Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Economics and investment gurus abandoning the GOP... and John Roberts's agenda... and again with this "Fourth Turning" voodoo?

Starting with economics: How are my investment-pundit friends reacting to these insane times? Here's one denouncing a second round of ripoffs.

"$1,000,000,000,000. Or a TRILLION dollars. That's enough to give all 1,000 Billionaires in the World another Billion. Wait, we did that already. Well it's enough to give a Million Millionaires another Million. We did that too? Well it's enough to buy 3,000 masks for each American so we wouldn't need to spend Trillions propping up the economy or to accelerate money velocity by giving $600 to 30M people for a year."

"ROFL!!! Who are we kidding, this is America, we're going to give it to the rich people again!" ---

-- And that from a stock investment guru... one of those who love markets, but who get that driving average folks toward revolution may not be good for values.

"The funny thing is the rich people are pissed that they are only getting $1Tn this time (got $6.7Tn last time) ...The biggest stimulus issue will hit us on Friday, it's the end of the $600 weekly unemployment bonus and the Democrats in the House wanted to extend it through Christmas while the Scrooges in the Senate said not only do they want it dropped to $200 now but they want all unemployment capped at 70% of wages AFTER it's combined with any State Benefits people are receiving."

There's more. But you get it. The rich are swiftly dividing into two camps: the unsapient and insatiably greedy that I depicted in Existence... versus those who understand what ol' Joe Kennedy did, when that SOB mogul shocked his peers and backed Roosevelt: 

"I'd rather have half my wealth taken to foster a happy middle class than lose it all to revolution."

And again, I know a dozen ways that some sub-billionaire could make a huge difference, the next two months. And go down in history.

Meanwhile... continuing with economics...

The FCC has approved a petition from Cumulus Media to permit more than 25% foreign ownership of US media, up to and including 100%. Yep. Part of the steady effort to give puppetmasters all the strings.

The best online zine about economics in the modern context – and the top venue that discusses the deeply compassionate and moral ways that Adam Smith first broached the stunning advantages of flat-fair-open-transparent competitiveness – is the EVONOMICS site.  Highly recommended.  And yes, I have one of the channels there, talking about Smith… and why advertising can no longer carry the weight of supporting the Web. 

And see their piece on the economic effects of the pandemic.

== Roberts the "moderate" or "liberal"? ==

Again and again. The top oligarchs don't care about race or gender or abortion, except as dog whistles to rile up red-heads and confeds. John Roberts will side with the Court's liberals on those topics, in order to get balance cred. But he will never side with the people or precedent, or the Constitution, or honesty, when it comes to power. 

And now someone else is pointing at the emperor's nakedness:

"Conservatives really aren't paying good attention to [chief justice] Roberts. He knows what is important and what is not. He knows that LGBTQ rights and religion get lots of media coverage, but what really matters to him is keeping Republicans in power via gerrymandering, voter suppression etc. On the latter kind of cases, he is an unwavering supporter of the Republican Party. 

"To mask that, he votes with the four liberals from time to time in the hopes that everyone is distracted by bright shiny objects and fails to notice that what he really cares about is keeping Republicans in power. With this mix of rulings, he can claim he is just calling balls and strikes (even if baseball itself is in trouble, as described below). Conservatives seem to be unable to comprehend that he is on their side on the stuff that really matters long term."

At last. A pundit who isn't denser than lead.

== Again with this garbage? ==

One of the most-absurd pieces of pattern-seeking nonsense is "The Fourth Turning" by Strauss & Howe, a fable about American "generations" that both ignores the rest of the world and all the rest of human history... plus biology, evolution and almost any inconvenient facts... but has become a touchstone catechism for the US right, feeding into a conservative proclivity toward CYCLICAL HISTORY.

As some kind of cause-effect predictor, it is nonsense... though as a metaphor for what we are going through, the fable does have some charms. It does seem as if millennials will be forced into "hero generation" status akin to the World War II clade. Not because of some teleological 'cycles,' but because imbecile believers in such nonsense, like Steve Bannon, have circled the globe hell bent on helping the enemies of our Great Experiment to provoke such a crisis, where none had been necessary at all. Ironically, they are doing it for evil reasons that the millennials themselves utterly reject. And those millennials will hunt them down, if this gets really dark.

I go into these cycles & such in an earlier posting as well as here and here.

==  The mumbo gets more Jumbo... ==

This interesting piece surveys the notions of William Strauss and Neil Howe that led to their famous prediction of a Great Crisis around the year 2020. I am much less impressed… in fact I have a chapter in Polemical Judo about "patterns of history" - or "teleology" - dissecting how mystical-minded folks on the left view such patterns quite differently from the way folks on the right generally adore "cyclical" incantations about nations going "decadent" and "falling" in rhythmic fatal sequences. (The Nazis believed in cyclical-history crap, proving decisively that they were a phenomenon of the right.)

Ironically, Strauss and Howe... authors of Generations and The Fourth Turning were actually quite upset over how fervently their thesis -- that US history obeys prim 80 year cycles -- was embraced by the radical right. Excuse some repetition, but Howe repeatedly stressed that the asses gleefully calling for a 2020 era crisis - many of whom, like Steve Bannon, helped artificially to cause it -- are exactly the sort of boomer dogmatists whom the new, millennial "hero generation" utterly despise!

  If millennials swing any way politically, it will be to emulate the previous "hero clade," the so-called Greatest Generation who adored one living human above all others... Franklin Roosevelt.

Oh, but now comes a "paper" that takes this nonsense to the nth degree, using Sciencey-jabber and impressive looking "charts" and inapropos 'citations.' There's hardy a sentence in this scroll of dreck that isn't easily disproved babble and confabulation with tables and graphs that are outright LSD fantasies... but wow what an incantation!

Again. In this link I point out the both leftists and rightists tend to desperately seek patterns of teleological ordained history. The left often sees this as heading inexorably in a particular direction, while the right nearly always plunges into "cycles." They draw comfort from the notion that all efforts will fail.

Oh, by the way... Did you know that private banks have police - and can arrest you? Without any Congressional hearings on the matter, the USA Patriot Act in 2001 bestowed on the 12 regional Federal Reserve banks domestic policing powers. While the Federal Reserve Board of Governors in Washington, D.C. is deemed an “independent federal agency,” with its Chair and Governors appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate, the 12 regional Fed banks are private corporations owned by the member banks in their region. … The Fed’s police officers are technically known as FRLEO, short for Federal Reserve Law Enforcement Officer. The system has its own police academies for training, their own patch and badges, uniforms, pistols, rifles, police cars and the power to arrest coast to coast without a warrant.”

And finally...

See this: The most surprising revelations from Mary Trump's just-released tell-all book about the president: Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man - which joins the shelves along with Bolton's The Room Where it Happened.

Inside the luxury nuclear bunker protecting the mega-rich from the apocalypse. “While humanity is still dealing with an ongoing pandemic of disastrous proportions, some Americans are preparing for a very different doomsday scenario: waiting out a nuclear winter inside a condo complex of luxurious underground bunkers.” 

First, these jerks think they are so modernist and even science fictional, and they haven’t a hair’s breadth of logic or imagination among them… like remembering that we nerds know where every single one of these hidey holes are, including those in Patagonia, the Urals and under the sea. And in the event of a calamity, if we feel betrayed or even just abandoned by oligarchs whose actions or negligence contributed to that fall, then we who know nuclear physics, cyber, bio and genetics will seek out those holes, pry out the soft nuts and turn them into peasants in the new order that they made.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Reflections on science and human nature

All right, the news comes so thick and fast that no postings of mine can keep up, except to share with you a deep hope that our professional protector castes - who defeated Hitler and stymied Stalin, Mao and bin Laden and created an unbeatable alliance of free peoples - are on the ball. (Ironically, this is the first year in ten that I haven't consulted with one or another of those agencies, offering warnings that all-too often came true.) 

And so, for sanity's sake... in order to recall that 'sanity' is even a thing... let's step back and take a bigger perspective.

== The Pursuit of Truth ==

For example, a selfish argument for making the world a better place: this video on Egoistic Altruism about the key concept of our times - the Positive Sum Game - is very persuasive.  

Consider also the insights of Roger Bacon's pursuit of truth....This year marks what is believed by many to be the 800th birthday of an especially courageous truth seeker, the English polymath Roger Bacon (1214 - 1292). Though other scientists came before him, his breadth of study has led many to call him “the first scientist.” Were he alive today, Bacon would likely be pursuing the truth about such matters as the coronavirus and its effects on society, as well as the need for personal and political virtues to overcome it.”

Bacon believed that the improvement of human life, both personally and socially, depends on the eradication of error. To correct what ails society, it is necessary to restore respect for learning, real-world experience and the pursuit of truth. So long as people go forth with a false map of reality, they will lose their way and never reach their true destination." 

Roger Bacon argued that there are four causes of error
1) weak and unworthy authority, 
2) longstanding customs, 
3) the opinions of ignorant crowds, and 
4) the hiding of ignorance through displays of apparent knowledge…What people often lack, Bacon believed, are not correct answers but the best questions.

Further “…he called for experimentation, but not only in the sense of a scientific laboratory. He believed that people should put their ideas on trial, seeing how well they fare when tested in the real world of experience. What doesn’t hold up should be rejected.And this essay’s author adds: The last thing any good political leader needs is to be surrounded by yes men.”

To which let me add my own guideposts, in the form of a Questionnaire on Ideology which some of you have taken, carefully designed to get you to interrogate - at least briefly - some of your own 'fundamentals.' A whole lot more challenging that Donald Trump's dementia test.

Take it, if you dare!

== Experimental evidence against cynicism about human nature ==

Since 1951, one novel has typified the cynically pessimistic view that human beings are inherently nasty and selfish and brutal. William Golding’s Lord of the Flies was certainly a masterpiece, presenting us with Jungian archetypes like the hero, the hunter, the mystic and the civilized man – and it ripped away the naïve notion that civilization is anything more than a veneer, whose restraints, if ever loosened, meant immediate return to chaos.

Or else something worse than chaos – a return to the form of ‘government’ that dominated maybe 99% of the last 6000 years. 

Certainly these are topics I’ve chewed upon, in works from The Postman and Earth to The Transparent Society. And yes, while deeply impressed by Golding’s novel, it was a very Hobbesian view of us. I hoped and prayed and gathered evidence that he was wrong.

And it seems the experiment was run, pretty much perfectly, when, almost exactly cribbing from Lord of the Flies, in 1966 half a dozen Tongan school boys had to survive as castaways on a rocky islet for 15 months… and they exhibited absolutely none of the nasty traits that Golding implied were inevitable. Cooperating to an almost obsessive degree, caring for each other, resolving disputes and setting broken bones, they innovated and retained their compassion up to the moment of rescue, and later served together on a fishing boat.

This is important, because cynicism is the poison being spread not just by the entire Putin-Murdoch right but also some elements on the left, catering to the ingrate laziness of those who dislike what’s demanded by the contingently optimistic among us. 

Hard work and maybe a little heroism, to help save a planet and civilization that’s been very good to them.

== The Science of Deception ==

Inside corporations' war on science: we've seen an excess of bogus science paid for by companies seeking a pre-biased outcome are familiar from tobacco and Big Oil industries  - to sugar, chemical and pharmaceutical companies. There are ‘studies' denying health harms from smog… even while - in my childhood - it was physical agony to breathe. Similarly, for months, the Fox network promoted the idea that the coronavirus was a hoax.

See the recently published book - The Triumph of Doubt: Dark Money and the Science of Deception. David Michaels dissects the methods many corporations use to sow doubt, uncertainty and confusion in the public sphere. Michals comments, "It's mostly because the laws are written in a way that parallels the criminal justice system. So the assumption is that exposures, pollutants, chemicals are innocent until proven guilty." 

And finally... Caltech’s “The Lonely Idea” podcast demonstrates how top scientists nurture curiosity that’s impudent and challenging – diametrically opposite to the “herd mentality” accusation hurled by those who would never recognize a fresh idea, themselves. And here's another good one.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Covid misconceptions. Billionaires don't donate to Biden! And a letter about covid to "Dear libertarians...."

Before talking covid... you know that for years I've warned that a trumped-up "war" with Iran would serve the interests of all our nation's enemies, from the Republican Party to the Iranian mullahs, themselves, and above all Vladimir Putin, who would finally rake in all the chips. I've long praised the US Navy for calmly defusing one provocation after another, avoiding a "Tonkin Gulf" (and you all still do need to stay alert, also knowing the words "Gleiwitz" and "Reichstag Fire.")
So, why am I not beating that drum now? Because our military, intel and other officers have eyes and brains. Given that our entire 'deep state' is on red alert against efforts by Putin/Tehran/Fox/Trump to trigger an October War, what other tricks are possible?
We don't know! That's why I keep saying some zillionaire - instead of just joining the herd donating to the Biden campaign - should try some of the special things I suggested here.
Especially the "Henchman of the Year" Prize, to lure whistle-blowers and tattlers into the open. There is absolutely no better use of a million dollars, than to staunch the nefarious schemes and cheats that are right now hatching in preparation. It's the henchmen who can offer proof! And if nothing else, this would make the plotters distrust their henchmen.
Well, there is one other thing, that could do even more good. Joe Biden could start talking about pardoning the first few to step forward from among the hundreds likely now being blackmailed into treason by the KGB. Whatever they are being blackmailed for, any of them who turned the tables on their blackmailers would be salvageable 'heroes' - at least enough to find some forgiveness and a stairway out of hell. Someone in Biden's campaign should contemplate how good that would look, even if it spurred no defections. But if it did...
And yes, all this and more is in the book.
== Cautionaries about Covid/Covfefe-19 == 
As you might guess, I'm very busy these days, on often one podcast/ interview/ conference a day, sometimes two, even three. Along the way I've learned a lot. About how vaccines work, for instance, and how it's not enough just to make antibodies, or even 'neutralizing antibodies" that are effective against a viral attack. 

Look up Antibody-based Enhancement (Ab), where the victim's immune system manages to stymie one viral strain, only for the next variant to hijack those antibodies and use them as trojan horses, or spears, to attack and invade more fiercely than ever! While rare, this does happen to some promising vaccines, especially in Dengue, where the first wave can be mild and the second devastatingly lethal. Indeed, discovering such potentially dangerous quirks is one reason we have large scale trials before releasing vaccines.

Other immunological side effects happen. With the 1976 Swine Flu vaccine that Gerald Ford rushed out, the Guillame-Barré side effect was so nasty it gave birth to the current anti-vaxxer movement. Anything similar with a covid vaccine could spur vaxxers to plunge us back into the dark ages... those execrable years before the Greatest Generation saved mine from Polio and Diptheria, And yes, before Jonas Salk became the most-beloved American, terrified parents kept children indoors, away from friends and swimming pools, all summer long. 

What? You think this was our first quarantine? (Salk was the first American to approach the adoration that the Greatest Generation gave previously to Franklin... Delano... Roosevelt.)

All of which is to say that things are more complicated than reflex dogma. Not only is it dangerous to rush out the first vaccine. It's also foolish to ignore the fact that many of today's covid-asymptomatics (35%) and shruggers (the 60% who supposedly shrug it off after two weeks spent moaning in bed) are revealed to have damage afterwards in their kidneys, livers, skin, the G.I. tract and nerves. 

Those Ancillary Effects are what terrify me, since many remain hidden. even now. "Symptom relapse" is another serious problem and everyone I've met online who was infected reports having it. And there are suspected cases of "lurking" -- where the virus seems completely gone, only to spew forth later.

(Note, Spanish researchers have just put out an alert to watch out for MOUTH RASHES, which are much more dangerous than "Covid Toes," since they can make you a super-spreader. And yes I still try to scratch and sniff a lemon, daily.)

"Flattening the Curve" isn't just about making sure we have enough ICU beds, though that has saved innumerable lives. (I was involved across March-April in efforts to design DIY ventilators.)  Curve flattening is also about giving science enough time to catch up and provide situational awareness...

...something we would have had, if testing had been prioritized as a matter of national urgency, instead of sabotaged with suspicious relentlessness. And now the Trump White House is railing against a stimulus bill including money for accelerated testing and contact tracing! Consider how only Putin and his carnival barker would want to sabotage us that way.

Four months or so ago -- about the era of Gilgamesh -- back when we thought this might be just a 'bad flu' restricted to problems with lung fluid excess -- some commentators suggested "this will rock our complacency and get us taking the pandemic threat more seriously, so we'll be better prepared when something really bad hits." Well, this has proved to be worse than a 'bad flu"... 

...but that logic still holds. Some of my past sci fi has been more pertinent than I’d want! My Hugo-nominated story “The Giving Plague” deals with our complex relationships with viruses and such, including the several paths a parasite can go down, in “negotiating” with us hosts. Get it free at on my website.  

== Covid concerns that relate to... Libertarians! ==

Okay, all of that leads to the Great Swedish Experiment in going for "herd immunity," a notion much beloved of some libertarians I know, leading to the latest meme from the White House. When it didn't 'just go away,' and after a dozen other trial balloons, now it's "we're just going to have to live with it."

National Review carried an article extolling wonderful Sweden, and well.... the current condition of National Review has William F. Buckley spinning in his grave so fast that he's generating megawatts of good, clean electricity for Connecticut. (He and Barry Goldwater would have been enraged by the current right's all-out war against science and every other fact-centered profession.) 

Still, it is important to read views that dissent from the near-universal opinion I've seen expressed by sage researchers - that Sweden's experiment is a disaster. 

Consider using the standard formula for epidemics, when a disease has an R(0) replication ratio around TWO, you can make do with herd immunity if HALF of the population is fully resistant and non-contagious. 

But when R(0) gets above FIVE, as does Sars-CoV-2 when there's indoor mingling, you need 80% of the population to be fully resistant and non-contagious to get herd-immunity. And that's if every asymptomatic-infected and shrugger is fully immune and no longer spreading. It ignores the way super-spreaders appear to reach R(0) = 20+.

As for the memic aspect to this, as you know, I am an Adam Smith acolyte who believes that there should always be adult-libertarian voices at the table, questioning government over-reach. What troubles me is the reflex to assume that the major threats to liberty right now are only nanny-state bureaucrats, when human history offers a very different warning. 

Even if we include as "socialist" the murderously oppressive USSR (which in fact was Czarist+ fascist Russia using different symbols and incantations), even so, far less than 0.01% of the generations who suffered oppression had their freedoms and entrepreneurial options crushed by socialism of any kind. The vast majority of our ancestors across the last 6000 years were oppressed by one force... oligarchic-lordly inheritance cheaters of the kind who Adam Smith denounced and the U.S. Founders fought.

Seriously, how can any sincere defender of freedom and markets ignore that dismal tendency in human nature? For those who have elite wealth and influence to use it to cheat instead of letting others compete fairly? A libertarianism that ignores that absolutely central societal flaw - and Adam Smith's remedies -- is not a movement that's anywhere near as cerebral or honest as it thinks it is. 

Nor is it scientific or helpful in a crisis such as this, yammering about 'freedom to not wear a mask' while meekly obeying laws against nudity. Oy.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Science-tech updates - young blood for old? And much more.

Did we dodge a sci fi scenario of unparalleled potential nastiness? Already around the world, rich old struldbrugs are buying “fresh young blood” from healthy donors in their 20s… and on a very limited scale there’s no reason yet to get upset from a two way beneficial business arrangement. But it was easy to extrapolate that into a nightmare, if the fast rising world mafia-feudal oligarchy really sank their vampire teeth in, taking advantage of vast wealth disparities their cheating created. 

Now possible good news, evading that one (of many) nightmare. “In 2005, the same team demonstrated that connecting the blood of young and old mice (essentially making them conjoined twins) resulted in rejuvenation. Yet the present study showed equal or greater enhancements by solely diluting the blood of the old mice, eliminating the need for young mice entirely.” The Peter Diamandis site concludes: “This discovery shifts our attention away from young blood and towards the importance of age-related harmful proteins in old blood. Rather than focusing on specific protein therapeutics, age reversal is more likely linked to a host of proteins that can be naturally triggered by dilution processes such as this study’s approach.”

Might I add that similar effects may come from blood DONATION  several times a year? It certainly feels that way to me!
(I donated my 94th pint a couple of weeks ago and got a free covid test, along with an apple juice and chexmix.) And yes, this segues into several scenes in Existence. And especially… “The Giving Plague.”  (Free on my website.)

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.”  

== Science Miscellany? ==

Way kewl science experiment! An Inverted tornado ignited inside of a bubble.

How Heisenberg became uncertain: An amusing story about how a young Heisenberg (not the Breaking Bad version) – embarrassed by a barely-passed exam – studied the ultimate limits of microscopes and thereby derived his famous uncertainty principle… 100% correctly, if for some wrong reasons!

A well-produced rap about climate change… is responded by a pretty cool and uber-nerdy rap about carbon-sequestration and “air-mining” — concluding and coolly summarizing the zoom conference I just attended. Uber-nerdy? Super-ooper-dooper-nerdy-cool! Problem solvers. My kind of people.

== More tech news! ==

Hydraloop unveiled a wastewater management solution. About the size of a refrigerator, Hydraloop’s system purifies wastewater and returns it for use in washing, gardening and plumbing.

AWG in the news: An Israeli water-from-air system that taps into atmospheric water using patented heat-exchange technology. 

Pretty important actually: researchers say they have designed a laser diode that emits the shortest-wavelength ultraviolet light to-date, with potential applications in disinfection, dermatology, and DNA analyses.  This could make a huge difference also in the growth of vertical/urban farms.

What appear to be super high energy neutrinos shooting UP to hit a balloon-carried detector above Antarctica have unsettling implications for the Standard Model of Physics.

Bose-Einstein condensates (BEC) are collections of atoms coaxed into sharing a common quantum state. They are very fragile.  BECs in terrestrial labs typically last a handful of milliseconds before dissipating. But in space they feel no gravitational net force and can be suspended much easier. Aboard the ISS the BECs lasted more than a second, offering the team an unprecedented chance to study their properties. Previous studies trying to emulate the effect of weightlessness on BECs used airplanes in free fall, rockets and even apparatus dropped from various heights. But these experiments are… cool.

Analysis of seismic waves reveal “echoes from the boundary between Earth's molten core and the solid mantle layer above it. The echoes revealed more widespread, heterogenous structures—areas of unusually dense, hot rock—at the core-mantle boundary than previously known.” A region very much involved in the plot of my novel EARTH.

Instead of cooling things down near absolute zero, to preserve fragile entanglement, these researchers took the opposite approach, heating atoms to millions of times hotter than a typical quantum experiment – the temperature of a kitchen oven - to see if entanglement could persist in a hot and chaotic environment. “The surprising thing is that these random collisions didn't destroy entanglement." Unlikely to be useful for computation, this may lead to new kinds of sensitive detectors.

== Bioscience updates ==

If verified, this is actually a pretty big deal! Abstract: “Biological molecules chose one of two structurally chiral systems which are related by reflection in a mirror. It is proposed that this choice was made, causally, by cosmic rays, which are known to play a major role in mutagenesis. It is shown that magnetically polarized cosmic rays that dominate at ground level today can impose a small, but persistent, chiral bias in the rate at which they induce structural changes in simple, chiral monomers that are the building blocks of biopolymers.”

When the squid hunt, they communicate with each other via patterns of light and dark pigment on their skin. Even in the ocean depths, these patterns can be detected because the squids’ bodies glow in the dark, revealing patterns that are backlit like words on an e-reader screen.

More life weirdness. Last time I talked about insects with tooth-gears in their leg joints. Now something I referred to speculatively in EARTH and even earlier in THE UPLIFT WAR…  Cable bacteria grows on a mat on and under the sea floors and what makes it interesting is that they power themselves by electricity and send that electricity over long distances using biological cables that have similar efficiency to that of copper wire. Apparently the bacteria is widespread on sea bottoms around the world and could possibly like fungi form a single organism of unknown size. 

They estimate that a cubic meter of the seafloor mud containing Cable bacteria contains hundreds of thousands of kilometers of bio-electric cables that transmits electricity as efficiently as what we can do today. If it transmits electricity it can also transmit signals. If we extrapolate that out to the size of the Earth’s ocean floors then we’re talking about a potential nervous system component for a living Gaia that doesn’t require the mantle superconductors of EARTH. Though, it could also be “angry” as in Greg Bear’s disturbing book VITALS.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Friends and enemies. The military. And what might a "good billionaire" do?

Two powerful groups could make a difference in this crisis... one of them by staying aloof and professional but making their loyalty clear. The other can take decisive and bold action individually, even out of whim!

I've said for years the greater part of the U.S. Military Officer Corps is inherently on our side, for many reasons, though they desperately hope they'll never be asked to step in explicitly, as Praetorian protectors of the Republic vs. internal enemies.  I'll get to that, in a minute.

But first, what could a billionaire, or sub-billionaire, who is loyal to Western Civilization, do that could be decisive at this critical time?

There are many rich folks who feel loyalty to this Great Experiment that gave them everything. They're grateful especially for vast numbers of nerdy creative types who made all their successes and toys and interests possible.  For every mafiosi, KGB-oligarch, gambling lord or inheritance brat, there is some tech-mogul who does not want this unique experiment to dissolve into just another boring feudalism -- especially given feudalism's dismal record of bad governance. And so, many of these folks are donating large sums to PACs aimed at slashing the puppet strings used by Putin, MBS and others to revive treason and confederacy.

But there are better ways a good zillionaire could spend this money. Some of them, like Nicolas Berggruen, Bill Gates and Mark Cuban seek their own paths to enhance democracy... and I offer over a dozen potentially original methods in Polemical Judo.

But down below, in this posting, I'll summarize just one. One that might make the biggest difference.  In fact, it cannot help but make a difference... and possibly save the American Republic.

== The military may be our friend. Get used to it ==

First though, take the time. Read this short letter from Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mark Milley to all American forces, that was all in the news a few weeks ago. 

The US military officer corps isn't just deeply committed to civilian rule and law. They are also the third-best educated clade in American life and the most dedicated to fact-centered, pragmatic problem-solving. George Marshall and Harry Truman desegregated the military knowing it was the one move creating momentum against prejudice, from which there'd be no turning back. 

Yes, they are imperfect, as are we all. But if we spurn these skilled and principled and loyal men and women, we are doing Putin's work for him.

demographic profile of the U.S. military verifies the officer corps is much better educated than the average public and at higher ranks they equal college professors, which many become, after retirement. Enlisted personnel are also demographically above average. And while I am disturbed that Fox News blares out of the TVs in many noncom ready rooms, the proliferation of racial minorities and women in important jobs helps me feel pretty confident we’ll see loyalty, if the Putinists try to trigger civil war. (Though national guard units in some southern states might be iffy.)

And I wrote the above before news broke of strong intel that Russian agencies offer bounties on American lives in Afghanistan.  At which point, I stopped worrying about a possibly lethal split between officers and noncoms, if 'the balloon goes up.' And I welcome reports from any of you, whether the channels are changing on those nocom lounge TVs.

ADDENDUM: Another respected republican comes out against Trump... Former defense secretary William Cohen, a veteran Republican senator, says a second Trump administration would mean the end of American democracy.   See also: “How Trump Lost the Military.” And for some related polemic -- See the Court Martial of Donald TrumpSurely Putin/Murdoch are as surprised as liberals seem to be, by the fierce loyalty to the constitution of our officer corps.

== The coming wave of cheating ==

Okay, we need one more clue. Alas, this alarming list of currently perfected and plausibly-prepared Republican electoral cheats is all-too realistic! The only way to prevent it is by making this a tsunami election, so overwhelming that they don't dare. And even in that case, the cheating will simply shift from the lost presidential race to preserving obscure State Assembly and State Senate positions, where America's real power lies. We need maps showing which LOCAL precincts might be pivotal, if "isolated cases" of fraud disenfranchise a few thousand. 

And Stacey Abrams's voter registration drive must have a second phase. Now ask everyone you know if they are registered. Then ask "Have you checked?"  And yes, many of these aspects are in Polemical Judo.

Okay, let's go back to where we started and put these pieces together.

== Zillionaires who want to save enlightenment… and themselves ==

Abigail Disney helped establish Patriotic Millionaires, a group of wealthy Americans concerned about rising income inequality, who favor higher taxes on the wealthy. “In the U.S., executive compensation has increased by 940% since 1978; during the same period, worker pay has risen twelve per cent. Income inequality hasn’t been this extreme since the nineteen-twenties. Under the 2017 G.O.P. tax bill, the 400 richest Americans pay a lower over-all tax rate than any other group.”

An important article… that leaves out the biggest reasons why the smarter zillionaires - including many of the tech guys - are supporting Democrats. First, competitive market enterprise simply does better under democrats. Period. Almost always, and its most fecund/productive era was during the aftermath of FDR, until the supply side experiments that started our decline in all metrics, beginning with Reagan.  See: economic outcomes vs. rhetoric.

Second, we mentioned how those tech guys owe their fortunes to working side-by-side with middles class engineers who were trained at magnificent public universities. Some still remember who helped them thrive.

Third, while returning to feudalism may sound good to overprivileged male inheritance brats, in fact, our science-loving, educated, transparent and middle class society has out produced the total of all other nations and societies, summed across all of the last 6000 years.

Fourth - patriotism… the blatant association of the Republican Party with the made-over KGB, with Salafist fanatics, Earth-wreckers and others who have systematically torn down American sciences, alliances and the very rule of law that has made it the safest time to be rich.

Which leads us to the biggest reason that many rich folks are veering away from today’s mad oligarchic putsch.  The same reason the ruthless depression era bootlegging millionaire Joseph Kennedy supported FDR… “because I’d rather lose half my wealth to help the middle class than lose it all to angry mobs.”  The imbecile ‘preppers’ who think they can fund wars against all fact-professions and crush all the smartypants ‘boffin’ castes actually think we don’t know where their survivalist hidey-holes are. We who know nuclear science, geneticism cyber and all the rest.

The smartest zillionaires know it’s time for a reset for one reason. Because they can spell the word “tumbrels.”

== And finally... that one thing a zillionaire could do to save the day ==

This was a long posting, but our foundation is laid, now - the coming wave of cheating, the fact that some of the rich realize their time to act has arrived. And so...

The one thing would be to offer whistleblower prizes. Big ones. For any henchman or contractor or aide who knows about a coming cheat. Some scheme now in-motion to purge voter rolls, or to "accidentally shutter polling stations, or lose or invalidate mail-in ballots, or to pervert voting machines, to stir violence... or even to bypass the clear will of the people.

Think about it. Plots and schemes need henchmen! The almost-universally corrupt Republican Secretaries of State in red states cannot do it alone. They have helpers, co-conspirators, foot-soldiers and bribed programmers... any of whom might record a skulking, Bond-villain meeting or copy documents or simply come out in the open. And thus spoil the whole scheme.

This is the greatest fear of the Cabal. It is why their desperate efforts for four years have been to prevent light and transparency from pouring across the land. They know their servants in DC and state capitals and boardrooms are fickle, and so they use more than mere money... tools like blackmail and other threats...

...but a liberal zillionaire needn't erect anything complex, just a prize! And offer to pay legal bills. And heck, throw in some personal security protection, why not? In exchange for an evidence-backed denunciation of plots against Americans' civil rights. 

Dig it: just the announcement of such prizes might terrify some plotters into shutting down!

If you can think of a simpler way for a sub-billionaire to make a crucial difference in our current crisis, you are welcome to offer it below, in comments. But that's my number one. I've been pushing is since the last century. 

And this may be our last chance to see someone step up. Step up to save us all.

Monday, July 06, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

== Simple, direct and practical ==

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

== A simpler alternative ==

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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