in Patagonia, the Urals and under the sea. And in the event of a calamity, if we feel betrayed or even just abandoned by oligarchs whose actions or negligence contributed to that fall, then we who know nuclear physics, cyber, bio and genetics will seek out those holes, pry out the soft nuts and turn them into peasants in the new order that they made.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Reflections on science and human nature

All right, the news comes so thick and fast that no postings of mine can keep up, except to share with you a deep hope that our professional protector castes - who defeated Hitler and stymied Stalin, Mao and bin Laden and created an unbeatable alliance of free peoples - are on the ball. (Ironically, this is the first year in ten that I haven't consulted with one or another of those agencies, offering warnings that all-too often came true.) 

And so, for sanity's sake... in order to recall that 'sanity' is even a thing... let's step back and take a bigger perspective.

== The Pursuit of Truth ==

For example, a selfish argument for making the world a better place: this video on Egoistic Altruism about the key concept of our times - the Positive Sum Game - is very persuasive.  

Consider also the insights of Roger Bacon's pursuit of truth....This year marks what is believed by many to be the 800th birthday of an especially courageous truth seeker, the English polymath Roger Bacon (1214 - 1292). Though other scientists came before him, his breadth of study has led many to call him “the first scientist.” Were he alive today, Bacon would likely be pursuing the truth about such matters as the coronavirus and its effects on society, as well as the need for personal and political virtues to overcome it.”

Bacon believed that the improvement of human life, both personally and socially, depends on the eradication of error. To correct what ails society, it is necessary to restore respect for learning, real-world experience and the pursuit of truth. So long as people go forth with a false map of reality, they will lose their way and never reach their true destination." 

Roger Bacon argued that there are four causes of error
1) weak and unworthy authority, 
2) longstanding customs, 
3) the opinions of ignorant crowds, and 
4) the hiding of ignorance through displays of apparent knowledge…What people often lack, Bacon believed, are not correct answers but the best questions.

Further “…he called for experimentation, but not only in the sense of a scientific laboratory. He believed that people should put their ideas on trial, seeing how well they fare when tested in the real world of experience. What doesn’t hold up should be rejected.And this essay’s author adds: The last thing any good political leader needs is to be surrounded by yes men.”

To which let me add my own guideposts, in the form of a Questionnaire on Ideology which some of you have taken, carefully designed to get you to interrogate - at least briefly - some of your own 'fundamentals.' A whole lot more challenging that Donald Trump's dementia test.

Take it, if you dare!

== Experimental evidence against cynicism about human nature ==

Since 1951, one novel has typified the cynically pessimistic view that human beings are inherently nasty and selfish and brutal. William Golding’s Lord of the Flies was certainly a masterpiece, presenting us with Jungian archetypes like the hero, the hunter, the mystic and the civilized man – and it ripped away the naïve notion that civilization is anything more than a veneer, whose restraints, if ever loosened, meant immediate return to chaos.

Or else something worse than chaos – a return to the form of ‘government’ that dominated maybe 99% of the last 6000 years. 

Certainly these are topics I’ve chewed upon, in works from The Postman and Earth to The Transparent Society. And yes, while deeply impressed by Golding’s novel, it was a very Hobbesian view of us. I hoped and prayed and gathered evidence that he was wrong.

And it seems the experiment was run, pretty much perfectly, when, almost exactly cribbing from Lord of the Flies, in 1966 half a dozen Tongan school boys had to survive as castaways on a rocky islet for 15 months… and they exhibited absolutely none of the nasty traits that Golding implied were inevitable. Cooperating to an almost obsessive degree, caring for each other, resolving disputes and setting broken bones, they innovated and retained their compassion up to the moment of rescue, and later served together on a fishing boat.

This is important, because cynicism is the poison being spread not just by the entire Putin-Murdoch right but also some elements on the left, catering to the ingrate laziness of those who dislike what’s demanded by the contingently optimistic among us. 

Hard work and maybe a little heroism, to help save a planet and civilization that’s been very good to them.

== The Science of Deception ==

Inside corporations' war on science: we've seen an excess of bogus science paid for by companies seeking a pre-biased outcome are familiar from tobacco and Big Oil industries  - to sugar, chemical and pharmaceutical companies. There are ‘studies' denying health harms from smog… even while - in my childhood - it was physical agony to breathe. Similarly, for months, the Fox network promoted the idea that the coronavirus was a hoax.

See the recently published book - The Triumph of Doubt: Dark Money and the Science of Deception. David Michaels dissects the methods many corporations use to sow doubt, uncertainty and confusion in the public sphere. Michals comments, "It's mostly because the laws are written in a way that parallels the criminal justice system. So the assumption is that exposures, pollutants, chemicals are innocent until proven guilty." 

And finally... Caltech’s “The Lonely Idea” podcast demonstrates how top scientists nurture curiosity that’s impudent and challenging – diametrically opposite to the “herd mentality” accusation hurled by those who would never recognize a fresh idea, themselves. And here's another good one.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Covid misconceptions. Billionaires don't donate to Biden! And a letter about covid to "Dear libertarians...."

Before talking covid... you know that for years I've warned that a trumped-up "war" with Iran would serve the interests of all our nation's enemies, from the Republican Party to the Iranian mullahs, themselves, and above all Vladimir Putin, who would finally rake in all the chips. I've long praised the US Navy for calmly defusing one provocation after another, avoiding a "Tonkin Gulf" (and you all still do need to stay alert, also knowing the words "Gleiwitz" and "Reichstag Fire.")
So, why am I not beating that drum now? Because our military, intel and other officers have eyes and brains. Given that our entire 'deep state' is on red alert against efforts by Putin/Tehran/Fox/Trump to trigger an October War, what other tricks are possible?
We don't know! That's why I keep saying some zillionaire - instead of just joining the herd donating to the Biden campaign - should try some of the special things I suggested here.
Especially the "Henchman of the Year" Prize, to lure whistle-blowers and tattlers into the open. There is absolutely no better use of a million dollars, than to staunch the nefarious schemes and cheats that are right now hatching in preparation. It's the henchmen who can offer proof! And if nothing else, this would make the plotters distrust their henchmen.
Well, there is one other thing, that could do even more good. Joe Biden could start talking about pardoning the first few to step forward from among the hundreds likely now being blackmailed into treason by the KGB. Whatever they are being blackmailed for, any of them who turned the tables on their blackmailers would be salvageable 'heroes' - at least enough to find some forgiveness and a stairway out of hell. Someone in Biden's campaign should contemplate how good that would look, even if it spurred no defections. But if it did...
And yes, all this and more is in the book.
== Cautionaries about Covid/Covfefe-19 == 
As you might guess, I'm very busy these days, on often one podcast/ interview/ conference a day, sometimes two, even three. Along the way I've learned a lot. About how vaccines work, for instance, and how it's not enough just to make antibodies, or even 'neutralizing antibodies" that are effective against a viral attack. 

Look up Antibody-based Enhancement (Ab), where the victim's immune system manages to stymie one viral strain, only for the next variant to hijack those antibodies and use them as trojan horses, or spears, to attack and invade more fiercely than ever! While rare, this does happen to some promising vaccines, especially in Dengue, where the first wave can be mild and the second devastatingly lethal. Indeed, discovering such potentially dangerous quirks is one reason we have large scale trials before releasing vaccines.

Other immunological side effects happen. With the 1976 Swine Flu vaccine that Gerald Ford rushed out, the Guillame-Barré side effect was so nasty it gave birth to the current anti-vaxxer movement. Anything similar with a covid vaccine could spur vaxxers to plunge us back into the dark ages... those execrable years before the Greatest Generation saved mine from Polio and Diptheria, And yes, before Jonas Salk became the most-beloved American, terrified parents kept children indoors, away from friends and swimming pools, all summer long. 

What? You think this was our first quarantine? (Salk was the first American to approach the adoration that the Greatest Generation gave previously to Franklin... Delano... Roosevelt.)

All of which is to say that things are more complicated than reflex dogma. Not only is it dangerous to rush out the first vaccine. It's also foolish to ignore the fact that many of today's covid-asymptomatics (35%) and shruggers (the 60% who supposedly shrug it off after two weeks spent moaning in bed) are revealed to have damage afterwards in their kidneys, livers, skin, the G.I. tract and nerves. 

Those Ancillary Effects are what terrify me, since many remain hidden. even now. "Symptom relapse" is another serious problem and everyone I've met online who was infected reports having it. And there are suspected cases of "lurking" -- where the virus seems completely gone, only to spew forth later.

(Note, Spanish researchers have just put out an alert to watch out for MOUTH RASHES, which are much more dangerous than "Covid Toes," since they can make you a super-spreader. And yes I still try to scratch and sniff a lemon, daily.)

"Flattening the Curve" isn't just about making sure we have enough ICU beds, though that has saved innumerable lives. (I was involved across March-April in efforts to design DIY ventilators.)  Curve flattening is also about giving science enough time to catch up and provide situational awareness...

...something we would have had, if testing had been prioritized as a matter of national urgency, instead of sabotaged with suspicious relentlessness. And now the Trump White House is railing against a stimulus bill including money for accelerated testing and contact tracing! Consider how only Putin and his carnival barker would want to sabotage us that way.

Four months or so ago -- about the era of Gilgamesh -- back when we thought this might be just a 'bad flu' restricted to problems with lung fluid excess -- some commentators suggested "this will rock our complacency and get us taking the pandemic threat more seriously, so we'll be better prepared when something really bad hits." Well, this has proved to be worse than a 'bad flu"... 

...but that logic still holds. Some of my past sci fi has been more pertinent than I’d want! My Hugo-nominated story “The Giving Plague” deals with our complex relationships with viruses and such, including the several paths a parasite can go down, in “negotiating” with us hosts. Get it free at on my website.  

== Covid concerns that relate to... Libertarians! ==

Okay, all of that leads to the Great Swedish Experiment in going for "herd immunity," a notion much beloved of some libertarians I know, leading to the latest meme from the White House. When it didn't 'just go away,' and after a dozen other trial balloons, now it's "we're just going to have to live with it."

National Review carried an article extolling wonderful Sweden, and well.... the current condition of National Review has William F. Buckley spinning in his grave so fast that he's generating megawatts of good, clean electricity for Connecticut. (He and Barry Goldwater would have been enraged by the current right's all-out war against science and every other fact-centered profession.) 

Still, it is important to read views that dissent from the near-universal opinion I've seen expressed by sage researchers - that Sweden's experiment is a disaster. 

Consider using the standard formula for epidemics, when a disease has an R(0) replication ratio around TWO, you can make do with herd immunity if HALF of the population is fully resistant and non-contagious. 

But when R(0) gets above FIVE, as does Sars-CoV-2 when there's indoor mingling, you need 80% of the population to be fully resistant and non-contagious to get herd-immunity. And that's if every asymptomatic-infected and shrugger is fully immune and no longer spreading. It ignores the way super-spreaders appear to reach R(0) = 20+.

As for the memic aspect to this, as you know, I am an Adam Smith acolyte who believes that there should always be adult-libertarian voices at the table, questioning government over-reach. What troubles me is the reflex to assume that the major threats to liberty right now are only nanny-state bureaucrats, when human history offers a very different warning. 

Even if we include as "socialist" the murderously oppressive USSR (which in fact was Czarist+ fascist Russia using different symbols and incantations), even so, far less than 0.01% of the generations who suffered oppression had their freedoms and entrepreneurial options crushed by socialism of any kind. The vast majority of our ancestors across the last 6000 years were oppressed by one force... oligarchic-lordly inheritance cheaters of the kind who Adam Smith denounced and the U.S. Founders fought.

Seriously, how can any sincere defender of freedom and markets ignore that dismal tendency in human nature? For those who have elite wealth and influence to use it to cheat instead of letting others compete fairly? A libertarianism that ignores that absolutely central societal flaw - and Adam Smith's remedies -- is not a movement that's anywhere near as cerebral or honest as it thinks it is. 

Nor is it scientific or helpful in a crisis such as this, yammering about 'freedom to not wear a mask' while meekly obeying laws against nudity. Oy.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Science-tech updates - young blood for old? And much more.

Did we dodge a sci fi scenario of unparalleled potential nastiness? Already around the world, rich old struldbrugs are buying “fresh young blood” from healthy donors in their 20s… and on a very limited scale there’s no reason yet to get upset from a two way beneficial business arrangement. But it was easy to extrapolate that into a nightmare, if the fast rising world mafia-feudal oligarchy really sank their vampire teeth in, taking advantage of vast wealth disparities their cheating created. 

Now possible good news, evading that one (of many) nightmare. “In 2005, the same team demonstrated that connecting the blood of young and old mice (essentially making them conjoined twins) resulted in rejuvenation. Yet the present study showed equal or greater enhancements by solely diluting the blood of the old mice, eliminating the need for young mice entirely.” The Peter Diamandis site concludes: “This discovery shifts our attention away from young blood and towards the importance of age-related harmful proteins in old blood. Rather than focusing on specific protein therapeutics, age reversal is more likely linked to a host of proteins that can be naturally triggered by dilution processes such as this study’s approach.”

Might I add that similar effects may come from blood DONATION  several times a year? It certainly feels that way to me!
(I donated my 94th pint a couple of weeks ago and got a free covid test, along with an apple juice and chexmix.) And yes, this segues into several scenes in Existence. And especially… “The Giving Plague.”  (Free on my website.)

Meanwhile, though few news articles refer to Uplift: “Scientists have grown larger monkey brains by giving marmoset fetuses a gene that's unique to humans.”  

== Science Miscellany? ==

Way kewl science experiment! An Inverted tornado ignited inside of a bubble.

How Heisenberg became uncertain: An amusing story about how a young Heisenberg (not the Breaking Bad version) – embarrassed by a barely-passed exam – studied the ultimate limits of microscopes and thereby derived his famous uncertainty principle… 100% correctly, if for some wrong reasons!

A well-produced rap about climate change… is responded by a pretty cool and uber-nerdy rap about carbon-sequestration and “air-mining” — concluding and coolly summarizing the zoom conference I just attended. Uber-nerdy? Super-ooper-dooper-nerdy-cool! Problem solvers. My kind of people.

== More tech news! ==

Hydraloop unveiled a wastewater management solution. About the size of a refrigerator, Hydraloop’s system purifies wastewater and returns it for use in washing, gardening and plumbing.

AWG in the news: An Israeli water-from-air system that taps into atmospheric water using patented heat-exchange technology. 

Pretty important actually: researchers say they have designed a laser diode that emits the shortest-wavelength ultraviolet light to-date, with potential applications in disinfection, dermatology, and DNA analyses.  This could make a huge difference also in the growth of vertical/urban farms.

What appear to be super high energy neutrinos shooting UP to hit a balloon-carried detector above Antarctica have unsettling implications for the Standard Model of Physics.

Bose-Einstein condensates (BEC) are collections of atoms coaxed into sharing a common quantum state. They are very fragile.  BECs in terrestrial labs typically last a handful of milliseconds before dissipating. But in space they feel no gravitational net force and can be suspended much easier. Aboard the ISS the BECs lasted more than a second, offering the team an unprecedented chance to study their properties. Previous studies trying to emulate the effect of weightlessness on BECs used airplanes in free fall, rockets and even apparatus dropped from various heights. But these experiments are… cool.

Analysis of seismic waves reveal “echoes from the boundary between Earth's molten core and the solid mantle layer above it. The echoes revealed more widespread, heterogenous structures—areas of unusually dense, hot rock—at the core-mantle boundary than previously known.” A region very much involved in the plot of my novel EARTH.

Instead of cooling things down near absolute zero, to preserve fragile entanglement, these researchers took the opposite approach, heating atoms to millions of times hotter than a typical quantum experiment – the temperature of a kitchen oven - to see if entanglement could persist in a hot and chaotic environment. “The surprising thing is that these random collisions didn't destroy entanglement." Unlikely to be useful for computation, this may lead to new kinds of sensitive detectors.

== Bioscience updates ==

If verified, this is actually a pretty big deal! Abstract: “Biological molecules chose one of two structurally chiral systems which are related by reflection in a mirror. It is proposed that this choice was made, causally, by cosmic rays, which are known to play a major role in mutagenesis. It is shown that magnetically polarized cosmic rays that dominate at ground level today can impose a small, but persistent, chiral bias in the rate at which they induce structural changes in simple, chiral monomers that are the building blocks of biopolymers.”

When the squid hunt, they communicate with each other via patterns of light and dark pigment on their skin. Even in the ocean depths, these patterns can be detected because the squids’ bodies glow in the dark, revealing patterns that are backlit like words on an e-reader screen.

More life weirdness. Last time I talked about insects with tooth-gears in their leg joints. Now something I referred to speculatively in EARTH and even earlier in THE UPLIFT WAR…  Cable bacteria grows on a mat on and under the sea floors and what makes it interesting is that they power themselves by electricity and send that electricity over long distances using biological cables that have similar efficiency to that of copper wire. Apparently the bacteria is widespread on sea bottoms around the world and could possibly like fungi form a single organism of unknown size. 

They estimate that a cubic meter of the seafloor mud containing Cable bacteria contains hundreds of thousands of kilometers of bio-electric cables that transmits electricity as efficiently as what we can do today. If it transmits electricity it can also transmit signals. If we extrapolate that out to the size of the Earth’s ocean floors then we’re talking about a potential nervous system component for a living Gaia that doesn’t require the mantle superconductors of EARTH. Though, it could also be “angry” as in Greg Bear’s disturbing book VITALS.