Sunday, December 06, 2020

Nagging Joe, Kamala and Nancy AGAIN! Do these things now and we'll thrive!

This stuff is too important. So I revised, polished and added and I now count on YOU to help spread word on these opportunities that our heroes will - alas - almost surely miss.

 With each new administration — Democrat or Republican — I publish my own list of possible actions that would step around the lobotomizing “left-right axis,” scoring immediate points by doing some non-partisan good. Despite my purported “fame and influence,” none of my proposals was ever acted upon, or even widely discussed, perhaps because they are off-axis, without established constituencies. Though I am also grownup enough to admit another possibility — that these ideas are only compelling to the self-important delusions of a sci-fi author.  

Still, I’ll do it yet again, offering maneuvers to skirt the determination of this generation’s Republican leaders — stated openly by Dennis Hastert, all the way to Mitch McConnell — their vow to prevent the American federal legislature from doing anything meaningful, ever again.

A few of these notions won’t wait!  They’d have maximum effectiveness if undertaken before the inauguration or the convening of the 117th Congress.

1) An Inaugural Twist. Planning for a ‘minimalist inauguration,’ as announced by appointed White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain, would be a terrible mistake! Yes, Joe Biden must set a healthy example for the nation, on his first day in office. But accept that tens or hundreds of thousands will come anyway. Nothing will stop them.

So, what’s needed is a way to get them to spread out, safely masked. Besides, why deny America’s enthusiastic majority their day? Oh, and a final consideration; given the vast number of serious threats, should Kamala and Joe go anywhere together? Shouldn’t they stay apart?

Here’s a simple solution: have the new Vice-President -- Kamala Harris -- take her oath at the far-opposite end of the Mall, on the hallowed steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Symbolically, it'd be a huge way to say -- with both Lincoln and MLK gazing down -- 'we've come a long way, baby!' And the swearing-in by Sonia Sotomayor would be a good offset to spotlighting John Roberts.

 Picture Harris giving her speech, then waving down the long Mall at the Capitol, calling "Over to you, Joe... I mean Mister President!" past a vast crowd that now has plenty of room to spread out!  

Pass out a bazillion flags and white-star masks and say, "Use the flag to make a social distance circle. Let America's flag protect us, as we mean to protect and reclaim the flag!"

An added way to space them out further? Big screens hung from the flanks of the Washington Monument. A way of saying – we can use ingenuity and technology and good sense to keep safe and have some fun.

The images would be spectacular, denying the fox-o-sphere any "crowd size” yammers. It would establish Kamala as a star and a voice of her own, not just a warmup act. … And then there's that added, paranoid reason. Keep her away from Joe. Especially that day.

2) Pelosi pushing these quick mini-bills might achieve wonders… even if blocked!

While much attention goes to Biden’s appointment picks, until inauguration, actual action is in Speaker Nancy Pelosi's hands. She should immediately put forward a few short bills that might even pass the Senate, over objections by Mitch McConnell!

How could that be, now that today's GOP is the most tightly disciplined political force in the history of the republic? Simple. Trap them into publicly opposing extremely simple things that would be wildly popular with voters!

- I’m pleased to report this has already started. The recent House passage of a bill decriminalizing and taxing marijuana is long overdue, and it will chip away at support for the opposing party of troglodytism. Yes, the bill took up more than a sentence… or a page… but it’s simple enough to come across as distilled common sense, while reaching out to some wavering political faction – in this case libertarians.

So let's start with these quicklie bills that both are sensible reforms and would rebuke Donald Trump, implicitly-but-devastatingly:

- How about a one-sentence bill clarifying that Secret Service agents aren't personal servants! The implied rebuke of Trump would be eviscerating. And the target constituency is a good one to make happy.

- A bill requiring that the Air Force be paid in advance for political or private use of Air Force One, including a fair share of maintenance and depreciation? Another telling dig, since Trump and his campaigns have stiffed the taxpayers! Biden’s willingness to live by this would be another declaration of maturity.

- Establish a civil service post of White House Manager, who must come from civil service ranks in the GAO. All non-appointment, non-policy and non-political members of the White House staff - from housekeeping to secretarial - report to her and not to the President or aides. Purely service staff need not obey orders unrelated to their official duties. They may safely report verbal or other abuse, and may transfer out without penalty. Think of how such a one-page bill would both declare "adults are now taking over" and implicitly rebuke the previous administration of screeching bullies and toddlers.

- Rules ending the travesty of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel 'advising' that sitting presidents cannot be sued or indicted or even investigated! Instead, ensure that Presidents can be "slow-indicted" or "slow-sued," without destroying their ability to perform vital functions, and establish that they are not totally above the law. Would GOP senators dare not to defect, break ranks, to hem in Joe Biden with such rules?

And here are more exquisitely simple bills that Pelosi, Schiff etc could rush through the House in time to make a real difference. With Biden consenting to them, these measures will make Dems look like non-partisan reformers. And wouldn’t this put the two GA senators seeking re-election — Loeffler and Perdue — on the spot, at just the most inopportune moment?

- End the insanely evil ban on refinancing student debt; folks are now forbidden from doing what anyone with a mortgage can do, such as take advantage of low interest rates to re-adjust their debt burden or discharge their loans in bankruptcy. (Those who established that rule were vile people, whatever their formal ideology.) It’s key that this could be achieved with a bill that amounted to one sentence, making it harder to bottle in committee.

(Okay, this isn't the massive student debt forgiveness that so many want. That’s for later; you need a full Congress. These are simple, blatantly obvious zingers.)

A COVID relief bill? Sure, try that, although Mitch is unlikely to face defections in this area. 

- A bill immediately giving Medicare coverage to all CHILDREN, a move with parental enthusiasm guaranteed. Simply amend all other Medicare legislation so the age boundary "65 and over" is appended with "and 25 and younger."

 Anyone opposing this would face a toasting. It's a win-win, if we demand that those Georgia senators decide now, risking ire from either parents or Mitch. As a secondary benefit, it might persuade the democratic left to give Biden a month or two of honeymoon, before launching in on him. 

Many of these reforms don't have to wait for inauguration! They'll either get Senate defections to pass and get Trump's grudging assent... or they’ll make Republican Senators look rotten.

3) A blackmail warning. Yeah, I know it sounds weird, but I promise you, Putin's agents are all over DC right now, setting up hotel rooms with one-way mirrors, just like in the Borat movie!

Possibly the greatest thing Sacha Baron Cohen ever did will be that scene, where even Cohen’s crude methods lured Rudy Giuliani into embarrassing and compromised behavior. For decades I have inveighed that blackmail traps — executed far more skillfully by Russian agents whose traditions go back to the czarist Okrahna — await almost every male who rises to any sort of power in the USA… and females too, especially those with careless male relatives.

(Seriously, can’t you name a dozen recent political figures — senators and administration officials — whose behavior could not be explained by greed or ideology alone, only by absolute obedience to masters who can coerce them insatiably? Blackmail — unlike money and ideology — has no limits.)

Unpersuaded? Well, I made the argument long ago, here -

Nothing has changed. It is vital that incoming legislators and officials be warned about this kind of thing and armed by our security services with tools to turn the tables.

Even more important is…

4) Get the light flowing! There is nothing Joe Biden could do, across the entire coming administration, that will upend and transform U.S. politics more than establishing a Truth & Reconciliation Commission that brings together America’s greatest sages … and randomly nominated citizens from all regions and all walks of life… charging them with drawing all crimes against the Republic into the open. Methods already exist, as in the drafting and charging of federal Grand Juries.

Of course, there must be carrots and sticks. Like a promise to follow recommendations to trade clemency for truth… with extra points for those who bravely come forward first! And yes: “I know this will wind up shedding uncomfortable light on some Democrats and allies, and who knows how close it will come? But the nation needs this, desperately!  I’ll just take that chance.”

Get some friendly zillionaire to offer cash prizes and legal expenses!

This could be done immediately, even before inauguration. And nothing is more likely to nudge the national mood of fact-distrusting paranoia to more toward a consensus.

Accompany this soon with bills limiting the power to enforce NDAs! (Non-disclosure agreements.) And let the nation judge for itself which party’s partisans howl louder!

(Addendum: this concept could critically matter if some U.S. elites are so frightened of a return to law that they plan rash actions to prevent it. By offering clemency in exchange for revelation and light, Biden might forestall something truly awful, even before he takes the oath.)

There’s much more! But I’ll set aside those further proposals that can wait for January. The ones offered here have urgency of timeliness.


Tony Fisk said...

I sent a friendly tweet to @transistion46, pointing them this way, fwiw.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Giuliani tested positive, and rumour has it he is symptomatic. While I do wish him a recovery, I can't resist repeating the joke making the rounds on social media: "Giuliani is resting comfortably and receiving the very best of care at Walter Reed Total Landscaping."

I think the Trump movement is getting ready to implode. The one thing no dictator can survive is looking ridiculous even to his followers, and Trump is managing that. I suspect Trump supporters will be as rare a sight by next March as Hitler supporters were in Germany in September 1945.

If the Democrats win the two Georgia run-off races next month (and after tonight's debates, I'm giving 7-4 odds that they will win both races) then all Biden has to do is be calm, competent and show leadership while Pelosi and Schumer do the heavy lifting.

David Brin said...

For the sake of the nation, I want him visibly ventilated and raspy awful-looking... before a ful recovery.

Tacitus said...

You are of course free to do as you wish, but my policy is never to refer to political leaders by first names, nicknames or initials. I think it is a bad idea in a small but insidious way.

For one thing they are our employees. You should not be excessively familiar with your employees as it makes it harder on all concerned when you have to give them an unfavorable job review. Or, as is necessary periodically in all but the most pure of political monokultur situations, to fire them.

I also leery of anything that feels like the first step to Dear Leader status. That's not who we are or who I think we should become.

If you consider one of these folks to be more worthy than average feel free to use their title. President Biden. Speaker Pelosi. Neither they nor we should forget the honor that being elected to these positions holds.

But then I'm not voting for "friends" or against "enemies".


Larry Hart said...

I'm surprised that a virus is able to survive in a vampire body.

Lorraine said...

Bills limiting the power to enforce NDAs would be most welcome. I'm heartened that non-compete clauses in general are coming under attack. Contract feudalism is a thing. It needs to die.

Larry Hart said...


You are of course free to do as you wish, but my policy is never to refer to political leaders by first names, nicknames or initials. I think it is a bad idea in a small but insidious way.

I think it's forgivable in the headline of a blog post, which is addressing us after all, not the politicians themselves. And headlines, by their very nature, invite all kinds of shorthand.

For one thing they are our employees.

I think Alfred might chime in to disagree with that statement. In the modern world, their donors are more like their employers--the ones who pay them for their services. We're more analogous to users in the software world--or maybe listeners to a radio show. The business model for radio is "selling listeners to advertisers". Likewise, the business model, if you want to call it that, for politics seems to be "selling voters to politicians." We're not the employer or the seller--we're the product.

I also leery of anything that feels like the first step to Dear Leader status. That's not who we are or who I think we should become.

73 million or so of our fellow Americans think it is.

David Brin said...

Zepp, you are a brave man to put your optimism out there?

Pachy, Biden andHarris actively invite that informality.

Tacitus said...

"Biden and Harris actively invite that informality."

Which I think makes it not less insidious but more so.


Tuna Hunter said...

Brilliant commentary, especially the mini agenda for the next six weeks before the inauguration. Expose the wolves for who they are and what they stand for! Make them take obvious stands which are in detriment to the vast majority of the American populace! Shame the bastards into submission or disgrace! I intend to write Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Schumer with a link to your blog, with the hope that some staffer who reviews such submissions will take notice... Good day and thanks for your thoughts.

Keith Halperin said...

I feel as if Dr. Brin is one of the alien species in "Existence" using the "big honkin' space gun" to shoot his ideas across the galaxy to possibly receptive worlds...
I have one final thought on this: assuming that these ideas are not completely unique and unlike other proposals (see, have your researcher/publicist/assistant find out who does have similar/compatible goals, and "hitch a ride on that train"....

Speaking of Dr. Brin's works, is there a site where we can discuss them?
There doesn't seem to be much activity here ( for awhile...

Larry Hart said...

Keith Halperin:

Speaking of Dr. Brin's works, is there a site where we can discuss them?

At the risk of stating the obvious, I'd say to throw out a discussion point here.

On the old "Cerebus" list I used to visit, discussion of the comic itself would tend to ebb and flow, especially after there were no new issues coming out. People used to complain there too that the discussions went way off-topic (also highly political), but to me, the off-topic discussions kept the site interesting when there was nothing on-topic to discuss. Otherwise, it would have simply stagnated.

Point being, even if this site isn't currently discussing Dr Brin's older works, I'd bet a lot of people would chime in if you were to begin doing so.

Alfred Differ said...

Our host's convention appears to be to use ALL CAPS for book and story titles. That helps us avoid confusing scare quotes AND promotes his material. I kinda like it.


I think you are right with respect to Two Scoops, but I'll sharpen my blades for the next fascist who will likely be a tad more competent.

Larry Hart said...

The New York Times states the obvious:

Sarah Huckabee Sanders embarrassed at a restaurant = pearl-clutchingly uncivil!
Trump supporters threatening poll workers and their families with violence and death = Tuesday.

The radically different way the media treats boundary-pushing on the left and on the right is about more than hypocrisy or double standards. It is, rather, an outgrowth of the crisis of democracy that shields the Republican Party from popular rebuke. There’s no point asking if the G.O.P. can control its right. It has no reason to.

Democrats have just won the popular vote in the seventh out of the last eight presidential elections. In the aftermath, analysts have overwhelmingly focused on what Democrats, not Republicans, must do to broaden their appeal. Partly, this stems from knee-jerk assumptions about the authenticity of the so-called heartland. But it’s also just math — only one of our political parties needs to win an overwhelming national majority in order to govern.

Keith Halperin said...

Thanks, Larry. Dr. Brin: is that OK by you?
(BTW, if you want to see a blog by an SF writer that veers OT, please see/join Charles Stross's "Antipope": while the the topic that started on 10/29 was about politics/US election, in the 2,731 comments through today, it's veered into such topics as SCSI drives, trucks, and moose.)

Pappenheimer said...

Dr Brin's suggestions are in good faith, but my inner Eeyore is reminding me that a huge portion of the United States voting populace is apparently signed up under the column "Biden did not win legitimately and will not be a legitimate president". People who have given up Fox News for OANN because Fox is now "too liberal" (I have heard this) aren't ever going to hear about bills that don't even make it to a vote in the Senate. They inhabit a closed space that is closing off even further.
If GA manages to send 2 Democrats to the Senate, I will be joyful! Perhaps headway can be made on fixing some of the problems that 4 years of incompetent misrule (thank all the Gods for the incompetence, or it would have been even worse) have exacerbated. Climate change, inequality, injustice. I have no idea how to fix the underlying issues of racism, authoritarianism, and unrestricted capitalism which are not limited to the US.

Keith Halperin said...

Thanks, Larry. Dr. Brin: is that OK by you?
(BTW, if you want to see a blog by an SF writer that veers OT, please see/join Charles Stross's "Antipope": while the the topic that started on 10/29 was about politics/US election, in the 2,731 comments through today, it's veered into such topics as SCSI drives, trucks, and moose.)

Darrell E said...

Today could be SN8's day.

My prediction, RUD. And if that happens, I'm perfectly fine with it.

But I'm hoping for a good flight and a good landing.

Der Oger said...

"Climate change, inequality, injustice. I have no idea how to fix the underlying issues of racism, authoritarianism, and unrestricted capitalism which are not limited to the US."

First of all, recognize things as they are.
Second, start wanting to change things as they are.
Next, reframe narratives.
Then, Grasroot, Network, find allies.
Build up steam for political change, and then let it happen.

By coincidence, saw this video today:

Quote from there: "We'll have to pursue Star Trek or we'll end up with Mad Max."

Postman/Fallout might also apply.

TCB said...

Thom Hartmann video on Youtube: GOP Plans To Rig 2024 Election With This Loophole

The loophole concerns state legislatures. By law, almost all states award their electors to the popular vote winner in that state. But a GOP-dominated legislature can change those laws before 2024 and shove another fascist president down our throats. Legally. They just need to do it in 6 or 8 swing states. The electoral college must die.

David Brin said...

SpaceX raptor-giant (I refuse to say "Starship") just had a "raptor abort" at 1 second to go. Well, well they didn't blow up. So offload fuel and find the problem. See y'all in a week!

Larry Hart said...


The loophole concerns state legislatures. By law, almost all states award their electors to the popular vote winner in that state. But a GOP-dominated legislature can change those laws before 2024 and shove another fascist president down our throats. Legally. They just need to do it in 6 or 8 swing states.

Thom Hartmann is a very smart guy, and he's good at spotting potential failure modes, but his predictions (such as The Crash of 2016 often border on fear-mongering. I understand the value of 1984-like self-defeating prophecies, but for my own sanity, I've stopped worrying that everything he says could happen will happen.

The Constitution gives state legislatures the responsibility for selecting electors, but in all 50 states, they have done so by passing laws which say the voters decide. Of course, they could change the law, but in many of the swing states, a Democratic governor would have to sign the new law, and he ain't gonna do that. And consider that there's no point (and no real gain) in state legislatures overriding the will of the voters when those voters are solidly Republican. The nightmare scenario is that they do it in a place like Wisconsin or Michigan where there is a good chance the voters would choose a Democrat. In that case, they will have to face their own voters--Democrats plus those Republican voters who might just not be all that comfortable with anti-democratic moves like that.

Not saying it can't happen, but if it does, it's one more step toward the illegitimacy of the Republican Party.

The electoral college must die.

I agree in theory, but in practice, it would take a Constitutional amendment which would require sign off by the very state legislatures and Senators who have the most to gain by the existing system. Then again, there is a circumstance I can forsee in which the Electoral College would go away, possibly as early as 2024. No, really, they could set a record for how quickly a Constitutional amendment passes 38 states to get rid of the electoral college system. The moment Texas becomes a blue state.

Larry Hart said...

More on the electoral college, I will again assert what I've seen litigated on the site. It's not the electoral vote itself which is so anti-democratic, but rather the winner-take-all system that all but two states use to allocate their electors. I don't have the figures, but I saw it persuasively argued that even if there were enough House seats so that each state had its own representative for each segment of its population equal to that of the smallest state (Wyoming), Trump would still have won the electoral vote in 2016 as long as the states allocated their electors by winner-take-all.

And winner-take-all is not enshrined anywhere in the Constitution.

Alfred Differ said...

Larry (& Pachydermis2),

I think Alfred might chime in to disagree with that statement.

Sorry. Missed this earlier.

I don't see them as employees… or servants. And I don't see us as 'users'. What they are depends a great deal on which office they fill.

Your congress-person is literally a 'representative'. Sure.. you pay them to do that. More importantly you empower them. They do NOT serve. They embody your community's power to legislate.

Your senator is similar, but they embody your State's power to act legislatively at the federal level. They do NOT embody you except indirectly and very undemocratically.

Your President or Governor are simply chief executives with a bit of 'Head of State' added on top. The 'execute' the actions of government. They do NOT serve… especially you. They execute actions… supposedly defined and constrained by legislators and judges.

It is a mistake to think of them as employees, servants, or beer-drinking buddies. They might be reasonable people, but when they put on the 'hat of power' for their office, they are also the executor of the role described as that office. This is a general rule, though, and not applicable only to politicians. It also applies to Police. ANYONE capable of wearing a hat other than their personal one leads to the necessity for us to adjust how we act.

Now… having said that… Joe Biden has made it VERY clear he prefers to be approachable and personable. If he invites more of it, I recommend we meet him most of the way there. Our nation functions better when we do NOT place our President too high above us. We should NEVER have put them on our coins and treasury notes. It's way too easy for their egos to become over inflated and their souls to become isolated.

Alfred Differ said...

Yah. It ain't a starship.
I still prefer BFR.

"Where's the Kaboom? There was supposed to be an Earth shattering KABOOM!!"

"Raptor Abort? Someone stole my Illudium Q36 space modulator!"

"This makes me very, very angry."
"Very angry indeed."

Tacitus said...

It seems odd to discuss SciFi on a politics site, but mentions in this thread and the subject matter of the last one did get me thinking?

What is the commercial future of Science Fiction?

Print? I'm looking at a small, treasured artifact right now. A bookmark from Uncle Hugo's Science Fiction bookstore. While that was literally wiped out by the modern world I think we can concur that old school bookstores, where you can browse, read a few pages and buy a stack, are fading fast.

Movies? I can count on one hand the number of thoughtful SciFi movies in the past decade. Got a few digits left over in fact. Too many bloated Super Hero films have warped the movie industry and, imho, shortened attention spans while raising expectations regards Big Special Effects. aka "Splosions". And in any case, movie theaters are unlikely to emerge from the Current Unpleasantness in anything like their old strength.

Actual TV? There have in times recent been a few half decent "shows". I can even cut them a bit of slack for quickly falling into Idiot Plot Elements (I have several pet peeves in this category). But nothing out there is of, say, Star Trek Next Gen quality.

Streaming? This seems to be the fusion of movie/cable/broadcast TV and is showing ongoing vitality. Gotta say though, the year long hiatus on new production has gotten to the point that Netflix, Amazon and so forth are no longer scraping the bottom of the barrel. Under said barrel there's now a deep hole from which emerge weird titles from Ancient Times and in Strange Languages. (Admittedly there are a few semiprecious gems amidst this dreck and sludge).

But that is where I can see some hope for quality product coming along. Not the dyspeptic, Dark and Gritty! dollops of recent pseudo Trek, but other things. I understand for instance that Old Man's War has been picked up at last.

So, whither SciFi? And to loop back, which of Our Esteemed Host's works could be adapted under the framework as it exists and as it might, or might not, evolve?


Tim H. said...

LH, if Missouri allocated electors by popular vote in each Congressional district, Biden-Harris would've had two more electoral votes. Sometimes tweaking an old thing is less risky than all new.

Alfred Differ said...

I think there is plenty of room here to talk about science fiction. After all, our conversation DOES drift into comic books... so why not. (Heh)

As speculative fiction, it makes some sense for the conversations to overlap.

matthew said...

Pachy, my bookstore (Powells) is the largest west of the Mississippi and my city has rallied around it in quarantine. Nothing dying there.

Movies - far more than the few you count. I suspect you are not adventurous. See "Safety Not Guaranteed" for a great recent movie.

TV? The Expanse is the best hard scifi show in a generation. Full stop.

Print? Lots of the old guard dying, true. COVID is having an impact for certain. Ben Bova is a loss in a horrible way. Blame the GOP for that one, squarely. Lots of new interesting writers out there, though. New voices from new places.

Perhaps your problem is is there is no new SciFi *that meets your expectations*.

I suspect the problem is not with SciFi, but with you.

A.F. Rey said...

Just heard something that scares the crap out of me.

17 other states have joined Texas in the SCOTUS suit that tries to overturn the election results in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

One state filing a frivolous suit is pretty much par for the course for the U.S. 18 states? I got a bad feeling about this.

I got a feeling they know something we don't. I got a feeling that this is the suit that Trump has been waiting for, the others being just the sideshow distraction. I got a feeling that this is where the blackmail gets used to sway the ruling.

I hope to God that this feeling is just indigestion.

Larry Hart said...


which of Our Esteemed Host's works could be adapted under the framework as it exists and as it might, or might not, evolve?

I think Sundiver could be easily made into a decent miniseries.

Glory Season reads to me like an old-time Saturday morning movie serial, where the characters barely escape one danger before falling into the next one. It could make for a series with many cliffhanger endings. There could also probably be further adventures in its universe beyond the novel itself.

Earth, like Frank Herbert's Dune may be too wedded to the written form to translate well to the screen. However, I wouldn't mind seeing someone who knows what he's doing give it a try.

David Brin said...

"old school bookstores, where you can browse, read a few pages and buy a stack, are fading fast. " Yes but they lasted SO much longer than I expected. The era 90 to 2015 was a golden age of book emporiums!

Hope I'll have news for you re your list of venues.

Alfred, you are about to get your wish, next.

Tim H I used to think - and even posted - that allocation by ongressional district made sense. But with their two senator advantage + gerrymandering, the benefits are marginal. Illinois might be a net loss.

David Brin said...

LH there are hopes.

scidata said...

Sunset in Texas:

Starship soars into the sky. The clown car of fascism is pedalled over the cliff.


Alfred Differ said...

SN8 was fun to watch. Looks like they lost an engine just before it landed, thus it landed hard. As tests go, that means the bulk of the engineering data was acquired. They probably even got some unintended improvisational response data too.

On to the next test. 8)

Tacitus said...


It's true I'm rather picky. I tried Safety Not Guaranteed but find Aubry Plaza to be off putting for reasons I can't quite define. The Expanse is actually rather good. Binged a season in the early pandemic times and will likely partake more this winter.

I've run across other series that hold my interest for a season or two but then fade. Travelers for one. Dark Matter also. It must be much harder to come up with a longer run of anything without slipping into cliches.

Other suggestions are always welcome.


duncan cairncross said...

A F Rey

I suspect that just means that 18 state AG's want to get on Trumps pardon list

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Illinois might be a net loss

But in 2016, Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania would have been net gains.

The point is, proportional representation would eliminate the concept of Red States and Blue States in which the advantage of a few votes gives you the whole enchilada.

Larry Hart said...

A.F Rey,

I believe that amica curae is simply a way for other parties--those states in this case--to weigh in on an advisory basis. Basically, they're agreeing with the argument, and maybe explaining their "reasoning". I don't see it adding weight to the original, ridiculous premise.

It's not that I have overwhelming faith in the Republican-appointed courts, but they do seem to be holding the line at not being made to look ridiculous themselves. They're telling the Trumpists that "You've got to give me something to work with," and so far, that hasn't happened.

Larry Hart said...

All of this may help to explain why the Texas solicitor general — the state’s leading advocate before the Supreme Court — did not sign onto any of the filings in this new suit. And although the president and his supporters have attempted to make mountains out of procedural molehills (such as the fact that the court “docketed” Texas’ suit — which is not the same as agreeing to hear it), the justices are highly unlikely to be sympathetic. For evidence, look no further than GOP Rep. Mike Kelly’s request to the court to throw out the Pennsylvania election results, which followed the same procedural path until it was summarily denied Tuesday afternoon, over no noted dissents.

But it’s not enough to explain why this lawsuit is doomed to fail. After all, the goal may not be success, but rather perpetuating the evidenceless narrative that the election was somehow “stolen” from Trump. In that respect, being able to point to irrelevant procedural minutiae as evidence of sympathy for the claim may be victory enough.

David Brin said...


Meanwhile, the last )before this) season of EXPANSE disappointed... you have a galactic Gateway network and you worry about stealng from some Lithium miners? It looks like next season will likewise be - you have a galactic Gateway network and you worry about grudges against Inners, who could provide the capital for all you belters to go do your own thing?

Seems to have declined to merely very good and enjoyable.

scidata said...

I posted 'Sunset in Texas' just moments after launch. The firey RUD landing is of little consequence. The data gathered is/are of far greater value than three iffy Raptors and a grain silo. The gimballing dance of the two working engines was truly spectacular. Kudos to the physics coding team. Starships and Raptors are rolling off the assembly line so fast now that they probably needed SN8's parking space anyway. :)

Iteration works. It features prominently in computational thinking. You can't really master iteration without coding - just ask Johnny.

Larry Hart said...


I've run across other series that hold my interest for a season or two but then fade.

That's not just science-fiction. All good tv series seem to run into a sort of "Peter Principle" in which they proceed to the level of their banality. Sometimes, it's the inevitable result of writers or actors leaving the show, and sometimes it's because of editorial interference, but even without those mitigating factors, the well of good plots eventually runs dry.

The last show that I foolishly allowed myself to fall in love with was "The West Wing", which was brilliant for four seasons and then became just another mediocre tv show with unbelievably soap-operish plot elements.

Larry Hart said...

Ok, sorry, one more for this evening...

In Idaho, officials had to shut down a *virtual* public meeting on covid b/c anti-mask protestors were banging on the doors at their houses during the call.

If the protesters banging on the doors of private houses were black, it would certainly be legal to shoot them. The same should hold for white protesters.

matthew said...

One of those houses in Idaho with the protestors knocking on doors to terrorize the inhabitants in response to sane pandemic planning was only occupied by a 12 year old child. What happens when these folks decide to start killing kids as "protest?"
What happens if the 12-year old takes the family gun to "stand their ground" against a terrorist invasion?
Idaho is a pox on the ass of the Northwest.

BTW, the Utah AG joining in the Texas lawsuit should put to rest any talk of Utah being the home of the "sane" GOP. There is no such thing.

Dennis M Davidson said...

which of Our Esteemed Host's works could be adapted under the framework as it exists and as it might, or might not, evolve?

Feature Film: "The Loom of Thessaly"
I revisit this story every few years; it never fails to take me out of my current place and time. The scenes are visually exquisite.

Feature Film or HBO/Netflix series: "Existence"
Would love to see this as an IMAX feature film.

David Brin said...

I never said Utah was "sane" GOP. I said Utahns aren't hypocrites when it comes to moral turpitude. They practice what they preach SOBaptists etc do not.

Funny Dennis said that. There ixists (recently) a wonderful spec script for "Loom of Thessaly" -- looking for a champion.

Also "The Tumbledowns" and "Dr. Pak's Preschool" and "The Giving Plague" and "Detritus Affected"... and others. Plus full TV arcs for COLONY HIGH and for OUT OF TIME.

duncan cairncross said...

Well, well they didn't blow up. So offload fuel and find the problem. See y'all in a week!

Only it was only one day - and it DID blow up!

Larry Hart said...

In a completely non-satirical coluumn, usually-satirical Chicago Tribune columnist Rex Hupke says what needs to be said.


Let’s set aside the obvious fact that if a Democrat pulled an autocratic stunt like this, every Republican, all of their family members and probably most of their pets would be running around like their hair was on fire, screaming, “TYRANNY!!!”

That would be, and I can’t stress this enough, an entirely reasonable reaction.

That’s why there are people like me, and plenty of other Americans paying attention to Trump’s postelection crapnado of nonsense, who feel like our heads are going to explode because few if any sane Republicans are standing up and saying: “Hey, this is bonkers, deeply embarrassing and unconscionably bad for the stability of our democracy. Knock it off.”
The time for lame excuses (“We just need to give Trump room to work through this loss”) and tacit approval of frivolous lawsuits (“The president has every right to pursue all legal avenues”) is over.

Everyone — Republicans, Democrats, pundits, preachers, citizens, editorial boards, shop clerks, CEOs — needs to stand up and call this colossally stupid coup-porn what it is: Dangerous, idiotic nonsense.

Trump is not “frustrated” or “venting.” He is a whiny, sore loser willing to burn our democracy to the ground.

The lawsuits being filed aren’t patriotic attempts to protect the sanctity of our elections. They are baseless, error-filled, legally laughable attempts to waste time and pimp a narrative likely to ensure a sizable chunk of the population never accepts the result of this election.

The people testifying at bizarro-world hearings held by Trump attorney and COVID-19 superspreader Rudy Giuliani are not “patriotic but misinformed souls.” They’re people being willfully stupid, and they deserve every bit of ridicule they get as their unhinged, conspiracy filled ramblings become viral sensations.

We don’t stop this craziness from happening again by downplaying or excusing it all. We stop it by calling it out and making clear that such lunatic fringe behavior is socially unacceptable.

Hailey said...

I would love to see a well done "Giving Plague" movie or miniseries. Would the penultimate pathogen end up replaced with a covid variant?

Der Oger said...

RE: Sci Fi:

What is still overlooked (and perhaps belittled) here is an additional venue of telling stories: Games. The industry has made great strides in it's capabilities to create immersive worlds in which stories can be told (literally hundreds of them embedded in an overarching epic). It is not a single writer on his own, but dozens sharing their creativity and skills in the making process.

So ... which of our host's books would be recommendable for a tabletop or video game?

matthew said...

I say this every few years, but "Senses Three and Six" is my choice for adaptation most likely to be a great TV show / movie. Even an interesting video game.

Jon S. said...

"So ... which of our host's books would be recommendable for a tabletop or video game?"

It's hard to do a good game (tabletop or video) based on a single book, as the narrative has already been written and the game would need to rewrite it or have no drama whatsoever (see The Postman, compare with Death Stranding and the Courier in Fallout New Vegas).

On the other hand (the one with the D20s next to it), the Uplift series seems like a fair one for an RPG. You'd have to restrict some species to NPC status - at least, I don't think an adventuring party is likely to get very far if it includes both Thennanin and Jophur - but I could easily see role-playing as, say, a fin navigator or a tymbrimi engineer...

jim said...

I think that the Postman could make for a great series on Netflix / HBO / streaming service. A series would give you time to really develop the themes of the book in ways that the movie just could not.
(and it would be far more likely to do good for our public discourse than a thousand Political Judo’s, seriously , I have a hard time thinking of a story that is more relevant in today political environment and that could do more good than the Postman.)

Although if I had many millions of dollars to spend, having the Uplift Trilogy done by the same folks who did Avatar: last airbender / legend of Kora / Dragon Prince would be really amazing (or Studio Ghibi if you could get them) They would probably add an orphaned human child to Huck’s group but hey that could be fun. Not only is this probably your best work it also has the most subversive environmental subtext – living within real limits like the community of Jijo still allows for life of adventure, meaning purpose and that more technology does not necessarily makes things better.

Robert said...

which of our host's books would be recommendable for a tabletop or video game?

The Uplift setting has been adapted as a tabletop game. I was underwhelmed with the adaptation — something about GURPS Uplift felt cramped and almost dingy, and it was missing the sense-of-wonder that the Uplift setting has. I suspect part of that was the excessive cruftiness of the GURPS rules system. If I was going to run an Uplift campaign I'd go with something rules-light like BESM.

As an open-ended video game setting for exploration and quests Uplift would be good. Would need very good editorial control to stop it becoming a "shoot the aliens" game, though.

scidata said...

Games can quickly degrade from story telling into inventory/achievement collecting. What's needed is a truly unpredictable 'bolt from the blue' actor. But still something germane to the underlying tale. Chaos worlds, perhaps.

Tacitus said...

I've been thinking more on the possibility of adaptations, and the commented upon phenomena of sci fi series getting stale fairly quickly. Other series too of course. So, what existing bodies of work would be promising both in their basic quality and as concepts sufficiently broad to have a few season's worth of "legs".

- Saberhagen's Berserkers series
- Pohl's Heechee series
- and of course the Uplift Universe.

Each has its pros and cons. You'd have to make sure the Berserkers were portrayed as actual thinking entities....but not go the silly humanoid/cylon route except of course where the story called for such.

I think the Heechee concept would work well for episodic/series format. Every episode somebody gets in a ship, hits the button and who knows what will happen. My preference would be for a constantly changing group of people to be the explorers but I 'spose we'd end up with the usual. One square jawed Kirk type and the now customary 90 pound female who can kick box Klingons. Sigh.

Sadly I don't feel Uplift would work with dolphins. The CGI wizards could of course pull it off, but it would be expensive. Plus, people in general don't like dolphins that much. Having watched, and enjoyed, The Umbrella Academy I was very impressed with the tech quality of the - presumably - uplifted Chimp. So...Uplift with Charles Dart and pals? Everyone loves monkeys.


Keith Halperin said...

@ Everyone:
ISTM that every generation of mature-elderly people believes that what is new in their preferred areas is largely crap and perhaps they're right! Sometimes new versions/representatives of the old form arise and sometimes the old forms disappear. This doesn't particularly concern me.
What DOES concern me is my perception that Western Civilization is in a period of cultural stagnation- that while there are new ways of doing things (digital art-creation), the sensibility and the creativity remain largely the same.

I am by no means an arts critic, but when I see current examples of pictorial art, ISTM that most of them could have ben created anytime in the last 7-10 decades. What major new artistic movements are out there? (

As far as music is concerned, I find it perplexing for young people to listen to 50-year old songs: can anyone imagine in 1970 large numbers of young people listening to popular music from 1920? Rock is now 65 years old and hip-hop is 45- when will there be something revolutionary and new?

I believe movies have suffered the fate of being largely produced by a few “suits”-controlled media companies, which are not known for being particularly creatively adventurous, and an explosion or a superhero is easily understandable around the world (

Re: television: I really can't say if the overall quality of TV is better worse, or the same as it used to be, but there is SO MUCH being produced (Pre-Covid) that there are many programs (not specifically SF genre) which are really good and/or interesting.

As far as SF is concerned, is there a major new movement here?
I've heard of this period as being “Post-Cyberpunk” and OGH as “Neo-Space Opera” (
Perhaps SF IS in decline- that SF thrives in optimistic times and since (like the group) “We Were Promised Jetpacks!” and didn't get them,
tales of bright, Brinian futures aren't as appealing they once were.
Perhaps anime, manga, comics, and movies with lots of explosions ARE the next sages of SF.(Hopefully, we'll soon be leaving the Dickian dystopia we've been living in the past four years...)

As far games are concerned: I can't really speak to that at all (I don't game), except that perhaps like traditional, literary SF, the peak demographic group may be aging (,,

What do YOU think?

Larry Hart said...


What's needed is a truly unpredictable 'bolt from the blue' actor. But still something germane to the underlying tale.

The Buyur are hiding, but still active?

jim said...

Although it is possible to do a CGI “live action” movie(s) for the Uplift series so many of the characters are not human it would end up being super expensive. The producers would probably require a mindless battle scene in order for it to get made.

But if you go the animation route, for the cost of say 5- 10 minutes of the battle scene from the last Avengers movie you could do several seasons and actually tell the story well.

Studio Ghidli version of Jijo would be gorgeous.

matthew said...

"A few seasons full of legs?"

Ian Banks' Culture Series (currently in development, I hear)
Walter Jon Williams Metropolitan Series
Walter Jon Williams excellent space opera series Dread Empire's Fall
Walter Jon Williams Drake Majistraal Series (comedy gold)
Walter Jon Williams Hardwired (a very good game supplement for Cyberpunk back in the day too, written by WJW himself.)
Neal Stephenson's Snowcrash (under development, I hear)
Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age: or A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer
Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle -> Cryptonomicon
Neal Stephensons's Zodiac
Ken MacLeod's Fall Revolution Series (ooh, ooh, this one, this one!)
Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
Andre Norton's Zero Stone
Vernor Vinge Zones of Thought series
Vernor Vinge Rainbows End
Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Series
Kim Stanley Robinson's Forty Signs of Rain
Kim Stanley Robinson's The Years of Rice and Salt
Rodger Zelazny Damnation Alley
CJ Cherryh Cyteen
Sherri S Tepper Grass

And while talking about our host's GURPS Uplift, I'll mention that I use his and Kevin Lenagh's Contacting Aliens sourcebook as a basis for importing his aliens into non-GURPS systems, like Blue Planet. It is a great resource.

David Brin said...

Welcome back Jim. Clean slate. And the wish you expressed is actually being discussed. Both of them. All that I can say. Except believe it when you actually see it.

Pachydermis2 your Heechee notion is rather similar to how my Out Of Time seies for young adults works.

Keith H: The sheer amount of TV material being produced has me flumoxed too. It’s got to be (as I hint in EXISTENCE) for export beyond Earth.

Matthew: I just got off the phone from talking to Vernor.

David Brin said...