Saturday, January 25, 2020

Pandemics? Future (and After) Shocks, and political maneuvers

First a brief linguistic note. The word "pandemic" has replaced "epidemic" in the press, and thus has lost its usefulness. What we are seeing so far is an epidemic, and not yet proved to be a big one. See below where I comment on another important symbol, terribly misused... the so-called "Doomsday Clock."

== Books to help us through a minefield ==

Alvin Toffler - author of Future Shock - was among the greatest of all modern forecasters. That best seller’s coming 50th anniversary inspired a new volume After Shock: The world's foremost futurists reflect on fifty years of Future Shock - and look ahead to the next fifty, with inputs from some towering modern minds. (And my poor self, for comic/pity relief.)  

Fascinating reading for those who believe there will be - or can be - a future. Pre-order for its February release.

Meanwhile, already available and causing ripples is my own recent volume about our current political crises and whether the patterns of 60 centuries can be broken, at last. See the chapter on "exit strategies" for prescient perspectives on the current impeachment imbroglio. Free chapters of Polemical Judo can be sampled here.

And here's a piece I found that offers some biting cogency: 
"I can explain the art and purpose behind throwing a Purple Heart veteran under the Fox News bus. First, we must talk about narratives. In my time at Fox News, narratives were weapons of mass emotional manipulation..." 

The article goes on to show how carefully Fox executives craft each day's counter-narrative not to be based on facts, but to sow distrust of every institution or expert who might loosen Fox's grip on its viewers. Read about this aspect of the War on Facts.

== At last, some judo from dems? ==

Now, at last, some democrats are attempting judo-arts. A Transparency in Executive Branch Officials’ Finances Act - would require:

1) all politically appointed officials, as well as president and VP, to “disclose any positions they or any members of their extended families hold with foreign-owned businesses, any intellectual property protected by a foreign country, and whether family members have stakes in significant foreign business dealings.

2) the President and Vice-President to disclose 5 years of tax returns and prohibit political appointees from accepting payments from foreign entities.

Yes, this would dig at Hunter Biden a bit and inconvenience some iffy behaviors practiced by pols of all parties. But it would devastate the Trump tree, root and branch, and scores of affiliated Republicans. Hence Fox-Putin-GOP cabal members must oppose and block it. And that opposition will put the lie to "drain the swamp."  

(I'd add a section limiting the amount and types of travel expenses that can be charged to the taxpayer. Um, duh?

Admirably, these folks are edging toward my #1 recommendation in Polemical Judo. The very first lines of the book are:

"It was a brilliant political maneuver - and no Democrat seemed willing to learn from it. In 1994, Newt Gingrich's innovative “Contract With America” made the Republican Party appear serious, pragmatic, reformist. No matter that every decent promise in the Contract later wound up neutered or betrayed. The electoral triumph that Gingrich wrought with this bait-and-switch was a historic phase change, demolishing what remained of the Roosevelt-era social and political compact."

I then appraise why no one on the Union side of our civil war will even look at how we keep getting out-maneuvered. See recommendations how to evade trench warfare and instead wage this struggle with agility. I'm glad to see a couple of higher IQ reps edging in this direction.

== Ideologies abound ==

A deeply cogent look at U.S. Middle Eastern policy has been published by the erudite Will Wechsler, Director of the Rafik Hariri Center and Middle East Programs at the Atlantic Council and former deputy assistant secretary of defense for special operations and combating terrorism. The essay can be found on the Atlantic Council’s website here.  It’s part of an edited volume that can be found here.

More overtyly political: In The Washington Post, Anne Appelbaum offers a fascinating look back at the violent and merciless Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, tracing how an ideology that preached egalitarian "power to the people" was used to consolidate power in one of the steepest and most ruthless hierarchies in all of history. She shows how resugent this most-resilient and determined strain of anti-liberalism is, not just on a few college campuses (the revival of Karl Marx) but especially on the Trumpian right.

Yes, she argues convincingly that the Fox-Trump-Putin clique that has taken over the American right is essentially "bolshevik" in all except its surface incantations. And you are surprised, when the best pals of the entire GOP leadership caste are either communist or "ex"-communist tyrants and most alt-right memes come straight out of Kremlin basements/

To be clear, Putin's dog has never taken an action against any of his master's interests. Not one, and whenever a Kremlin interest is at stake, he tries to give Vlad what he wants. (Dare your RASR to bet on this!) The INF withdrawal absolutely benefited Putin since that treaty favored the U.S., whose air and sea launched cruise missiles weren't affected, but withdrawing gave Putin an excuse to build up land launch batteries to threaten Europe.

Open Skies was the one treaty Dwight Eisenhower wanted above all others, that could maintain peace like no other. Putin wants out, so he has Trump trash it for him. Were there any Republicans with a requisite combination of sanity, patriotism, and neurons, they would see that the KGB has completely suborned their movement. There is still time to save something of a Goldwater-conservatism in America, but you guys need to act fast.

Even more important a neo-documentary is The Great Hack on Netflix, about the data-manipulators who are devastating every process of democracy. 

== Deep perspective ==

Yoni Appelbaum’s Atlantic essay - How America Ends - is one of the most cogent commentaries on the American dilemma, describes how U.S. conservatism has survived and often thrived not by futilely opposing in horizon-expansion and inclusion, but by participating in our unique process of absorption and inclusion.

“The conservative strands of America’s political heritage—a bias in favor of continuity, a love for traditions and institutions, a healthy skepticism of sharp departures—provide the nation with a requisite ballast. America is at once a land of continual change and a nation of strong continuities. Each new wave of immigration to the United States has altered its culture, but the immigrants themselves have embraced and thus conserved many of its core traditions. To the enormous frustration of their clergy, Jews and Catholics and Muslims arriving on these shores became a little bit congregationalist, shifting power from the pulpits to the pews. Peasants and laborers became more entrepreneurial. Many new arrivals became more egalitarian. And all became more American.

 “By accepting these immigrants, and inviting them to subscribe to the country’s founding ideals, American elites avoided displacement. The country’s dominant culture has continually redefined itself, enlarging its boundaries to retain a majority of a changing population. When the United States came into being, most Americans were white, Protestant, and English. But the ineradicable difference between a Welshman and a Scot soon became all but undetectable. Whiteness itself proved elastic, first excluding Jews and Italians and Irish, and then stretching to encompass them. Established Churches gave way to a variety of Protestant sects, and the proliferation of other faiths made “Christian” a coherent category; that broadened, too, into the Judeo-Christian tradition. If America’s white Christian majority is gone, then some new majority is already emerging to take its place—some new, more capacious way of understanding what it is to belong to the American mainstream.”

Alas, some versions of US conservatism -- typified by the Know Nothings and Confederates and neocons and red-hatters, saw demographic widenings as inherently threatening and change as inherently evil. And their panic precipitated the nation's worst crises. Including today's frantic justifications of cheating at all levels, from gerrymandering and voter repression to stocking the courts with pre-blackmailed shills.

You'll find much about all this in Polemical Judo. But if you need enlightenment in smaller - more digestible - dollops, see Appelbaum's How America Ends. 

== And finally... that Doomsday Clock ==

I am remided of the fools who took over the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist, a decade ago, who squandered the utility of one of the best pieces of visual polemic of our times. The previous management had wisely taken opportunity from the end of the Cold War to ratchet the Doomsday Clock back ten minutes, giving them room for future warnings. They were replaced by imbeciles who rushed, at first excuse, to yank it back to 4 minutes to midnight, to ignore every moment of good news, and to preen a couple times a year ratchting toward the apocalypse. Now the are reduced to captioning the Doomsday Clock counting down the seconds till we all die.

The care and feeding of polemical symbolism is well understood in advertising and the Kremlin/Fox alliance are masters. Liberals aren't. But alas, they think they are. They badly need lessons in the martial arts.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Future shock? Or inevitability? Plus making facts back into "things."

Before getting into other prophecies, first a word about the master. Alvin Toffler was among the greatest of all modern forecasters and author of FUTURE SHOCK. That best seller’s coming 50th anniversary inspired a new volume AFTER SHOCK, with inputs from some towering modern minds. (And my poor self, for comic/pity relief.)

Fascinating reading for those who believe there will be - or can be - a future. Pre-order for its February release.

Meanwhile, already available and causing ripples is my own recent volume about our current political crises and whether the patterns of 60 centuries can be broken, at last. Free chapters of Polemical Judo can be sampled here. Including the chapter on "end games," much of it coming true before your eyes.
== Who'd a thunk this in 2020?==
While it’s good news that Moscow Mitch was cornered into letting some funds - a fraction of what experts requested - go to increased election security, he made sure it was block grants to the states, which red-cheater states will likely just use to line pockets and to put lipstick on their process pigs, doing nothing to ensure paper receipts and audits, for example.
Meanwhile… Timing is everything. Nixon resigned just before impeachment so he could be pardoned. Now it appears too late for Trump, with it clear that Mike Pence would not be able to.  But Ol' Two Scoops probably figured “New York will come after me anyway. So let’s slug it out.”
Oh, while the news is filled with Ukraine and Russia, let me remind you how cleverly the "ex" communists surrounding Vlad Putin changed their "spots"... but not their goal of our demise.
== More on the "Russia thing ==

For 70 years, the Comintern/Politburo tried to suborn the American left, with only modest success among a few famously gullible saps. But within a few years after dropping the hammers and sickles and worker-rhetoric, they virtually took over American conservatism. Here’s a cogent article describing how it happened. The ease with which the Kremlin has suborned the U.S. right must have shocked even the “former” KGB agents and “ex” communist conspirators who still run the place, almost as much as it has appalls longtime rightist apologists like George F. Will.

According to Anne Applebaum (and her many sources) it has always been less about Russian/Soviet successes at governance (there were never any but a few) than about a good western trait that all-too often goes sour… our propensity to encourage vigorous self-criticism. This Hollywood-taught reflex to carp and point at errors is healthy! But it can be exploited by enemies, turned into sourpuss treason and, indeed, has been turned against us.

And while Applebaum’s essay lays out several plausible contributing factors, I have long asserted that only one thing can explain the tidal wave of inexplicable reversals and treasons by once respected conservatives like William Barr.
That reason is blackmail, a standard KGB operational tool that expanded under facilitation by folks like David Pecker and Jeffrey Epstein and aboard princely yachts. And I devote a chapter to it in Polemical Judo.

Seriously, read the Applebaum piece, especially for the hypocrisy of US rightist/foxite adoration of a Russia that “defends traditional values” ... while their suddenly adored Russia has double our abortion rates, double the divorce, STD, domestic violence and alcoholism rates of even Red America, and less than a quarter the rate of church attendance, with six times the muslim population percentage and one province that is actually ruled under Sharia Law. Yet last time I cited how a major, US-led Christian org recently met in Moscow and pleaded with the Kremlin to "save us from the West."

How blatant can it get? Russian media and oligarchs laughingly are open about Trump being “their man” and some even use the word “agent.” Rossiya TV talks about welcoming him when he goes into exile. “Should we get another apartment in Rostov ready?” said a top TASS pundit, referring to Viktor Yanukovych, former president of Ukraine, who was forced to flee to Russia in 2014 and settled in the city of Rostov-on-Don. Both Trump and Yanukovich were top clients of Paul Manafort, who was Trump’s campaign manager, now in prison, but still funneling memes and tactics to Mitch McConnell. This article is thorough, disturbing, and needs to be thrust under the nose of your patriot-in-denial who still watches Fox.

Hatred of Obama, H. Clinton and George Soros, for helping rob away “his” Ukrainian buffer state, led to Putin fulminations reminiscent of the final scene of the movie Downfall.

It's time to call Republicans the Putin shills they are, and make them blink with the accusation - easily supported - of "commie."

Oh yes, Christopher Walken had it right. You've got to hand it to them.

== The only thing that corners them ==

You all by now sigh when I bring this up. And to my knowledge I am shouting into the wind, as almost no member of the blue coalition to save the Enlightenment will ever try what blatantly works. But, again, here’s the response to right wing maniacs that always shuts them down.

Arguing with them seems futile. They writhe and distract and “whatabout” and hurl KGB-generated links…

... until you repeatedly demand money wagers!

At which point they flee, with “coward” the word chasing their lame “macho” asses. Top dismissing it with a shrug; actually try it! Here’s a script you can use, if you have the guts.

“Baloney. Let’s bet on it!. Deposit $5k in escrow with a reputable law firm so I’ll know I’m not wasting my time with another Kremlin-boy blabbermouth. If you’ve got the cojones to do that, like a man, then we can wager over some of this, like -

- whether there are any fact-centered professions your Fox/Putin cult is NOT waging war against, from scientists, teachers and journalists to a million dedicated civil servants and officers in the FBI, law, intel, foreign and military services who saved us from Hitler, Stalin and bin Laden, but who you now dismiss as “deep state” traitors, without one scintilla of real evidence...

. . . all the folks who can't afford to ignore blatant facts, like climate change and the GOP’s deliberate destruction of all of our alliances. All of them can also see that your confederacy has sold out to foreign enemies and mafia oligarchs. NAME AN EXCEPTION to your cult’s mad war against our strengths. Put up or shut up.

- Or whether the tidal wave of turpitude and lies in the GOP outweighs the Democrats by merely 20x… or 1000-fold. I’ll pay if it is merely 20x! But before you bet, maybe you should look up the ratio of convicted sex offenders and gruesome divorces in top GOP leadership posts across the last 30 years. Oh, what role models.

- $100 says you can’t find a top GOP or Fox person who has offered to help set up a truly neutral fact-checking service, to solve the “fake news” problem, once and for all. Instead of shrieking “fake news!” at anything they don’t like, why not help set up fact-checkers to either prove their case or help us out of this mess? Oh, right. Because facts are the top enemies of the New Right. Bet on it!

- The cities are dens of sin, right? Okay I’ll put down cash that Red States score far worse on almost any measure of moral living, from divorce and STDs to teen sex/pregnancy/disease, to gambling and domestic violence. To preaching endlessly how much more moral they are. Except for Utah. Decent folks there.

'- The best one: "Let's randomly pick ten from the list of 16,000 Trump lies. If any ONE of them is a proved, deliberate falsehood, you should be outraged. But I will pay off if it isn't MORE THAN THREE.

- The simplest bet: Ocean Acidification. Fox doesn't even try to deny it's happening, it's deadly and humans are causing it. Nail your redder with offers of proof! Get a glass of tapwater, a straw and two swimming pool test strips to prove CO2 turns water acidic. Offer to take the fool to a shore with a Ph meter, or to visit the local community college chem teacher. Watch him panic and run!

And these are just a few of so many wagers for redder cowards to flee-from. For lots more, see chapter 15 of Polemical Judo.

==There are so many you could use... and they will NEVER ante-up ==

Continuing the standard challenge: 

"If you were truly confident in the crazy things you ‘learn' from Fox, you’d be eager to bet and take MY money! But deep inside you know all that crap is a pile of magical incantations to make you feel good. And if you put real money on any of it, you’d lose your house. You are cultists in frantic denial that the US right - once represented by sages like Buckley and Goldwater - has gone insane.

'So go ahead. Deposit that $5k, Kremlin boys. Once you have, it will be worth my while to negotiate neutral parties to judge the bets and exactly which Fox incantation we’ll bet on. Of course you'll find excuses. You will squirm and wriggle. But “coward!” will follow you, all the way.

'Go ahead. Let’s bet over that, as well.'

Friday, January 17, 2020

At the heart of the matter... Ukraine, Rapture, and Walken's dazzling prophecy

And the drama continues. Let's set aside the news that Ken Starr and Alan Dershowitz will be Trump's defenders, nailing the coffin of those asserting that the Clinton impeachment "Starr Chamber" was anything but utterly biased... the sole whine that Republicans now hurl at any investigation of them. No, let's dial even deeper.

 At the heart of the impeachment imbroglio seems to be...“Trump’s animosity toward Ukraine.” 

One theme that runs through almost all of the accounts from witnesses who testified before House lawmakers is President Trump’s unyielding loathing of the former Soviet republic, which dates to his earliest days in the White House. “He just hated Ukraine,” one former White House official said.  Why? You might ask.  Well, for starters, Trump campaign manager - and now imprisoned felon - Paul Manafort was a mafia fixer for Viktor Yanukovich, Putin’s puppet Ukraine president, who was ousted by a popular revolution that – yes – got some support from Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and George Soros. 

To Vladimir Putin, this was a body blow, almost as bad as the fall of the USSR itself (which VP bemoans as the 'greatest tragedy of the 20th Century.') Don't take my word; actually read Putin's speeches on the matter. The 'stealing' of Ukraine from Russia's sphere of influence was an unforgivable act of war by the West, despite the Ukrainian people's will on the matter. It had to be avenged, first in the 2016 U.S. election, but then...

Of the countless services to his master that Trump pursued, one of the foremost was helping Vlad with this grudge.

== The Treason is Getting Utterly Explicit ==

Russia has reinvented itself as a bastion of Christian values in a world beset by relativism and godlessness. As a result, conservative Christians gathering at the World Congress of Families are looking to Putin to protect Christianity from the West.”  

Yep. After 70 years spent futilely trying to suborn the U.S. left, which generally saw through all the faux-egalitarian Leninist crap, Putin and his fellow commissars and KGB agents just dropped all the hammer-sickle stuff and re-branded themselves as billionaire-Christian mafia-oligarchs. And that was all it took, in order to hypnotize the entire U.S. right. What a contrast.

"In western Europe, many people believe that the West is collapsing and all civilisation is threatened by Islam, by demography, and by democracy…What they try to pretend is that there is only one country where Western civilisation is well and alive and thriving, and that's Russia." … Once dismissed as fringe extremists by the political elite, the WCF now counts friends amongst the leaders and politicians swept to power by the populist wave in Europe and the U.S.

“Vice President Mike Pence and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson were originally scheduled to address the conference, but their names were removed from a list of speakers without explanation.”… "Among the members of the WCF is the Family Research Council, an anti-LGBT group with longstanding ties to Pence. 
"It is a geopolitical and ideological battleground," said Kreko, and remarked that the event was a message from "pro-Russian forces in Moldova that the U.S. conservative right and Russia together can save the world from this plague of liberalism and tolerance." reports Newsweek

Then there's Mike Pompeo, openly saying that he's biding time till the Rapture, when 99% of Americans will be consigned to living torment, then eternal damnation, followed by a permanent end to all democracy, diversity, ambition, discovery, curiosity, freedom... an end to all new generations of children... and an end to the United States of America. And yes, although that's not a direct quote, it is exactly what he means.

== It's fragging obvious ==

I doubt any pundit anywhere will take this interpretation. But I believe one reason that Trump intends to pardon - and even promote - soldiers convicted in military courts of war crimes is to drive a wedge between the U.S. military officer corps (USMOC) and the non-commissioned ranks. Putin-Murdoch-etc. know that the USMOC is the 3rd best-educated clade in American life. Moreover, the officers — while conservative in demeanor and behavior — remain deeply committed to science, fact-using and the rule of law, all of which are being warred-upon by the New Oligarchy. 

(Retired officers provide the largest group of new Democratic candidates who have been taking territory in purple and red districts.)

Indeed, the thing I fear most about a second Trump term is that interference in the promotion process will start to have major effects, as these deeply non-political men and women - devoted to the Constitution - are chivvied and harried beyond forbearance. But the scariest angle is how they will also have to start watching their own backs, if Trumpism sinks talons deeply into the non-commissioned ranks.

Doubt this? I know officers who report that the TVs in the noncom ready rooms are always… always… tuned to Fox News. Ponder that.

== Is Civil War pending? ==

I cannot urge you too strongly to read the linked article from The Atlantic's special issue on "Civil War." Here's a blip from How America Ends, by Yoni Appelbaum, who shows why the right is so desperate to cheat and grip power, in the face of demographic collapse:

 “A conservatism defined by ideas can hold its own against progressivism, winning converts to its principles and evolving with each generation. A conservatism defined by identity reduces the complex calculus of politics to a simple arithmetic question—and at some point, the numbers no longer add up.”

And: “When a group that has traditionally exercised power comes to believe that its eclipse is inevitable, and that the destruction of all it holds dear will follow, it will fight to preserve what it has—whatever the cost.

Before you gloat over the apparent intention of the Republican Party to self-destruct at a gibbet of fanaticism, consider a sobering historical correlation and danger sign. The Fox/Putin systematic destruction of moderate conservatism has implications, as Appelbaum points out:

“In his recent study of the emergence of democracy in Western Europe, the political scientist Daniel Ziblatt zeroes in on a decisive factor distinguishing the states that achieved democratic stability from those that fell prey to authoritarian impulses.

“The key variable was not the strength or character of the political left, or of the forces pushing for greater democratization, so much as the viability of the center-right. A strong center-right party could wall off more extreme right-wing movements, shutting out the radicals who attacked the political system itself….  

“If groups that traditionally have enjoyed privileged positions see a future for themselves in a more democratic society, Ziblatt finds, they will accede to it. But if “conservative forces believe that electoral politics will permanently exclude them from government, they are more likely to reject democracy outright.””

This is just another reason to be ready with an olive branch to offer any and all ‘RASRs’ who are willing to renounce their movement’s fealty to mafia-oligarchy, and who will help re-establish the primacy of facts and fact professions. 

(And I have mentioned especially Utah Republicans. They will never be liberal Democrats, so don't ask it. But like Sen. Mike Lee and others, they are realizing that the version of conservatism offered by Putin, Fox and the MAGA inciters is not compatible with theirs. Most Red States and GOP pols and pundits have terrible record score vastly worse than blue ones. Will Utahns form the nucleus of a clean, honest, and fact-friendly conservatism? One can dream.)

Facts matter. And the talons of foreign despots must be taken off our institutions. All else is negotiable! But without those two things, we are forced to accept a bitter truth. That sane conservatives have turned a blind eye to their duty, to country, civilization and even conservatism. At which point, we’ll just have to save all of those things, ourselves.

And yes, Appelbaum covers a few of the points I make in POLEMICAL JUDO. How nice to be a wee bit less lonely.

== Looking back ==

Of all Christopher Walken schticks, it wasn't the infamous SNL "Cow Bells" scene that most rang true. It was playing the fervently anti-communist dad in Blast from the Past who, emerging from 30 years in a bomb shelter, asks his son (Brendan Fraser): "So we're supposed to believe that one day the Moscow Politburo guys just threw up their hands and said 'We surrender'?"

"That's about it, Dad."

Walken shakes his head and sighs: "You've got to hand it to them."

At the time, I (like everyone) thought this a cute little joke on dad's paranoia. Who knew it would turn out to be a terrifying prophecy! That many of the same conspiratorial commissars who schemed against us during the cold war would smoothly convert themselves (with help from Bushes) into billionaire "oligarchs" still using a virtually unchanged KGB, still seeking to destroy the West.

All of the Russoligarchs who Fox/Murdoch/Kochs now adore grew up reciting Leninist slogans and their leader called the fall of the USSR "history's greatest tragedy," yet we're to believe they all became freedom-lovers? Yes the leopard changed its spots, but its claws? Before, it was a criminal gang under a guise of elevating workers. Now, it's a gang - largely the same gang - openly bragging mafia-aristocratic rule. Big diff?

It is! Reiterating the point until some of you start spreading it: for seventy years, they tried using Marxist incantations to suborn the American Left, and almost entirely failed. But as soon as they dropped the hammer and sickle symbols and egalitarian slogans in favor of billionaire-mafia stuff, the U.S. Right falls all over itself, throwing themselves on their knees to betray America and cater to every Putin whim.

Shatter our alliances and sciences? Sure! Attack all the intel, FBI and military officers who fought the Cold War, dissing 500,000 of our finest as "deep state"? Whatever you say boss! Wreck any sense of fact or accountability and devastate our rule of law while making a mockery of U.S. justice by appointing pre-blackmailed shills as judges? Sure, anything the politburo commissars... I mean Godfather Putin... says.

Reminder. Watch this scene again, as Putin greets his co-owner of Fox News, MBS. And notice the puppet entering the room in the background. Then watch the grin as he greets his master, while other western leaders know what they are looking at. The winner of the new cold war, destroyer of NATO and puppetmaster for the American fall.

Oh, Christopher Walken had it right.

You've got to hand it to them.

== A roundup of worthwhile articles. ==

3) Russians have been quietly seeding political scandals in the West for decades. But their methods started working much better when they dropped the marxist surfaces and found different western allies. Read about how simple the method is, from Slate.

4) Professional trolls understand how to harness our biases (and hashtags) for their own purposes and how best to drive us to distrust our neighbors. This article shows how they often start by building rust with 'adorable' viral postings that have nothing to do with politics, from Rolling Stone.

What an era. "End of history" my shiny metal....

Saturday, January 11, 2020

SETI, METI and the Fermi Paradox

Let's take a science break, looking upward at what might be ours someday, if we build a worthy, forward-looking civilization. Tantalyzing goals seem to be getting closer in some ways! For example, a “super Earth” about 6x our planet’s mass orbits a red dwarf  just 31 light years away at  the outer edge of its host star's "habitable zone," and hence, depending on atmospheric constituents, scientists believe that this super-Earth could have water on its surface.

In a model based on Kepler probe data, researchers estimate that “planet is very close to Earth in size, from three-quarters to one-and-a-half times the size of earth, with orbital periods ranging from 237 to 500 days, occur around approximately one in four stars.” This article is vague and I assume they are talking about sunlike stars. The bestiary of “habitable” worlds orbiting red dwarves would be very different.

Yeah, that puts even more of a burden on the Fermi Paradox. Which alas gets covered in much of the press with incredible shallowness.  See below.

== Is there life out there? ==

We keep refining our models of what it takes to have a “Goldilocks World.” For example, Earth skates the very inner edge of our sun’s Continuously Habitable Zone (CHZ) which will migrate outward past us in just a hundred million years or so, maybe as little as the 66 million since mammals got their big break. As is, Earth must reach a “Gaia balance” with only just enough CO2 to feed plants. Any more and we fry. And humans are supplying more.

Now scientists are considering other factors, like size: How small is too small? The critical boundary point seems to be about 2.7 percent of the mass of Earth. Any planets less massive than that would lose their atmospheres to space before liquid water could form on their surfaces, and any water that might be present would vaporize or freeze. For comparison, the moon is 1.2 percent of Earth’s mass and Mercury is 5.53 percent.  Here I’m skeptical.  But it’s a start.

Isaac Arthur has one of the best science-speculation podcast series. On Halloween 2019 he added a 4th chapter to his cluster about the Fermi Paradox… which I (back in 1983) labeled “The Great Silence.”  In this episode, he reviews the notion of “filters” that might be responsible for the apparent paucity of detectable tech civilizations out there.  

The Fermi Paradox, the big question of where all the aliens are, has many proposed solutions focusing on what might lower the odds of intelligent species arising on another world, or what might end technological civilizations or cause them to go unseen by us and our SETI efforts. But what if intelligence rarely leads to technological civilizations in the first place? Could there be countless planets in our galaxy occupied by species who never came to value technology?”

== SETI advances… but there’s more METI foolishness ==

Should we be revealing ourselves to the cosmos? What if the first aliens to discover us do so thanks to our own transmissions, and, more disturbingly, what if those aliens are less than benevolent? On this week’s StarTalk All-Stars, astrobiologist and host David Grinspoon also tackles METI, or “Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence.” With co-host Chuck Nice, Dr. FunkySpoon invited David Brin, the Hugo award-winning science fiction author, scientist and NASA consultant who was on the committee that drew up the protocols for what to do if we do make contact with aliens.

You’ll learn why the “barn door excuse” – that we’ve already sent out radio and television transmissions that may have sealed our fate – is scientifically incorrect, but why new plans to use planetary radar like Goldstone (pictured above) to send focused beams into space would pump up the volume and increase the likelihood of being found. You’ll hear about the growing global discussion of whether the general public has the right to determine whether we broadcast our presence to the universe, or whether the “scientific elite” gets to decide humanity’s fate. 

Let’s set aside arguments over the narrow tech-window overlap… or the dismal insolence of those who would yell yoohoo on our behalf, without serious discussion of public or collegial concerns. (To read about that debate, go to There is another, more specialized aspect to the specific “send everything” notion.

Plus, play along with David Grinspoon as he plays Chuck’s new game, “Brain of Brin or Dump of Trump,” and tries to guess whether a statement was first uttered by David Brin or Donald Trump. 

The Penn State Extraterrestrial Intelligence Center aims to fund research, host conferences, educate students, and grant doctorates in the general field of SETI.

== Shallow coverage in the press doesn't make us look "sapient" ==

WIRED carried an article about radio conversations with alien civilizations, that is simultaneously cogently interesting and amazingly wrongheaded. After covering some interesting aspects of communication methodology, the author concludes that all those efforts to develop clever math-linguistic protocols will not avail. Instead, we should (as recommended by the SETI Institute’s Seth Shostak) just beam forth the whole internet and let super-advanced aliens sort it all out. 

There is another, more specialized aspect to the specific “send everything” notion. That aspect is a phrase recently familiar: “quid pro quo.”

Only a few Earthly animals exhibit inter-species altruism, but most do seem to grasp some degree of commerce or trade: “You do something for me and I’ll do something for you.” Or give me that in exchange for this. Among advanced civilizations, separated by vast gulfs of empty space, the chief items of exchange will be in the form of information. Artworks, ideas, inventions, music and so on.

But these “beam everything!” fools seek to give away all of our trade goods straight from the start! Every famous painting or symphony or poem or patent, poured forth in exchange for nothing. “Thanks for the terrific free samples!” those uber-beings out there may reply. “Now what do you have to actually trade?” And if you doubt that scenario, despite trade being prevalent across all times and cultures, are you so sure that you’d bet our future without the courtesy of even discussing it?

Should we let fools rush to impoverish us? That’s not the behavior of scientists. It’s a cult.

== And harmless silliness ==

AstroGrams – helped by Apollo astronaut Charlie Duke - offers people worldwide the opportunity to inscribe a small metal plaque with their name, and a message and send it into space – either on a suborbital flight or orbital flight, to the International Space Station, to lunar orbit and perhaps even to Mars or beyond — with costs starting at just $99. Silly, yes, but harmless compared to fools who want to pour coherent blaring “yoohoo” radio messages out there.

Finally...A sense of scale from XKCD. Voyager 1 isn't even at the event Horizon.