Sunday, June 28, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

== They have no answer for this one ==

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Perspectives on the more distant human past

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

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

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

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

== Speculations on human origins ==

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

That knocked humans back into only Africa…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

== And more surprises ==

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

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

== Fascinating… and Uplift-related ==

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

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

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

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

== And finally... ==

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

Saturday, June 20, 2020

A nasty little boy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

== The Russians are coming... ==

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See how to do it in Polemical Judo.

== And finally more ammo ==

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Science Fiction, news, views, blues... and amuses...

Here's a Sci Fi roundup to offer a breather from Earthly troubles.

For starters...  We’re watching the excellent Amazon Prime show COUNTERPART. Two parallel worlds divided in 1982. They remained similar til one of them lost half a billion people to a flu that they blamed on the other world. Some creepily prescient scenes re masks and distancing and paranoia. Truly excellent actors and scripting.

And yes, pandemics have been common in science fiction. From PLAGUE YEAR about a nanomachine apocalypse (by the late Jeff Carlson: very worthwhile) all the way back to Mary Shelley's THE LAST MAN. My own "The Giving Plague" was guardedly optimistic about infectious diseases coming to terms with their hosts. In HEART OF THE COMET the physician on an expedition to Halley had the job of regularly releasing "challenge diseases" to keep crew healthy.

Here's a kewl little piece on 5 Great Books That Show The Range Of Science Fiction. Well, that’s four bright up-and-comers and one old fart. 

And the brilliant young sci fi writer S.B. Divya (author of RunTime) and I interviewed each other for the magazine of our alma mater, Caltech, in this fine older piece.

The mighty Annalee Newitz offers us an interesting article about how some recent science fiction has featured riffs about the “dismal science”… economics. It’s entertaining, though it focuses mostly on recent fixations. Even the excellent and more-serious-than-average series THE EXPANSE is economically silly. (Like there’s grinding poverty when they've accessed that much automation and unlimited asteroidal resources? How many babies would human women have to make, in just two centuries, in order Malthus-away that kind of wealth-generating capacity? The same illogical notion propels Bladerunner 2049. And yes, excellent flicks, despite my nitpicks.)

Oh, sure, the fundamental need in a story is to have dire problems for the protagonists to face and either overcome or dramatically fail. (I explain how that need drives most writers and directors into narrow and often repetitive paths.

== A fine new magazine ==

New from the Berggruen Institute and the World Post comes Noema Magazine. It will cover the overlapping realms of philosophy, geopolitics, economics and technology. From artificial intelligence and the climate crisis to the future of democracy and capitalism, we seek a deeper understanding of the most pressing challenges of the 21st century.

In ancient Greek, the word noēma means “thinking” or the “object of thought.” "In this era of social transformations, many of which are accelerated by COVID-19, there is a dire need for new ideas and paradigms to frame the world we are moving into."

Meanwhile... Wil McCarthy – one of the most innovative SF writers of the 1990s, whose super-tech speculations were so plausible they led to patents - is back with two incredible novels. First, THE COLLAPSIUM takes off from Wil’s epic Queendom of Sol society, where programmable matter and miniature black holes drive the ultimate Utopia - with the ultimate dark side. “If any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, then any sufficiently advanced society should come to resemble a fairy tale.”

Follow this with ANTEDILUVIAN:  Before disaster erased the coastlines of the Antediluvian age, men and women struggled and innovated in a world of savage contrasts. It was a time when archetypes and myths were written upon the fabric of humanity, that are still preserved in our oldest stories.  In a brilliant and dangerous brain-hacking experiment, Harv Leonel and Tara Mukherjee are about to discover entire lifetimes of human memory coded in our genes, and reveal ancient legends that are very real - and very deadly. Follow all that next year with RICH MAN'S SKY: “When billionaires control the space program, where does that leave the rest of us?”

== A wonderful universe, despite nits to pick ==

This NPR article offers some sci fi media notes, starting with “Troop Zero,” which - while a bit clichéd - was charming with unexpected SETI/scifi angles. But moving on to the Big Leagues… what could be more exciting and hopeful a sign, than Michael Chabon being put in charge of the new  CBS All-Access Star Trek series “Picard”?  A total pro and visionary, who never let success go to his head and who never disowned science fiction.

Plumbing deeper into the series, here’s an interesting rumination on “Picard,” carrying Patrick Stewart’s iconic captain into a future when the Romulan Empire has been shattered by the supernova that divided two universes, the “ortho” Trek cosmos and that of JJ Abrams (as usual, vivid but illogical). I don’t have CBS-AA and can wait a bit. But I think the prospects for this show sound very good. And I do care about that, a lot! Star Trek is the most logically consistent and well-maintained of all science fiction cosmologies and the one that keeps urging us to be better than we are. That contrasts sharply vs. the epically dumb and generally immoral competitor I denounce in Star Wars on Trial.

Alas there is one deeply flawed aspect of the Trek universe - a truly nerdy but vexing complaint - and that is the distribution of intelligent species. If the Klingon and Romulan and Cardassian empires were all large enough to be a threat to the Federation then they were of comparable - if somewhat lesser - size. Then should they not have contained comparable numbers of star systems with intelligent races? And in the Shatnerverse wasn’t it alluded to that none of those empires were kind to those “natives”? Consider the depiction of a Federation filled with noisy, rollicking and sometimes bickering free peoples. What about the peoples who were suppressed by neighboring empires before the Klingons had their Chernobyl and the Romulans their supernova?

This has been a major blind spot in the Trek universe.  That we would see a sense of mission to the Federation’s righteous struggles against the three empires. (This is hinted at in the laudable fan-flick “Prelude to Axanar.”)

We saw this a bit in the Federation liberating Bajor in DS9 and in the Gamma Quadrant War.  It should have been a major plot element of the Klingon Chernobyl plot line and even bigger in the Romulan Supernova calamity, in Picard.

== And finally... ==

A fascinating – almost sci-fi-ish – tale about some nerdy young women in WWII who played war games that revealed U-boat tactics and helped to win the Battle of the Atlantic.  

SETI Law expert Michael Michaud’s Michael Michaud’s first novel, Eastern Wind, describes the discovery of an unexpected shipwreck off Catalina Island that changes Chinese and North American history. His second science-related novel, entitled Monsters, suggests the potentially threatening implications of genetic manipulation, and how the concentration of great wealth in a small elite could lead to irresponsible use of that technology.

Jean-Marc Ligny reports that “The French Army (and other sober agencies) is recruiting SF writers.” 

Need cheering up? Sample some chapters of my new sci fi comedy novel “The Ancient Ones.”  Enjoy free sample chapters! Stay capable of smiling... and... 

Keep looking upward...

Saturday, June 13, 2020

There's a lot more than symbolism. But okay, let's talk symbolism.

Having marched in the 60s (and my Bernie-clone journalist-father sided early with MLK) and having mourned both King & Bobby, I know tense times can push radicalization that ranges from overdue ferocity (#MeToo and BLM and toppling confed statues) all the way to over-wrought and unhelpful shrieks, or even enemy agitprop. Time tells the difference, of course, and often I've needed to change where I drew those lines, for example when I revised my opinion of Malcolm X. (Let's have some fun and put him on Lee's pedestal!) 

Alas, I will get dissed for even raising the fact that this spectrum -- ranging from long-overdue fury and fed-up activism to unhelpful radical preening*, to falling for KGB/KKK agitprop lures -- even exists. Those applying purity tests (that they conveniently get to rule-upon) won't accept me as an ally, however hard or long or effectively I have fought for the Great Experiment. (Far more effectively than most of those radical judges.) 

Still, I'd rank Cortez and Pizarro and Jackson and Sheridan higher, as murderous white oppressors of indigenous peoples, than the Italian explorer Columbus, who arguably did little more than slightly accelerate an an inevitable contact that others botched into holocaust.

As for Churchill, whose statue is now under attack? Was he a man of his times who said things cringeworthy by later standards? Absolutely. Though Gandhi also freely admitted that his guilt-tripping tactics could only sway the public conscience of a British public that HAD a conscience, and that most empires - especially those of Hitler or Stalin - would simply have rubbed him out, with a shrug.

Only fools ignore how crucial Churchill was - for all his faults - at unifying resistance to those vastly more-evil empires. Can you truly claim to be anti-nazi while howling at the one person who most-consistently and effectively thwarted Hitler's mad dreams?

Elsewhere I quote Fredrick Douglass's eulogy of Abraham Lincoln (look it up!) where he avows that he spent years frustrated with Lincoln's seemingly tepid abolitionism... till he realized that there could have been no ally better suited and positioned to steer a path through perilous times and bring the needed change.

When judging historical figures, one test stands above all others. Did he or she strive to move the needle forward? Were they substantially better than those they led and better than their times? By that standard, Jefferson and Washington led, even in the cautionary tale of their self-admitted hypocrisies, but especially in setting momentum to a ponderously too-slow but inexorable arc of history and justice that, for all its frustrating faults, shines brightly against all the rest of the last 10,000 wretched years. A momentum that today's activists replicate, reinforce and re-invigorate.

Gene Roddenberry put women crew in miniskirts and made Uhura a receptionist, and we had to wait a long time for Sisko. So was GR a sexist-racist pig? Or was he the fellow who lifted our gaze from a morass of sci fi dystopias to imagine a better future of justice and peace, when all of these issues will be viewed in retrospect as the weird reflexes of frightened caveman ancestors? See what MLK said about Star Trek, before you blurt a reflex answer.

We're now in the fight of our lifetimes to preserve that Experiment. To prove that government of, for and by the people shall not perish from the Earth. Some would split our coalition with obsessive symbolism attacks aimed not at redressing injustice, but preening a high virtue-classification for themselves, while offending the very public whose support we need, right now. 

I draw that line between confederate statues (boo!) and taking Jackson off the $20 bill and painting BLM on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of Trump's stolen house (choice!), on the one hand - and Churchill and Washington on the other. 

But I HAVE BEEN WRONG BEFORE. I'll even listen.

Will you? 

== Beware of allies who would weaken us ==

* Again this is about splitterism. Shall we seek a broad Union Coalition to win this Phase Eight of the American Civil War? Or take pleasure in offending the very allies that we need?

Because if we don't win it crushingly at the ballot box in November, we may be forced into a much worse Phase Nine. Take a hint from the recent "Generals' Revolt." We need allies now, more than ever.

I arm you here with all you need, in order to quash those splitter mantras. Get to know these facts, so you can show the splitters they are factually wrong, in almost every respect! And yes, there's much more in Polemical Judo.

== It's the cop unions, stupid ==

I predicted in The Transparent Society (1997) that cop-cams and bystander video recordings would hold police accountable… though perhaps in grudging increments. Even earlier, in my novel Earth (1991) I talked about how there would be *fewer* police in a future when all citizens can record whatever they see with their eyes… when most kinds of violent street crime largely vanish because it is always caught. (The Seattle experiment could preview this result… at least during its zealous “co-op” phase.)

That - of course - is how to “defund the police”… by reducing our need for them, plus ensuring that only grownups get on the force, because cameras catch imbeciles like these Chicago fools lunging in a congressman’s office while their city was being looted.

Cop unions around the country must decide - right now - whether they are here to protect the assholes, or to protect good cops from the assholes. There is no longer any middle ground, and the "good majority" needs to say so.

== Late notes ==

Vote Veterans pushes candidates for office who have served. Yes, most are Democrats. That’s a trend based on a lot of things, including the devolution of the Republican Party into fact-hating virulence and madness. So these folks are stepping up to defend America again.  Oh, I wouldn’t mind a bit if Joe chose Tammy Duckworth. Look her up.

Six former confederate states plus (you’d guess) Indiana use age as an excuse to limit use of absentee ballots, violating (as asserted by Equal Citizen) the 26th Amendment.