Saturday, May 15, 2021

Back to the Moon? And on to Venus, Mars and the asteroid belt

Are we finally entering the golden age of spaceflight we originally expected (way prematurely) in the 1970s?

Mars mission successes - including China's impressive lander - are adding up. Samples are being returned from asteroids (the likely source of major riches.) The new generation of space telescopes is already revealing wonders, even before the Webb goes up. SpaceX has upturned launch economics with levels of re-use that forced panicking Lockheed/Boeing/ULA to run, desperately to Blue Origin to save them...

...and Sen. Shelby is no longer able to bully Congress into forcing the "Space Launch System (SLS)" down NASA's throat, a wasteful boondoggle so typical of Shelby's corrupt party... as the Spacex "starship," if fully successful, promises the possibility that another boondoggle - sending "American footprints back-to-the-Moon!" - won't be the calamitous distraction that is seemed bound to be (details below)...

...and new satellite comms constellations may soon deliver world access to underserved people, all over the planet. And much more. We are still a civilization that does stuff. And even more important stuff down here, on Earth.

== We're Explorers! ==

A while back I linked you to the announced Phase One awards given by NIAC -- NASA's Innovative & Advanced Concepts program (I am on the advisory council). Great, pioneering projects! Some of them bordering on science fiction. Now come the Phase II and III announcements! Projects that proved themselves to have at least an on-paper or preliminary plausibility to dramatically change our access and future out there in the cosmos!

In case you missed it... here is the descent and landing video from the wonderful Martian arrival of Perseverance. Forget the audio thing! Watch the collated 3 minutes of incredible beauty and stunning competence during arrival. I did NOT expect my breath to catch at the sight of a parachute deploying, or my heart to race at footage of dust blowing from a rocky plain. 


More crucially, the "Sky Crane" landing system is now no longer a 'miracle," but a reliable system, proved repeatable. A routine miracle.


Again, we are a people who do such things. Stop letting mafiosi undermine our confidence.   


Nearly 11 Million Names of Earthlings are on Mars Perseverance...’ 

Ooooh, I did warn about this is a short story called “Mars Opposition!” 

And if you want to be scared out of your britches, give it a read in The Best of David Brin!


== Back to the moon? ==


I've been a lonely dissenter on the notion of U.S. astronauts rushing back to the dusty/useless lunar plain, when humanity for sure will be going there anyway, in the form of Apollo-wannabe tourists, eager for their coming-of-age ritual. The US+Japan+Europe can accomplish vastly more bypassing that playpen/sandbox, doing things only we can do. And yet... if Elon truly can pull off his next prodigious leap, not just perfecting Starship but especially the super-heavy BFR to launch it out there, and do the refueling thing, then I might change my mind. 


But Jeff B and Dynetics should still develop their landers... to sell to those tourists! (While keeping techs proprietary!)


What stands out is that NASA still intends for astronauts to ride to the moon aboard the SLS... there and back via Orion capsule. Using the SpaxeX ship ONLY as a lander! But of course that will happen twice... to use up the SLS monsters in the pipeline. Then Frankenshuttle can quietly fade away. 


SpaceX has built and tested a functioning prototype of the elevator that Starship would use to lift and lower astronauts to and from the lunar surface. In blazing speed. This despite getting the least development funding from NASA’s program to incentivize private companies to make lunar landers. “Known as the Human Landing System (HLS) program, NASA selected three providers – a Blue Origin-led consortium, Dynetics, and SpaceX – to build prototypes and compete for one or two follow-on contracts back in April 2020. SpaceX’s Starship offering was deemed the riskiest solution and the company received a middling $135 million to Dynetics’ ~$250 million and the “National Team’s” ~$570 million. For their ~$820 million investment, it’s unclear what exactly NASA has gotten from its two best-funded teams aside from paperwork, a few completed design reviews, and two low-fidelity mockups mostly made out of cardboard, foam, and wood. Meanwhile, in the ten months since SpaceX received its $135 million, the company has built no less than eight full-scale Starship prototypes, performed a dozen or more wet dress rehearsals and static fires with said prototypes, and performed two powered hops and two high-altitude test flights.”  ... Oh... the image in this article looks straight out of a 1950s Wiley Ley/Bonestall envisioning! 


While I am on record dissing the notion of the U.S. dropping more ambitious and rewarding ventures farther out, in favor of a rush to put more footprints on a dusty-useless lunar plain (yawn! leave that to the kiddies!) I am fine with helping US companies develop landers they can sell or rent to those Apollo-wannabe tourists!


== And on to Venus and Mars ==


The Parker Solar Probe (the author of Sundiver is an official ‘mascot) in one of its swings by Venus looked down on the dark night side... and could see through the clouds to heat-revealed surface features!  And more from Parker!  NASA’s Parker Solar Probe captured the first complete view of Venus’s dust ring, a band of particles that stretches for the entirety of the planet’s path around the Sun.


Okay, as said above, I am still giddy over the success JPL/NASA had in landing Perseverance on Mars! Only, now that they are sure of the landing system and can optimize its weight parameters, then next time – a suggestion? Next time, LAND the darn descent stage after it finishes delivering the rover! And why not? a weather station? Seismic station? Practice?


Speaking of landers: the commercial lunar vehicle Peregrine, if successful this coming July, would be the first-ever commercial American lander on the moon — and the first United States spacecraft to touch down at all since Apollo 17 in 1972.  The same company will then target 2023 to land VIPER, a vastly more sophisticated water-surveying rover near a lunar pole, conveyed moonward by a SpaceX Heavy and brought gently down by a GRIFFIN lander. 


And it’s a moonrush! Japanese lunar robotics company ispace will deliver a rover built by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to the moon in 2022, via a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The Japanese startup says it supply the lander that transports the rover from the moon's orbit to the lunar surface.


Okay, like we needed this?  How about a space hurricane in our planet's upper atmosphere -- made up of swirling plasma and "rained" electrons... a 620-mile-wide (1,000-kilometer) plasma mass swirling above the North Pole. It had spiral arms and lasted for nearly eight hours. An amazing image.


== The Sky is For The Rich? ==


A fine review of a new book - Test Gods: Virgin Galactic and the Making of a Modern Astronaut, by Nicholas Scmidle - about the New Space Race, in which whole nations - China, India, Russia and even NASA - struggle to keep pace with the upward momentum of a clade of billionaire dreamers and do-ers... Musk Bezos, Branson, and several you likely haven't heard of. Heinlein predicted such an era in positive terms. I portrayed plusses and minuses, in EXISTENCE. And Wil McCarthy's book Rich Man's Sky depicts worrisome, downside trends toward owner-feudalism in future space..


This article starts with an image of Branson's Virgin Galactic mother ship based at New Mexico's Spaceport America, which gets to use the USG's White' Sands tracking facilities, but is, in consequence, way out east of the town of Truth or Consequences, NM. Those buying tickets on Virgin's deluxe space super-experience will have to leave their luxury jets and ride an air conditioned bus for 40 minutes. Along the way, they will be entertained by an introductory video of yours truly, explaining in advance what they are about to see. Fiorty minutes of me blabbing about the spaceport> That alone is worth the price!


Perhaps that's the closest I will get, to riding the torch. But WTH. We are doing these fine things. That is, if we do all the fine things, including saving the planet, species, civilization, justice and a decent, worthy enlightenment.


Sunday, May 09, 2021

Aiming for lateral accountability: Cameras will either help... or thwart... Big Brother

More and more we are seeing that the enemies of the Enlightenment Experiment Are not just opposing 'western decadence' or even the Rule of Law - though RoL hampers terribly the power and whim that topmost males have always deemed their birthright. 

No, the most fundamental thing that all tyrants, kings, owner-lords and priestly hierarchs have always dreaded was the possibility of accountability, applied upon them by those they rule.

Pericles spoke of this, at the onset of the age when the Athenian Democracy dazzled the world. Thomas Paine crystalized the notion, far more revolutionary than anything by Lenin or Robspierre or Mao. It is the core of every experiment in flat-fair-open-creative and free civilization.

== Is technology going to help... or end it? ==

“Massive camera hack exposes the growing reach and intimacy of American surveillance.” A breach of the camera start-up Verkada ‘should be a wake-up call to the dangers of self-surveillance,’ one expert said: ‘Our desire for some fake sense of security is its own security threat', reports The Washington Post.

I remain appalled that so many very smart people actually seem to think that each year's new tech levels - and menaces - will now freeze and stand still long enough for us to ban them. Cameras get smaller, faster, cheaper, better, more mobile and vastly more numerous far faster than Moore's Law (Brin's Corollary!


Consider the recent case of San Francisco's City Council banning facial recognition systems, when keeping them open to public criticism is exactly how we discovered and then corrected many problems like racial and gender bias in the programs.


Anyway Facial Recognition programs won't be resident in police departments for long, where some city council can ban them, but will be cheap apps in phones and AR glasses, available from a thousand directions. Result? Cops who are banned from using versions that are open to supervision will instead surreptitiously use dark web versions, because it might save their own lives.


We need to focus not on uselessly trying to ban tech that might be abused, but on eliminating the abuses. And that can only happen with more light, aimed at those with power.


Oh, the dangers are very real! These techs will certainly empower agents and masters of despotism, if you already have a despotism. And hence the lesson and priority is to prevent despotism altogether! Because these same techs could instead empower vibrant citizenship, if we see to it they are well-shared and that no elite gets to monopolize them.


Which they will, if we try simplistically and reflexively to ban them.


It's not that the ACLU and EFF and EU are wrong to fret! They are absolutely correct to point at problems and to worry that surveillance techs could empower Big Brothers and render citizen privacy extinct. It is their prescriptions that almost always are short-sighted and foolish.


Making a tech illegal will not stop elites form having and using it. 

Let me repeat that.

Making a tech illegal will not stop elites form having and using it. 

What it will do is make them arrange to do it secretly, where the methods won't be appraised and criticized publicly.


As Heinlein said, "the chief effect of a privacy law is to make the bugs smaller."


Need I keep mentioning that both Martin Luther King and Gandhi credited cameras with saving their own lives, as they marched and took on entrenched power?


Meanwhile the thing propelling Black Lives Matter is the proliferation of public access to cameras, spectacularly increasing the number of bad cops being fired. Being convicted took longer and activism helped change the reflexes of juries!But none of it would have happened without the cameras. All of it, BTW, predicted in EARTH (1990) and The Transparent Society (1997.)



== Again and again… HOW to get the internet’s good and repress the bad? ==


Some of these concepts are hard, so let's go over similar concepts from a slightly different angle.


Evan Anderson of the Strategic News Service recently wrote an incisive piece on how the Internet is suffering near lethal harm from swarms of nasty users.  The Half-Percent: How A Few Awful Individuals Increasingly Threaten Our Future.”

For example “This March, in its The Disinformation Dozen, the Center for Countering Digital Hate found that in a sample of content posted 812,000 times on social media platforms, just 12 individual anti-vaxxer accounts on Facebook and Twitter were responsible for a full 65% of anti-vaccine content. The report also describes that many of these individuals are doing so simply to encourage skepticism because they have “snake oil” to sell, noting: ‘Living in full view of the public on the internet are a small group of individuals who do not have relevant medical expertise and have their own pockets to line, who are abusing social media platforms to misrepresent the threat of Covid and spread misinformation about the safety of vaccines. According to our recent report, anti-vaccine activists on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter reach more than 59 million followers, making these the largest and most important social media platforms for anti-vaxxers. Our research has also found anti-vaxxers using social media platforms to target Black Americans, exploiting higher rates of vaccine hesitancy in that community to spread conspiracies and lies about the safety of Covid vaccines.’ These 12 individuals account for 73% of vaccine misinformation on Facebook, are personally featured in 17% of anti-vaxx content on Twitter, and regularly feature sales attempts for alternative products that they claim can cure Covid-19.


Okay then. How to deal with badguys and sociopaths and predators? As far back as legends go, sages have preached we should be honest and forthright and honorable to each other. These preachings - on every continent and in every language - had positive effects, but only on those who already valued honesty and honor and decency

The sort of folks whom the dishonorable always view as prey.


Some kings and priests sought to apply other methods. Laws, policing, punishments. These deterred bad actors to some large degree by applying accountability. In strong, efficient states, businesses could operate and families had some recourse from gangs of thugs... but only some. And there was no redress from the capricious whims of the King, or lords or priests.


A few nations tried the Periclean approach... supply citizens with the means to apply accountability upward. Always a difficult, fraught and incomplete effort, it nevertheless was the focus of Adam Smith and the U.S. Founders and each generation of Americans has done it slightly better, except this one, as a worldwide oligarchic putsch strives to end the very notion of the idea that Rule-of-Law can apply upward.


In order to weaken us, those oligarchs have subsidized and encouraged the nasty predators that this post was about.  The anonymity that original Internet zealots called liberating has become a curse, as the worst men use it to evade any form of accountability, online.  More and more, we hear calls to banish anonymity... while those worried about Big Brother see what's happened in China, where online anonymity is banned for purposes of state control. 


Elsewhere, I've explored how we were able to harness competitive processes in five great arenas: MARKETS, DEMOCRACY, SCIENCE, COURTS and SPORTS, and in all five, strenuous, unrelenting efforts repress the human tendency to cheat, by applying very different styles of fierce regulation and accountability. In my paper I discuss a method that might let this happen on the Web. 


(For a rather intense look at how "truth" is determined in science, democracy, courts and markets, see "Disputation Arenas: Harnessing Conflict and Competition." 


Okay, here's the key point. This doesn't have to be ZERO SUM! We should be able to get most of the good aspects of anonymity while eliminating most of the bad!  We could do this with a regularized process of formalized PSEUDONYMITY in which you can rent a vetted pseudonym from a fiduciary you already trust for other credentials (e.g. credit or savings)... your bank. (Banks are already well placed to get into this potentially profitable business.) 

If you do bad things under that pseudonym, the "ding" would follow you back and affect your credibility scores without having anyone actually know your name (unless the ding is a felony.)


I go into this elsewhere, too. The crux: the key to reducing the harm done by badguys is accountability. But giving top rulers tools for applying it downward is always dangerous to freedom. 


The answer - as you'd expect from me - is lateral accountability.  And we can do it in a positive sum way.


== Tech as Freedom’s Friend ==


In 2013 I touted maybe the most important step in American civil liberties since the 1960s Civil Rights Bills... when the Obama Administration and the courts ruled that citizens have a right to record the police. As I predicted in The Transparent Society, (especially p.130), cameras became far more of a 'great equalizer' that the six gun, though it took time and phases and a stretch of pain that hasn't ended with the Chauvin conviction. 


But while we rightfully laud heroes in this struggle, let's spare a nod for technology? The thing that will either empower Big Brother forever... or else ensure we'll have Big Brother NEVER.


That choice still lies in our hands.


Monday, May 03, 2021

All the Uplift Books are back in print and improved! New SF films! And erudition about SF.

Skim down if you want the erudite links by others about science fiction as deep thought. But first... 

This month I'll be announcing a whole slew of literary wonders for your spring reading! I've already mentioned (and will again!) my two series of cool/short novels for Young Adults, the High Horizon Series and David Brin's Out of Time, both of them with among the coolest premises you ever saw in SF, let alone for vigorous minded young readers. (And those with still-young imaginations!)

Also recently I touted my latest nonfiction work: VIVID TOMORROWS: Science Fiction and Hollywood! A mix of classic reveiws and rants about your favorite and most-hated flicks... but also careful ponderings of how the medium - for all its faults - is responsible for much of the vigor and progress of our times! Especially science fiction films, which have arguably helped save us all through self-preventing prophecies. A cornucopia of concepts.

Now here comes the re-release of all my Uplift titles - re-edited, with new, bold covers and new introductions, from Open Road Media. These include the original trilogy: Sundiver, Startide Rising, and The Uplift War...

...a saga that then continues in the second trilogy, starting with Brightness Reef, Infinity's Shore, and Heaven's Reach, starting with a planet of refugees but then carried (along with a crew of dolphins and their many-raced friends) across five galaxies in convulsion! Available in both paperback and ebook versions. Enjoy!


And yes, these trade paperbacks are high quality and collectable. And your best bargain in terms of pennies per hour of pleasure... or per mind-blowing idea!


Want something even better and even more collectable?  How about my top short fiction (my best work, I'd say) gathered together at last in The Best of David Brin? And that's only half of the cool items I'm releasing, that will (I hope) help to make 2021 another kind of 'best of' for you!


And would you like the full NEWSLETTER I am about to send out?After 6 of the busiest months of my professional life, with TWELVE projects all hitting at the same time(!) I'm about to send out my annual full NEWSLETTER. I promise, I only do these once or twice a year! And this time there will be so much news!

A beautiful re-issue of seven Uplift Novels with gorgeous covers, errors corrected and new introductions! My nonfiction tome arguing that sci fi films have saved the world, many times! ...

...plus a sci fi comedy, a stage play, and TWO series of fun novels for teens and those who are young at heart! And more...
Sign up and I promise there'll be at least one item of interest to you. Here's the link. And did I say I'll send these rarely? They're too much work! 

😉

 == So will we see a movie, already? ==


Robotic, animatronic dolphins?  Uncanny realism! Truly amazing, just $3 million each, in prototype! Less, soon. And did I say uncannily realistic? And what does this do to the tradeoffs to doing a Startide Rising movie?


Well, there's always talk. Only now the talk is almost sounding... well... plausible.


== Speaking of Sf flicks... and erudition about SF! ==


We watched and enjoyed the scientifically meticulous "Stowaway" on Netflix... a carefully re-adjusted and updated version of Tom Godwin's classic "The Cold Equations," with some surprises.


And the Hillary Swank one-season series "Away," which coulda done with a somewhat lower ratio of tearful, soapy stuff to science and sci fi.  But we enjoyed it and wish it had continued.


Here's a preview of another apparently meticulous or at least well-verbiaged film about a first interstellar colony.  Overwrought premise, of course. Even if the Earth's atmosphere were soaked in sulfuric acid, vastly more folks could live under the sea than on the planet one star away that this flick will portray. Still... looks to be fun.


I mentioned that my new nonfiction book has more original concepts and peeks behinf the curtain than you could shake a thunb (up or down) at! Still there are interesting deep-scholarship dives into written SF worth perusing.  For example: an important essay by Christopher Hitchens on “Why Orwell Matters” dives into the lessons about despotism and its tools that you’ll find in all three of the great author’s mightiest works, so powerful that I call them among the greatest “self-preventing prophecies.” 


Professor Tom Lombardo is podcasting a very informative and erudite series of lectures (and part one is now a book) on the roots and evolution of science fiction, from ancient myths to Mary Shelley and Verne, to Stapledon and so on, with lots of names and links I never heard of. The first 3 lectures are free and the rest cheap at $15.


Ezra Klein offers a cool interview with my colleague, the epic short story writer (e.g. “The Arrival”) Ted Chiang.


And here's fun and cogent and wise interview with rising sci fi star Eliot Peper about the essential purpose and function of sci fic.


AGain, it's trivial to sign up fot my just-once or-twice-per-year NEWSLETTER


Be seeing you around...


Thursday, April 29, 2021

The Wealth... and Infrastructure... of Nations

With release of Joe Biden's new Infrastructure and Stimulus Plans, reactions have gone as predicted. Mitch McConnell and the entire Putin Party have declared their intention to block everything and allow nothing. Standard incantations are flowing -- from democrat deficits! to cutting taxes and federal spending makes jobs and capital! And then Sen. Tim Scott, in his 'rebuttal' to President Biden's Congressional speech, accused him of breaking his promise to be a 'uniter.' (More on that below.)

Okay, let's stop letting this be about 'sides.' Sure, there definitely are sides, and one of them is insane. Still, our real enemy is a meme claiming that all points of view are equivalent and not subject to factual refutation

It is an incantation that's clung-to desperately by the farthest left and today's entire, mad right. It implies that just repeating your own side's magical incantations will suffice. In fact, even pointing out a flaw in some small, sub-component makes you a partisan of evil.

No. At best you will only ever be 99% right. And criticism is the only known antidote to error. So...

Let's instead talk facts. Focusing on that word-of-the-month "infrastructure!"


== The two diametrically opposite ways that the US and China 'invested' $20 Trillions each, since 1995. ==

Both China and the US spent the last 25+ years pouring trillions into plans to vastly expand their productive capacity, infrastructure, skilled labor force and R&D. 

China's approach was simple: fund vast projects like high speed rail and whole new cities, while lending/investing in 'companies' that were in large part State Champions. Partly due to beneficent trade policies by the West, China's approach worked spectacularly well.
So you ask: "What was our method? And how did the American approach fare? 

Glad you asked. Our approach was called "Supply Side Economics." Summarized, it was: snuff out every method used to create the prosperous and dynamic American Pax since 1940. Virtually end taxpayer-funded investment in R&D, infrastructure, labor force training and so on, because that's "picking winners and losers." 

Instead of using the mixed-economy methods that built America from 1940 to 1995, Supply Side insists that we give many trillions in tax cuts and other direct benefits to the top 0.01%, on the theory that they would then turn and invest those massive cash infusions into... well... factories, productive capacity, competitively oriented infrastructure, R&D and the 'job creators' own, expanding work force. 

Supply Side (SS) was the most expensive national development experiment in all of human history. So how'd it go? 

Well, the results are clear. With some notable exceptions, rich people don't do that!

Adam Smith explained, way back in The Wealth of Nations, that when they get a lot richer, aristocrats and oligarchs tend to pour any wealth increase into rent-seeking ("rentier") asset bubbles and passive (slow money velocity) investments, and into capital preservation for their spoiled inheritance brats. 

And into cheating. Aristocratic cheating of the very sort that the American Founders - inspired in part by Adam Smith - rebelled against.
Let's be even clearer.

Of the half-dozen major - and hundreds of minor - experiments in Supply Side, not one of them ever approached anywhere near coming true. Every confident prediction - e.g. that budget deficits would vanish due to burgeoning economic activity - every single SS prediction failed diametrically to happen as forecast. 

That is 100%. And when you stick with an utterly disproved hypothesis, that's not science. It's a cult.

== Then there is Money Velocity... ==

Among the most powerful of all economic metrics is one that conservative mavens and "economists" absolutely hate ever to mention, because it eviscerates every cult incantation that they cling to. But it also happens to be a crucial measure of economic health.

It's money velocity. The rate at which each dollar changes hands, generating wealth and prosperity and growth, whenever it is rapid.

So let's talk money velocity, money velocity, and money velocity. 

It PLUMMETS after every tax gift to the aristocracy. 

It rises (duh?) with every Keynsian infusion into workers doing stuff. 
Useful stuff like infrastructure. 

Period. Always, and that is always.
Bet me on this. 
Oh please. 
Solid metrics, adjudged by panels of retired senior military officers. 
I will have your house.

== Then there is 'fiscal responsibility ==

And now the hypocrites screech about deficits. 

First, Democrats score better than Republicans in every metric of good governance and outcomes, including fiscal responsibility - like whether across any 4 year administration any effort is made to turn the rate-of-change of debt-gathering toward negative. In other words planting your foot on the deficit brake or the accelerator.


Republicans never even remotely try. 
Bet me on that, too.

== Allons enfants de la patrie...==

Aside. Ruling castes throughout history have rationalized that they were inherent geniuses or better by nature - not happenstance or luck - than the 'mob' who must never be allowed to get their hands on power. We see this in the narratives justifying outrageous Republican electoral cheating to hold power when they lose almost every popular vote. We see it in appeals to racial and other divisions. We see it in the excuses made for skyrocketing wealth disparities and CEO compensation packages that are unconnected to any metric of actual company health, voted by their pals in an incestuous clade.

Making one ask: "Where do you honestly expect such insatiability to lead?" The most fundamental 'tell' that these folks vastly over-rate their own intelligence - and hire flatterers to reinforce the stories - is their stunning ignorance of actual history.

No, no. Your refuges on private Patagonian or Ural mountains, or on South Island or Vanuatu or under the sea and not safe. Safety can be found by starting now top work on your reputation as decent human beings.

Back to topic.

== Time for a Roosevelt ==
So now Joe Biden wants to invest in productive capacity, infrastructure, labor force and R&D? And AOC & co. are criticizing it for falling short of their Green New Deal?

Okay, calm down there, hoss. AOC is brilliant... maybe even 10% as much so as her fans think. (Yes that brilliant!) And she is savvy about her role. By criticizing Biden's plan, she widens the conceptual Overton Window to the left, helping Joe look 'moderate.' And that is a GOOD thing, fools. It is savvy, team politics! And it is no license for any of you to go hating on Biden, or raging at incremental progress.

On the other hand, I need to say something about Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), a fashion among some on the left. MMT is stunning, incantatory bullshit and a betrayal of actual, working Keynsianism. There, I said it. The left has its shibboleths, too. They are just a lot fewer and less divorced from all objective reality or ethical behavior. But keep an eye on them, too.

As for the Biden Infrastructure/stimulus Bill... well... there may be flaws in the plan, sure. If there were sane opponents to heed, I would listen to criticism, the only known antidote to error. An era of negotiation among adults, based on factual evidence, may someday return. Only right now...
 
...right now Republicans are in no position to criticize at any level, in any way!
 
In fact, there is no greater hypocrisy than for a Republican to chide anyone about fiscal responsibility, or economics, and that especially includes their volcanically hypocritical sexual-predator finger wagging on morality! (Bet me - oh please - which party features 3x as many sexual predators among their recent and present upper ranks! Actually it's 6x! But I am a cautious wagerer.)

But on today's topic -- totally aside from their massive turpitudes and treasons, there is the simple fact of spectacular incompetence and desperation to cling to voodoo incantations. We've seen nothing like it since the 1860s! 

Except that those earlier confederates at least had one virtue--just one--that these present-day jackasses utterly lack.
Guts.
Alas, unlike those gray-clad, brave fools of the 1860s, today's Foxite-putinists will never, ever bet manly wager stakes on any of their mad assertions! 

If you try to get them to actually step up and back up their incantations, the craven cultists always rave and spew and caper and jibber and distract... and then run away. Above all, they will dodge ever escrowing (with a reputable attorney) actual wager stakes over any provable/falsifiable assertion. 

Which ultimately shows that environmentalists are right about the effects of pollution mixed with alcohol. 

Something has happened to confederate balls.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Is Pax Americana worth defending? Or at least forgiving?

First another sign that grownups are at least trying, again.  At last, a major US figure is proclaiming what we've long known, that nothing can be accomplished to forestall the creation of a lordly, trillionaire caste that towers, omnipotent and impervious above all nations, unless the remedies are done internationally, by worldwide treaty. Janet Yellen's call for a global minimum corporate tax rate would be a fine start, limiting incentives for mega corps to 'shelter' trillions in tax havens.

Moreover, make no mistake. Preventing stuff like this is Mitch McConnell's actual, underlying reason for desperately trying to cripple the Biden Administration.


In my novel Existence, I posit that the world agreed to a "Big Deal" in the late twenties, that decelerated the drive toward oligarchy in ways like this. But something much more assertive is needed. Something that would not affect YOU or me or honest taxpayers or honest corporations one scintilla. See my proposal for a Worldwide Transparency of Ownership Treaty.


That's preferable over the last resort that I portrayed earlier, in EARTH. The Helvetian War.


== Trying to arue facts with those who despise them ==

As usual, the Good Guys in this culture war and political struggle seem to lack even a clue how to use judo tactics. For example, it is an exercise in polemical futility simply to accuse the PRC of oppressive minority-repression in their hinterlands and applying sanctions to rebuke those actions. Oh, the sanctions may serve a realpolitik goal, but as a public polemic? All they do - always - is shout back "who are you (the U.S.) to lecture anyone about moral or decent behavior? Your own young people and human rights activists denounce the USA faults daily! From incarceration rates to police misbehaviors to electoral cheating! What hypocrisy!"

And how does that reply play? 

Well, it plays very well! Many in the West - including, likely, some of you - nod sadly and murmur "Yeah, how dare we lecture anyone? What hypocrisy!" ...

...ignoring the elephant in this room: the fact that we train generations of Americans in Suspicion of Authority and the value of corrective criticism. The folks nodding their heads sadly - including many of you - are indications of health and strength, not the opposite. (For more on this concerted training program, found in almost every Hollywood film, see Vivid Tomorrows: Science Fiction and Hollywood.)

While I never cared for some of his endeavors, Jean-Paul Sartre had a keen sense that good argument among opponents - facing each other with facts and good will - was the fundamental tool of every Periclean Enlightenment: the only times in the long, dour history of our species when actual progress was ever made. The following Sartre quote wasn't just about anti-semites, but all fascists and every other cult that strives to evade fact and bring the enlightenment experiment crashing down:

“Never believe that anti-Semites are completely unaware of the absurdity of their replies. They know that their remarks are frivolous, open to challenge. But they are amusing themselves, for it is their adversary who is obliged to use words responsibly, since he believes in words. The anti-Semites have the right to play. They even like to play with discourse for, by giving ridiculous reasons, they discredit the seriousness of their interlocutors. They delight in acting in bad faith, since they seek not to persuade by sound argument but to intimidate and disconcert. If you press them too closely, they will abruptly fall silent, loftily indicating by some phrase that the time for argument is past.”

 And hence my proposal for methods of shaming blatant playground cheating, by going to the viscera core or such macho-romantic jerks -- their pretensions of manliness! And demands for wagers work better than any other. A wager demand is concise. You are refusing to be drawn in for their entertainment unless they show the balls to step up with cash. And when they flee, those balls are revealed - before onlookers - as hollow and made of dust.


There are ways to judo this polemical tit-for-tat. I have suggested several unusual and likely-effective tactics for years. Some of them can be found in Polemical Judo.


== Applying this to international 'accusation tiffs' ==


And let's be clear. This polemical level of combat is vital! Good maneuvers at that level might prevent other levels from going hot! A certain rising rival nation's Politburo is right now egging its own population into warlike hostility... even hatred... of purported American campaigns to "keep us down," despite the proved fact that we are exactly the reason for their rapid rise.  

By inciting such chauvinistic hatred, those paramount masters mean to use a trumped-up foreign threat to distract a billion humans from looking at their own hierarchs. But history shows that kind of riled-up popular fury can often be a tiger that's impossible to constrain or to ride. Among my many suggestions is to confront the actual history of our nations' relations -- (look up a fellow named Anson Burlingame, for starters). As the Genie sang to Aladdin "You never had a friend like us." 

But another approach is even more effective and you've seen it here before. It works better than anyone admits, toward all elements of the anti-fact coalition.
Next time US officials complain about concentration camps - and they answer with "incarcerations rates!" - don't just leave it all lying there! Follow up with a proposal to test our moral positions experimentally! "Let's put this to experiment. From both countries' census data, pick 1000 RANDOM CITIZENS and invite them (with immediate family) to gatherings in each others' capitals, with cultural and educational immersion, followed with an opportunity to be taken on a week of tours to any geographical location that they pick. 

"At the end of that month tell each of those thousand (and immediate families): "Here are two envelopes. One contains a ticket home. The other contains a rent-free, 3 year lease on a small, average apartment and a residency card. Which envelope will your sampled citizens choose? And which envelope would average, randomly chosen Americans pick? Shall we bet on it?" And sure quibble over average GDP or any other factor you like. Envision those factors adjusted and weighted. Shove your thumb on the scale all you want! You know the outcome would change by no more than a few percentage points. My point? It is not about any particular adversarial relationship or nation! It is not about immigration or any of the details.

It is about the stubborn insistence of our own political castes to keep avoiding anything like agile tactics! And yes, this applies to both the goodguy Union side and the evil Confederate side of this dismal, tragic, national civil war. 

One clade is good and decent and trying hard to overcome the outright and deliberate treason of the other, and yet they are all stooopidly rigid.

== The core accomplishment of the American Pax ==


Oh, then there is the argument that America used to be the protectionist stealer of inventions and intellectual property. Well, sure. And a certain amount is to be expected from rising nations!  Indeed, the U.S. was protectionist till WWI for the same reason that the U.S. after World War II was indulgent toward nations that used protectionism for the same purpose.


But this ignores the stunning U.S. policy of COUNTER-mercantilism that the New Empire imposed after World War II, unlike the mercantilist ripoff trade systems imposed by every other imperium across 4000 years. The reversal of that traditional behavior is the salient fact - more than any other - about Pax Americana.


in 1945, George Marshall and others held meetings that - for the first time in the dismal history of humanity - asked a simple question. "We're about to become the world's paramount power. What mistakes did all other empires make and how can we avoid them?"  


Again, all other Imperiums practiced mercantilist policies that stole gold from the peripheries and funneled it to the central zone, leading to poverty and hatred in the periphery and eventual the fall of it all. The Treaty of Versailles in 1919 was only the latest example of this wretched reflex, and the calamity that it caused almost slew us all.


That was what Marshall and the others decided to avoid, as a matter of deliberate policy. Starting with Europe & Japan, then Taiwan & Korea, then Singapore and other nations, indulgent US trade policies allowed and encouraged them to practice protectionism letting them draw in first textile mills, then assembly plants, then higher production while the workers' kids went to school... and all of it propelled by American consumers buying 100 TRILLION dollars worth of of crap we never needed.


Raised in a spirit of self-flaggelatory reflexes, liberal Americans - especially well-educated ones - simply ignore this deed, which may be the greatest accomplishment across all the annals of all nations and times, lifting a majority of humanity out of grinding poverty and transforming now China AND India at the same time!


I despair of anyone, anywhere, ever blinking and staring and finally realizing this blatant fact, that the greatest men of the 20th Century and possibly all of human history set up this greatest deed, after just finishing crushing the worst evil of all time. 


But it is simply true. We are still doing it. And without this deliberate policy, our supposed 'rivals' would still be almost all dirt roads today.


You're welcome.