Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Debate #2? Do better! ... and today's chapter is about 'hating government"

Let's resume posting chapters from Polemical Judo. The last one dealt with what I deem the most important 'political' issue of all - whether there might be hundreds in Washington - and other centers of power - who could (if properly encouraged) blow the whistle and expose terrible things... including the very blackmail used to control them. 

I still call it the under-appreciated threat of our time -- and the greatest opportunity for dramatic counter moves.

This time? Well, we're going to SKIP Chapter 9 of the book. It deals with international relations, especially China. If you want it (and some insights you'll find nowhere else), then maybe buy the book? (Cheap!)

This time, Chapter Ten goes to the heart of a central catechism of the right... that government is the the foremost threat to freedom and prosperity. 

Reagan said "The ten scariest words in English are 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help!"  Cute. Folksy and ironic, it got laughter and applause... from millions of hypocrite-ingrates, happy to betray everything the Greatest Generation had done for them...

But hold. Before diving in though, how about pausing for some topical stuff?

== Who won that first debate? ==

Did Ol' Joe do a solid job conveying the choice between a good-natured, wise, calm and pragmatic grandpa vs. a raving, jibbering-lying lunatic? Sure he did. He also made clear that he is a solid beta-plus, surrounded by beta-plusses, who would govern reasonably well... but who would not know a political judo tactic if it grabbed them by the scruff. ... (Hear me Ron Klain? You can do better than this!) ... Oh, sure, it's easy to Monday-quarterback: "he shoulda reacted like THIS!" Like leaping on Trump's "Stand down and stand ready" command to his brown-shirts....

...but other judo moves could have been ready! Like calling on *henchmen* in any planned GOP October Surprise to step forward now! With strong evidence, in confidence that the new administration will protect them. (ONE such defection could torpedo the whole GOP, or at-minimum make them fretful about their henchmen.) Just making the offer would plant in voters' minds the notion to be wary.

... or demanding that the Trump campaign help recruit 50 random Americans to join retired judges, scientists and military officers on a panel to actually tell us which outlets are "fake news!" DT's ensuing refusal to trust random Americans and so-called "deep state" defenders would not sit well! (And yes, studies show that *average* Republicans who aren't fanatics always drift toward center when given such tasks.)

... or to pick at random any ten of Trump's 40,000 registered lies to see if that list is valid. Or demand a small nonpartisan panel to actually look - confidentially - at Trump's Tax returns and verify he 'paid millions' ... independent of the NY Times.

Or else... here's a suggestion I really like from one of you. "Biden should challenge them to almost any such bet... and who better to adjudicate the bet than Trump's own Supreme Court nominee Amy Barratt? She can't rule for him on any specific lie without being exposed as a partisan hack. He can't say she's unqualified to judge. it's perfect."

Oh there are so many judo tactics I laid out in my till-now futile book. But one I just posted a short time ago would be ideal. "Don you've yammered about demanding a 'drug test." But you've been faking tests all your life and you know how to trick a urine sample. But we both have Secret Service teams here, with nurses and EMTs. Let's call them in and draw blood right now! And do full workups for the People to see and know." 

And Joe starts rolling up his sleeve. Even if Biden is taking Adderall (I don't care!) he can be confident Trump will refuse. On the remote chance he accepts, DT would cringe from the needle in ways that lose him a million votes from his macho crowd.

Heck, just the image of working class Joe having an excuse to take his jacket off and roll up his sleeve would be priceless!

And now...

== Back to the book ==

This is a long one so I'll split it in two parts. Hence onward to POLEMICAL JUDO.

Let’s hear this incantation the next time you dial 911… 



Chapter 10

 Government is the problem?[1]



In January 2017, Donald Trump’s newly appointed director of the Office of Management and Budget, Rep. Mick Mulvaney (who as of September 2019 was also acting White House Chief of Staff) posted an essay that asked an amazing question:[2]


“Do we really need government-funded research at all?”


It won’t surprise you that much of a chapter on the right’s hatred of “government” will focus on this stunning sub-topic: that anyone – even a jibbering dogmatist – could pose such a question about tax-supported R&D with a straight face. Yep, who needs the one thing that vastly multiplied all U.S. productivity since World War II. Heck, that enabled us to win World War II.[3]  


But let’s put that particular insanity in larger context. Because, as we saw in “The War on All Fact People” (Chapter 5), there’s a much larger agenda at foot.





The hypnotic incantation that all-government-is-evil-all-the-time would have bemused and appalled our parents in the Greatest Generation – those who persevered to overcome the Depression and Hitler, then contained Stalinism, went to the moon, developed successful companies, built a mighty middle class and began a grinding journey toward improved justice, all in an era of powerful unions and high tax rates. The mixed society that they built emphasized a wide stance, pragmatically stirring private enterprise with targeted collective actions, funded by a consensus negotiation process called politics. The resulting civilization was more successful – by orders of magnitude – than any other. Than any combination of others.


So why do we hear endlessly repeated nostrums – pushed by right-wing media and some on the left – that this wide-stance, mixed approach is all wrong? In fact, a recent Pew Poll showed distrust of government among Americans at an all-time high.[4] Ronald Reagan, the most avid and effective promulgator of this meme, famously repeated: 


“The scariest words in the English language are – I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”


Of course folks who clapped and cheered at that snark are among the first to demand that help, at any excuse.[5] Indeed, this general, abstract loathing collapses when citizens are asked which specific parts of government they’d shut down. It turns out that most of them like specific things their taxes pay for.


“Declining trust in government has spread across nearly all advanced industrial democracies since the 1960s/1970s,” writes political scientist Russell Dalton: “Regardless of political history, electoral system, or style of government, most contemporary publics are less trustful of government than they were in the era of their grandparents.” This despite the fact that we are richer and better off by almost any measure you can name.[6]

We all know that Congress polls as the least trusted institution in American life – yet, in each district, we keep re-electing our own crook.
[7] (Though churches have also taken a steep hit, and are now trusted by much less than half.[8])


In a sense, this isn’t new. For a century and a half, followers of Karl Marx demanded that we amputate society’s right arm of market-competitive enterprise and rely only on socialist (left-handed) guided-allocation for economic control. [9] (See Chapter 9’s section on central planning.) 

Meanwhile, Ayn Rand’s ilk proclaim we must lop off our left arm – forswearing any coordinated projects that look beyond the typical five year (nowadays shrunken to just quarterly) commercial investment horizon. [10]


Any sensible person would respond: “Hey I need both arms! Let’s keep examining what each arm does well, revising and calibrating our knowledge of what each shouldn’t do.”


Does that sound too practical and moderate for this era? Our parents thought they had dealt with all this, proving decisively that calm negotiation, compromise and pragmatic mixed-solutions work best, though preferably with a lean toward letting individuals, small groups and markets solve whatever they can. The Greatest Generation would be stunned to see that fanatical would-be amputators are back in force, ranting nonsense.





It still seethes, and I mentioned in several of the postings that comprise this volume – the insipid lunacy of letting crypto-confederates in the so-called “Tea Party Rebellion” get away with hijacking the American Revolution.


This wasn’t just stupidity of course, Many liberals shy away from looking at the “Founders,” for fear of being tarred with their admitted faults. Huge ones like the fact that some – Washington and Jefferson – owned slaves. Though others, like Adams and Franklin, were fiery in condemnation, setting alight the abolitionist movement.[11]


In Chapter 14, I talk about how the 1770s Revolution might be viewed as Phase One of our ever-recurring U.S. Civil War. But more important is to utterly demolish the propaganda that it was an uprising against taxation per se, or against “government bureaucracy.” First, the complaint was “No taxation without representation,” and you have only to read contemporary accounts to know how furious Americans were that some of the Empire’s biggest and most industrious cities and regions had no one to speak for them in Parliament. Ben Franklin was sent to Britain by Pennsylvania primarily to persuade the Penn family to allow themselves to be taxed.  They owned 70% of the land and refused.  Other colonies were similarly bollixed.  And by the way, this obstinacy on the part of the top 1% of 1% was similar in France, in 1789, when the First Estate utterly refused to help... and thereupon lost their heads.


Moreover, it was maritime commercial cities like Boston, New York, and Philadelphia that expressed fury at the king-crony monopolists, whose mafia protection racket forced all colonial trade to pass through their ports and docks, extorting bribes every step of the way. An oligarchy of absentee lords who owned two-thirds of all the land in the colonies and refused – under feudal privilege – to let it be taxed, as did the lords in 1789 France and our own oligarchs today.


There were other grievances in the Declaration of Independence, such as Parliament’s insistence that colonies stop issuing their own money, which had kept economic activity so vigorous that there were no slums or unemployed, until the new restrictions caused a depression. And yes, there was grumbling over the law forbidding migration over the Appalachians. What you won’t find in the Declaration is much of anything that at all resembles the list of grudges issued by today’s so-called Tea Party, subsidized by the Koch brothers and other kingly aristocrats.


Why did no one answer the “tea party” scam to hijack the American Revolution? As I’ve said repeatedly: our generals in this fight – at least till recently – seem… deficient.



It is not very unreasonable that the rich should contribute to the public expense, not only in proportion to their revenue, but something more than in that proportion.

 – Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, Chapter II, Part II [12]





For a supposed liberal polemicist, I hang around libertarians a fair amount. And why not? Some are among the liveliest minds I know. Anyway, I’ll give them this – they invite me to berate and argue with them. That’s a hopeful sign. Alas, as we’ll discuss in a chapter devoted to that movement, libertarians have allowed paid shills to sway them into a bizarre conversion. So I start by demanding: Isn’t libertarianism fundamentally an appreciation of competition?[13]


I openly avow – as did that founder of liberalism, Adam Smith – that competition is the greatest creative force in the universe. Competition produced all of nature's evolutionary marvels, including us. By far the most successful human enterprise – science – is inherently adversarial as scientists go at each other relentlessly. Moreover the arts, supposedly our "highest" endeavors, are often ferociously competitive, even when they lecture us about cooperation! The core enlightenment processes – entrepreneurial markets, science, democracy and justice – all produce the modern miracle of positive-sum outcomes that way, as companies, laboratories, politicians, attorneys and folks like you all strive to do better than your rivals, creating (however imperfectly, so far) the famous rising tide that lifts all boats. Nor is this book you are reading anything other than deeply competitive.

Yes, there are also many cooperative or consensus or even moral aspects... read Adam Smith’s The Theory of Moral Sentiments, to see that "competition" does not mean "cut-throat" or the brutal image of social darwinism. Not when it’s healthy. We’ll get to that, further down.


Alas, competition – in nature and primitive human societies (like ours) – contains an inherent contradiction. A runaway process of self-destruction that historically led – nearly always - to a particular kind of calamity... the winner turning around and cheating! Adam Smith saw what had happened to markets and societies for millennia. Winners are never satisfied with success in the latest market battle, with a cool product or financial or political achievement. As humans, we use any recent advantage to ensure that competitors will fail in future struggles. To bias the next competition. To absorb their companies. Squat on patents. Craft monopolies or cartels to divvy-up the souk or bazaar. Spy on competitors, but keep them - and consumers - in the dark. Capture regulators and politicians. Make sure the laws favor us.


The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from this order, ought always to be listened to with great precaution, and ought never to be adopted till after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the most scrupulous, but with the most suspicious attention. It comes from an order of men, whose interest is never exactly the same with that of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public, and who accordingly have, upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it.

– Adam Smith The Wealth of Nations, Chapter XI, Part III


Victory on the battlefield may have made you great, but you don’t want to return there again and again for an endless series of even matches! Yet, Smith showed that’s exactly what’s needed! Flat-fair-open-creative competition must go on and on, maximizing innovation while minimizing blood on the floor. 


There is a clear example of how we can and have tamed that old contradiction, transforming from reciprocal destruction into endlessly vigorous, positive sum competition. That example is the system of ritualized combat called sports, where returning weekly for relatively even matches became the core idea and keeping competition credibly fair became the ruling obsession.[14]


Smith saw how cheating by owner-oligarchs wrecked the creative effectiveness of markets – the same cheating that frustrated the American founders and propelled them to Revolution. And so - in the seminal year 1776 - Smith called for something new. A way to get the best, most creative-competitive juices flowing in the largest possible variety of human beings, while preventing many old failure modes. As in sports, competition in economics and politics and civil life can only be self-sustaining – continuing to deliver positive-sum outcomes – if it happens amid a network of transparent, fine-tuned, relentlessly scrutinized and universally enforced rules.[15]



==  A “Clock” Showing What We Got  ==


One of the best bits of political polemic has been the “National Debt Clock,” spinning up the rapid pace at which deficits pile burdens on our children. And yes, despite Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) – the liberal attempt to out-voodoo Supply Side – debt does matter. Only note that when we had surpluses and black ink under Bill Clinton, how conveniently the Debt Clock went “out of order,” rather than honestly run backward. So much for honest polemic.


Oh, how’s this for an easy-quick and devastating answer to the “hate-all-government” hypnosis! I’d love to see a second “National Debt Clock” showing where the U.S. deficit would be now – likely running surpluses – if we taxpayers had charged just a 5% royalty on the fruits of U.S. federal research!


Oh there were solid policy reasons to choose otherwise. And those reasons may be obsolete. Anyway, in an era of jibbering dogmatists, how effective such a “clock” would be. We deserve such a tasty piece of counter propaganda. (See: Eight Causes of the Deficit Fiscal Cliff.[16])

Next time... Part two of "Government is the problem?"


[1] This chapter comes largely from an essay in Evonomics circa 2016.


[2] “Do we really need government-funded research at all?”   Indeed, ponder who would benefit from a plummet in U.S. scientific pre-eminence, and see if it overlaps with Mulvaney’s and Trump’s purported masters. There is no contradiction.


[3] A BBC article lists how government research enabled all of the advances that led to the iPhone.


[4] Pew poll on mistrust of government.


[5] Red states are on-average and total far higher recipients of federally mediated transfers of wealth, contracts and assistance.


[6] Russell Dalton.


[7] 2019 note: The “AOC uprising” – toppling old-line liberal reps in primaries – echoes the “Tea Party” rebellion of 20 years ago.


[8]  Over 700 charges – as of mid 2019 - of sexual abuse hitting just now slamming the Southern Baptist Convention.


[9] Guided allocation:


[10] My own acerbic dissection of Rand’s arguments and fiction is at:


[11] “The musical Hamilton brilliantly allows us to own and digest, rather than just assail, the Founders and their faults. A tragic hero brought down by a sex scandal... when one of his opponents (Jefferson) had his own affair to hide. Unsavory business dealings and shady characters lurking about... accusations of double-dealing... even potentially treasonous discussions with foreign powers? All there. And all still topical. There's a smart progressive way to engage with the Founders and we need more people to wake up and use it.” – Dr. Allen Bryan.


[12] A good source for all things adamsmithian -


[13] As we’ll see later, the “C-word” – competition – is seldom mentioned at libertarian gatherings anymore. It has been replaced – after decades of subsidized propaganda aimed at that community – by another sacred touchstone: “P” for Property. Sure, property is necessary to some degree, in order to incentivize market activity and there’s nothing wrong with fair rewards fostering success. But like all good things – water, oxygen, food, sex – excess concentration becomes toxic. When confronted directly about this wholesale abandonment of the C-word, in favor of propertarian oligarchy, many libertarians instantly get it and blush with embarrassment.


[14]   “The United States, by contrast, holds a reputation in large parts of Europe as the epitome of winner-takes-all capitalism, yet it operates variants of a proto-socialist model for all of its major sports. Success is hailed, yet curtailed, and failure rewarded: The worst-placed teams get the first pick in the following season’s draft of new players, allowing them to restock on talent, a form of redistribution rejected elsewhere in the American economy…. American sports are not so because they like socialism–they are simply taking the best path to making money.” From Sports: America’s Wildly Successful Socialist Experiment. The Atlantic 2019.


[15] Fair competition isn’t just a matter of morality. It is also the way to maximize competitive output, by ensuring that bright people and teams get second, third chances and so on. And creating ever-flowing opportunities for new competitors to keep arising from the population of savvy, educated and empowered folk. That kind of fairness requires rules and careful tending to ensure new competitors can and will always arise to challenge last year's winners. And that earlier winners can't cheat. Because... we've seen... they will.


[16] Fiscal cliff.


Sunday, September 27, 2020

More Space! Space is the Place

Today I'll take a break from posting chapters of Polemical Judo. (Last time I offered one suggestion - out of 100+ under-appreciated maneuvers in the book - just one that might forestall every 'October Surprise,' thwart most of the cheating, and prevent most pre- or post-election violence. Two sentences. Just two.)

Only now let's take a break for science! (Remember when much of our news cycle was about such things?) I just finished participating in the annual Symposium of NASA's Innovative and Advanced Concepts program (NIAC)... and you can watch some of the amazing - just short of science fictional - projects here.

But the following non-NIAC items are straight out of the (scientific) headlines!

Caltech’s robotic Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) - to search of unexpected flares of light in the night sky - on May 21, 2019, detected a visible light flare that appears to be correlated with gravitational wave event S190521g that was recorded at about the same time by the LIGO and VIRGO gravitational wave detectors. Graham reported, “In our study, we conclude that the flare is likely the result of a black hole merger, but we cannot completely rule out other possibilities.” So kewl.

Interesting! The Air Force’s secret space plane the X-37 is hush hush so I was surprised by this article about an experiment to test converting sunlight into microwaves, eventually leading to prototype space power-beaming systems.

Future space travelers may have to conduct lifesaving surgical procedures in the near-zero gravity environment of spaceThat could be a messy — and potentially dangerous — endeavor.  The prospect of gushing clouds of blood and intestines might partly be solved by lacrosopic surgery techniques. Even better, injectable robots. Meanwhile, one of the coolest new NIAC grants goes to Dr. Lynn Rothschild’s team developing simple, spore-based ways to grow a variety of drugs when and where needed, via astropharmacology.

Alas, in contrast... not all "space news" credible 

NASA Discovers Huge Potential Caches of Metal On the Moon.” Seriously? A slight change in the parts per millions of some metal OXIDES? Most of it buried deep underground? None of this changes my mind. Except for some water ice at the poles - and maybe some scattered meteoritic iron grains - there is nothing “there” on Luna. None of the supposed exploitable “resources” that some boosters dishonestly yammer about. Nothing compared to the riches at asteroids. One more reason to end this lunatic – literally – administration of science and fact-haters. 

Leave the Moon to the kiddies, desperate for their rites of adulthood, making footprints on that (for now) dusty-useless ball. (Though US companies are welcome to rent out hotel rooms and landers for those tourists! And keep sending robots to check for when... not if... I'll someday be proved wrong.) 

Meanwhile, along with the Japanese and Europeans, we can go for the real riches, doing what no one else can do.

== More space! ==

Might “Planet Nine” be a primordial black hole, orbiting at the fringes of our solar system, occasionally flaring when it sucks in a drifting comets? Or perhaps micro gravity-lensing background star fields? Those betraying encounters might be detected by a new telescope that will give us better all-sky awareness than ever before.

Venus appears to have volcanoes… and remnant ones arrayed in patterns that appear to mimic in some ways Earth’s “Ring of Fire” and hot spot mantle plumes like under Hawaii and Yellowstone.

Two huge planets orbiting a young but sunlike star 300 light years away have been directly imaged. Wonderful.

A piece of Mars that fell to Earth decades ago is heading back to the Red Planet.

Most of the super-energetic sources seen in this spectacular full map (shown above) of the X-Ray Sky - around 77 percent - are supermassive black holes actively accreting material in the cores of galaxies, or active galactic nuclei.  “Within the Milky Way, stars with hot, magnetically active coronae make up 20 percent of the objects. The remaining one percent is made up of an assortment - bright X-ray binaries, supernova remnants, and flares…”

The Dynamic Red All-Sky Monitoring Survey (DREAMS)  to be completed 2021 will be able to map the entire southern sky in infrared in just three days, allowing astronomers to rapidly find and track cosmic events. A major step… alongside the new Synoptic telescope in Chile… toward all-sky awareness.

A group of scientists at Harvard and other universities has received NASA’s first-ever funding to search for alien technosignatures—artificial signs of intelligent life—around other stars. The scientists will look for signs of industrial pollutants in other planets’ atmospheres, as well as light reflected from solar panels—both of which could indicate a civilization technologically similar to our own.  

More galaxies appear to spin counter clockwise (Earth coordinates) than clockwise, leading to a theory that the universe itself was born with angular momentum and a complex set of spins.

Bing Chen points out how Loren Eiseley stated in his last book The Invisible Pyramid, "If man goes down I do not believe he will ever again have the resources or the strength to defend the sunflower forest and simultaneously to follow the beckoning road across the star fields. It is now or never for both and the price is very high".

== Ponderables ==

Might there be a subtle variation of the fine-structure constant with extreme distance in the universe… and even with directionality effects? If this new study is correct, however, it instead presents a universe with a dipole structure, not unlike the North and South poles of a magnet.

Just 1000 light years away, a black hole found only from the tight orbits of two nearby stars. One of them visible to the naked eye! Close! “An invisible object with a mass at least 4 times that of the Sun can only be a black hole,” and  “There must be hundreds of millions of black holes out there, but we know about only very few,” and there are likely many more, some closer still.

An now it is asserted that there may be a LOT of stellar range black holes out there... perhaps enough to account for dark matter?  Perhaps they gather in compact clusters, similar to those that ancient races seek as their final homes in the "embrace of tides" effect, you read about in Infinity's Shore and in Heaven's Reach?


Emily Levesque's The Last Stargazers takes you on a personal journey through the art, science, frustrations and passion of  modern astronomy, especially those ever-evolving mountaintop tools that let us pry secrets out of the sky - those magnificent telescopes.

Finally.... A cute rap song about cosmology! And a nice video in which some whipper snappers make a to-scale model of the solar system out on a California lake bed.

And for you geeks.... Wow. An artillery shell that incorporates a ramjet to triple its guided range.

And yes, if you don't want to face the business end of munitions, this phase of the American Civil War must be won decisively, overwhelmingly and soon, so we can end the violent fevers (both covid and confederate) and get back to being joyful problem solving, with facts and science.

Next... Chapter nine of Polemical Judo...  

America’s place in the world - Part 1:

Pax Americana and the rise of China

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Hey Joe! You can shatter all their plots with one tool. One offer, in one speech. (The Blackmail and Henchmen chapter.)

Sorry, I've fallen behind my twice weekly schedule to post these chapters of POLEMICAL JUDO.... tied up in meetings of NASA's Innovative and Advanced Concepts program (NIAC), and re-issuing both my Out Of Time series of YA novels and Colony High!  But I haven't forgotten the crisis we are in. 

First though, if you are actually a person who reads... This cogent article details at least two dozen ways the coming election might be messed-with by those who are desperate for democracy to fail.

As it happens, today's posting of Chapter Eight is all about the only possible solution. One that either Joe Biden or some democracy-loving zillionaire could implement in ten minutes, just by issuing a statement!  Alas, it is 2020 and people don't read anymore. (Did you intend to read this chapter in its entirety? Of course not.)  Hence, I'll summarize the gist right now:

Joe might say: "None of the plots against American democracy can succeed if enough light shines upon them. So I call upon the henchmen... the helpers or hirelings, or those who have been blackmailed, coerced or bribed! This is your moment to step up and be heroes! Collect evidence and spill it now, while there's time for it to get independently confirmed. And if your information makes a real difference, I promise you this --

"When I am president, I will appoint a Truth and Reconciliation Commission that will look into

every credible story or accusation... yes, those made against Democrats too, including me! Eminent Republicans will be asked to serve and retired senior judges and military officers and respected scholars and clergy. And -- solely upon their recommendation -- I will consider clemency - full or partial - for those who do more good with light, than they ever did harm in shadows.

"I offer this especially to those who live in fear of blackmail coercion or who are restrained by NDAs. This may be your chance to escape those traps and gain fresh esteem as a hero! You can find details at my website. But in fact, shouldn't your greatest reward be to do the right thing? Do it now! Gather evidence. Expose crooks and traitors. Our nation has always been the one - across all the annals of history - that did best in sunlight."

To which some patriotic zillionaire might add:  "Without consulting the Biden campaign or any other, I will now add a further incentive! A million dollar prize - plus protection for a year by a top bodyguard service - to those five whistleblowers, or former henchmen, or blackmail victims who step up with solid evidence and proof of the worst current plot against American democracy."

Why is this obvious step so counter-intuitive? Shouldn't it be obvious? 

Okay, let's get on to Chapter 8 of Polemical Judo, Where you'll see how long I've recommended this very thing! But for those who stick with it to the end... I'll offer a final recommendation that would help Joe Biden crush it, at the coming debates!


 This Chapter began in 2008 as a posted danger-warning[1] to congressfolk who were newly elected that year, but it grew in scope and universal relevance. In fact, I’ve felt guilty for not pushing the alert harder. It is my chief reason for putting together a collection and book. And yes, it segues directly off the previous chapter on conspiracies.

We all think we have the world sussed, seeing things that others don’t. As an author of techno-thrillers I’m pretty well-informed about dangers looming ahead. But our biggest threat may be as old as civilization itself. 



Chapter 8 of Polemical Judo


Poison and Antidote – 

Blackmailers, Henchmen and Whistleblowers




All of you enthusiastic neophytes to national power – this may be the very moment for a little protective paranoia. Always remember that some powerful people will see you as a threat to their interests. Some of the more unscrupulous may seek to neutralize that threat, using classic methods, known across history. One of the most basic ancient techniques – going back to biblical times – has been entrapment and blackmail.


Remember the U.S. Marine guards at our embassy in Moscow, some decades back? It all started when a few boys – lonely and far from home – were invited to party with some local “students.” A little alcohol, then sex with local hookers... were followed by a drug high or two... and a few lewd pictures... then some incriminating ones...


At any point, early on, those young men could have saved their own lives and served their country, simply by turning themselves in. The first to do so might even have saved his career. Others could have escaped with minor punishments. Instead, alas, they let themselves be blackmailed, by gradual stages, into doing the KGB “just a couple of harmless favors”...


... relatively harmless, at first. Xeroxing a few embassy visitor lists. Penny-ante stuff. Only then, the Soviets had real dirt on the poor fellows. Proof of espionage that could produce real prison time. And meanwhile the girls and drugs kept coming. Plus flattery. ("You are special, James Bond types – above normal loyalties and laws." Very similar patterns of ego-milking helped to suborn the Walkers and that dismal FBI agent, Hanssen.) Soon, those marines were trapped. Fully in the pockets of their nation's enemies, they were betraying really harmful secrets.




Security experts and intelligence agents know all about this process, which has been used by kingdoms, empires, syndicates and unscrupulous groups since time immemorial. Indeed, all through World War Two and the Cold War, it was a key job of counter-intelligence professionals to watch carefully for hints of subornation. They collected and correlated patterns of travel, or unaccountable wealth, or crony-favoritism, keeping a wary eye open for anything consistent enough to merit closer scrutiny.


So now? Does it really matter that our roster of “enemies” has changed a bit? The KGB is “gone.” But there are others – some of them heirs of past enemies, employing the very same agents and methods – who do not want our civilization to thrive. Or who would influence our top decision-makers in order to be better parasites. Anyone who thought this classic danger ended with the Cold War has to be titanically naive.


Moreover, consider this: Bribery is actually far less efficient and reliable than blackmail!


If you bribe an official or legislator or bureaucrat, they may demand more next time. Or else say “I helped you enough this year.” But blackmail puts them in your pocket for good. It transforms the relationship, making him or her less a business associate and more the blackmailer’s personal servant.


Has this scenario already been in play, among members of the present ruling caste?


Of course, the imagination can run wild – colored by your degree of paranoia and your personal politics. (How else would you explain some decision patterns, in recent years, that seem relentlessly to benefit just a few hostile interest groups, over and over again, at great cost to the general commonwealth? Always start by listing the big winners.) [3]


No, I won't go into detail here as to who I think may be orchestrating present day attempts at subornation. Nor does that matter, since no one can point to a single era of history when it did not happen.


We are better off assuming the tradition goes on. And that some enemies of our republic, our civilization, and the Western Enlightenment are doing it right now.





Oh, especially you incoming Democratic lawmakers and staffers, don't be fooled by the fact that most of the known American traitors, across the last 40 years, were Republicans![4] (e.g. the Walkers, Hanssen, Manafort[5] etc.) Democrats are fallible, corruptible and human, too! Indeed, there may be forces at work in DC, right now, who aim to test this methodology on the newest players in that wild and ethically-challenged town.


Even veteran Democratic representatives may need to heed this warning, because only now have they become more interesting targets for subornation.


Moreover, while the main topic of this open letter (and the book) is political subornation, can anyone doubt that even greater efforts have gone into the commercial kind? Rivals and predatory arbitrageurs – both domestic and foreign – have a long history of targeting human weakness in the executive suites and research labs of competitors. It ranks among the top methods for intellectual property theft


Even if I am exaggerating the current extent of suborned betrayal within the many branches and agencies, corporations and media that make up the American Establishment, this warning stands, because it will always be a danger. A peril that can turn almost any friend of our civilization into a snake, dwelling in its heart.[6]


Hence, let me offer a little advice to all loyal Americans – whether Republican or Democrat or independent entrepreneur – who may be embarking upon careers along avenues of power.





Consign yourself to live a super-clean life. Become a personal prude. Back away from temptations, even if they take place in the apparently secure confines of (say) a billionaire’s yacht or on a private estate,[7] or a royal palace in some foreign land.


Especially in those environs! Because those may be the very people who would like to “own” a representative or bureaucrat. The more flattering and friendly and ego-stroking they may seem – assuring you of secure and private pleasures – the stronger the possibility that the very walls may have cameras. Aimed in order to guarantee that you will remain a valued friend.


Hire a good professional paranoid for your staff. Someone who knows all about these nasty tricks and who can spot bait-lures on the horizon. Likewise, have a truly wise confidant – someone not on your payroll – to whom you can turn when temptation comes your way. And don't entirely trust either of them.


Have a scenario-plan worked out, for when you are approached with either a potential entrapment or a follow-up blackmail threat. Those first instants of surprise and confusion could be critical. If you are prepared (especially technologically), you may be the one to turn the tables on your persecutors... and thus do your nation a service out of all proportion to any “goods” that the bad guys have on you.


Indeed, talking this over among yourselves, you may also be well served to look into whether agencies like the FBI may offer pre-training services and even some technology, empowering you and others like you to act decisively and confidently, when and if such a time comes. (And if they don't offer such services, ask why not.) 


Indeed, if you make it openly clear that you are wary, it may keep such plotters away.


Contemplate the algebra of forgiveness. Some of you reading this may have already tumbled over the edge. It may have happened to you – some moment of weakness or falling into temptation. Perhaps even blackmail based upon faked photos or videos, or something you never did! (A modern problem that I discussed way back in the last century, in both Earth and The Transparent Society.)


Maybe you’ve been on a hellish spiral for years, hating yourself...


...or else rationalizing that you’re now serving a superior side. That's what human beings often do. Even the worst traitors seldom view themselves that way. Blackmailers are often supremely good flatterers.


However it has come down, consider this: It's never too late to do the right thing. 


Consider the following… then ponder it again. Then contemplate. 


If the subornation process that I describe has been going on in a systematic and pervasive way, polluting our institutions and corrupting our trusted public servants, how do you think history will view the first of you to show some guts? The first to stand and fight back?


If you do it with savvy and skill, somehow turning the tables on your blackmailers – as Amazon founder Jeff Bezos arguably did[8] - can you even doubt that your nation will value that service, far higher than it disdains your original, disreputable deeds? 


I know I will! I’ll fight for you, and so will millions of others.


Help foster a civilization that rewards openness and forgiveness. This is a long term goal. But if we keep making progress toward a civilization that has a sense of proportion about lesser human failings, then we may neutralize many situations that were, or remain, “blackmailable.” 


Little sexual lapses should matter less than graft and treason, for example.[9] (But remember, once you are blackmailed for the one, you may then be pushed to commit the latter, and be blackmailed for that!)


In any event, we all need to help foster trends toward a nation and a world where people will feel safe to own up to their faults, rather than feeling terrified that their smaller slips and faults will doom their hopes. We should not be led by folks who are afraid of light.






Pausing here in this chapter’s “open letter to a politician” motif, I’ve repeatedly hectored many of our top defenders to step back and consider what might be the long-range victory condition for our kind of civilization. Not just the USA, but for any species that aims for justice, integrity, progress, accountability… and the stars.


It’s easy to see that victory condition if you recognize one simple truth. All of our deadly foes, who wish us harm, are lethally allergic to light.[10]


Bearing that universal in mind, it is clear that the long range victory condition for our kind of civilization is a future world that’s filled with open-fair competition, calm negotiation, but above all… light.


Of course this relates to our current topic – blackmail and other kinds of secretive coercion. I have already spoken of whistleblower protection and rewards, in Chapter 5’s section on “The Fact Act” and in Chapter 7’s riff on conspiracies. We’ll return to the topic again and again, because no form of light can be more effective than revelations from dark corners. That’s why I have long urged a Henchman’s Law to help protect those who do this.[11]


Moreover, some private, patriotic zillionaire might get it all rolling by offering a set of prizes – perhaps $5 million – for some employee of, say, a corrupt voting machine manufacturer who comes forth with proof. And if proof doesn't appear, you don't pay! (But instill fear in those bastards.) If you do wind up paying, you become a hero for saving the nation.[12]


As we go back to my “open letter,” just keep in mind – light is the one cleanser that every kind of filth – in and out of our society fears most.





The crux? Consider again: blackmailers love to give their victims a sense of helpless isolation. But the sickness may be far more pervasive than you imagine! And spreading. For it is the nature of evil men that they are insatiable. They will keep trying whatever has worked in the past, casting their nets wider and wider, under an illusion that the good times can go on forever...


... until, at last, they try these tricks on people with the courage, wit and patriotism to fight back. At which point, the whole vile deck of cards may come tumbling down.


Where will you be, when that happens?


According to the algebra of redemption, only the first to blow the whistle will be heroes, forgiven all, rewarded with everything. After them will come the most agile rats, abandoning a sinking ship, tattling and pointing fingers in exchange for clemency...


...and the last to come out will be hung.


Again, if you are already caught in this mesh, they want you to think you are alone. But there are likely hundreds, even thousands of others, any one of whom may suddenly erupt with conscience, patriotism and courage. History shows that this kind of thing is never stable. Either it will result in democracy being thoroughly corrupted and destroyed... as happened many times...


... or else such schemes will collapse, as American and Enlightenment civilization continues its inexorable progress toward an open and transparent and accountable society. In the first of these two eventualities, you may thrive, having sided with the new masters. But you will know (deep inside) that you helped to end the Great Experiment. May it gnaw your guts.


But suppose what happens is the second outcome. (I have reason to believe it.) Then cowards who let themselves be blackmailed or cozened or suborned or bribed or flattered into treason will eventually be brought to light. And they’ll be sorry.


Either way, you can see what’s at stake. So be careful. Take precautions. Cut through the rationalizations. Keep your eyes open.


- Oh, one final point: If you seek the people's trust and are granted political power, that makes you a soldier: Live with it. 


We are a civilization that’s at war for its very survival. Moreover, “terrorists” are among the most pallid and laughable of our enemies.[13] There are worse threats to the continuation of our Great Experiment in open civilization, in science and democracy, in social mobility, in truly free-creative markets and a joyfully open mix of competition and cooperation.


None of those great things can work well in darkness, manipulated by cheaters.


Stand up. Know what the enemy can do. And deny them the power.


Lagniappe concerning the coming 2020 presidential debates:  Of all my scores of suggestions, someone get this one to Biden! 

At the debates, when Trump assails Joe's supposed physical or mental problems or being "drugged," Biden should say: 

"Mr. President we both have Secret Service details waiting just outside. Both details have qualified doctors, EMTs and nurses. Let's invite them into this auditorium RIGHT NOW to take blood samples, witnessed on live TV, and have the samples submitted to three different labs for a full workup. My tests won't be perfect, but I am happy to clear the facts for the American people. I am rolling up my sleeve, right now. Have you the guts to do the same?"
Even if Trump is NOT medically shaky (and of course he is) he would likely be terrified of needles. Bets?

If you see a common thread in all of this. Yes. It is light. We are the side of light. They stand for darkness in every conceivable way. I stand ready to take wagers on that.


[1] “Political Blackmail: The Hidden Danger to Public Servants.”


[2] Note that government officials are far from the only people available as targets! Anyone in command of critical infrastructure is on the list. Power plant operators. Commercial IT providers. Website gurus. News organizations. Indeed one of the most chilling predictive novels of science fiction – The Cool War, by Frederik Pohl, foresaw an attrition campaign of reciprocal sabotage that could – short of nuclear conflict – grind all sides down to poverty. Highly recommended. The book, not the war.


[3] How innocent this 2007 posting seems, posing this question as theoretical! That we are seeing this program implemented on a massive scale, in 2019, seems beyond any question or doubt.


[4] And nearly all of the major-predator sexual perverts, from Dennis Hastert to Roy Moore and so many of those with squelched National Enquirer articles in David Pecker’s safe. That safe – plus the blackmail files of Jeffrey Epstein and his madam – constitute troves that – if leaked – might inconvenience many top players, but also offer America and the world a cleansing.


[5] Inserted during revision for the book version: convicted traitor Paul Manafort stands in here for what appear to be scores of suborned or complicit or blackmailed Republican leaders or factotums, including (likely) a famously retired jurist.


[6] Oh, the connections I have made with my own ‘chart of yarn’! I’ll not publish any of that here, for many reasons, including the insurance policy of my own reveal-on-my-death cache. And because disproved libels could (rightfully!) ruin a fellow who is so rash as to to point fingers at individuals. Anyway, this book is filled with more than enough stuff to act upon, already.


[7] Was this 2007 paragraph prophetic, in light of the Jeffrey Epstein case? No. It was obvious.


[8] The best recent example, though hard to emulate, was billionaire Jeff Bezos, who defied his would-be extortionists and turned the tables on them. And yes, he’s the world’s richest man, so it was fairly risk free. Still, it’s behooved on folks like that to point out the way. There are many tales of French officials who – shown photos of their infidelity in Moscow, have snarled. “You call zees photography? Let’s try again.”


[9] For a century, prejudice against homosexuals was justified by declaring they were vulnerable to blackmail. How many decades and ruined lives passed, before the answer to that circular “logic” became obvious?


[10] I do not include as “foes” regular business or cultural rivals. May they compete and prosper in positive-sum ways, alongside us.




[12] Something like it was tried, briefly and without much fanfare – or enough money – in the wake of the November 2016 election.


[13] Comments Republican Pat Scannell, on critiquing this project: “I’ve always been amazed at our outsized quest for security.  We won’t spend $100M in civilization building efforts, but we’ll spend $1 trillion in response to 19 guys with box cutters.  We struggle to pay $3K/years in pre k per student, but we have no problems spending $60K/year to incarcerate them later.  We lock down our schools, thinking it has made them safe from school shooters, but those efforts, like TSA, are more theater for our concerns – the generation of an artificial narcotic (and fake) sense of security, to quiet the cognitive discontent we have that we are insecure.  Better, as Alan Watts says, to have the wisdom of insecurity, and an accurate view of balanced risks, which in the end, are far cheaper bets than the costs of trying to secure ourselves against all risks.”