Saturday, December 14, 2019

Will masks save us?

I'm not gloating, just sad. It turns out the one thing that might save us from the monsters in this looming night... is light. Did I tell you so, 22 years ago? No, make that 29 years ago

Ponder any aspect of the Putin-centered, Fox-propelled, Saudi/Mercer/Koch-financed Trump fiasco, and ask yourself: "What if every single secret were exposed?" Yes, including every secret of every Democrat or pundit or "deep stater." Fair exchange. Why am I confident which cabal would dissolve, like vampires under the sun? 

Because one of them openly raves against every possible type of revelation*, forbidding officials to speak, enforcing NDAs, railing against investigations, begging John Roberts to safeguard all their secrets. Oh, he will. But that won't be the end of it. Oh, no.**

== The dismal reflex ==

To be fair, it's not just the vampire right who declares hatred of light. Or suspicion of it. Some of the very best folks - those who honestly feel they are fighting for the enlightenment - fall prey to the lure of shadows. Take this example:

Can protesters hide behind masks? Recently - protestors wearing head-mounted cameras scanned 13,000 faces in D.C., as part of a protest organized by Fight for The Future. These privacy activists are vigorous and rightly concerned about misuse of surveillance tech. Right problem! They demand absolutely and spectacularly the wrong solution! One that is not only technologically and historically clueless, but that plays right into the hands of every would-be Big Brother.

I debated this very topic on NPR's "To The Point" with Warren Olney. An ACLU attorney - Kade Crawford - was smart, cogent, agile... and she again utterly missed what history tells us -- that it's no use 'hiding' from elites, and that technology does... not... stop still, no matter how hard you denounce it, or even if you pass laws. 

What works -- the only thing that has ever protected freedom and, yes, some privacy -- is when average citizens can maximally see, and thus hold elites accountable.

Why do you think Putin and Trump and Fox desperately seek to preserve secrecy? The sole fallback position of the GOP today always distills to "Don't Look At Us!" Tax returns, staffer testimony, Trump's bragged-about "Great Wall of NDAs"... enemies of the enlightenment are terrified of light! We mustn’t be the ones giving them excuses to blind us, while retaining in secret all the powers we foolishly “outlawed.” Listen to the stimulating debate on NPR.

Ironically, those Capitol steps protesters were doing the right thing. Looking. And teaching others how to look. And rightfully-rapidly criticizing today's perhaps-racially-biased facial recognition systems so that tomorrow's will be better. It's where you see open, knowing criticism that things are working. I worry about where the light isn't shining. 

== More smartpeople foolishness ==

But it goes on, the incredible foolishness of well-intended folks:

This article from The New York Times about "the Privacy Project" shines light on important topics. Alas, like nearly all paladins of privacy, the author yet again dances around the key point, never zeroing in on the blatant lesson. Take the following, excised from her piece: "Sahil Chinoy, a graphics editor for the Opinion Section, built a facial recognition system for less than $100. There are many ways this technology can be abused. San Francisco has banned the use of facial recognition technology by its police and other agencies, but other cities, including New York, haven’t taken any steps to impede its use."

Can it be that a knowledgable person of above average intelligence actually wrote that paragraph, without contemplating the ironic contradiction and conclusion? That banning face-recognition systems -- or almost any type of surveillance-type technology -- is not only futile and hopeless, but actually distracts from the real problem? And the real solution. Seriously. What can be replicated now for $100 will cost pennies, tomorrow.

I have been engaged in this issue for 25 years, having won the Freedom of speech Award for The Transparent Society: Will Technology Make Us Choose Between Privacy and Freedom? I've been involved in so many Privacy Conferences and I hope the Privacy Project will help spread growing Awareness of the problems we face, especially as we see deployment of "social credit" systems and ubiquitous camera tech. Unfortunately, nearly all these conferences wind up being festivals of hand-wringing, offering no plausible solutions.

There is a way out -- a way we can forge into the future without falling into surveillance hell by governments, corporations and other elites. But it will not come by banning "Orwell Tech." Or hiding from it, or screaming "don't look at me!"

It happens to be the same method we've used with growing effectiveness for 200 years, the method that's responsible for all our freedom. Alas, it seems that it's utterly counter-intuitive to contemporary pundits, who cannot conceive of any solution except prescribing darkness.

Want a better example of transparency/accountability in action? Law enforcement agencies in Dallas and Florida on Thursday became the latest to announce they are investigating allegations some of their employees made offensive comments on Facebook after a watchdog group compiled screenshots of the posts and shared them in an online database.”

This is how citizens can break omerto and corner the good cops into helping cull their ranks of the bad. Most are dedicated public servants. A large minority are former Jr. High bullies who crave the power to instill fear. The answer is simple. Hire and encourage and support the former... if they help rid the ranks of the latter.

 And if they do, then they can be trusted with the new technologies that are coming, anyway. That is, they can be trusted... if we get to watch.

== Worries about deadly drones ==

In “The Real Robot Threat,” Robert Zubrin (otherwise known as a zealous proponent of Mars colonization, asserts that autonomous weaponry — bereft of conscience or human sentiment — could become either police state enforcers or the ultimate doomsday weapons.  To be clear this is a step beyond today’s mere remote-controlled drones, whose operators have been shown to be just as morally cautious — if not more so — as the pilots of fighter-bomber aircraft. Zubrin frets that whole swarms of  robot killers might be dispatched by a single tyrannical decision-maker, and even that entity might not be human.

Of course we’ve all seen the movie. And there’s an interesting thing about such flicks… in a free society, they have often become self-preventing warnings.  In this case, it had better be. Zubrin cites a commission that recommended a worldwide moratorium on development of such tools, along with weapons that find, track, and engage specific individuals whom a human has decided should be engaged within a limited predetermined period of time and geographic region.

== Incantations for aristocracy... on the left ==

Lest it ever occur to you to imagine that dogmatic insanity is restricted to the mad-right, go every now and then to any university campus and attend a lecture on semiotics or post-modernist criticism. Here’s one that defends the power asymmetries that have always given elites control over information flows and thus power over nations, peoples and races… all couched in airy fairy claims to “liberate” us from neo-liberalism: Transparency as Ideology; Ideology as Transparency by Jorge I. Valdovinos

Abstract: Along with the increasing commodification of all aspects of culture and the persistent aestheticisation of everyday life under late capitalism, there is an equally increasing longing for objectivity, immediacy, and trust. As the mediation of our everyday experiences augments, a generalised feeling of mistrust in institutions reigns; the sense of a need to bypass them increases, and the call for more “transparency” intensifies. As transparency manages to bypass critical examination, the term becomes a source of tacit social consensus. This paper argues that the proliferation of contemporary discourses favouring transparency has become one of the fundamental vehicles for the legitimation of neoliberal hegemony, due to transparency's own conceptual structure—a formula with a particularly sharp capacity for translating structures of power into structures of feeling. While the ideology of transparency promises a movement towards the abolition of unequal flows of information at the basis of relations of power and exploitation, it simultaneously sustains a regime of hyper-visibility based on asymmetrical mechanisms of accountability for the sake of profit. The solution is not “more” transparency or “better” information, but to critically examine the emancipatory potential of transparency at the conceptual level, inspecting the architecture that supports its parasitic logic.”

This Orwellian gobbledygook is part of a general shriek of hatred aimed at all flat-open-fair systems of accountability that are rooted in the thing they hate most – the very concept of objective reality. Never forget that our enemy is zero-sum, incantatory justifiers of bullying power. And while today the worst examples work for a powerful "rightist" attempted Oligarchic Putsch, aiming to restore 6000 years of feudalism, there are would be savanarolas and Robspierres and Stalins among our (temporary) allies on the far-left, as well. 

== Transparency-pertinent news items ==

The 15 Biggest Ever Cases of Bank Fraud. Wow, a fascinating recounting of thefts and frauds, showing how much is being stolen by hackers and insiders… and this is probably not a complete list, by far! And the only long term solution is not “security.” It is transparency.

"Stephen Fry has narrated a new animated intro video for, discussing why we need (and may get) much better forums for argumentation and negotiation. The enemy of knowledge is not ignorance… Stephen Fry narrates.

Finally, futurist speaker David Orban offers a video on 21st Century Life Design Skills.



===footnotes ====

* Except for the malignant, spiteful, sadistic and opposite-to-Jesus "Book of Revelation," which the Dominionists worship instead of Jesus.

** When, not if, John Roberts succeeds in demolishing the credibility of the US Supreme Court, it will be up to all of us to stand up for Enlightenment Constitutionalism in our own ways. I offer 100+ suggestions in POLEMICAL JUDO.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

More steps toward an open world

Okay, in this midweek roundup let's take a break to veer toward an area of "expertise." At least somewhat pertaining to what's new in the world of transparency.... but first...

== A troubled world – and the superpower in decline ==

We have a president who is “in love” with one brutal communist dictator, “on very good terms” with another, and utterly obedient to a brutal dictator who claims to be an “ex” communist, though surrounded now by mafia-oligarchs who were all – every one – raised reciting Leninist catechisms.  And now…

North Korea has released pictures of a new submarine that it could potentially use to launch nuclear weapons. If that’s the case, the country may have gained a very dangerous, stealthy ability to threaten the US and its allies — all in defiance of President Donald Trump.

The fellow behind the hilariously revised Trumpian presidential seal sells merchandise! Bumper stickers etc.  

== The killings go on... ==

All over the world, after the recent New Zealand mass gunning of innocents, citizens and journalists and politicians have called for removing a common incentive for these crimes — the perpetrator’s satisfaction derived from infamy. Generally by not mentioning his name. For example, this editorial in the San Diego paper using black boxes of “redaction” against the NZ perp. Yes! Only… I’ve been trotting out the same proposal for how long? 25 years?

Moreover, I offer ways to do it well - in this posting: Deny Killers the Notoriety They Seek, as well as this older essay on Salon.

Alas, the same paper did not follow its own advice re: a later week's Poway shooter near San Diego.

== The most important man in America is determined to win infamy ==

Speaking of historical notoriety.... look up a fellow by name of Roger Taney, who goes down as one of the most despised and despicable names in American history. That clear judgment of posterity is not what Taney would have imagined, when he was named Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. But before he died – knowing that Lincoln was about to be re-elected by a landslide - he could see what ignominy and infamy would be his fate. 

How is Roger Taney pertinent today? We must spread word so that modern Americans know about a horrible man who ensured there would be no way out except violent convulsion. His name must percolate, till the present occupant of that same office hears it over and over again. 

What happened in phase 4 of the U.S. civil war will surely happen again, if our current phase 8 goes hot. Which it surely will, if the blatant cheats empowering the New Confederate Treason are left in place. The parallels are chilling, and they need be shown to John Roberts, who may be the one to decide if we can get past the current crisis through peaceful reform. That decision – and America’s destiny -- is largely in the hands of the man currently sitting in the same chair.

Passionate and mostly-right and well-delivered, this paean to liberal progressivism narrated by Alexandria Ocassio-Cortez is worth watching and sharing with young people to inspire them. Of course it also vastly oversimplifies and oozes with sanctimony, and would benefit a lot if she credited both science and earlier reformers, like those from whom she borrowed the “New Deal” slogan. But before you lay into me, have a look at my first sentence. My crits are aimed at making her more pragmatically successful.  We are allies. And she’s a firecracker.

== A bizarre version of my longstanding demand for “war” ==

Long ago, I posited that some honest and brave developing world president might get so fed up over the trillions stolen from such countries by corrupt elites, that he would use a sovereign power of generous potential — declaring war against Switzerland, the Caymans and every other place where robber elites stash their ill-gotten case. (In EARTH (1990) this was the root of the “Helvetian War.”) 

And why not? Thousands of innocent children die, each day, because of these titanically evil thefts.

Oh, it can be more a legalistic than violent “war,” but formal belligerence allows seizure of assets and some other very powerful tools. Originally, I imagined this being done by Aquino on behalf of the Philippines. What I never imagined is this satire of the same idea.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte wants Canada to come get tons of trash that was wrongly sent to his country — and he's threatening extreme steps if Canada doesn't clean up the situation. "We'll declare war against them," Duterte said.” Duterte is probably doing it for bluster. But maybe also to discredit the whole approach, in case some true leader elsewhere ever ponders… hmmm…

Some of my earlier thoughts on using "war" to end legal travesties:
     Middle Classes Rise Up.

And see the concept updated in a chapter of Polemical Judo.

== Philosophy (and history) and slippery rocks ==

See a fascinating essay revealing the admiration with which Karl Marx wrote of Abraham Lincoln. It reaches many of the same conclusions I did, about how Lincoln’s election could never have happened had northern citizens not been radicalized by depredations by bands of rampaging southern irregular cavalry, from 1852-1860. 

Marx insisted that secession had been prompted by the Southern elite’s political fears. They knew that power within the Union was shifting against them. The South was losing its tight grip on federal institutions because of the dynamism of the Northwest, a destination for many new immigrants. As the Northwest Territory matured into free states, the South found itself outnumbered; the North was loath to recognize any new slave states. The slaveholders had alienated Northerners by requiring them to arrest and return fugitive slaves and with relentless demand that northern cities suppress and shut down nearly all of their own newspapers. They knew they needed the wholehearted support of their fellow citizens if they were to defend their “peculiar institution,” yet could only think to run roughshod over them.

"Lincoln’s election was seen as a deadly threat because he owed Southerners nothing and had promised to oppose any expansion of slavery.”

Again, now a chapter in Polemical Judo.

== The biggest of many scams ==

An important exposé from The Atlantic: “The Stock-Buyback Swindle. American corporations are spending trillions of dollars to repurchase their own stock,enriching CEOs at the expense of everyone else.” 

This latest Supply Side “voodoo economics” scam was the worst one yet. They are always sales-pitched as ways to get the rich to invest in productive capacity ("supply") and R&D... and both always... always decline after each SS tax gift largesse to aristocracy. 

This latest one avoided any and all efforts to target the cuts toward capitalization or R&D, calling that "picking winners"... but it did specifically encourage stock buybacks (banned by the Greatest Generation), which profited the CEO caste and inflated asset bubbles at the cost of company health. 

The screaming smoking gun is the metric called “money velocity,” or how quickly dollars change hands. If MV is rapid, then each dollar is working hard and the economy hums for everyone, as when a construction worker gets paid, then buys a lawnmower, whose salesman pays a grocer, and…MV always goes up with infrastructure spending, which puts $ in the pockets of workers who immediately spend it. In contrast MV *shrinks* with every Supply Side sham. Every single time. Why? 

Because the rich generally don’t spend much. Nor do they (much) invest in R&D or building factories. Adam Smith saw all this (in simpler terms), denouncing the tendency of most (not all) aristocrats to 'invest' in passive ‘rent-seeking.’ Another blatant example today is the binge of multiple house-buying by well-off families, exacerbating the problems of first time home-buyers.

Stock buybacks especially do nothing for a company’s health but plenty for the stock price, which CEOs use to cash in their performance bonuses. Read on. You’ll realize why this whole scam was made illegal by the Greatest Generation… and why the oligarchy so wanted the Reagan-Bush era “reforms. 

Friday, December 06, 2019

Was The Postman ripped-off? Excellent Fan-Fic! And more news from the science fiction horizon!

I've been reticent to leap angrily, ever since a wave of messages told me to look into the impressive new Kojima/Sony hit Death Stranding — likely to be Game of the Year --  commenting on its “obvious connection” to one of my most beloved works. Many - perhaps a third - of all major reviewers have also remarked on a family — or clone — resemblance, at the most basic levels of character, story arc and meaning. Not wanting to seem greedy, resentful or unfair, I chose to exercise some reserve. I haven't posted on my main blog about it.

But finally, the surge of references to my post-apocalyptic novel "The Postman" just got too massive. So I posted on my site for occasional reflections, on Medium. (  Check out my history of not being litigious... plus enumerated reasons why - perhaps - I should make an exception this time.

Your thoughts are welcome.

== Fan-fic that’s worth something… even “canonical” ==

I finally got around to reading Stephen Collings’s fan-fic contribution to Isaac Asimov’s epic Foundation and Robots Universe -- Foundation's Resolve -- and I must say I was pleasantly surprised, all the more so reading further into the book, as SC’s authorial skills evidently improved. The plot is intricate and highly Asimovian-logical, offering up a Galaxy that’s riven by intrigue among many competing forces, most of them already present in Isaac’s cosmos, such as the ageless/powerful servant robot Daneel Olivaw and Hari Seldon’s beloved consort Dors Venabili. Central to the story is a 25,000  year collision of robot factions, between those who would ‘serve humanity’ by controlling Homo sapiens (for our own good) and others seeking to return mastery to the creator race.

Incorporated from Asimov’s final novels are the character Golan Trevize (“the Man Who Is Never Wrong”) and the macro-mind entity Gaia. Collings also strove — with much success — to continue forward the plot-propelling characters and development crafted by Gregory Benford, Greg Bear and myself, in the Second Foundation Trilogy. Especially significant — at least to me — was the  way he heeded the fundamental logic that we related, following Isaac’s own explicit cues, for why Gaia/Galaxia cannot be “the” human end state, but merely one of many options in a diversity we’ll desperately need.’

There’s been no sign that the Asimov Estate will want more entries in the series… (before her passing. Janet Asimov expressed great pleasure in my own capstone contribution, Foundation's Triumph, which sought to tie together so many loose ends, even from obscure titles like Pebble in the Sky and The Currents of Space.) But if they ever do, I have notes that should be helpful. Moreover, I would not mind at all if Mr. Collings’s meticulously faithful and logical Foundation's Resolve were deemed “canonical,” helping guide future creators in this magnificent, sprawling playground.

== Miscellaneous News ==

An excellent profile of my colleague Ken Liu, who has been foremost in translating and discovering and bringing western awareness to the wave of fantastic Chinese science fiction authors who a boldly taking the genre in new directions.

"Author and futurist David Brin talks with Jim Rutt about optimism, ritualized combat,The Transparent Society, and the search for life in the universe. Beginning with the case for optimism, Brin takes on "Star Wars" and talks up "Star Trek" before dropping back to Adam Smith and Karl Popper. Those thinkers provided the intellectual framework for an "intensely regulated" capitalism that brought tremendous wealth increases for the middle class. He's wary that it could all be lost if people cling to righteous, divisive politics. Winner of Hugo Award and Nebula Awards, an acclaimed futurist, Brin advocates for compromise, cooperation and transparency that allows people to assess the data, participate in the discussion, and in processes for sustaining order. If that doesn't work, there's always outer space! Brin and Rutt end the interview with a discussion of SETI and the search for life in the universe."

A fun little essay on great old PS2 (or dreamcast) games that ought to be rebooted for PS4! And one favorite? ECCO THE DOLPHIN: DEFENDER OF THE FUTURE. Whose storyline and narration I wrote. "The story is dramatically narrated at key points and is brilliant in its absurdity. The alteration of the past and its gradual recovery by Ecco’s deeds make for some interesting world-building. Later stages feature abandoned underwater buildings and machinery in polluted waters. This is in stark contrast to the first chapter’s levels, where underwater exploration is tranquil and bursting with colour." Right on. Ecco forever!

The Science of Rick and Morty: The Unofficial Guide to Earth's Stupidest Show, by Matt Brady, is all about the real science in the most popular animated show on the planet (viewership may be inflated for dramatic purposes) - from the multiverse to cloning, living in a simulation to uplifting animals, including Snuffles and the other dogs of earth C-137. The series may play fast and loose with some (or a lot) of science, but it also gets some really big concepts into viewers heads – and how the show-runners are having fun messin’ with you!

Would be writers! Remember to have a look at my extensive essay of advice for new colleagues. Also, to do the workshopping you need, to get skills, well, you could do it the way I did and recruit a bunch of area locals to meet two Saturdays a month and critique each other’s works… or take a creative writing class where at least you’ll learn from the confusion of your classmates… and recruit the best ones for your private workshop.

Or else be modern and use CrittersA large number of writers get the workshopping they need via Critters, which is one of the groups that gets organized via earn the right to be critiqued by critiquing others.

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Truth in advertising: Media and politics

Media has an outsized role in the coming election. ‘We Have A Big Responsibility': Facebook Rolls Out New Election Security MeasuresMeanwhile watch AOC ask Mark Zuckerberg if she can run fake Facebook ads, too. Zuckerberg’s answer on whether Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez can falsely claim Republicans voted for the Green New Deal: Probably.

Huh, I spoke at Facebook soon after the 2016 mess and offered FB executives simple, elegant ways to help solve the factuality problem without acting as an unpopular policeman of diverse opinions. They used none of my proposals, all of which would be far better than all of the things they are trying.

Make no mistake. Second only to toppling Pax Americana and wrecking our standing in the world, the top goal of the Putin-Murdoch-led world mafia is to destroy the impartial rule-of-law, enforced by independent civil servants... 

...the very same "deep state" that Trump and every other gopper rails against. They openly call for an end to civil service protections, so that these offices can yet again be filled by "spoils" -- by party hacks or those who are terrorized by party hacks. You need to know the history. This article helps proivide background.  

And sure, there's another argument, that civil servants can become a stodgy, cloying influence, hampering governmental agility, acting to protect their own institutions... see that problem revealed in the hilarious British comedy series "Yes, Minister." It's a legitimate complaint, when made by reasonable-sane-adult conservatives or libertarians (when such existed outside of Utah.)

Only note that it was Democrats who saw that the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) had become "captured" by oligarchs, as was the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB), both of them destroying competition in railroads and air travel... and Democrats demolished both cloying - obsolete agencies! They broke up AT&T. Al Gore both reduced bureaucratic paperwork by 20% and pushed the bill that unleashed the Internet, and Clinton unleashed GPS. 

The only industries 'freed from bureaucracy' by Republicans have been WallStreet/finance and resource extraction (oil/coal) Gee I wonder why those?

When we again resurrect the extinct species -- reasonable-sane-adult conservatives or libertarians -- they'll be welcome at the table, demanding least-bureaucratic approaches to 21st Century problem solving. But first we need to defeat mad-traitors who seek to destroy the civil services, intel and FBI and military officer corps, our science, fact-professionals and alliances.

== Volatile Politics ==

Market volatility has leaped immensely, reacting to Trump’s sudden blurts and trade wars, as often against allies as adversaries. According the economics analyst Bob Cesca, the top five biggest single-day point declines in the history of the Dow have occurred on Trump’s watch, and all have occurred since February, 2018. “Sure enough, someone — or a connected group of someones — has been making super-colossal trades just prior to Trump’s announcements about the trade war.”

My friend Joe Carroll suggests we go back to the font of most American wisdom - Mark Twain - and ask,,, “Have we been warped in much the same way that Twain portrays in his story: “The Man that Corrupted Hadleyburg”? It would not surprise me to learn that Putin read it, back when he was a devoted communist studying American weaknesses at the KGB Academy.

China’s very special agent from Macao, charged with helping to control the Republican Party and use it against us, is now applying pressure to make a trade deal favorable to Beijing.  

Elizabeth Warren appraises the problem of lobbyist power over Congress and legislation. While your average leftist may reflexively attribute this to the corruption and venality if legislators or “corporatist Democrats,” Warren — having worked alongside many of those maligned colleagues — knows it is much more complicated. “While a big part of the problem is a broken campaign finance system, members of Congress aren’t just dependent on corporate lobbyist propaganda because they’re bought and paid for. It’s also because of a successful, decades-long campaign to starve Congress of the resources and expertise needed to independently evaluate complex public policy questionsHow has Congress filled that gap? By turning to lobbyists.”

Zeroing in on a problem that has gown worse every year since Newt Gingrich destroyed the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, Warren explains: “Republicans eliminated an independent office of experts dedicated to advising Congress on technical and scientific information. Congressional staff salaries, for most roles, have failed to keep pace with inflation, making it harder to attract and retain staff with scientific expertise. And the committees focusing on science and technology have seen their staff levels fall by over 40% over the past few decades.”

Warren’s plan to end Washington corruption is worth your time and attention. It’s one reason why I am dedicated to having her be in one of the two top slots of the 2020 ticket… and I am leaning evermore toward that being #1… though in that case I hope she’ll appoint an experienced governor to be her #2. And maybe try some of the methods I prescribe in Polemical Judo.

== And... ==

Two articles you should add to your quiver, when you hunt and reel in your smartest RASR… one with enough neurons he or she might yet be hauled back from treason and darkness. The two words they fear most at Fox are not “Elizabeth Warren.” 

The two words that send every Foxite fleeing are “Ocean Acidification.” Because they have no blithe shrug-answer for it. None is possible. You can demonstrate the phenomenon with a glass of water, a drinking straw and two swimming pool test strips. Only human generated CO2 can be causing this disaster. 

And then this from Fox News itself! Ocean acidification was the final straw in the Cretaceous (dinosaur) extinction” A different cause, but similar lethality.

Mark Zuckerberg has offered to toss scraps to the New York Times and other sources of real journalism. That’s not an answer. This article asks: ”Are News Bundles The Future of Journalism?"

No, they aren't. In response: My article "Beyond Advertising: Will Micropayments Sustain the New Internet?" has received a lot of attention as the failures of an advertising-based Internet are becoming ever more apparent and as news media get starved into oblivion.

== And finally, a full-on rant! ==

Ready? Take a deep breath and here goes...

The blatantly extortionist withholding of appropriated aid to Lebanon ended quietly as the Ukraine thing unfolded. But what was Trump extorting? Not 'investigations' of never-stated crimes by Hunter Biden. Could it have been actual emoluments in some form? And while we await John Roberts's betrayal - desperately stopping the tax records and Deutsche Bank revelations from reaching Congress -- we must wonder: when will a log break from the jam and unleash the revelations river? Some brave settlement victim defying Trump to enforce his "Great Wall of NDAs? 

Or maybe Epstein's "insurance" files? Giuliani's? David Pecker's safe? A brave Graham-lover stepping up? Some Koch-scion or conscience-driven Helvetian who realizes that $billions will be useless in a world awash in tech-savvy refugees and streets filling with tumbrels?

My money is on "Little Rocket Man," who is volatile enough not to link arms with others in the Putin-Fox-Saudi-mullah-dominionist cabal, desperately plugging every leak and loose log. If Kim does something to his "lover" in the next few weeks, the dems need to be ready with a unified howl of derision and "kissy" sounds at rallies to mock "we fell in love" Trump's adoration of a mnurderous communist tyrant.

What depresses me is that the dems never agree on unified talking points, while every gopper receives instructions from Rupert Murdoch, every single morning, and has for a decade. Just a few such unified memes would do wonders! 

Example: The one common element in every Republican "defense" is "Don't look! You should never have looked! We don't want to look! No one should know!" It is the distilled essence of their attacks on the "Steele Dossier," on Strzock & Page. On "FBI spying." On Schiff's committee proceedings... it is the root of every single whine.

Mock that! A faux cringe (hands up to divert sight) and a cry "Don't look!" 

If any THREE dems did it, the media would catch on.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

The "culture war" underlying civil war

== A Growing Gap ==

The gap between the richest and the poorest U.S. households is now the largest it's been in the past 50 years.  The income gap grew wider in nine states: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Kansas, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Texas and Virginia. “When asked why the rising economic tide has raised some boats more than others, Rodgers lists several factors, including the decline of organized labor and competition for jobs from abroad. He also cites tax policies that favor businesses and higher-income families.” But there are types of inequality. The middle class in California is not in the same collapse seen in many other states. Rather, the disparity rises there because poor folks come to California, and at the other end many people get rich developing actual goods and services that raise up ‘boats.” I wish these statistics parsed out that kind of wealth disparity (which also needs solving!) vs. the gap between parasite professions, inherited wealth, organized crime and cheaters on the one hand and working class folks. That is the much worse disparity that matters and will lead to revolution.

Why do evangelicals support Trump, a man who has bragged about sexual assault, lies perpetually and once admitted he never asks God for forgiveness? Recall the scene where Clintons and Obamas and Bidens and Sunday School teachers Jimmy & Rosalyn Carter all recite the Apostles' Creed largely by memory while the Trumps stand, bored and silent, then leave early. While rich televangelists preach a prosperity/Dominionist gospel that's opposite to Jesus's teachings, they blasphemously extol as "God's Chosen One" a tool of communist and salafist dictators who is the most opposite-to-Jesus human you can find.

“Trump's lack of knowledge of the Bible is also well-known. Nevertheless, many evangelical Christians believe that Trump was chosen by God to usher in a new era, a part of history called the "end times." Read this, if you don’t already know about this monstrously hypocritical and viciously hate-drenched cult, which eagerly supports Israel so that a final war can then ensue in which most Jews will suffer horrible death and eternal damnation… fanatics who pray daily for an end to all democracy, all science, curiosity, human ambition and accomplishment, praying also for events that would end the United States of America. Plus an end to the birth or joy of any new human children. Yes, all of that, explicitly… and Mike Pence avows openly to praying for all of that, daily.  

But back to the question: ‘Why do evangelicals support Trump?” Most fundamentally, it is because he enrages the people they hate most — smartypants, university modernist fact-people plus atheist/agnostics… but  above all those sincere religious folks and Christians who believe in a loving God who is not a viciously sadistic lunatic.

Now let me demur a bit. “Evangelical” is too broad a term and it lumps sincere “red Letter Christians” — those who like Jimmy Carter emphasize  the words of Jesus as printed in red, in many New Testaments, conflating them with the dominionist horrors who emphasize the brutally sadistic Book of Revelation, which is opposite to Jesus’s teachings in every conceivable way. “Fundamentalist works. But the dominionists who want our “stuff” are the true loonies.

== Will resistance turn into rebellion? ==

The 'Reasonable Rebels" by Eve Fairbanks, in The Washington Post, asserts that all of those who claim there is a moderate reasonable right are cloning, almost verbatim, the vernacular of Southern antebellum intellectuals, those proslavery rhetoricians “who talked little of slavery itself. Instead, they anointed themselves the defenders of “reason,” free speech and “civility.” The prevalent line of argument in the antebellum South rested on the supposition that Southerners were simultaneously the keepers of an ancient faith and renegades — made martyrs by their dedication to facts, reason and civil discourse.

“Josiah Nott, a surgeon who laid out the purported science behind black inferiority, held that questions like slavery “should be left open to fair and honest investigation, and made to stand or fall according to the facts.” They claimed that they were the ones who truly had black people’s best interests at heart, thanks to their more realistic understanding of human biology. “No one would be willing to do more for the Negro race than I,” John Wilkes Booth wrote shortly before he assassinated Lincoln.”

“The most important thing to know about them, they held, was that they were not the oppressors. They were the oppressed. They were driven to feelings of isolation and shame purely on the basis of freely held ideas, the right of every thinking man. Rep. Alexander Sims (D-S.C.) claimed that America’s real problem was the way Southerners were made to suffer under “the sneers and fanatic ebullitions of ignorant and wicked pretenders to philanthropy.””  Fairbanks captures the whining tone of persecution that pervaded nearly all Southern writings of the time… and meanwhile she commits a dishonesty of her own, by spreading the tar of that hypocrisy over to sentiments she dislikes, in the modern discourse.

Her parallels with the “reasonable right,” raise interesting questions and I have no problem with poking away at those folks who — nowadays — claim liberals are persecuting them. The problem is that we cannot afford to drive away potential allies in the current fight, even those who have been slow and tepid and unhelpful, till now.

I agree with her far more than I disagree! “One reason slavery was not abolished in America through the political process, as it was in Britain, is that abolitionists were rhetorically straitjacketed by the proposition that they were the hard-liners who sought to curtail freedom. When the Charleston Mercury wrote that it was the “duty” of Northerners to “prove” that they were willing to defend Southerners against “fanatics,” Northern newspapers reprinted the editorial. Northerners, not Southerners, had to watch what they said and strain to compromise so they didn’t confirm the dictatorial notion Southern rhetoricians had implanted in the public mind.”

But today I see what Lincoln feared. Nearly daily, I read some new figure appealing to antebellum reasoning. Joining the 'reasonable right' seems to render these figures desirable contributors to center-left media outlets. That’s because, psychologically, the claim to victimhood can function as a veiled threat. It tricks the listener into entering a world where the speaker is the needy one, fragile, requiring the listener to constantly adjust his behavior to cater to the imperiled person.

== Justifications for repressing us “mud-sill” members of the mob ==

Interesting recent research shed light on both ubiquitous surveillance and some mythologies about basic human behavior, like the “bystander effect,” the notion that neighbors or strangers won’t help, during situations of danger or conflict. A 2019 study in Holland showed that bystanders by and large do step in or engage, in order to resolve problems erupting nearby. at a more heroic level,  Rebecca Solnit, in A Paradise Built in Hell, shows that time and again our fellow citizens show pluck and guts in any crisis, as happened on 9/11, when 80 average folks rose up against hijackers aboard flight UA93. 
I tried to apply this notion of active citizenship in my novel The Postman, a theme that Kevin Costner successfully conveyed in his film adaptation. For all its many faults, Costner’s film kept true to my core message: that civilization’s miracle will never be preserved – or restored after any breakdown – by some lone hero. Its only chance will be a collective and widespread revival of faith in ourselves.

All of this runs counter to the dangerously toxic mythology spread among the dumber members of today’s elite aristocracies, who are encouraged by sycophants to view themselves as inherently superior to the mob of mere citizens out here, a rationalization for cheating power grabs that boringly goes back thousands of years of failed feudalism.

For years, I’ve described how our ‘culture war’ is not about “left-right’ or religion or any other surface issue. Racism is a major part, plus very different attitudes toward symbolism and feudalism. But the real struggle goes back to 1778 and we are in Phase Eight. I’ve also touted novels that starkly depict our current “civil war” going hot. First Sean Smith’s novel, Tears of Abraham and more recently Craig DiLouie’s Our WarSince the latter novel came out, an impeachment inquiry was launched, and right-wing media and militias have labeled it a soft coup by the Deep State, threatening civil war, while even the president himself indirectly threatened he’d refuse to recognize the results if removed from office. This all mirrors the setup of Di Louie’s novel. Beyond that prescience, Our War  portrays a tragic added factor, use by both sides of child soldiers.

And yes, those chapters on Civil War are in POLEMICAL JUDO. Order now.

== And finally ==

As talk spreads of a new American Civil War, you should compare these modern justification to the “mudsill theory” spread by pre-confederate slave holders.  That there must be, and always has been, a lower class for the upper classes to rest upon. 

The term derives from a mudsill, the lowest threshold that supports the foundation for a building. The theory was first used by South Carolina Senator/Governor James Henry Hammond, a wealthy southern plantation owner, in a Senate speech on March 4, 1858, to justify what he saw as the willingness of the lower classes and the duty of non-whites to perform menial work which enabled the higher classes to move civilization forward. "In all social systems there must be a class to do the menial duties, to perform the drudgery of life. ... It constitutes the very mudsill of society." Efforts to reduce class or racial inequality, under this theory, inevitably run counter to civilization itself. Northern soldiers fighting in the Western Theater of the Civil War turned this derogatory term into one of self pride, as in "Western Mudsill".

Of course very few of the tech billionaires ascribe to this idiocy. As beneficiaries of Enlightenment Civilization, many of them are too busy, working side by side with middle class engineers, to listen to drivel from flatterers. So it's important that we make a distinction between those who got rich helping creators to deliver goods and services and those who are various forms of parasite, from gambling moguls and mafiosi to petro princes and oil-boyars to Wall Street lampreys and inheritance brats and KGB shills. I'll give this to that Steyer guy. An egomaniac? Maybe. But he is fervent on our side.