Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Debate Special: Shall we let them divide us? So many consensus desires that we share.

Donald Trump and his backers/handlers know their only chance to avoid annihilation at the polls in 2020 are (1) rampant cheating plus (2) a disunited opposition. One might add (3) incite a war, and that's still possible - even likely. But politically their credibility is too low for that to help.

We've spoken of the cheating elsewhere. See Kremlin shill Mitch McConnell justify spending nothing to defend our elections, for example. I've also offered an unusual tactic to bypass the Roberts Rationalization and fix gerrymandering. You can do your part by volunteering as poll officials or poll watchers... or adopt the state assembly candidate in some pivotal purple district where this fight can best be won - close to the ground.

But #2 is the killer. Republican operatives have pictures of Ralph Nader and Jill Stein on their walls. Oh, I don't mind 3rd party candidacies (3PC), so long as they make Ranked-Choice Voting their top goal. Till we get more places with RCV, they should agree only to run in deep-blue or deep-red districts or states where they can build membership without screwing us all. Any who run in Florida or a wavering purple state are little more than KGB stooges. (And that oughta suffice to fill this comments section with flame!)

Our disunity is the enemy's goal. And now we see op-ed pieces trying to stir up drama, declaring: "Why Democrats Are So Far From Consensus on 2020." On social media you see suspicious-looking denunciations of "corporatist" or "republican-lite" or "sellout" moderate democrats. Cherrypicking points of dissension, incitement merchants posit that the 25 Democratic presidential candidates share only a loathing of Donald Trump. Their followers will soon fraction into factions. 

Let's demolish that nonsense.  Here again is my list of consensus items that ALL of the Democratic candidates are for.

* Electoral reform: end gerrymandering, rigged voting machines, voter suppression and other cheats, 
* Election money transparency, 
* Restore our alliances. 
* Deter acts of war (cyber/electoral/trade etc.) against our nation/institutions,
* End "supply side" vampirism by the aristocracy we rebelled against in 1776, 
* Infrastructure, paid fo by ending supply side voodoo,
* Children out of cages, refugees given safe places to live and process,
* A Marshall Plan for Central America + holding their corrupt elites accountable,
* Medicare for all Children (a start so popular the GOP can’t dare refuse), 
* Climate action,
* Restore science, R&D and technological leadership as national strengths,
Protect women’s autonomy, credibility and command over their own bodies, 
* Whistleblower protections and rewards for those revealing corruption and blackmail,
* Consumer protection, empower the Consumer Financial Protection Board,
* At least allow student debt refinancing. Analyze and start doing much more,
* Restore the postal savings bank for the un-banked,
* Basic, efficient, universal background checks,
* Basic-level Net Neutrality for consumers,
* A revised-throttled War Powers Act and limit presidential emergency powers, 
* Civil Service protection,
* Reject racism, gender-phobia, nazism etc. as evils while calming all sanctimonies,
* Restored respect for things called facts. Support professions that use them, 
* Restored rebuttal rules on "news" channels, 
* Emoluments supervision. AUDIT the cheating, money-laundering oligarchy,
* Ease out of the damned drug war (at least dont impede states),
* Anti-trust breakup of monopoly/duopolies,
* Allow pharma renegotiation and stop the tricks that stymie generics,
* Restore some of the social contract set up by the FDR-loving "Greatest Generation" (GG),

Anyone who shouts "socialism!" at that list is screaming at our parents, the GGs who crushed Hitler, contained Stalinism, took us to the moon, loved science and built the world's greatest middle class.

All democrats, almost all independents and a whole lot of RASRS want all of those things, and more! And if you think not, show us the democrats opposing any of those things! *  Better yet, look at the last time the dems had power to legislate, just two years (2009-2011) out of the last 26, when those "corporatist" dems were frenetically busy! Look at California and New York, where they've had more time. This "corporatist" malarkey comes right out of a Kremlin basement.

Are there disagreements over the vigor and/or degree various democrats would push these desiderata? Sure! Plenty of demo pols would only travel along these roads halfway as far as you would go, especially in the last six items. And "Medicare for everyone under age 26" won't satisfy you liberals... nor should it! 

But if you can't see that the nation and the world would be in a vastly better place, if we spent the first 2 years of power just checking off everything this list, then you are the problem.

Want more than that list? Your chances will be better if we first get all that! And that will come by uniting a wide coalition. After? Then split! Gather your AOC/Bernie forces for further battle. At least you'll be fighting in a nation and world that again respects facts and justice and loves the future. 

Which brings us to the tragedy. Not one pundit or politician, or liberal or moderate sage, has had the wits to offer up this list. Even though it would unify the movement.  And if even one to them offered such a list, on a debate stage, she or he would electrify the nation.

== Go for their jugular issue ==

The one thing ol' Two Scoops and the GOP crow about is "The Great Trump Economy." And who gets credit? Consider: they only did one economically pertinent thing during the last two years! That thing was vast Supply Side tax cuts for the rich

Was that the cause, then, of the 'good economy'? 

Scan this chart. Who made a difference, after entering office? Obama in January 2009? Or Trump in January 2017? Which of them simply rides momentum from his predecessor? 

What is attributable to that Voodoo Tax Rape Bill is divergence in wealth, with most of it pouring into oligarchy. Also deficits, which always skyrocket under Republicans. (Dems always - always - step on the brakes toward fiscal prudence. Please, doubters, bet me your house on that! See another chart cited below.)

This chart needs to be rubbed under noses. Pundits who ignore it should be pummeled with copies. (Thanks Russ Daggatt.)

== The candidates debate. My fantasy ==

I fantasize a certain scenario for the Democrats in 2020, peering not at the top of the ticket, but at Elizabeth Warren for Vice President… a hope that was echoed on Saturday Night Live, as Kate McKinnon finished her hilarious EW sketch
Seriously, Dems have been raising up that office to greater power and effectiveness. Liz would turn it into a policy and legislation powerhouse, not seen since LBJ. And in the process, she’d gain the administrative experience she now totally lacks.

Who’s my pick for the top? I have none, yet – and neither should you – though anyone who shreds our coalition, as Gillibrand did, is a pariah to me. (And watch it Kamala; you can prove your toughness without damaging the cause.) 

I do lean toward an experienced and reassuring hand – ideally a governor. My fantasy is someone old enough and secure enough to plan in advance to resign after 3.9 years, giving EW a boost to begin her eight.

So… Jay Inslee? Governor of Washington State and universally known to be a strong reformer who can also lure purple voters into the tent? I like his climate emphasis, though it is second in priority to ending the cheating that’s wrecked politics and negotiation in American life. (What can we accomplish till that’s done? See my FACT Act.) He should make clear that’s even higher priority (as Mayor Pete has done… Butteigieg 2032!)

Ah, well. Inslee is only 90th percentile in persuasive charisma. Not enough. And Bernie's so much like my dad, in every way. And although Ol'Joe is a lot better than you guys credit... still, it's bad news and a bad sign that I have to keep saying that.  

So... maybe I'll skip the fantasy, make my spouse happy, and just go all-in with Liz... She's the smartest person in the room, and her only "skeleton" is that she believed the proud Cherokee stories told by her Oklahoma grandma. So awful.

Anyway… on to grand concepts!


*(Certainly not the crewcut veterans who run well in purple and red districts and who took back the House for us. They are just as important as the AOC types. In fact, Amy McGrath has a chance to unseat Moscow Mitch McConnell. Can you think of anything more important?)

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Science Fiction media and more

A bit of a sci-fi media roundup today.

How long have we waited for a television anthology series to be based upon (not just occasionally) genuine published short stories crafted by fine authors? Netflix has one, at last, titled Love, Death & Robots. See descriptions of some of the stories and authors featured.

31 Science-Fiction Things That Actually Exist Now… alas every one of them from TV or movies. How long would the list be, if they just took the forecasts of Frederik Pohl?  Including meat substitutes and tissue culture steaks that could help save us all. Oh, and today's cell phone with Siri. Yes that.

I want to see this... A famous “lost film” almost on a par with Jodorowsky’s DUNE, would be “Giraffes on Horseback Salad,” Salvador Dali’s attempt to sketch a possible film collaboration with the Marx Brothers! And now the pieces have been put together for a surrealist graphic novel: Giraffes on Horseback Salad: The Strangest Movie Never Made.

LATE NEWSthe composer of the concept album has announced that the sound track to "Giraffes" has just been released. Drop by for free samples.

== All SciFi news is miscellany! ==

Any Trekkies out there, Alec of the Axanar team (the fan production so good that Paramount took serious (&legal) notice) interviews me about Star Trek, my graphic novel, the missing concept re Klingons and comparisons to Star Wars.

Here are five science fiction themed music videos that take a look at unfolding, futuristic societal dilemmas. Janelle Monáe’s 2009 “Many Moons” is lavish and way fun. Rosamund Pike does an amazing marionette dance, and others.

A classic: my 1999 "Open Letter To Alien Lurkers" helped fill in a gap in SETI: "what if there are aliens or probes currently in the solar system, watching and reading our Internet, yet withholding first contact?" The Invitation To ETI site filled in that gap by formally asking for contact... but nothing happened. In my page on the IETI site, I contemplate 11 possible reasons why! (This list was dramatized and expanded and woven into the plot in EXISTENCE!) Watch the terrific/fun video trailer for Existence!

A fun look at the Captain’s quarters in various Star Trek shows.

Some folks say XKCD was referring here to my (Hugo-winning) short story “The Crystal Spheres” from The River of Time. I doubt it. But I’ll bask in the mistaken assumption.

== Sci Fi is “Speculative History” and so… ==

Extra History is one of the best things on YouTube. Quick, animated summaries of past eras that shaped our age. A 6-parter filled in my gaps about Sun Yat-sen and the Chinese Revolution. Another swept me across the end of the samurai era. This one about the Gracchi brothers shows how oligarchy undermined the Roman Republic, which was then torn up by radical populism. It all makes clear how fevered and harsh was "history" and why our present oligarchy plots against the new, modern, grownup ways of doing things.

The animations are way fun! But the narration is so good I get everything while turning my back to cook or do busywork at the computer. And dig it... he has a series on sci fi authors! Not comprehensive but cool.

Oh, also look at HISTORY BUFFS, which compares "historical" movies with actual events. I sometimes disagree. For example, the only good thing about the incredibly stupid flick  LAST SAMURAI was the fact that it made some more people aware that the Meiji Restoration happened. Treating the brutally oppressive lords as some sort of noble, repressed native tribe was silly. Nick Hodges understandably goes apoplectic over APOCALYPTO, though the simplest excuse for the 600 year gaffe is that one city survived the Classical Collapse and somehow kept going till the Spanish came. (Absurd, of course.) He waxes effusive over WATERLOO and ZULU and I agree -- while filling in a lot of interesting background.

On Tor.com “8 Books to Help You Rebuild After an Ecological Catastrophe.” The list doesn’t go back to tomes that were prescient about it all, though.

Along a similar topic… a new Swedish Sci Fi flick about a ship escaping Earth that gets waylaid… Aniara

I gave a club permission to translate and publish my short story ”Reality Check” (from Insistence of Vision) into Romanian. And here is the link for a few of you to enjoy.  

Every now and then someone sends me or links me to a semi-tribute song or composition based on one of my works, often inspired by some dolphin-poesy… in this case some trinary musings by the brain-damaged dolphin captain of Streaker, Creideiki.  Funky and strange use of poesy, yet catchy.   The key refrain is "where there is mind... there is deception..."

== short takes and news ==

Bill & Ted return? Oy. Forget the actors. Hire the old writers! Few flicks were ever more original. Alas, while the ‘third movies curse’ is no longer as perfectly true as it was in the 1980s and 1990s, it still is pretty strong. Bogus! 

Another theory that attempts to make sense of the utterly stupid Luke-Obiwan-Yoda story arc. And yes, it makes some sense… within the larger context of my STAR WARS ON TRIAL assertion the Yoda is probably the most-evil character (if you go by body count) in the history of all human storytelling. By far.

They Live is a 1988 movie directed by John Carpenter, based on Ray Nelson’s Sheckleyish 1963 short story "Eight O’Clock in the Morning." Rent it! It is truly wonderful. There's this scene that will make you laugh and cry at the same time, in which these two big, decent-but-dumb guys beat the crap out of each other in a fair-fight-of-honor over whether one of them will simply put on a pair of special sunglasses that will let him see the aliens who are enslaving the Earth. Oh, but what a perfect metaphor for our divided politics… how hard we’ll fight for our illusions! Oh, if only it were as easy as forcing our neighbors to put on some sunglasses. The fight scene. Truly classic.

== ... more... ==

An interesting video about a utopian experiment in the midwest in 1960’s America. A visionary scientist and a team of committed experts plan a domed city for 250,000 people whose futuristic technology and innovative design will eradicate the pollution and waste of the modern city, and lead the way toward 21st-Century urban life. But before the city of the future breaks ground on a virgin site in isolated northern Minnesota, rural citizens and mistrustful environmentalists rise up in protest, doubtful of its pollution-free promises. 

In my own yet-to-be-published SF comedy, my character muses about an even greater Lost Film, “The Road To Transylvania,” one of the “road” flicks of Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour, set in Dracula’s Castle with villains like Duchess Succubus. But it’s the song they sing – a variant on their traditional “Thanks for the Memories” – that got the film banned, never viewed until the year 2102. Want more? Hope I find a good publisher!

How wonderful! Science fiction is flourishing. It long ago took over Hollywood (though could use more depth from real novels). It’s on the upswing in China (for now).  Few cultural shifts could do more good in Latin America. So NYC area folks should drop in on “Mundos Alternos: Art and Science Fiction in the Americas,” (alternative worlds) currently on view through Aug. 18 at the Queens Museum. According to this review, there’s quite a bit of humor, too.

Kinda cool how the producers of a film NOMAD flew to an exact spot to film two lovers with a perfect solar eclipse in the background. The premise sounds cool, too.

Lawrence Schoen, author of BARSK and other way cool sci fi, has an amusing and fast-paced series starting with "Buffalo Dogs." -- The Amazing Conroy, the greatest hypnotist in known space, hits a snag when one of hypnotic suggestions is taken literally by aliens who only understand objective truth. Over the course of the day he'll lose everything, get blackballed from his profession, and smuggle an insanely valuable alien creature that can eat anything and farts oxygen.  Download it for free(!)

Science fiction scholars! Prof. Tom Lombardo has published the first volume of his epic work “Science Fiction: The Evolutionary Mythology of the Future “Prometheus to the Martians” – dealing with how ancient myths all the way to HG Wells have dealt with a timely topic – how humanity might change. Or catch an audio interview about the book (skip about 5 minutes in).

Lombardo's followup - Volume Two: The Time Machine to Star Maker had been completed and scholars chafing at the bit to see it might write to him.

Rising SF star David Walton has a new novel from Simon & Schuster — Three Laws Lethal — about the inventor of a virtual world in which AIs train to be released into the economy, who begins to recognize that these entities are developing goals of their own—goals for which they are willing to kill. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Mueller, the Sanders Tax, Rand and Revolution...

Today's political posting can't compete with the Mueller hearings, which established clearly that RM would have indicted Two Scoops for obstruction, had he not been shielded by the dubious OLC memo on presidential immunity. (Note when we get Congress back from Putin, we can amend that, carefully. I favor the concept of "slow indictment." Criminal and other proceedings against a sitting president may move forward so long as they demand from him or her - in total - no more than say ten hours a week of distraction/attention from other duties.) 

What I wanted from Mueller was a very clear description of "criminal conspiracy" as primly defined in a free society that gives all benefit of the doubt to the accused. If that benefit were less strong, would "preponderance of the evidence" have led Mueller to indict on that charge, as well? In the dictionary definition of "collusion," which is not a legal one at all, would he conclude that the Trumpists colluded with Moscow, even if criminal conspiracy wasn't proved? The answer in both cases would be resounding yes.

So much for that, for today. This posting features a few interesting items...

== Bernie goes to a matter of importance! ==

Sen. Bernie Sanders has introduced a bill that would tax trading of stocks, bonds and derivatives at rates ranging from 0.005% to 0.5%. "A so-called financial transactions tax could raise between $776 billion and $2.4 trillion over 10 years, economists estimate.The U.S. hasn't taxed financial trades since the 1960s, although the 2008 financial crash brought the idea back in vogue.”

Sanders noted that Great Britain has levied such a tax since the late 17th century, while dozens of other countries also use one. In more recent years, France started taxing trades in 2012, and a wider tax went into effect in the European Union in 2017.

“Research suggests a transaction tax would have the greatest impact on hedge funds and other speculators, which make hundreds or thousands of trades a second, profiting from faster technology or advance information. … While each trade might yield only a fraction of a cent in profit, the sheer volume of trades make it lucrative. Nearly half the volume on a given day is made up of this type of speculative activity.”

“A Forbes contributor likened it to a cigarette tax: "It would pick up some revenue while discouraging dangerous activity.”

Oh, but it is much, much more important than that.  See where - almost a decade ago - I proposed this as a way to save us from rogue AI! 
A Transaction Fee Might Save CapitalMarkets... and Protect Us From The Terminator!

== Adam Smith knew it ==

Many of you I know I deem Evonomics to be an important site for moderate liberal thinkers to reclaim the legacy of Adam Smith, who (along with the American Founders) knew that oligarchy by cheater-lords has always been to main enemy of flat-fair-competitive-creative enterprise and markets. 
This article - Eight Reasons Why Inequality Ruins the Economy - lists 8 possible theories for why slower growth correlates with widening wealth disparities. In other words, cheater lords once again poisoning the very markets they depend on and sowing seeds of revolution.
All eight correlations likely have some validity, though I believe #1 is both inarguable and paramount.

== Combat your enemy, not a strawman, or straw – Rand ==

On the Evonomics site, true market liberalism – Smith's flat-fair-competitive enterprise – finds its actual champions. It finds them where they have always been, especially during the Greatest Generation -- slightly left of center. 

Still, sometimes an intelligent writer misses the point. Sorry, but this take-down of Ayn Rand, while cogent in many places, utterly fails to grasp her main weaknesses. I'll try to summarize. From Locke and Adam Smith to the U.S. Founders, "liberal" society sought a middle ground between competition and cooperation

Competition is the greatest creative force of all - and libertarianism is founded on that true fact, then drifts and loses its way by ignoring one pure fact we see across the last 4000 years: that competition is spoiled by cheaters!  And history shows that human males (lords/kings/owners/priests) will cheat with any excuse. The commissars who Ayn Rand saw in her youth weren't "altruists" at all, but were simply the latest wave of male cheaters, using Marxist cant to give themselves a slightly different-colored version of rapacious feudal power. 

Rand and her followers extoll the creative power of competition - which empowered liberal societies to vast wealth and fecundity - while frenetically ignoring the element that made it possible, keeping our competitive arenas -- markets, democracy, science and courts -- flat and fair.

The conditions for fecund COMPETITION require social and democratic COOPERATION, in order to provide healthy markets with two essentials: anti-cheating regulation and maximization of opportunity for new competitors. 

(Liberal programs to uplift poor children require no justification on moral grounds! They are how we maximize our input-feedstock of skilled and confident competitors and prevent the recurring failure mode of oligarchy. Libertarians who oppose such programs are thus utter hypocrites.)

Rand portrays ubermensch heroes prevailing via impudent genius and creativity over the opposition of entrenched cheaters... whereupon she then ignores what has always happened next, until our liberal revolutions. The new lords just replicate the pattern, use their wealth to suppress new competitors, and cheat to give their sons unfair advantage. 

Actually, she knew this! It's why, across thousands of pages of Randism, only on one single page does she ever mention children, reproduction, new generations. Because if her New Lords procreate, the reader will start to ponder what's next, and recognize that she solved nothing.

Hence, alas, while Dr. Cummins says many wise things in her Evonomics take-down, she is not arguing directly with Randians or going to their core weakness. For more in this in detail, see:  http://www.davidbrin.com/nonfiction/aynrand.html

== Signs of revolution ==

The pool of smaller, affordable starter houses is low. And increasingly, first-time homebuyers are competing with investors who are buying up these homes. 

Look up the British "enclosures crisis" and similar events in Rome etc, and other ways the rentier caste cheated to rob the middle. This trend proves one thing above all else. That aristocracy does not equate to intelligence. The smart zillionaires... Buffett, Gates, Bezos etc ... can see where this leads. They cry: "raise my taxes!" not just for moral reasons, but to keep tumbrels from coming after them.

Not all aristocrats have foresight. An infographic on how some of today’s rich are seeking bolt-holes or Patagonian ranchos or other survivalist means to survive an apocalypse of their own making. And – um – they think that the smart people they’ve been waging war against don’t know where all of these “refuges” are located? 

You actually think that all the folks who know stuff and how to make and use stuff won’t be able to find you?

== A related aside... ==

Take a peek at the ideas of Douglas Rushkoff, whose new book Team Human is about ways that we might restore our shared sense of forward purpose, dissecting some very old, false ideas about competition, individuality, scarcity, and progress. “We needn’t embed these values in the digital landscape of tomorrow.” Elsewhere, Rushkoff described how some of the business elite are going about preparing for a doomsday, Salon ran an article: We asked psychologists why so many rich people think the apocalypse is coming.”

Among the insights: “Though we tend to think of the apocalypse as negative, the idea may counterintuitively be attractive to some,” he said. “In a world in which life feels uncertain and often unfair, in which people struggle to find a sense of personal purpose, the idea of an apocalyptic ending, though terrifying, can also feel meaningful." ... "This is obvious when we think about certain religious apocalyptic beliefs, but even among more secular types or those who do not believe in a particular religious apocalyptic narrative, apocalyptic ideas can be seductive... like people dreaming of a “better world."

... “Some are attracted to these ideas because they would be tested and could find their true purpose, maybe even emerge as heroes or people of importance in a new world,” he said... “And some like to imagine the possibility of a simpler life, what might be almost a form of nostalgia.”  

Of course, this is one of the malignant, cancerous mind-memes that I addressed, at some depth” in The Postman, and later in Existence.

== Spread this concept == 

Again,  consider ways to get someone, anyone in power to look at my gerrymandering solution, one that takes three sentences, is simple, does not impose a commission or complex formula, and would give a big sop to Chief Justice John Roberts's rationalization -- his need to allow legislative sovereignty. Yes, a state legislature's sovereign right to cheat its own citizens. 

Alas, I had no way to tunnel it into the sincere and hardworking but microcephalic heads of the plaintiff lawyers in this case.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Apollo at 50. Plus updates from space

I was 18 years old, had just survived my frosh year at Caltech, envious of those I heard were heading to a rock concert back east while I worked the unner hauling a radio astronomer's tapes on and off an IBM360-75... and I recall watching Walter Cronkite interview Robert Heinlein and Ray Bradbury, with all of them in tears of joy. And seeing Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov hold forth on other networks, as a nation and world came to realize that Earth is not enough. The rest of the universe is palpable and real; you can step on it! And a literature that looks forward just might have some relevance.

Apollo 12 would be the stunning display of utter competence and Apollo 8 had just given us one of two great artworks of the 20th Century, changing human hearts without needing a word of persuasion. But it was Neil and Buzz and Mike and the tens of thousands who got them there, and tens of millions who paid for it, and a billion or so watching - thrilled - who got a boost to our inner confidence, at a time when we would need it most.

Draw from it now! That competence and confidence matters. Don't let enemies undermine -- or worse, hijack -- that pride in a scientific, pragmatic, progress-oriented and change-willing civilization. Those of our neighbors who are helping to wage war on facts... remind them that those inconvenient truths help us to revise and to learn and to become greater than we were.

(Reporting from Comicon!)

== Space News! ==

Organoids in space: Will human cells differentiate and proliferate and organize themselves properly - if development takes place in micro-gravity? Finding out is the aim of a human-brains-in-a-dish experiment created by UCSD researchers and about to be shipped up to the Space Station. I am tangentially part of the team led by Alysson R. Muotri, PhD, in cooperation with UCSD's Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination.

After a brief embargo, I can now link you to the announcement of new phase III grants by NASA’s Innovative and Advanced Concepts program. (I was in DC last month as a member of NIAC’s External Council.) Phase One offers small seed grants to explore an idea that’s just this side of science fiction, and sometimes beyond that line. Phase Two allows the best-demonstrated Phase One concepts to develop more tech/sci readiness across 2 years. Phase Three is brand new.  Substantial funding to demonstrate real feasibility for a space mission. The first two P3 grants can now be viewed here. Both involve the quest to access lunar and asteroidal resources.

At that meeting in DC, we discussed NIAC’s difficulty in attracting brilliantly conceptual proposals from underrepresented groups or categories. Some of the finest ideas have been in areas like biology, life support or habitation… and a number of these came from just Lynn Rothschild and her students!, so we know there are great innovators in those fields. We just need to get the word out, better. Your suggestions for groups or conferences, startups or companies that might have a stunning notion potentially applicable to spaceflight would be welcome, below. (Under-represtnted groups welcome.) Better yet, share with those folks links to the NIAC information pages!

And if NIAC’s brash innovativeness is way too-sane for you, then try this gonzo-paranoid techno tall tale about high ISP rocketry by my colleague Charles Stross. It's like if NIAC got really, really mad and turned from mild-mannered Bruce Banner into the Hulk. 

Oh, and here are some images from my June talk to a packed auditorium at Goddard NASA Spaceflight Center. There I offered a trio of slides that portray distinctly why  readily accessible riches are available on asteroids, but only one kind of any likely near-term value exists on the moon: lunar polar ice. (And even water will likely be better accessed from certain kinds of asteroids.)

Metals, in particular, are unlikely to be a “lunar resource.” Want to know where to find them out there? See how NASA has given go-ahead to the Psyche Mission! “While most asteroids are rocky or icy bodies, scientists think Psyche is composed mostly of iron and nickel, similar to Earth's core. They wonder whether Psyche could be the nickel-iron heart, or exposed core, of an early planet maybe as large as Mars that lost its rocky outer layers through violent collisions billions of years ago.” And a lot more than nickel-iron.

== News from the Solar System ==

Partly inspired by earlier NIAC grants, NASA will fly a billion-dollar quadcopter to Titan, Saturn’s methane-rich moon. Acetylene-butane co-crystals might form rings around Titan's lakes as liquid hydrocarbons evaporate and the minerals drop out—in the same way that salts can form crusts on the shores of Earth's lakes and seas. Huh, I had envisioned the Titanian shore-dwellers mad of wax. Shows what I know.

The Deep Space Atomic Clock experiment will test miniaturization of super accurate time keeping in space, so future missions (mars & beyond) can self-navigate. 

Cool. NASA’s Osiris-Rex spacecraft has been orbit-spiraling close to asteroid Bennu. See images  from just 690 meters away. The spacecraft is designed to reach out to Bennu, snag a sample of surface material and bring it back to Earth in 2023. The recent impressive Japanese sampler mission to another asteroid shows who we should be partnering with, to do things out there that none of the Apollo-wannabe lunar dust-tourists can dream of. Possibly accessing the riches that would enable greatness while paying for a restored Earth.

Speaking of which. Even stony asteroids are moist – testimony from samples returned by Japan’s first (of two) Hayabusa probes, supporting the notion that other kinds – like carbonaceous C-type or extinct comets – will likely be very rich in the stuff of life (and of rocket fuel).

While asteroids offer the greatest (vast) trove of available wealth to a nascent interplanetary civilization, there are rocks along the path. Both Planetary Resources (PI) and Deep Space Industries have scaled back their immediate ambitions to access metals like Platinum, and PI’s assets have been acquired by one of the founders of Etherium. (A thought provoker, that news.)

Meanwhile, Joel Sercel’s TransAstra Corp. Keeps winning grants to pursue the nearer term profitable resource, water, on both asteroids and the lunar poles.  He has competition there! The Chinese have declared lunar polar ice to be their goal, as has George Sowers of the Colorado School of Mines and even – officially, at least – The current U.S. administration.

== Politics of space ==

SpaceX has successfully deployed sixty production versions of the Starlink Satellite. They are targeting 360 through the next six months, aiming at a lot of revenue for service to North America, Europe and Asia, by reducing latency in financial trading communication.

That obscure but lucrative revenue source is crucial since it will flow almost immediately once the constellations prove reliable. In fact, it could be why folks still lend Elon money for Tesla, because (yet again) one of his businesses will be able to pay off debt for another at a critical moment. It also would give Starlink time to build its more general internet access business.

Two factors though. First, Bernie Sanders has raised the prospect of a potential transaction tax on financial trades. In fact, it is a very important reform that could save all of us from genuine dangers from the worst kinds of AI. But fortunately for Elon, it won’t happen for at least two years. By then, Starlink will have other sources of revenue.

The other factor is China. The arrival of these new low-orbit internet constellations will mean citizens of the Central Kingdom may have another chance at a free infosphere. Daunted by this prospect, at times the PRC has threatened to “shoot down” such constellations.  An impractical threat and a sign of desperation. So, will they seek to make a deal with Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos and others?  Or will they try to get control over that situation by going over their heads, through their friends in American high places?

Meanwhile the current head of Roscosmos – the Russian Space Agency – has laid down a vision for moon landings by 2030, by creating a launch system more powerful than NASA’s in-development SLS. This article, while conveying his slides, is justifiably skeptical. More likely would be a Russia-China partnership. Perhaps and/or India. I hope not snaring in ESA, Japan, or the U.S., who have better things to do, elsewhere. Best case? Commercial tourist junkets leave them in a cloud of mood dust.

NASA is giving the public an opportunity to send their names — stenciled on chips — to the Red Planet with NASA's Mars 2020 rover. And sure, I recommend you sign on! I give odds of a bazillion to one against anything bizarre happening as a result (as in my short story “Mars Opposition,” published in Insistence of Vision.