Saturday, June 25, 2022

To arms against blackmail... and 'Replacement Theory'... and the suborned Court

You know I've beat a drum about blackmail many times, showing how this method of sabotage and control-over-elites has been a favorite of spies - especially Russian - since czarist times, and how utterly consistent it is with the behavior of an ever-more compromised Republican political caste. As if any other theory could even-rmotely account for what we have seen for two decades, and worsening every year?

I've expressed hope that Prez JoBee might offer clemency in order to lure victims into the open and thus shatter the extortion rings that clearly control hundreds of sellouts high level puppets like Lindsey Graham. This would be the diametric opposite of Trumpian pardons to keep traitors silent. These would encourage revelations of searing light.

And if the offer gets no takers, or brings down a few Democrats along with the entire Foxite caste? Then what's the harm?

Specifically referring to today's headlines, those liars who lied in order to get on the Supreme Court… and the lying senators who abetted Moscow Mitch’s schemes… need a little (just a little) sympathy, since it is so blatantly obvious that all (or nearly all) of them are being blackmailed. There is one possible soft landing for the bravest of those cowards. YOU should make the offer to JB!  No matter what the blackmailers have on you, the first couple to step forward and take-one for Amerivan will be a hero, and remembered that way.

Alas though. Clearly I am getting nowhere with these proposals! 

But a friend offered up a suggestion last month that I hadn't thought of. Instead of calling for courage and patriotism from those who are being successfully blackmailed... about summoning forth those on whom blackmail attempts failed?

Attempts to lure married men with attractive come-ons? That's often how it begins. But suppose you were in a Moscow hotel and got the inevitable offer (to have sex in a room with hidden cameras rolling)... and turned it down... isn't that something to testify - even brag - about? 

The initial phases of most of these traps are usually innocuous enough that even if you fell for the initial lure, you can still say "F-you and be damned!" and often the extortionists just go away. It's usually the second or third "we just want one more thing" that traps you in their clutches, forever.  (And yes, this correlates perfectly with Madison Cawthorne's testimony about raampant GOP "sex orgies.")

Has that happened to you? Did you get offered a come-on lure to compromise yourself... and refuse? 

That's still valid info! If so and if we got enough such stories, might it finally be enough to break this thing open? 

== Replacement Theory? ==

There is an inconvenient truth here. You will not defeat this insanity and treason on moral grounds. 

If you shout - rightfully - that 'replacement theory' is as racist as reversing Roe is oppressively sexist, you'll be correct. And you'll not be confronting the enemy on ground that matters to them. Moreover, you are ignoring what's important to the fence sitters who can demolish the insanity, if we win enough of them over. 

(Stop dismissing that possibility! The Mad MAGAconfederate treason teeters on the edge of demographic collapse, their reason for desperate cheating. ALL we need is less than a million 'ostrich republicans' to get their heads yanked out of the Fox hole, and the whole thing will shatter!)

Try actually, actually looking at these people, the non-college whites who are being dangerously stoked on hysterical fear. They have one thing in common with you, a drug-like sanctimony-high that their incantations make them RIGHT!

Sure, you are mostly on the right side of both justice and history, believing in a future of inclusion and progress and science. You have facts on your side and they do not. So? The emotions are the same! 

Moreover, being right does not validate your tactics, especially when it comes to wokedly focusing on symbolisms instead of pragmatic victory. Especially, demonizing non-college whites--and now Latinos and working class Blacks--can be extremely counter-productive. As I show in Polemical Judo.

Dig it. The core of their being, manipulated by Fox every night, is not centrally racism or sexism, which are dog whistles for the unwashed. Dog whistles that enrage you into ignoring pragmatic tactics.

Think, will you, about the oligarchs who are funding this drive to turn America's Civil War hot? Clearly, their aim is to take all power and restore feudalism. O? Is that goal thwarted by the powerless?

The enemy that's railed-against most on Fox - try tuning in and tracking it - is a rival power demographic - one that actually stands in the way of the oligarchic putsch. That power clade is ...nerds. Every fact using profession. 

Check out how often Fox-heads, some of them former Rhodes Scholars from Ivy League schools, rail against the very idea of universities and higher education! Then notice how often the fundamental emotional driver raved at the audience is... macho.

Guns. The 'War on Men.' De-masculinization... incels... 

Start tabulating... and then asking why is this particular core theme of anti-nerd machismo the thing they spend the most time yammering about? 

If you actually look, that's when - even if too lazy to read Polemical Judo - you might start to 'get' why direct demands for fact-based wagers so terrify these idiots.

Facts have a liberal bias. They could be our greatest ally. If it weren't for the penchant of the left to hate their allies, far more than their enemies.

== Flawed… but often good… ==

Finally, here's an interesting story. 

San Francisco-born Wong Kim Ark returned to the city of his birth in 1895 after visiting family in China, but he was refused re-entry. John Wise, an openly anti-Chinese bigot and the collector of customs in San Francisco who controlled immigration into the port, wanted a test case that would deny U.S. citizenship to ethnic Chinese residents. But Wong fought his case all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled on March 28, 1898 that the 14th Amendment guaranteed U.S. citizenship to Wong and any other person born on U.S. soil. 

The Wong Kim Ark case established the Birthright Citizenship clause and led to the dramatic demographic transformation of the U.S. The U.S.-born children and grandchildren of immigrants from Asia and Latin America are among the nation's fastest-growing populations. They are expected to be the majority of the country by mid-century.

Why do I mention this? Or the fact that the father of modern China - Sun Yat-Sen - got all of his support to keep up the struggle from American sympathizers?

Because we have always been a split personality people. And if you only dredge history for examples of our bad side, in order to stoke cautionary guilt trips, you turn yourself into a dishonest shrieker who ignores all the good folk who kept us moving forward.

Want proof that the NET effect has been forward? 

Try looking in a mirror.

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Is it 'alive'? Claims of sapient AI... plus micropayments and future wealth!

NEWSWEEK requested an op-ed from me about artificial intelligence and my prediction in 2017 that "in about five years" we would enter the First Robotic Empathy Crisis, when some language program -- perhaps augmented with appealing visuals -- would proclaim "I'm alive!" Possibly with the addendum: "Send money!"

My Newsweek op-ed ran this week: Soon, Humanity Won't Be Alone in the Universe.

In a very short space, I try to offer bigger than normal perspectives, focusing especially on which aspects of human nature... and this particular, peculiar civilization... make us especially sensitive to such appeals. And how we might navigate a carefully fair path ahead.

One thing I do know. The dominance of advertising as a driving economic force on the Web has been less oppressive or deadly than if we'd had central state control. Still, the advertising model is a crappy system, long needful of replacement... or at least supplementation with a better approach.

And so, let's start this delayed weekend posting with a link to some perspectives on that problem that you may not have considered... and might want to.

And if you are still around after that?

Lucky you! I'll finish with a short riff on money velocity!


== Micropayments... == 

I gave a webinar on the future of online payment systems a few months back, with emphasis on how the time may have come - at last - for micropayments systems to partially replace irksome advertising. Four fine legal scholars weighed in, with edifying perspectives! Some of you may find it interesting.

Would you pay a nickel for an occasional, interesting NYTimes or Scientific American article, if it meant you wouldn't face a paywall, any password hurdles, visit logs or adverts? My original essay on the whole thing... published in EVONOMICS... is also available.

==... and wealth ==

Wealthy families could face combined tax rates of as much as 61% on inherited wealth under President Joe Biden’s tax plan, according to a recent analysis. Biden’s plan proposes to nearly double the top tax rate on capital gains and eliminate a tax benefit on appreciated assets known as the “step-up in basis.”

Two aspects to this:

1. No wonder the oligarchs hate him! But anyone howling about this on the right, despite the fact that enterprise and entrepreneurship and flat-fair competition all did far better under the Rooseveltean social contract, with far lower wealth disparities, ought to recall that this Biden proposal would amount only to rescinding the cult-voodoo experiments in 'supply side' that failed in every single prediction or promised outcome. Without a single exception.

2. Anyone on the left who has snarled at JoeBee for being "Republican Lite"... YOU are responsible for his low polls and the power slipping away. You and your ilk. You and exactly you, showing yet again that the left wing of democrats would not know how to craft a loyal and effective coalition if their very lives depended on it. 

And they do, twits. Your very lives.

== And hell yeah, some liberals are doing great stuff! ==

First, a tip and a tool worth spreading. The Canadian Women's Foundation has created a hand signal for those who are victims of domestic violence which can be used silently on video calls during the coronavirus crisis to signal for help.  But not just for video calls, as illustrated in this earlier video.

And while we’re talking inspiring ways to move ahead… Big star Bruce Springsteen’s Jeep commercial paid homage to the ReUnited States of America… a lovely sentiment! (Calling to mind “malice toward none” from Lincoln’s 2nd inaugural address, one of the top ten speeches of all time.) 

It also called to mind - for not a few folks who pinged me - resonance with the “Restored United States” of my novel (and the film) “The Postman.” (Which has itself been “restored” or refreshed, edited and updated with two new Patrick Farley covers and a new introduction. And apparently there will be interesting news soon (perhaps) about that franchise.

Listen, fools, I’m no commie. I believe that reciprocally competitive systems are the most creative… it’s how nature made us! 

Only in human societies. we aim to reduce the side effects that too often make competition brutal and robbed it of any grace, ruining its outputs in much of evolution and certainly in 99% of (feudal) societies… death (nature is way bloody) and its equivalent that kills a fair society… cheating

Yes, we need competitive markets to create the vast wealth that could let us end poverty and save the world, and those competitive markets function best when competing individuals, partnerships, families, enterprises perceive a chance to profit and prosper! 

On the other hand, all good things in the world become toxic when too heavily concentrated! Oxygen, water, food, light, power... and wealth packed together in mountains that turn rich families into noble brats, that turn businessmen into cheating monopolists, and that turn business majors into parasites who forget all about goods and services.

== Repeat two words: Money Velocity! ==

One of the strongest signs of a vibrant economy is called Money Velocity - MV- which measures how often dollars change hands. In a busy economy, with lots of employed folks spending and buying goods and services, MV is moderately high. 

History does give examples of MV being TOO high, causing sharp inflation. But ever since the Reagan era, Money Velocity has fallen, in lockstep with every single Supply Side Theory tax cut-gusher-gift to the rich. And across the Trump years, the collapse of MV became a nosedive!

This is diametrically opposite to what Supply Side (SS) fans confidently predicted, over and over again. As happened with EVERY prediction that mad cult ever made. And I stand ready to bet real stakes on that.

In science, when a theory is always wrong, it gets abandoned. When it is always wrong — and the same magical incantations are used to support trying it yet again — then the word is “insanity.”

Adam Smith himself said this (without using the term MV, of course):

 When the already rich get sudden bursts of yet-more cash, they do NOT hurry to invest it in bold enterprises or in factories producing more (supply) goods and services. Oh, a few do. But a vast majority squirrel their new largesse away into capital preservation investments, rent-seeking (“rentier”) holdings, asset bubbles and cheat schemes, exactly as Smith described in The Wealth of Nations. 

They don’t even buy all that many yachts! Any cub scout will tell you that pattern takes dollars out of circulation and eviscerates Money Velocity.

In contrast, similar amounts invested in working stiffs - say hiring them to fix infrastructure - gets spent almost immediately and hence MV rises. 

That truth is almost as pure as what the previous paragraph said about the rich. And note that Joe Biden’s “expensive” Infrastructure Push will put no more cash to work that way than Supply Siders poured into the aristocracy. In fact, they are VERY similar amounts… 

...with diametrically opposite likely outcomes, especially re MV. And of course, that is what terrifies McConnell. Because he knows it will likely work.

Want to incentivize investment in R&D, new products and services and productive capacity? Before Supply Side we knew how to do that, with generous tax breaks for exactly those things, targeted ONLY on those things. It worked, unlike SS, which never (I repeat never, ever) has.

What is crazier? That U.S. conservatives cling to a magical incantation (one of many!) that has been utterly, utterly disproved? 

Or that Democratic politicians are unable to parse this contradiction in clear terms the People can understand?  YOU understood what I just wrote. The People would, as well. 

Friday, June 10, 2022

We must restore at least some Majority Rule... and a fresh approach to shattering the blackmail rings?

One of the finest essayists in America - or the world - is Rebecca Solnit. In her recent article - she dives into a major advantage and positive trait of modern, western democracy, that has been turned against it, metastasizing into a cancer that could kill both it and us all... the institutional innovation that protects minority interests from being too-readily ruled - even trampled - by any majority. 

Simplistically, 'minority veto' means that that majority must try to negotiate and calm any vociferously objecting minority - perhaps with tradeoffs or reciprocal wins - until either the number of objectors or their passion diminishes below an acceptable level. (This can also be done - as in California - with super-majorities.)

Alas, as with free speech and traditions of Suspicion of Authority (SoA) and several other wholesome Periclean traits, minority veto has been cynically manipulated by enemies of the whole Enlightenment Experiment, encouraging a rising hatred of majority rule in any form. On the right this is propelled by a rabid froth of fear of the 'mob' - a mob that is somehow simultaneously made of grunting immigrants and vast swarms of the brainwashed college educated.

This has built into the latest recrudescence of America's congenital sickness - the Confederacy - whose fervent use of minority veto in the 1850s kept slavery in place long after a majority of white voters wanted the abomination ended.

As usual, Solnit and I emphasize slightly different angles and aspects. But she has the greater soap box. So why are you still here? Go read a really good writer.

== About the Court... and a fresh approach to blackmail? ==

Those liars who lied in order to get on the Supreme Court… and the lying senators who abetted Moscow Mitch’s schemes… need a little (just a little) sympathy, since it is so blatantly obvious that all (or nearly all) of them are being blackmailed. Still, it is blatantly now time to get busy crushing the anti-freedom, anti-science, anti progress and anti-American side of this civil war.

They refer to their own special madness as The Great Awakening. A reference to several other times in US history when fervid tent revival-meetings were about anything but individuals gaining more sapient alertness. Ironic also in that they despise "wokeness." 

Avram Davidson put it very well in his first Peregrine novel, set in the failing late Roman Empire - "in times such as these, a man feels the need of something to cling to, even if it be another man's knees." 

You know I have beat the drum about blackmail many times, in hope that Prez JoBee might offer pardons in order to lure victims into the open and shatter the extortion rings that clearly control hundreds of sellouts like Lindsey Graham. Clearly I am getting nowhere! But a friend offered up a suggestion yesterday that I hand't thought of.

Instead of calling for courage and patriotism from those who are being successfully blackmailed... how about summoning forth those on whom blackmail attempts failed?

Attempts to lure married men with attractive come-ons? That's often how it begins. But if you were in a Moscow hotel and turned down the inevitable offer (to have sex in a room with hidden cameras rolling) isn't that something to testify - even bragt - about? The initial phases of most of these traps are innocuous enough that even if you fell for one, you can still say "F-you and be damned!" and often they just go away.  

Has that happened to you? If so and if we got enough such stories, but it finally be enough to break this thing open? 

== All sides need to me more, not less, TUCE… ==

Guy I know offered four words: “The Undeniable Counter Example (TUCE).” Should be self-explanatory!

And yes, there are countless TUCs for every blanket assertion yammered by sanctimony junkies on both the far left and the entire mad-right. In fact,  I use TUCE a lot. It works fine against grand generalizations. 

Alas, though, there is a flaw. Those who had bandied the grand generalization can respond with: “Well, there are exceptions to everything. The general assertion still stands!”

What's even more effective is the "anti-TUCE". Demanding that your opponent name one counter example to your own well-chosen generalization.  

Let me give one example of an effective anti-TUCE...

 "Name one fact-centered profession that is NOT under attack by Fox News."  

Scientists, teachers, journalists, civil servants, law and medicine professionals... and now the intelFBIi/military officer corps…. it is blatantly obvious that the mad-right attacks ALL fact professions, including that last set (calling the dedicated men and women who won the Cold War and the War on Terror “deep state” traitors.) 

Their inability to name even one exception to that challenge is utterly damning! It proves the point that today's Mad Right is the most fiercely anti-fact cult in US history.  

But even if they named one exception (I can), it would still leave the point standing. The general assertion still stands

I offer a couple of dozen more in Polemical Judo. 

== I don’t endorse this… but… ==

A member of this blog-community posted on his own site an ‘open letter to the next mass shooter’ that offers that next aggrieved nut-case a chance to do something more provocative and better remembered – even historical – than maniacally seeking death-by-cop over the bodies of innocent school children. Reminiscent of Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” which both enraged readers in the 19th Century and brought home to the British public what they had complicitly allowed to happen to millions of innocent Irish folk.

And finally…

 == My 100th donated pint. ==

To commemorate this milestone I brought cookies for the fine folks at the Blood Bank, and they gave me an ice cream cone! (After the ritual draining.) 

Feeling fine, so my next target is 111!

(Obviously, I could work on my selfie skills.)

Friday, June 03, 2022

Space News!

My notoriously fierce objections to the USA getting involved in Footprint Stunts on the moon are well known. But those objections do not extend to the robotic parts of the program! NASA should very much strive for a leading role in robotic lunar exploration and actual, actual science. For example:

“Over the course of 10 Earth days (one lunar day), Lunar-VISE will explore the summit of one of the Gruithuisen Domes. These domes are suspected to have been formed by a sticky magma rich in silica, similar in composition to granite. On Earth, formations like these need oceans of liquid water and plate tectonics to form, but without these key ingredients on the Moon, lunar scientists have been left to wonder how these domes formed and evolved over time.”

Robotic exploration of lunar polar ice fields? That too! And suspected lava tubes. And "ISRU" methods to extract and use local resources, eventually proving me wrong about the near total lack of anything useful on that dusty, poison plain.

What we do NOT need to do is to race to be the next footprint tourists, and thus not only waste half of NASA's resources, but also humiliate other nations who are eager to send astro/cosmo/taikonauts to that sandbox for photo-ops and for symbolism-drenched national rites of passage. 

Let them have their ‘bar moonzvahs.’ We had ours over half a century ago!

We have other business out there, worthy of grownups.

== More mighty space news! ==

This interview about the possibility of life on Mars - and across the universe on KPBS features cogently formulated questions and a fine job of journalistic editing/splicing efficient- informative answers. Veteran reporter Tom Fudge was even able to mine something useful from my garrulously rambling explanations!


The largest comet nucleus ever seen!newly discovered comet that's on its way in has been estimated at around 140 km or 80 miles wide, that's thousands of times more massive than the pretty consistent average of a few km. (As described with vivid adventure and science in Heart of the Comet!) "It's big and it's blacker than coal," yet already emitting a coma of evaporated volatiles. 

"Comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein follows a 3-million-year-long elliptical orbit, taking it as far from the Sun as roughly half a light-year. The comet is now less than 2 billion miles from the Sun, falling nearly perpendicular to the plane of our solar system. At that distance temperatures are only about minus 348 degrees Fahrenheit. Yet that's warm enough for carbon monoxide to sublimate off the surface to produce the dusty coma."

Our sun in unprecedented detail! These images were taken when Solar Orbiter was at a distance of roughly 75 million kilometers, half way between our world and its parent star, showing the full Sun in unprecedented detail. Amazing how pertinent appear to be every descriptive element in my novel Sundiver!

Odd Radio Circles (ORCs) are space rings so massive that they measure about a million light-years across – 16 times bigger than our Milky Way galaxy. “Astronomers believe it takes the circles 1 billion years to reach their maximum size, and they are so large that the objects have expanded past other galaxies…. Initially, astronomers thought the circles could be galactic shock waves or even the throats of wormholes, among a whole host of ideas.” Only five radio circles have been found in space so far.


ESA’s Gaia telescope has been among the most productive in all science, measuring position and brightness for millions of stars, vastly expanding parallax metrics and now – combined with a Chinese spectrograph – determining something amazing about the age of the Milky Way galaxy. Apparently stars of the ‘thick disk’ component formed very soon after the Big Bang. The thin disc of stars which holds the Sun, was formed during the subsequent, second phase of the galaxy’s formation.  The resulting model of galactic evolution is amazingly detailed. Like the way genetic analysis has let us reconstruct human evolution.

Early life on Earth: Some scientists believe they have found evidence of microbes that were thriving near hydrothermal vents on Earth’s surface just 300m years after the planet formed – the strongest evidence yet that life began far earlier than is widely assumed. And yes, it is a bit of a reach, considering how complex the hematite forms appear. Still, it is amazing what science detectives can reveal.


Does Europa take oxygen (photolytically generated from its surface) and ‘draw it down through the ice roof to the ocean, below? Europa Clipper is the first mission dedicated to Europa. Especially important as we are now pretty sure that almost all of the liquid water in the universe may sit under the ice roofs of Europa-like worlds, vast, numbers of them out there.

 == Space tech ==

Is this for real? Spin launch? The video gives no sign HOW it's done. If you watch not just the video but the clips that play after, there's on glimpse of the hurl cone flung from the end of the rotating arm. One might imagine it being useful for a fixed position area defense system for a high-value base.  The biggest use is likely pop-up replacement of LEO coms and observation CCC assets.  Just being able to do that in a variety of ways could reduce the temptation of rivals to degrade our orbit dependent systems with shotgun pellet denial or EMP.

A University of Georgia team realized that the lesser gravity of Mars means that a lower-quality fuel could nevertheless power rockets into orbit, if it could be made cheaper and easier and store better than methane or hydrogen, and made by a very simple biological ISRU (In Situ Resource Utilization) method relying on cyanobacteria and e.Coli to convert CO2+water+sunlight into LOX and “2,3-butanediol”. A combined process already proved on Earth. A byproduct would be water and oxygen for, well, you know.

Cislunar platforms: Quantum Space announced Feb. 3 it’s starting work on a spacecraft platform that would initially operate at the Earth-moon L-1 Lagrange point and host various payloads. That platform would be serviced by another spacecraft that would deliver and install payloads. The Earth-moon L-1 point, about 60,000 kilometers from the moon in the direction of Earth, offers a “clean sheet” approach compared to working in Earth orbit.

Should we consider a 2-wheel motorcycle for moon astronauts, rather than a 4-wheel buggy?

The Pentagon’s Orbital Prime program is offering seed money to develop technology to gather up the spent rocket parts and dead satellites littering low Earth orbit.

And because the Whole Earth is a planet, after all… John Markoff’s biography of the incredible Stewart Brand. “The definitive biography of iconic serial visionary Stewart Brand, from the Merry Pranksters and the generation-defining Whole Earth Catalog to the marriage of environmental consciousness and hacker capitalism and the rise of a new planetary culture—the story behind so many other stories.”