All right, I gave in and got a twitter account. You can find me at: https://twitter.com/DavidBrin
And with that announcement... oh there's more. First some science(!) and then my unusual perspectives on the Rallies in October(!)
=== Science Tidbits ===
Have they discovered a “Goldilocks Planet” orbiting its star at the right distance to have liquid water? This article would seem to be historic... if it weren’t so atrociously written as to be almost worthless as cience journalism. Still, you may want to remember where you were, when you read it. Oh, here is the scientific abstract.
(In fact, this "goldilocks" planet would be a hell, one side locked toward its red dwarf sun and the other frozen solid. A few watery trickles along the Twilight Zone boundary do not an Eden make. Let's keep trying.
When the first alien from space lands on Earth and says “Take me to your leader,” Mazlan Othman head of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs will get the call...” So went the panting report on the London Telegraph, followed by an international news cycle frenzy...
...followed by an embarassed retraction. (Kind of sad, actually, One can imagine some mildly speculative thing she might have said - in her bemused cups - getting all blown up out of proportion. She was to attend my gathering about SETI, next week near London. Now maybe she’ll stay home.)
In a similar vein... as I prepare to fly off to Britain to debate issues regarding the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, one mustn’t forget a bit of humor, from time to time.
On the Transparency front: a Maryland judge has thrown out the wiretapping charges brought against a motorcyclist who recorded a plainclothes Maryland State Trooper pulling a gun on him during a traffic stop and later uploaded the footage to Youtube. "A Harford County Circuit Court judge ruled this afternoon that a motorcyclist who was arrested for videotaping his traffic stop by a Maryland State Trooper was within his rights to record the confrontation."
Comments Josh D: “I think it's obvious that this kid broke the law and was certainly endangering the public, however, the DA who brought the wiretapping charges clearly did so in retaliation for the video of the stop being posted on the Internet. I hope the DA faces some serious questions about his conduct in this matter.”
I care less about the DA than about general precedent. This story was publicized by me on July 26. It is a crucial phase in the battle to retain the citizenry’s right to watch the watchmen. I am police-friendly! But this cannot be allowed to stand. Faced with overwhelmingly powerful (and armed) authority that is capable of lying, the average citizen has only one recourse, the same one upon which he bases ALL of his defense against capricious power. The underlying recourse that is implicit in every corner of the Constitution.
== A DENSE (BUT REWARDING) SLIDE SHOW ==
Sometimes one of my older items erupts, suddenly, back into currency. There’s been a lot more attention to my slideshow about potential dangers that might lurk from many different directions, and not just the fashionable flavor-of-the-decade (presently militant Islamists). This presentation, created for the Defense Threat Reduction Agency is very dense and requires earnest and soberly curious reading. Don’t bother, if you plan to skim!
And finally... before lighting the political lamp...
A new survey of Americans' knowledge of religion found that atheists, agnostics, Jews and Mormons outperformed Protestants and Roman Catholics in answering questions about major religions, while many respondents could not correctly give the most basic tenets of their own faiths.
Kinda irksome to some folks I imagine. Like the fact that kids who get "liberal" sex education actually have lower rates of STDs, abortion and even sex, than those given Abstinence classes. Ooh.
==== AND NOW TO THE "RALLY to RESTORE SANITY" ===
You'll be hearing that the events being held on the Washington mall, in a few weeks -- hosted by news-comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert will be partisan affairs. And, well, I concede that a majority of those attending are likely to be democrats. http://www.rallytorestoresanity.com/
Still I think it worth pondering that the "Rally for Sanity" on 10-30-10 may be motivated much less by left-vs-right dogma than the very things that Stewart claims it will be about -- which is moderation vs the tone of petty, sanctimonious brattiness that has taken over American politics. And yes, humorists are precisely the kinds of guys who can cut through the orgy of petty indignation that the aging baby boomers are imposing on this great country.
Look. We have two great countervailing forces in the American psyche. The first is a tendency toward self-righteous utopianism. This trait has a positive side. It can fuel and supercharge our greatest self-reform drives, propelling us to march and sacrifice until we have (for example) destroyed slavery, or racial injustice. On the other hand, the same propensity for frantic idealistism can enflame us into spirals of cultural or civil war, screeching at our neighbors and demeaning anyone we disagree with as simultaneously stupid, insane and evil.
The other American tendency is toward a marvelous pragmatism, a modernist eagerness to SOLVE PROBLEMS, using every available tool - including whatever mix of state and corporate and individual action will get the job done... so we can move on to dealing with the next problem. This grown-up, pragmatic trait brought us far. It underlies our greatest successes...
...and it has always been based upon a good-natured willingness to negotiate with each other. To evade the sweet-addictive trap of ideological grand-standing and the drug of dogma, in favor of treating disagreement as grounds for discussion. Moderated by the phrase all scientists are trained to utter aloud -- "I might be (just a little bit) wrong."
Of course, this same trait od pragmatism can show its own dark and ugly side, when it becomes cynical and focused solely on personal gain or victories over others, predatory and shortsighted, in a narrowminded and constricted zero-sum game.
Now, you might judge, after those paragraphs, that I respect our pragmatic streak more than the idealistic one, and that is true to an extent... though you can see my idealism drenching most of my novels. In any event, what really matters - in both idealism and pragmatism - is whether you envision the world as filled with problems that can be solved.
That is why Martin Luther King - were he to magically reappear today - would slap the faces of those left-wingers who cannot ever bring themselves to admit that his dream has largely come true! And, therefore, our continuing campaigns of self-improvement should move on, filled with confidence in past accomplishments, to take on new and brighter goals.
And that is why Adam Smith - were he to magically reappear today - would eviscerate right-wingers, who have never actuall read Wealth of Nations, and who cannot ever bring themselves to admit that the true enemy of freedom and markets has always been oligarchy. (Across 6,000 years, name any foe that ever oppressed more people, quashed competition and opportunity, or did more to hold humanity back. You can't.)
The lesson? That the real enemy is cynicism.
Which brings us to our chance to fight back.
=== Find a way to support the "Rally for Sanity" ===
Think what you will of Jon Stewart's purported ant-right bias. Fact is that all he is saying - in reference to the rally -- is for moderates to come out and resume negotiating in calm voices. And he has been relentless in seeking moderate conservatives, to come as well.
Oh, sure, the undertone is anti-tea-party-sanctimony/rage. Anyone can see that. The satirical mocking of the Murdochians (a name that seems redolent of H.G. Wells dystopic fears) is clearly intentional. Still, the official line of the rally merits some sober consideration.
Moreover, let me point out this set of fundamental differences between Jon Stewart and the shills on Fox.
1- He skewers the left frequently and sincerely.
2- He has guests. Unlike Beck and Limbaugh he regularly has on his show the best and brightest from the "other side." More than 20% of his guests are neocons or conservatives. Huckabee, Romney, McCain, William Kristol have all been on the show more than 3 times each! These guests get to both joke around and challenge Stewart, while pushing their books! (Oh, and the audience always treats them politely.) Bill O'Reilly was on, just two nights ago.
This is something Beck/Limbaugh/Hannity NEVER do. Because they are liars and cowards. There is no other possible interpretation. And that is without any consideration of their policy positions. Worse, it displays a smug lack of curiosity that is positively and horrifically un-American.
3- Stewart's other guests include a sampling of America's best minds. Sure, there's jocularity. But that is part of the POINT! A light, 10 minute gloss-exposure to big ideas... laced with humor and repeated references to a real, honest to gosh book, that Stewart obviously read. And your complaint is.....?
By the way, if Glenn Beck can "define honor" then let's hear Stewart out when it comes to "sanity."
Go if you can. Even better, help get out the vote.