Monday, July 06, 2020

A Thin Blue Line? What to do about bad cops. Light is our best friend.

The "thin blue line" is a monicker used to stand for police, asserting they are the slender bulwark which keeps society from descending into violent chaos. A more extreme, adversarial emblem of cop solidarity in the face of oppression by an ingrate citizenry - often appearing on tattoos -  is the skull symbol from the Punisher comic series. These memes have spread avidly, now in counter-beat to “Defund the Police” and both of them elicit hand-rubbing glee in Kremlin basement troll farms. (And so - to an extent - does the ill-chosen phrase "defund the police.")

This time I plan to discuss Police Unions, focusing on how to continue protecting ‘good cops’ while finally delivering at long last on 50 years of solemn promises to ‘eliminate the bad apples.’  Indeed, in the short term we need a slogan like: “Protect both citizens AND good cops from the calamity of bad cops.”

Over the long term, though, we’ll see below that that entire point may be moot. Police forces will professionalize and gain accountability, just as they will get much smaller. 
It will happen for many of the same reasons that are playing out  now, in our streets, and that I predicted in The Transparent Society.

== The debacle of Police Unions - a practical reform ==

The New York Times published an investigation explaining how police unions have amassed political power and blocked change. Ever more it’s become clear that the unions are central to the entire mess and their members need to be told: “You can either continue to reflexively protect all your bad apples, using procedural and contractual and legal maneuvers… OR protect the vast majority of your members who are good cops from the deterioration that those bad apples bring to their working lives. You cannot do both.”

Yes, some of those procedural protections had reasons. If a chief or mayor can fire police officers at-will, that power will often be misused politically, or for graft, or blame-deflection. Moreover let’s be clear that eliminating such protections for civil servants, in general, is the top priority – often stated openly – of the Republican Party, bringing back the spoils system and ending the autonomy that has made the 4th branch of government the biggest obstacle to oligarch feudalism.

So, while we aim to bring the cop unions around, turning them into forces for good, that does not mean elimination of procedural safeguards!

Is there a way to get a win-win? There is… and this method can apply to Teachers Unions, too!  Here’s how.

== Simple, direct and practical ==

Set up FIVE STAKEHOLDERS. City officials, senior cop management, neighborhood citizen oversight commissions… and an annual confidential poll of all officers in the precinct.  All are asked to “name cops you know are rotten, or loose cannons, or threats to public safety or professionalism, or who just scare you.”

The fifth input is automatic… from complaints filed against officers.

Now the rule is simple. If an officer is in the bottom 5% according to ALL FIVE stakeholder groups, ejection for cause is automatic. No appeal. No buyout. No nothing. Get lost.

If it’s four out of five, an appeal is allowed, but the presumption favors firing and the appealing cop bears burden of proof it should be otherwise,

If it’s three out of five stakeholders who denounce him, all of today’s processes play out before an impartial board, with firing entirely up to the board. But even if the officer is retained, she or he is publicly named and warned and given retraining.

If the officer is denounced by just two out of five stakeholders, or just one, the board inquires confidentially into causes and determines if a full hearing is called for, and remedial training is needed, but presumption is made in the officer’s favor the first or second time.

This approach allows the union to stand up for members against capricious bias or political interference, or else a public smear campaign. But if the public in a precinct and the cop’s secretly-polled peers AND a citizen oversight panel all agree, shouldn’t the bad apple get to speak… but then (default) go away?

(Note that this entire process is a matter personnel management and not for dealing with specific complaints of particular crimes or wrongdoing, which are handled separately, though they can initiate this process. Here we are talking about simply saying: "Whether or not your misdeeds are proved: we don't want to work with you anymore!")

The same should hold for teachers. We recall one awful fellow who all the parents and students and fellow teachers hated, who was protected by tenure. With those three stakeholders, plus administration and outcome test scores in play, shouldn’t the same sort of arrangement give us a win-win? A way to protect teachers from any one kind of bias campaign or unfair railroading… but also to eliminate the worst, when diverse and competing stakeholders agree?

It’s called NON-ZERO SUM thinking and one of our goals, after winning this year’s life-or-death fight for civilization, should be to reinstate it as something that we normally try to do. You’ll find lots of other examples in POLEMICAL JUDO.

Of course for now, all of the above is just blather. Sure, it would work and all that, finding a win-win overlap of interests. But with black folks being outright murdered before our very eyes, the time for subtle solutions lies ahead of us by months, not days.

For now, we march. We shout. We must.

== A simpler alternative ==

Discussed on NPR - a much more basic solution using market forces to eliminate bad cops …requiring them to individually have (along with their respective police forces) liability insurance, as we require doctors, lawyers, barbers, and hairdressers to do. Sure, the department subsidizes premiums on a matching basis. Still, cops with bad records will be viewed, properly, as bad risks who raise everyone else’s premiums.

Yes I talk about insurance as the libertarian alternative - never mentioned by libertarians - all the time. Including in POLEMICAL JUDO.

== Did I say it’s about light? ==
Will you forgive me if I say that much of this ‘cop problem’ ought to go away organically? And for a reason I discussed in The Transparent Society (see especially page 160!) 

The reason is simple, but you may have to pause and step back a minute.

It's long been proved that criminals are not deterred so much by envisioning punishment, as they are by the relative certainty of getting caught.  It matters far less what penalty awaits than knowing “I’ll be seen and identified, so I better not do it.”

And yes, we are seeing it today, on our streets, as the prevalence of phone-cameras has made it harder to conceal misdeeds performed out of doors. Even back in the 1960s, Martin Luther King credited the presence of primitive newsreel and TV cameras with saving his life, multiple times, and verifying the testimony of civil rights workers before the eyes of an appalled public. As Will Smith recently said: “It’s not that things are as bad as the 1860s, they aren’t. It’s not that things are as bad as the 1960s, they aren’t. It’s that they are filmed.”

What I find strange is that no one seems willing to put all this together and extrapolate what happens when citizens become ever-more omniscient, with their pan spectral Augmented Reality goggles supplemented by tiny drones you can order to peek down that dark alley over there. Do you honestly think one top outcome won’t be less violent crime? 

And if there’s a lot less crime, then won’t there be fewer police, allowing us to hyper-professionalize those who remain?

Oh, once, just for once will you curb the cynical reflex and not just leap to assume the worst Orwellian outcomes? Actually work with me, here.

 Let’s suppose citizens calmly do as recommended in The Transparent Society and elsewhere, aiming light of sousveillance at all elites, preventing Big Brother.

Further let's all strive to ensure that we evade the trap of “social credit” homogenization that is being erected in some countries right now, as a means of conformity enforcement and social control. I go on elsewhere about how we can achieve that.

But no, for now let's stick to the street crime that the Thin Blue Line is set up to protect us from. Now squint and consider a future in which you are safe on any street at night, not because every streetcorner has a cop, but because your own augmented senses guarantee it. Most crime is deterred by us, not by armed agents of the state. 

Is that the ultimate overlap of liberal and libertarian goals? That the thin blue line grows thinner as the need diminishes?

And don’t you think the good cops of today – the best ones who remain – would rather practice their calling like doctors, both skilled and relatively rare?

Yes, we have battles in the here and now. I am as hip deep in those as any of you! 

But we are supposed to be the ones who also lift our gaze farther ahead. And the very trends that make us vexed today may also be the ones offering a path to sunlight.

Friday, July 03, 2020

More spaaaace news!

I'm about to zoom-attend the summer orientation meeting of NASA's Innovative and Advanced Concepts program (NIAC), for which I serve on the External Advisory Council. It's fun asking questions of some of the most innovative investigators of space technology concepts that are just this side of plausible. Naturally, it's disappointing not to bend their elbows in person. But take pride that we are still (for now) a proudly scientific and exploring civilization.

Now for some cool space stuff to remind us of that fact...

 One of the very best podcasts around is Science & Futurism with Isaac Arthur - a series of wonderfully detailed and cogent explorations about super-science possibilities that dissects almost every aspect you can list regarding interstellar travel, alien motivations, star drives, terraforming or the Fermi Paradox. This one - on “black holes as weapons” - naturally refers to my own novel Earth (which he flatteringly calls his Book of the Month about 27 minutes in). But I highly recommend the entire series.

A video shows that the speed of light – blazing fast to us on Earth – kinda crawls in sci fi terms, taking 3 grinding minutes to reach Mars at its closest. And that’s “the fastest speed there is.”

Things are turning doubtful for Planet NineWhich means the next planet out from us may be Proxima Centauri b, so well appraised by the new Chilean ESPRESSO radial velocity scope that researchers  found that Proxima b is 1.17 times the mass of Earth. It orbits its star in just 11.2 days. Similar amounts of sunlight, engendering ‘goldilock’ thoughts… though small red stars are flare stars, so Proxima b receives about 400 times the amount of harsh flare radiation as Earth receives from its Sun. Life would be... different.

The Devonian extinction 359 million years ago seems likely to have happened from a stripping of the protective ozone layer. 

Was ‘Oumuamua the Interstellar weird-visitor an elongated chunk of hydrogen ice? It’s claimed that could explain many of its unusual properties.

The UAE hopes to build the Mars Scientific City, as part of the Emirates Mars Mission to establish a human colony on the Red Planet by the year 2117. The city will sprawl across 177,000 square metres (1.9 million square feet), an area about twice the size of Alcatraz Island. Funny how there’s no mention of lessons learned from Biosphere 2.
The space station is getting a brand spanking new toilet that will recover and recycle water from feces. “Our future goals are to stabilize and dry the metabolic waste to make it microbially inactive and possibly reuse that water, reduce the amount of consumables for the potty.” Ah, technical terminology.
Joel Sercel’s TransAstra Corp. Aims to leverage some modest NIAC grants to mine water – and thus propellant – from both asteroids and deposits in sunless craters at the lunar poles. Their tall tower innovation -- Sun Flowers  -- will make affordable solar power feasible in dark icy places near the Moon's poles while doomed Beatle rovers powered by the Sun Flowers will use microwaves to vaporize and then capture frozen water ice near the poles so that it can be converted to high performance rocket propellant.
Stunning images of Jupiter in infrared, compiled from Earth and the Juno Spacecraft.
A tiny Chinese satellite in lunar orbit captured incredible images of a total solar eclipse over South America last year. How cool that an image from near the limb of the moon spots the moon’s own shadow eclipsing daytime on the Earth.
==Beyond our solar system ==

New Horizons has traveled so far that it now has a unique view of the nearest stars. "It's fair to say that New Horizons is looking at an alien sky, unlike what we see from Earth," said Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator "And that has allowed us to do something that had never been accomplished before — to see the nearest stars visibly displaced on the sky from the positions we see them on Earth." The Voyagers couldn’t do such fine parallax so this is a milestone.

Sara Seager and her colleagues now study examining how E. coli bacteria and yeast - prokaryotes and eukaryotes - would react to a hydrogen atmosphere.  Both reproduced normally, but at lower and slower rates than in oxygenated air. Simply amazing and lends credence to the notion of “hydrogen civilizations” based on worlds like Jupiter. “Sentient hydrogen breathers have even made appearances in some rationally-based science fiction, such as the Uplift novels of David Brin.” Thanks, though the possibility also appeared in works by Poul Anderson’s, Greg Bear and Clifford Simak.

Of course then there’s the pressures… and providing water and energy…

In Existence I pose a future when humanity sends out probes beyond 550 astronomical units to peer back, past the rim of the sun and use the solar gravitational lens to explore a dangerous cosmos. Astronomers already use g-lens lineups to gain valuable samples from very distant times and locales. Now comes a model suggesting that the rims of black holes might refract bits of light from *every* direction right at us on Earth. Meaning some singularities out there may be telling stories about… everywhere, all the time. Oh, the instruments to gather that light and then separate/deconvolute those samples into anything useful aren’t available. In fact, they will be almost godlike, compared to our own current methods. But so? We’ve made such leaps before. More pertinently, have others, already?

Even more pertinently, how do we save and boost a civilization that’s confident, good-enough and capable of rising to such challenges?

Yeah, solar g-spot missions are suddenly all the rage at NIAC! 
One of you wrote in: “Golly! Where was I reading about this a few years ago?  ;^)”  Golly, indeed.

In my novel Existence, there’s a point when millions of tiny probes are sent forth to discover the state of the cosmos in unique ways. One possible discovery? If the gravitational disturbances caused by purported “Planet 9” – which has never been observed – are caused by a midget black hole. Such a swarm of micro probes may be the only way to find out.

And if these were common… reviving the MACHO theory for dark matter… then we’d also get a pretty good explanation for the failure to detect any interstellar travel.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Some weapons work in this civil war... oh and the statues thing... and more

From perspectives across evolution and deep time, we must now veer back our current crises dividing America and the world....

== Start with our Covid-transformed politics... ==

First see the 15 times Trump publicly praised China's handling of the coronavirus. Was he lying then or is he lying now? Note that the only action that Trump points to having taken in March (there are none - zero - in January or February) is the travel ban from China, which his officials swiss-cheesed with 40,000 holes and exceptions.

Talk about a first class RTNIT (Rub Their Noses In This). And if your MAGA cries "Fake news!" repeatedly demand cash wagers to be settled before a respected neutral... some retired military officer will do nicely. See MAGA run.

But the President's Intelligence Briefing is the great big RTNIT of the week -- how often Trump was urgently warned and ignored every opportunity to get us ready. Read the article, especially how cabinet officials get an adjusted version of the PIB, so there's a paper trail to prove every bit of this.

Meanwhile, here is Joe Biden in a USAToday op-ed way back on January 27th: "The outbreak of a new coronavirus, which has already infected more than 2,700 people and killed over 80 in China, will get worse before it gets better. Cases have been confirmed in a dozen countries, with at least five in the United States. There will likely be more."

And yes, analyses show that Fox/Limbaugh watchers have swarmed in misinformation, much of it dangerous, even life-threatening. And why does no one at all confront Hannity & co with wager demands? I tell you, it works.

Don't you dare let your RASRs swallow the line of Justin Amash - till recently running for the Libertarian Party nomination - asserting that "both parties are the same and Biden is as bad as Trump." That is the stalking horse of a factotum who's been assigned the job of distracting fed-up, decent Republicans and Libertarians, to keep them from defecting all the way to the Union side of this desperate phase of our 240 year civil war.  

== They have no answer for this one ==

Every few years I come back to disprove the most persistent and insane of all political myths... that Republicans are somehow more fiscally responsible than democrats. It is not only false, but totally 100% diametrically opposite to true, ever, at any level. 

Sure I speak of the "Second Derivative of Debt." Is that arcane? Then think of the brakes and accelerator of your car. And actually think about this slide I offered just three months ago (based on the blue chart of 2016).

Then look at the new version I made today. Cram this in the face of any MAGA or RASR who claims "well Trump is insane, but Democrats will spend us into poverty!"

Better yet, make a cash bet of that hoary cliché! It... is... an... easily... disproved... lie.

== The statues thing ==
Okay this renaming thing has proceeded to demands that NASA rename its John Stennis Center. Wow. Won’t happen right away, but with Mississippi changing its flag, we sure are moving along.
But while you're at it, there's an aircraft carrier - a top US capital ship - also named for Stennis. Also the Carl Vinson. Both of them segregationists. The excuse? "Named after Democrats!" in order to offer “balance" while Republican Congresses rushed to label carriers Reagan, Bush and… Ford? Seriously? While giving LBJ - MLK’s ally who got us the Civil Rights Acts - a destroyer and Carter a sub, in order to ensure neither will ever get carriers. See where I work it out, here.
Alas, while I agree with much of this renaming trend (Bragg and Hood weren't just slavers but BAD generals!) and relish the toppling of confederate monuments to treason, I must point out that symbolism-obsession used to be a largely GOP phenomenon. It is important to a degree, after which it becomes symptomatic and counter productive. Take the toppling of a statue to... um... US Grant who did as much as any human to ensure all slaves would be freed?
Likewise the Emancipation Monument in DC. Frederick Douglass attended the opening of this memorial to Lincoln freeing the slaves. It is an even better example than the Teddy Roosevelt statue of something that was woke in its time and hated then only by racists, that appears horrific(!) to our modern eyes! The TR statue can be saved by separating the Native American and African figures - noble looking in their own right - to their own new settings commissioned from modern artists, and let the 90% decent TR stand alone.
But this Emancipation Monument, paid for by freedmen and approved by every black leader of the time? Okay, times change. Keep Lincoln, he deserves it. But take the kneeling slave to the African American Experience Museum as a cautionary tale! Commission a new version of the same fellah standing on his own! (Symbolism experts, many of them black scholars, say that is exactly what the liberated slave is doing, in the current version. But it's still cringeworthy and demeaning to our eyes.)
 In its place next to Lincoln, put up a statue to Frederick Douglass! Lincoln's equal in all ways except power and in fact the conscience who nagged and irked and pricked and drove Lincoln to finally keep his promises.
 The crux -- there is one criterion that pierces all of these arguments. Did you try hard to be better than your times? To move the arc of justice forward, despite your own blind spots and personal flaws? Each case raises interesting perspectives! Douglass himself said Lincoln's effective good deeds vastly outweighed his sin of waffling. Jefferson and Washington were guilt ridden over their own hypocricies and they did set us on the path --grinding and too-ponderous -- away from 6000 years of feudal oppression. Can you say as much?
 On the other hand, Andrew Jackson was a bastard through and through, though his cynical populism did spread the vote to poorer men. He'll be off the $20 in two years and good riddance! As for Woodrow Wilson, he did great good for democracy, self-determination and fought to create a fair international order -- and was a neo-confederate bigot who winked at the Klan. Even if a future generation rehabilitates him for the good stuff, it is our time now! This generation has a right to its priorities! And so let's rub him out of sight, for the bad stuff.
 Only now pause. Look around at things you take for granted. Use your SFnal powers to look back at them from the year 2200. 
My nomination for something we take for granted today, that those future folks - our descendants - will abhor? Something you routinely do that is - in essence - truly a terrible thing?
 I have a candidate for that evil thing you and I do, that our better descendants won't.

== And finally... for you splitters, out there... ==
I've offered many reasons to quash "splitters" trying to break up our coalition to save the Great Experiment. Their prissy invectives against "DNC types" are refuted overwhelmingly in FIVE rebuttals that refute every splitter rationalization. But like numbskulls of the right, they don't read. So let's simplify. If Dems win overwhelmingly, DC becomes a state. And if you don't help make that happen, then you are proved to prefer pompous posing (or helping Putin) over helping achieve citizen justice. Yes it's that simple.
So get off your butt, cut the pretentiousness and help register folks. Fight! Then complain about Biden and Pelosi in 2022, after the nation has been saved.
And heck yeah, it's part of Polemical Judo.  And if you really want better generalship in this political phase of Civil War, then get folks in high places to read that book, filled with 100+ original and effective tactics that no pundit or politician seems yet to have come up with. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Perspectives on the more distant human past

“A century ago, on July 26, 1916, a viral disease swept through New York. Within 24 hours, new cases of polio increased by more than 68%. The outbreak killed more than 2,000 people in New York City alone. Across the United States, polio took the lives of about 6,000 people in 1916, leaving thousands more paralyzed. Although scientists had already identified the polio virus, it took 50 more years to develop a vaccine. That vaccine eradicated polio in the U.S. in less than a decade. Vaccines are one of the most effective modern disease-fighting tools.

“As of this writing, the fast-spreading COVID-19 has already infected over a million worldwide, and has killed over 22,000 patients. There is an urgent need for a vaccine to prevent it from infecting and killing millions more. But traditional vaccine development takes, on average, 16 years. So how can scientists quickly develop a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2?” (From a primer on vaccines reprinted on Philstockworld. Dated last month.)

Let me add that in the 1950s the most popular living American… replacing the record holder Franklin Roosevelt, was Jonas Salk. The Greatest Generation adored him... a scientist who ‘saved childhood...” and science in general, and not a reality TV star.

Even if Covid-19 proves not to be a slippery devil, like HIV or a rapid-changeling like the flu, there are other reasons to go through the full scope of human pre-testing with a few tens of thousands, before rushing out a vaccine. Earlier I described Antibody-Enhancement by which some vaccines - like that for Dengue Fever - have proved devastatingly harmful, if not properly deployed.

== Speculations on human origins ==

Amazing. Apparently early modern human ancestors seem to have dispersed into the Levant and even Greece about 170,000 years ago… an early dispersal that “failed” as those early human populations then vanished, replaced by Neanderthals (who stretched from Europe to mid-Asia for 400,000 years.)  

That knocked humans back into only Africa…

...from which later versions of Homo sapiens burst forth about 70,000 years ago, spreading first due east and south into Australasia, where they were better adapted to the heat...

... then finally north into Europe for the famed late encounter with Neanderthals - about 45,000 years ago - when fortunes were decisively reversed. And roughly simultaneously with the end of Neanderthals (except some genes till in us) came humanity’s rendezvous with the first great Reprogramming Renaissance, as I describe in Existence.

It may be that humans were simply no match for the stronger Neanderthals, who kept us limited to the African homeland unti... perhaps a mutation enabled us to reprogram. At least that's the speculative theory that seems pretty obvious to me.

Something else amazing from the CARTA conference. While non-Africans tend to have from 2-3% Neanderthal DNA, each of us has a slightly different Neanderthal introgression. And in surveying a variety of these segments from many individuals, experts guesstimate that about 40% of a general Neanderthal genome is circulating in modern humans. Say what???? Given that much of the rest has been interpolated from fossil DNA, it seems we are getting ever closer to the sci fi (but inevitable) situation also depicted in Existence, where Neanderthals are resurrected and walk among us again.

The same can only be done at a 10% level for Denisovans, almost all of it coming from Melanesian populations.

And while we're talking possible brain mutations that led to us... Meanwhile, though few news articles refer to Uplift: “Scientists have grown larger monkey brains by giving marmoset fetuses a gene that's unique to humans.”

== Ha ha. We're all inter-breeders ==

As I've linked elsewhere, it now seems that Africans aren't purely human either. We see gene relics of a 'ghost population' of outsiders - a third kind - in many African populations.

Indeed. Around 700,000 years ago, multiple hominin species apparently shared the Old World: “It is now looking like Africa and Eurasia were inhabited by a whole range of hominin species just a few hundred thousand years ago. While H. naledi was living in South Africa, H. heidelbergensis was surviving in South-Central Africa, and H. sapiens was emerging in Morocco and Ethiopia. At the same time as all this, H. neanderthalensis was evolving in Europe, the Denisovans were developing in Asia, H. erectus may still have been clinging on in Indonesia, and two diminutive hominins, H. floresiensis and H. luzonensis, were living the island life in Southeast Asia.” And a bit earlier: “H. antecessor could be a kind of “basal” species to the “emerging humanity formed by Neanderthals, Denisovans, and modern humans.”

== And more surprises ==

A scientist  found that Himba – a Nambian tribal group - have the highest recorded rate of what researchers call "extra-pair paternity." The term refers to an instance in which a child is born to a married couple, but the husband is not the biological father. The rate of extra-pair paternity found among Himba is 48%, far exceeding the 1% to 10% range previously thought to be typical for humans. Having children with non-marital partners was widespread among this group. A high percentage of couples (70%) had at least one child who was fathered by someone outside the marriage. Socially this did not seem to affect paternal care or Himba relaxed sexual attitudes.

Neuroscientists scanned the brains of lifelong bullies and found something grim: Bullies’ brains appear to be physically smaller than other brains. “Our findings support the idea that, for the small proportion of individuals with life-course-persistent antisocial behaviour, there may be differences in their brain structure that make it difficult for them to develop social skills that prevent them from engaging in antisocial behavior.”

== Fascinating… and Uplift-related ==

A non-scientifically rigorous experiment, but visually persuasive, shows a dog having learned to press twenty different buttons with a variety of meanings that do seem to situationally correlate. Our current pet is the smartest dog I ever had, making me wonder about those “neo-dogs” I wrote about, long ago.
Interesting look into “dendrochronology” or the use of tree rings to establish a clear timetable of events across the last 6000 years. In this case possibly establishing the exact year of the Thera explosion (that pummeled the Minoan civilization and possibly led to the Bronze Age collapse) at 1560 BCE. 

== And some more science news of interest.... ==

NASA animation
Kinda kool video by NASA draining the oceans… showing the shallows and then middle depths and the great abyssals. Truly impressive things stand out. Like how shallow most of the Arctic is, and what sheer drops surround Africa on all sides and line the west side of the Americas. And how the deepest trenches go on and on, ever downward. (Abyssals of the kind I portray in INFINITY'S SHORE.)

The hydrogen production industry is growing at an accelerated rate. Just last year saw a 40 percent increase in shipments, raising total energy production to 1.1GW. Particularly given lithium-ion battery limitations, alternatives in the storage realm will grow increasingly vital for our renewable energy future.  Now comes “a method for synthesizing hydrogen from sunlight. The process uses a rhodium molecule as a catalyst to store electrons and create hydrogen.” This plus new cheap kinds of hydrogen fuel tanks starts to make a dream seem more likely.  (Via Abundance Insider)

== And finally... ==

One of the best (among many) of my recent podcasts: The Big "UNLOCK" What Next? examined 9 topics with 9 panels over 9 hours by 40+ futurists, thought leaders and industry experts to examine how best to reopen global economies and venture back into our communities purposefully and safely.  

Saturday, June 20, 2020

A nasty little boy.

While tuning in to see the preening and posturing and howling in Tulsa, ask yourself: "What am I actually looking at?

Tom Nichols - author of The Death of Expertise (what I call the War on all Fact-Professions) - now zeroes in on the achilles heel of the entire Foxite cult: “Why do working-class white men—the most reliable component of Donald Trump’s base—support someone who is, by their own standards, the least masculine man ever to hold the modern presidency?”  … 

Nichols: “The question is not whether Trump fails to meet some archaic ideal of masculinity - say Marcus Aurelius or Omar Bradley. Rather, working-class white male voters don’t hold Trump to their own standards of masculinity - supporting a man who behaves more like a little boy.”

This article is devastatingly on-target, recalling the working class men Nichols grew up with, among whom “courage, honesty, respect, an economy of words, a bit of modesty, and a willingness to take responsibility are all virtues prized by… the stand-up guys, among whom I was raised. Yet, many of these same men expect none of those characteristics from Trump, who is a vain, cowardly, lying, vulgar, jabbering blowhard. …He wears bronzer, loves gold and gossip, is obsessed with his physical appearance, whines constantly, can't control his emotions, watches daytime television, enjoys parades and interior decorating, and used to sell perfume.”

“Put another way, as a question I have asked many of the men I know: Is Trump a man your father and grandfather would have respected?” 

(Nichols leaves out a manly trait that may be slightly less noble, but I call just as fundamental - a willingness to back up bold assertions with wager stakes - or at least to let factual refutation have consequences. Indeed, a desperate fear of specific refutation - e.g. via wagers - spans the entire Foxite cult.)

Nichols reaches a conclusion similar to mine. “Trump’s lack of masculinity is about maturity. He is not manly because he is not a man. He is a boy.” 

Nichols asserts that MAGAs are indulgent with him, as “working-class America’s dysfunctional son, and his supporters, male and female alike, have become the worried parent explaining what a good boy he is to terrorized teachers even while he continues to set fires in the hallway right outside.”

Do read the Nichols piece! Every paragraph is a knife into the gut of this madness and you should read enough times to memorize and use these weapons. Use them.

Mind you, it’s time to compare this to the other most-cogent diagnosis, offered by linguistic sociologist George Lakoff (author of Don't Think of An Elephant!), who gave us an underlying difference between how conservatives and liberals view government and leaders, in general. Liberals are said to seek a “nurturing parent” who will soothe the sick, uplift the oppressed and open doors of opportunity with encouragement. Conservatives seek a “Strong Father” who applies the back of his hand to enforce order, discipline and tradition. 

History shows the latter taking power nearly all the time, especially when there's an ambient level of fear... which was most of human history. Significantly, it explains why Strong Father worshippers don’t expect kindness, rationality, equality or even justice. They do admire blustering displays of macho.

At first Nichols and Lakoff seem opposite theories — whiney-vulnerable boy vs. Strong Father — in explaining the same displays of rude-crude-viciously self-centered rage. So let me offer a third metaphor that bridges them both, showing that both Lakoff and Nichols had it mostly right, just barely missing a core point.

By now you’ve all noticed it is futile to argue normally with members of the Foxite cult. MAGAs expect you to try facts and appeals to reason and logic and fairness… and every time you do that, you are feeding their contempt. You are supporting the real reason they like Trump.

In the face of every blaring sign that he is the very opposite of Lincoln or Jesus, they adore him because he enrages the people they hate most. Meaning you and me. And the war he wages - supported by Putin’s KGB, Saudi royals, Rupert Murdoch and inheritance brats - against every fact-using profession - is their lifelong campaign against nerds.

The overlap between Nichols and Lakoff is this. Donald Trump is a playground bully. The way his most-fervent supporters were, back in Junior High.  

Moreover, that points to the cure! We must do the one thing that worked back then. That thing should be obvious to many of you once-bullied nerds, and the rest of you can figure it out.

Just watch how they’ll turn on him, the very month that we stop farting around and decide to actually do that one thing. Showing how bullies lose.

== The Russians are coming... ==

Russian oligarchs have been ramping up their already generous donations to Republicans. “An example is Len Blavatnik, a dual U.S.-U.K. citizen now living in Russia again. With $20 billions he’s one of the largest donors to GOP political action committees in the 2015-16 election cycle… pumping $6.35 million into GOP political action committees, with millions of dollars going to top Republican leaders including Sens. Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham.”

Two weeks after the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a joint statement in October 2016 that the Russian government had directed the effort to interfere in our electoral process, McConnell's PAC accepted a $1 million donation from Blavatnik's AI-Altep Holdings. The PAC took another $1 million from Blavatnik's AI-Altep Holdings on March 30, 2017, just 10 days after former FBI Director James Comey publicly testified before the House Intelligence Committee about Russia's interference in the election.”

The Cold War never ended. Putin simply dropped all the Marxist surface rhetoric and communist symbols that had failed to sucker in the U.S. Rooseveltean left. Whereupon he spun on a dime, switching surface incantations to Czarist-orthodox ‘traditionalism’ and mafia oligarchy… and voila! The American right fell all over themselves to prostrate at Vlad’s feet.

Honestly, I cannot believe this is just about money or class or other whoredoms. Too many in the GOP and periphery have committed too many outright treasons for the explanation to be anything other than … blackmail. It’s the favorite KGB tactic, going back to its predecessor, the czarist Okrahna, and continuing into the neo-czarist FSB and IRA. And it’s easily envisioned when you consider what high fraction of high Republicans have been exposed as grotesque sexual predators and child molesters.

There’s a lot more to be found in another best-seller about a mobbed-up Russian asset linked to a kleptocracy and all of these dark and horrifying people–Trump and Mogilevich and Epstein and Kushner. The whole gang is in Hiding in Plain Sightby Sarah Kendzior .  Here’s an audio interview (and transcript) in which she lays out how blatant are the Russian mob connections, not just with Trump but today’s entire GOP.

And yes, the foxite media claim to have similar mountains of evidence against the Clintons, Obama and Biden and many Democrats. There is only one difference between the two evidence piles.  

Almost every datum about Republican/Trumpist links to Putin and mobs and turpitude is true and overwhelmingly verifiable. After 25 years of “Clinton investigations” costing taxpayers half a billion dollars, we’ve learned that almost nothing on that pile is true, not even remotely. 

Sure that’s easy to claim! And so, we return to the one tactic that works… and it always works!  Demanding cash wagers over explicitly testable or falsifiable assertions. 

They always writhe and wriggle and squirm and divert! And when you push past all the smoke and demand they put-up and back their hot air with real, manly stakes?  They always… always… flee.

See how to do it in Polemical Judo.

== And finally more ammo ==

Trump golf visits and the $130 million they cost us, vs Obama’s golfings were mostly at Camp David or in DC, costing 1% as much. See Trump Golf Count. And yes, amid a pandemic. 

Evangelical reverend admits he paid 'Jane Roe' (the original ‘Roe v.Wade plaintiff) $450,000 - including handfuls of $100 bills - because she was a 'symbol anti-abortion movement could not afford to lose'. 

Okay, I am going to tune in to the rally, where Trump's desperate preening addiction flies against Putin's and Murdoch's desperately devious pragmatism. If things go very covid-badly, they may decide to find an exit strategy well before an election wrecks their tool against us, the Republican Party. And God bless the United States Secret Service.