Saturday, July 31, 2021

Enemies of Democracy... and (worse) traitors to democracy.

First, above and beyond mere politics… if you seriously want to help civilization be resilient against shocks the future might bring, consider (in the U.S.) taking training for CERT – your local Community Emergency Response Team. It’s a really interesting and fun 20 hour course given by your local fire department and you get cool green equipment and a badge! And once a decade maybe some light duties to help keep your family and neighbors safe.  

== Explicit: Haters of Democracy ==

It’s baaack. One of the top propaganda memes used by oligarchs to foment chanting dopes to pour hatred upon…democracy. 

They must!  Everyone can see that the Republican base is in freefall demographic collapse, not just from the growth of cities or the rise of minorities but from defection by their own children, the smarter half of them who continued educating and learning into their twenties. The wave of voter suppression bills across Red America are desperation measures, justified by same-old ancient ravings against ‘mob rule.' Despite the fact that average levels of education and knowledge among Democrats is now much higher than for Republicans. (And I do offer counter-tactics.)

So how do they justify direct and open attacks against democracy itself?  

There is a standard catechism that takes many forms. 

Recently on "PenceNews” there spread a supposed quote from Karl Marx: 

"Democracy is the road to socialism… Socialism leads to communism." 

Hence why voting needs to be restricted. 

Except, of course, that Marx said no such thing! In fact it is an almost direct quote from Adolf Hitler. Way to choose your sources, guys.

Indeed, Marx also despised democracy, but for very different reasons, calling it a "bourgeoise indulgence that beguiles the workers" into imagining they can win justice through peaceful means. 

And yes, in fact, the most vigorous anti-communists have been Democrats and especially the U.S. labor movement, e.g. the AFL-CIO, while Republicans have perpetually oscillated between isolationism and kneeling accommodation with Moscow (except for just the term of Ronald Reagan, a former Democrat). Today they are absolutely kissy-face with "ex" Stalinist Vlad Putin and his mafia of "ex" commissars and the "former" KGB.

The mantra that democracy leads to socialism, then communism, is another version of the "fatal sequence" mantra that has infested the U.S. right for all my life, and before that all the way back to when plantation lords got poor whites to despise the very revolution their forebears had won. The refined version is the "Tytler Calumny," which I dissect in this linked article.

Though MAGAs and other styles of confederate recite it as one of their many masturbatory incantations, they flee the instant you offer a wager over it, or any part of the scenario, ever having happened, even once, in the history of human civilization. (Damn inconvenient facts!). YOU should read and be armed against this magical mantra, which your uncles are doubtless reciting, which justifies treason against the very same democratic republic that gave these ingrates everything.

 As for Marx saying that democracy beguiled workers into thinking they could lead fine, middle class lives... well he was right! FDR and the Greatest Generation, after smashing the Nazis and containing the Stalinists, proceeded to promote an empowered middle class that kept drawing in wave after wave and caste after caste of the formerly underprivileged. Call it 'beguiling' away revolutionary fervor, if you like. 

Or else recognize that Marx simply never imagined a great industrial nation behaving fairly, with decency, flattened wealth disparities and gradually improving justice. But that's exactly what was happening...

...until the empire struck back, stealing from working folks under "Supply Side Theory" and using Fox+KGB agitprop to restart the American civil war. And thus they seem bent on resurrecting Marx's scenario from its well-deserved grave. 

If that zombie (Marxism) is back, shambling across every college campus on Earth, it is your fault, you wretched-stupid inheritance brats and other parasites out there. Wake up and fire your sycophants. Or else learn how to ride a tumbrel.

== The one tactic ==

Alas, no one has the guts or imagination to confront these imbeciles with wager demands, with large escrowed stakes over falsifiable assertions, testable by facts. (And I offer the bets to be judged by panels of retired, senior military officers; watch the yammerers blanch!) When so confronted, they always flee. 

But here are challenges specific to this imbecilic malarkey:

- Name one advanced, liberal democracy, including socialist Scandinavian ones, that ever turned communist. Um, one.

- Show us where Marx said that!

- Vladimir Putin called the fall of the USSR "history's greatest tragedy" and while dropping all the hammer-and-sickle symbols, he installed all former KGB agents and commissars as Russia's new oligarchy, while the renamed KGB uses all the same methods toward the same goal: our downfall, including Trump and blackmailing most of the GOP political caste. 

So who are the commies now? 

Whatever, Ivan.

== A fifth column ==

MAGAsphere is abuzz with the latest lunacy. If the Republicans win back the House in 2022, then choosing Donald Trump as Speaker and 2nd in line for the presidency. Oh, please, make that your platform, GOP?  “As a reminder, by the time Trump left office in January, he had the lowest approval rating of any President "since scientific polling began," at 34%, with a 61% disapproval. Plus, a Quinnipiac poll released after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol found that 59% of Americans believe Trump should not be allowed to hold office ever again.” But a majority of the shrinking GOP minority is growing crazier and more frothing rabid by the minute.

== Politiclly redolent Miscellany ==

They did a huge 4-year test in Iceland, with 2,500 workers (1% of the labor force) where they paid the workers the same amount for about 36 hours of work (9 hours a day) just 4 days a week and, surprise!, productivity remained the same or even improved in the majority of workplaces.  The trials led unions to renegotiate working patterns, and now 86% of Iceland's workforce have either moved to shorter hours for the same pay, or will gain the right to, the researchers said.  Of course this means some will have two jobs. Or work on their own startups, or. dive into amateur avocations – some targeting excellence. 

With Pastels and Pedophiles: Inside the Mind of QAnon, Mia Bloom and Sophia Moskalenko track QAnon's leap from the darkest corners of the Internet to a frenzy fed by the COVID-19 pandemic that supercharged conspiracy theories and spurred a fresh wave of Q-inspired violence, showing how a conspiracy theory with its roots in centuries-old anti-Semitic hate has adapted to encompass local grievances and has metastasized around the globe―appealing to a wide range of alienated people who feel that something is not quite right in the world around them. While QAnon claims to hate Hollywood, the book demonstrates how much of Q's mythology is ripped from movie and television plot lines. 

(Note the Protocols of the Elders of Zion was concocted in the very same Kremlin basements that are now foisting QAnon upon us.) 

What most critics fail to point out should be the most obvious thing… that the mad right’s central theme is to accuse their opponents of doing what they do far more. For example, rates of proved pedophilia and predatory sexual perversion among prominent Republican politicians, pundits or backers – proved or blatant – are vastly higher than rates among prominent Democrats.  Provably twice or three times the rate and anecdotally as much as six times! Likewise rates of moral turpitude in red states (excluding Utah) vs. blue states in everything from domestic violence, STDs, teen sex/pregnancy/abortion, gambling, drug use and so on. And especially the confederate right’s close relationship with casino moguls, mafiosi, petro sheiks, inheritance brats and “ex”communist “former” KGB agents.

A top judo move in politics - seldom done - is to show how your opponents hypocritically harm the things they claim to value. Accuse a confed of racism or ignoring climate calamities or the poor or science? He'll shrug you off as a smug-patronizing, free-spending, smartypants nerd-lib who prefers the poor be our 'clients' than empowered capitalists. 

So, instead (or in addition) show how the right is far more wasteful and the worst enemies of the market competition they claim to love! Far worse on deficits. Pals of monopoly and oligarchic market cheating. And traitors to the supply chain health on which the entire economy depends. Who is addressing these national emergencies? Made far worse by GOP neglect & sabotage, these underpinnings of the economy are being saved by Democrats.

Finally, we need constant reminding the axiom on propaganda most often attributed to Joseph Goebbels:  

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”   

That's from the only book Trump used to keep by his bed.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

David Brin's Annual Summer News Update! So many books & projects.

David Brin’s annual-summer update. This year lots of books & future stuff…
FIRST a big re-issue of eight classics with great new covers, new author introductions, and newly re-edited material... starting with The Postman and The Practice Effect

Plus I've recently re-released newly edited versions all of my Uplift novels, starting with  Sundiver, followed by Hugo winners Startide Rising and The Uplift War, as well as the Uplift Storm Trilogy, starting with Brightness Reef, and on to Infinity's Shore and Heaven's Reach.  All with corrections and new introductions and better timelines... and great covers!

Best of Brin Short Stories: Subterranean Press is releasing a new collection, “The Best of David Brin," an anthology of my very best short stories as well as some new ones - as well as a play I've written! Now a gorgeous collectable hardcover (beautiful cover art by Patrick Farley). Here, you'll find tales from creepy to inspiring to thought-provoking -- and fun. Certainly some of my best writing. Sample stories free on my website!  

(Also available... especially if you are on a budget... my earlier collections Insistence of Vision and The River of Time.)

== New YA series ==

And now, shifting gears... I'm releasing two great Science Fiction series for teens and young adult readers looking for something different... and yes, for those of you with a youthful yen for adventure!

Colony HighAliens grab a California high school and relocate it on an alien planet -- and then come to regret it! In the spirit of Heinlein's Tunnel in the Sky. Winner of the Hal Clement Award for teen readers! Now expanded with two new sequels, soon to be released from Ring of Fire Press, starting with Castaways of New Mojave co-written with Jeff Carlson (cover art by Patrick Farley), and another upcoming sequel co-written with Steve Ruskin. Sample chapters of this series on my website!  (And there's a full, 3-season TV treatment.)


The Out of Time seriesIf the future asked for help, would you go? A 24th Century utopia has no war, disease, injustice or crime... and no heroes! They reach back in time for some.. but only the young are able to go. Maybe you?

Adventure novels by Nebula winners Nancy Kress, Sheila Finch etc. plus great newly added novels for that teen, pre-teen or young-soul -- starting with The Archimedes Gambit by Patrick Freivald -- soon to be released. Next up: Storm's Eye by October K. Santerelli. Stay tuned for updates.

And for a pandemic era. Sci fi that’s too pertinent? My Hugo-nominated short story, “The Giving Plague” explores our complex relations with viruses. Free access on my website or download this story free on Kindle. Also included in my collection, Otherness.

== Provocative nonfiction... and comedy! ==

Vivid Tomorrows: Science Fiction and Hollywood
Explore our love of far-out cinema, and how sci fi flicks may have saved us all. Wish your favorite directors would notice their repeated clich├ęs? Pass 'em a copy! 

Here I offer chapters on 2001, The Matrix, Dune, LOTR, Ayn Rand, King Kong, zombies...and of course, Star Wars and Star Trek. 

Polemical Judo: Memes for Our Political Knife-Fight  Here you'll find political insights you’ve not seen before. 100+ practical tactics off the hoary left-right axis, to defend our Great Experiment - and forge a better future. Sample chapters available on my website.

And how about trying some comedy... in these trying times?

Feed your under-nourished guffaw-neurons! Comedy is hard! Some say that The Ancient Ones: A Space Comedy - lifted spirits in a particularly challenging year. 

Others say “Brin’s nuts!” 

Try sample chapters and decide. 
"Life... death.. and the living dead... will never be the same."

== A screenplay, a stage play and more ==

I've written a screenplay based on my novella "The Tumbledowns of Cleopatra Abyss." It offers vivid action and unusual visuals deep.... under the oceans of Venus. (The novella is also included in my Best of Brin collection!) And yes, show the script to directors! Know any? ;-)

And a stage play!

A smart-aleck argues with the devil. Yeah that old trope, redone from a distinctly modernist perspective. My play, "The Escape: A Confrontation in Four Acts" is wry, pointed… and a bit intellectual. Perfect for your table-reading or local theater group. (Contact me if interested!)

On the side....take a look at Speeches and consulting: See over 300 NGOs, companies, activist groups and agencies I’ve consulted or given keynotes about a future that slams into us with wave after wave of onrushing change.

== And a novel from another Brin! ==

The Melody of Memory. Cheryl’s first novel - a moving tale of growing up while overcoming tragedy on a colony world that seems cursed, doomed to forget... and repeat the mistakes of the past. 

Terrific opening line! 

Sample the first chapters or see the compelling video preview of her wonderful novel.

== Cool watchables! ==

Brin on Artificial Intelligence (A.I.)  
Will humanity diversify?  
The plague of getting ‘mad as hell.’  
Shall we lift the Earth? 
The fabulous-fun trailer for Existence!
Others range from SETI to ESP to colonizing the galaxy.

And I read (for you) the prologue opening of EARTH. It seems to have been written for today.

== And maybe most important... ==

Sci-fi-nerds save us all? 

Picture any weird event. Starships fulla inky squids. Trees walk. Cyber-newborns talk! Panels advise governments.* Might 80 years of thoughtful SF tales prove useful? 

Volunteer programmers** are building TASAT - There’s a Story About That - to rapidly appraise what-if scenarios and maybe someday save us all. Subscribe. Join the Group Mind! 

*I'm on some.       ** Volunteers... like you?

Podcasts, blogs, interviews, YouTubes & social media.

Hot topics. Astrophysics, transparency/privacy, SETI, UFOs, innovations in spaceflight, history... And yeah, cool science fiction.

Want more? News and views at the always-provocative Contrary Brin.

Or see me on Twitter / Facebook

The David Brin site offers free stories, samples, favorite books, videos, nonfiction, ideas and more. As well as advice for new writers!

Finally: what a Sci-Fi-Twilight-Zonish year! But an ambitious, worthy future is possible! 

Do your part. Make it so.

Friday, July 23, 2021

What's really up with UAPs / UFOs?

Okay so what’s up with the whole UAP/UFO thing? While the most recent wave of reports and commentaries appears to have ebbed - for now - I’ve mostly held back in order to distill… not answers, but badly-needed questions.

Indeed, I've explored notions of the "alien" all my life, in both fiction and science. I helped write the "SETI Protocols" and have been deeply involved in debates over METI or "messaging" extraterrestrials*…  and my novel Existence** takes on the most likely kind of visitors to our solar system: long-lived observation probes, robots which might even now  'lurk' in corners like the Asteroid Belt. Indeed, I give a small chance that the much discussed "UAP" phenomena could - conceivably - be expendable drones or beam spots sent by such lurkers. Make that a VERY small chance... and none at all that these phenomena are "ships" bearing organic interstellar travelers who behave stupidly and with stunning rudeness, while flitting about in violation of every law of physics. (A notion I rant about here in my short story Those Eyes.)

(The SETI Institute has issued a carefully evasive position paper on the topic, essentially saying "we'll stay in our lane.")

Sure, a majority have already been explained by careful analyses of receding jet engine exhausts or balloons etc., viewed by rapidly swinging optics. Still, there remain a fair number of mysterious dots and “tic-tacs” and wildly-rapidly moving ball-thingies. And so, let’s see if we can bypass the execrably dumb and myopic ‘discussion,’ so far, by first stepping back to ask some really fundamental questions, like:

a) Why do UFO images keep getting fuzzier, when there are about a million times as many cameras than in the 1950s? (And legendary science pundit John Gribbin asks how many of these claims involve observers viewing from multiple directions?)

b) A whole lot depends on whether these sighted 'UAPs' are actually opaque physical objects that affect their surroundings and block passage of light from behind them! Or else, are they glowing spots of excited air that pass through light from the background behind them (translucent)? I have not seen this question even posed by any of the sides in this topic and it is crucial!  In fact, is there any verification that these ‘objects’ are actually 'objects' at all, and not simply balls of moving energetic phenomena? There’s a huge difference! Moreover, image analysis ought to answer this crucial question.

That one question would help settle whether they actually possess their own continuous mass and solidity and inertia for the supposed magical propulsion systems to miraculously overcome.  If not, then we have an explanation for how they can behave in apparently non-newtonian, non-inertial and even non-einsteinian ways, which is permissible to 'objects' that have no mass. (We'll come back to this.)

c) Heck, while we are listing observable traits that have neither been reported on nor asked about by any of the pundits or experts I have seen: …. are these glowing patches, blobs or “tic-tacs” radiating in just one or two colors?

If so, monochromatic emission lines would be a huge tell.  Especially if it just happens to be an excited state of Nitrogen, Oxygen, Carbon-dioxide, neon or water vapor.  (ASIDE: The great science fiction author Liu Cixin is fascinated by ball lightning, which phenomenologically overlaps, somewhat, with UAPs.)

d) There are other traits one never sees either described or even posed as questions, except by just one of my blogmunity members:I've never seen shock waves or ionization trails coming off them. Space aliens may have fancy tech, but the atmosphere has basic physics to abide. If physical devices, they should be leaving ionized tails of superheated air while zipping around like meteors. Same with those flying dots that seem to hurtle mere meters over the surface of the ocean. There should be huge plumes of water from the shock waves. I don’t care what kind of magic tech shields the ‘ship’ itself has. It’s still displacing a whole lot of air, vastly quicker than the speed of sound. What? No acoustic booms? No cloaking system can mask the shoving aside of air by sudden, massive forces.”

e) Why do the vast majority of recent sightings appear to happen at US military training areas? (See an exceptionally good piece speculating cogently on why the Pentagon is now encouraging service members to file UAP sightings… in order to get practical, useful error reports on electronic warfare gear! Which is of course consistent with my long-hinted theory about the real source of all these sightings. )

f) Getting back to fundamentals of motive and behavior: Why should we pay the slightest attention to "visitors" who behave like rude jerks? (Again, I say snub-em!)

Now, polymath Prof. Robin Hanson proposes they might have a reason for behaving this way. "To induce our cooperation, their plan is put themselves at the top of our status ladder. After all, social animals consistently have status ladders, with low status animals tending to emulate the higher. So if these aliens hang out close to us for a long time, show us their very impressive abilities, but don’t act overtly hostile, then we may well come to see them as very high status members of our tribe. Not powerful hostile outsiders."

I deem that to be pretty hard a stretch, since our natural response to nasty tricks is with hostility and determination to get smarter/stronger, fast. Anyway, it’s clear from the history of colonialism on Earth that Robin’s proposed method was never, even once, used to dazzle and cow native peoples. The Portuguese did not conquer Indonesia by coating their ships in glitter and sailing quickly by, while shouting “ooga booga!” for 80 years without making actual contact. Instead, the classic approach used by conquerers back to Chinese and Persian and African dynasties - and especially European colonizers - was to co-opt and suborn the local tribe or nation's top, leadership clade. Use power and wealth and blackmail and targeted assassinations to install your puppets and help them overcome local rivals. Superior aliens? No need for stunts if you have sufficient computational ability to learn our language and do those same things. And one can argue that recent US history is… well… compatible. (Especially the blackmail part!)

Which of course leads us back to listing and comparing alien-probe scenarios, as I did in Existence.  And yes, I still say, let’s get mighty and scientific and get OUT there… and if the lurkers do exist, corner and grill em… but till then, if they are pulling “UFO” crap, snub em!

Back to questions I’ve not seen elsewhere:

g) Why haven’t successive U.S. administrations who hated each other used "the truth" as a political weapon against the other party? (You think ‘mature consensus’ explains it?) Or else tell us why 80 years of our BEST scientists and engineers would have studied this stuff - thousands of our best - and not one first-rater has ever offered a scintilla of tangible or useful proof. Or why we’ve seen no great tech leaps to explode out of such research? 

Sure, there may be reasons for secrecy so compelling that all of the tens of thousands of humans who are in-the-know agree to keep silent. (As portrayed in my story “Senses, Three and Six.”) But in that case, who are YOU to over-rule such a consensus by tens of thousands of our best, who know vastly more than you do? What stunningly conceited, self-indulgent arrogance!

h) Above all, I never cease wondering why so many of our neighbors obsess on so-called "events" and UFO scenarios that are so infuriatingly unimaginative, ill-informed and just plain DULL, when the actual universe that is unfolding before science is so much more interesting… and the cogent speculations of higher-order science fiction are even better, still! ;-)

== Cat lasers ==

My own hypothesis for what’s going on?  Well, it needs to be consistent with all of the above, while also offering a reason why the US defense establishment is suddenly so complacent about allowing UFO speculation to go wild, with smiles and shrugs and even encouragement!  And yes, all of that combines with the following.

First, wanna make a bright dot zip around at unbelievably high “gee” accelerations and even faster than light? Get a very strong laser pointer. Go somewhere you can clearly see a wall many miles away. Like the Grand Canyon. Swipe left or right. If your wrist-flick was quick enough, that dot moved faster than the speed of light!  (Better yet, flick your beam across the visible face of the Moon; you’ll need a strong laser! You may not see it, but calculate the arc and clearly you can exceed “c’ with that dot, without even flicking hard!)

Now zigzag it around across that wall. If it were physical, your laser dot'd be accelerating at some ridiculous crush, say 900gees. Work it out. 

How can such a ‘cat laser,’ (messing with our heads the way we do with our pets) move faster than the speed of light, and zigging with impossible accelerations? See the answer below. But first, is it even possible that aliens - or giggling humans - could make ‘cat laser’ dots or tic-tacs or balls appear in mid-air, rather than merely against a wall?

Well, start with military laser systems for ionizing streaks of air and painting fake objects in the sky to serve as decoys. Here's an excellent article. And what's described is is impressively close! But it’s still missing the actual secret sauce.

Even closer, see a version of the likely tech displayed here in the creation of luminous illusions in a patch of atmosphere.  And another here.

All right, we’re almost there, and all based on unclassified material. Yeah, but suppose you want the exciting beams to be entirely INVISIBLE? Necessary if you want to maintain the illusion of a discrete object. Well, you might have them excite infrared shell states that add up to the one you want to glow…. which brings us back to my first few questions, above, hm?

Some of you have put it all together by now. How the simplest hypothesis for these ‘sightings’ does not have to be the one calling for magical tech used by nasty, illogical aliens. 

== Final thought on cat-teasers ==

Okay, back to that last question: how does that cat-laser dot move at incredible gee accelerations and possibly exceed light-speed? After all that I said up to this point, you may be surprised to learn it's not because the light beam has no mass!  No, the reason is entirely different.

 It is because each individual, momentary spot that makes up that streak on the other side of the Grand Canyon or the face of the Moon - or your nearby, cat-clawed couch - departed from your hand laser separately. (If you are having trouble visualizing, try this with a garden hose; the droplets or splooshes are distinct. The wet streak on the fence only appears to be a connected thing.) 

Each very-brief dot your laser made on that wall - or the moon - was a separate phenomenon, adding together to offer the illusion of a continuing object. In fact, each transitory dot has nothing to do with the spots that came before or after, each of which traveled from your pointer to the wall at the speed of light (in air.)

This is very well-known. Astronomers can point at countless phenomena in space that seem to move faster than light. Phenomena - like the Searchlight Effect - can do that. Physical objects cannot. 

Got it?

== Aliens or not, stop falling for this malarkey ==

And yes, my biggest complaint about UFO nuttery is not that I am sure it’s not aliens! 

I am not certain of that! Though I know the range of possibilities about the alien as well as any living human. Heck, I’ll speculate about aliens at the drop of a molecule! 

No, my complaint, again, is that UFO nuttery is boring! Leaping to clutch the dumbest, most stereotypical and mystically primitive ‘theory,’ slathering on a voluptuous splatter of "I'm such a rebel" anti-authority pretentiousness, and then smacking in happy smugness like those French castle guards in Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Whether these are dumb distracto-theories or actual space-jerks messing with us, both are just lazy farts sent in our general direction.

Ask questions and do better. 


* “Shouting At the Cosmos” – about METI “messaging” to aliens 

** The lively fun video trailer for Existence