Saturday, January 28, 2023

Gaining perspective: imaging Earth - and deep space

Modeling this planet. Having cut my teeth long ago on the Whole Earth Catalogue, and later having written a novel called Earth, I'm a bit of a sucker for macro planet modeling projects. Here’s one of the latest that’s just a crowd sourced mapping to Supplement Google Earth… Soar.Earth is a digital atlas of world maps, crowd-sourced from individuals, organizations, and the broader community. 

WIRED co-founder Kevin Kelly – whose lavishly huge and beautiful photography 3-volume set Vanishing Asia I have blogged about before – is also working on an Earth modeling project. He asked me for others to look at. 

Then there are speculative Earth models that take scenario-based, rather than science-fictional approaches. Here's one recently inaugurated by Benjamin Bratton and the Berggruen folks - the Antikythera project.  And another - Earth2 -developed at UCSD. (They have some problems with both concept and funding, but you may find it interesting.) 

A much larger scale and SFnal and vivid portrayal of the near future - one I contributed a fair amount to – is Earth 2050. Just be wary, since it's key sponsor is Moscow-located Kaspersky.

Envisioning space: Here's a compilation of 21 Cosmic websites you need to visit - stunning images from the scale of our solar system - to the scale of the known universe, and much more.

== Astronomy updates ==

The first water exo-worlds? Planets that seem likely to orbit their red sun very closely and to have thick layers of high pressure water and steam! The inferences through modeling are amazing. Such smart folks, we sometimes make.

Comparing 17 nearby, almost-identical twins to our sun, scientists measured the fine structure constant in the most precise astronomical test ever performed. Next, they've recently identified new solar twins much further away, about half way to the center of our Milky Way galaxy. In this region, there should be a much higher concentration of dark matter.

Gorgeous. NASA’s Webb Space Telescope revealed once-hidden features of a protostar within the dark cloud L1527, only visible in infrared light. The protostar itself is hidden from view within the “neck” of this hourglass shape. An edge-on protoplanetary disk is seen as a dark line across the middle of the neck. Light from the protostar leaks above and below this disk, illuminating cavities within the surrounding gas and dust.

This is a real time-lapse video of planets orbiting the star HR 8799, 133 light years away: four super-Jupiter worlds dancing around their sun. Amazing! Images collected at the Keck Observatory, processed by William Thompson. (Thanks Corey Powell & Mike Gannis.) 

And it makes some weird sense… that our sun’s 11 year activity cycle) actually 22 yeas) might be due to a dark matter planet whose 11 (or 22) year elliptical orbit takes it diving through the Sun’s interior at that rhythm, disturbing things with its gravity.  I have doubts that these passages would not leave detectable effects upon each entry and exit, though. 

== Deeep… and flashy… space! ==

Sometimes a black hole that’s eating a nearby star spews superheated jets, accelerated to nearly the speed of light and rarely they’re pointed directly at us. Which was the case for 2022cmc,  the brightest and most distant tidal disruption event yet-known; its source is a supermassive black hole about 8.5 billion light-years away. Twenty-one telescopes around the world viewed the jet in the X-ray, radio, optical, and ultraviolet wavelengths. 

Deeper? Astronomers using the Webb have discovered galaxies whose light left them toward us only 350 million years after the Big Bang. Our understanding of the first billion years after the Big Bang is extremely limited, and finding earlier and earlier objects can help shed light on this crucial time of formation.

== “Fermi” explanations get repetitive… ==

Groups of scientists and commentators keep discovering (aha!) explanations for what I in 1983 called “The Great Silence” – well before the coining of the far less apropos “Fermi Paradox.”  

Up near the top of popularity among notions, the “Great Filter” theory — as in “filtering out” various forms of life — argues that other civilizations, possibly several, have existed during the life of the universe. But they all destroyed themselves before they could make contact with Earth. According to a paper by a team of researchers based at NASA’s JPL: “The key to humanity successfully traversing such a universal filter is… identifying [destructive] attributes in ourselves and neutralizing them in advance.” 

Only been writing about this most of my life. And I do agree. In fact, my own #3 hypothesis is that humans appear to be rather exceptionally logical, peaceful and cooperative and smart, compared to most kinds of mammals. We even escape the noxious/toxic effects of male reproductive strategies in perhaps 1% of our civilizations! And that 1% was responsible for almost all genuine progress. NOT my favorite fermi theory because, well, we are still (especially human males) pretty damned unreasonable and reflexively dumb.

This Isaac Arthur episode is very interesting about the Gaia Hypothesis.  Though it seems worth mentioning that my novel Earth is about this at many levels... weak, moderate or strong Gaia, it's got 'em, including a scientifically plausible (if rather a reach) way that the bulk mass of the planet might become sapient. I know Isaac has read it and hence I feel a bit puzzled, since several notions from the book would seem to be branching pertinences. But his channel is superb.

Oh, and this. A civilization on a tidally locked planet orbiting close to a red star would likely have huge numbers of solar collectors along the rim zone facing sunward, some reflecting light into the shadow zone. I wonder if such collectors might have visible techno-signature effects on telescopes aimed to track those planets nearing opposition.

== The Moondoggle, redux ==

As implicit in this Nikkei (Japan) article, the current Artemis 'race to the Moon" is a horrible, valueless symbolism junket, imposed on us by a horrible, valueless symbolism junkie. It will waste billions on a wretchedly expensive throwaway, obsolete rocket system, justified by blithering nonsense about "lunar resources."

I eviscerate the insanely never-justified yammers about 'lunar resources' in this podcast  .. as well as whether any such 'resources' (again, mere fantasies) could possibly be utilized best by astronauts stomping about.

Mind you, I am all in favor of US efforts to advance lunar robotics. The one and only lunar resource of near term value is (possibly) some polar ice deposits and we've funded robotic mining studies at NASA's Innovative & Advanced Concepts program - (NIAC). Along with studies of farside robotic radio telescopes. And studies to robotically explore possible lava tube caves. Fine. As for non-robotic endeavors, I favor the earlier NASA lunar endeavor to build a 'Gateway" space station in moon orbit, with a dozen good uses. Like #2 below.

But this Artemis 'race' to throw away billion dollar behemoth rockets in order to plant symbolic footprints on a sterile plain of poison dust? Bah!

1. The U.S. and Japan have begun exploring asteroids, where the real wealth of the Solar System can be found. These are steps forward that only the U.S. & Japan (with some European help) can take! Why not focus on doing things that only we can do?

2. Humans are going back to the moon, anyway! Soon hordes of Apollo-wannabe tourists will be rushing there, eager for their manhood-ritual 'bar moonzvahs.' So? Let's rent 'em hotel rooms on the lunar orbiting station and then rent them landers for their photo ops!

3. "Beating China in a race to land on the moon"?  Sure let's humiliate a Rising Power, shaming them at their moment of "today I am a man" accomplishment! So, so wise to do (not)! Seriously, how's such a pueril, low-minded and fundamentally nasty imperative gonna serve any benefit for the West, or America or taxpayers? Other than the typically MAGA-Trumpian motive of grabbing a "Nyah Nyah!" moment?

(Far better, have a rocket and lander ready to come and assist, should they need rescue or aid!)

4. Even with cost-spreading 'partners' there's no way this helps us. NASA will have to share technologies with every partner. And we benefit from that how?

Oh, it's too late to back out now. Another idiotic Trumpist-"Shelby" moondoggle that aliens might have imposed on us, if they wanted to slow down our real advances into space. 

In fact, Trump's one first rate appointee, NASA Administrator Bridenstine, managed to insulate NASA's science departments from depredation for Artemis, and I wish Biden had found a way to make use of him.

== …and finally… ==

My former Caltech classmate - U. of Colorado Astronomy Prof Doug Duncan - is hosting a gathering event for those wanting to view the April 8, 2024 Great Texas Solar Eclipse, with interesting speakers and ideal positioning. He also has an inexpensive product – app and filters – to let your cell phone snap an eclipse. 

It may not be too soon to start planning for it!

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

A song to make you cry... and determined...

I am trying to post only weekly, these days. But this needs doing. 

At all political extrema the fashion is to pour cynical hate on the deeply-flawed Great Enlightenment Experiment, and the nation that - for well or ill - is its leader. That hate is a sick version of the food that experiment needs, in order to flourish - interrogation by our righteously unsatisfied children.

We question ourselves and that is good. We teach our next generations to question us and all leaders, which (historically unusual) trait is both good and necessary, if we are ever to rise fully beyond barely upright killer-apes. 

The rate at which America, especially, has stepped toward her potential has been grindingly, shamefully slow (if quicker than any other.) And yet...

...sometimes it's a good idea, amid our habitual self-reproach, to remember all the times we did take those brave steps toward light. There are those, on this planet, who do remember.

This song by Michel Sardou is called "Les Ricains" which means, more or less, "The Yankees."

Watch this version first. I beseech you.

Les Ricains
 by Michel Sardou

If the Ricans weren't there
   Si les Ricains n'étaient pas là
You would all be in Germania
   Vous seriez tous en Germanie
To speak of I don't know what
   A parler de je ne sais quoi
To greet I do not know who
   A saluer je ne sais qui

Of course years have passed
Bien sûr les années ont passé
The rifles changed hands
Les fusils ont changé de mains
Is this a reason to forget
Est-ce une raison pour oublier
That one day we needed it?
Qu'un jour on en a eu besoin?

A guy from Georgia
Un gars venu de Georgie
Who cared a lot about you
Qui se foutait pas mal de toi
Came to die in Normandy
Est v'nu mourir en Normandie
One morning when you weren't there
Un matin où tu n'y étais pas

Of course years have passed
Bien sûr les années ont passé
We became friends
On est devenus des copains
To the friendly of the shot
A l'amicale du fusillé
They say they fell for nothing
On dit qu'ils sont tombés pour rien

If the Ricans weren't there
Si les Ricains n'étaient pas là
You would all be in Germania
Vous seriez tous en Germanie
To speak of I don't know what
A parler de je ne sais quoi
To greet I do not know who
A saluer je ne sais qui

Even better is this version... a huge crowd of French people cheering and singing along. Capable of gratitude. (Perhaps more capable than you are?)

They know that this American Pax, for all of its faults, prevented vastly worse. That things could have been a hell, a curse. That every other era of dismal human history was worse. 

And if we do not blow it now, we have a chance to be recalled by our heirs - organic and cyber - the true humans - as the very best that cavemen could be. Crude, bestial primitives who tried nonetheless to lift our gaze and those around us. To something better.

Try - try, I dare you - not to tear up, in gratitude for this gratitude.

Friday, January 20, 2023

Finally, the question of WHY the mad right (and parts of the left) wage war vs. nerds?

Am I exaggerating when I call this phase of the U.S. Civil War an outright campaign against smart people

Earlier I referred you to when Louisiana Senator John Kennedy, while campaigning for Herschel Walker in Georgia, made this so explicitly by repeatedly taunting kale-eating “high-IQ stupid people.” The same folks who are dissed as “snobs” by Tucker Carlson and his Ivy League colleagues who fake folksy accents on Fox. 

It didn't begin in 2011, when Rush Limbaugh started his crusade against the "Four corners of deceit" (science, media, government, and academia), proclaiming, "Only *I* will tell you the truth." But the jeremiads against all fact-using professions accelerated, after he got away with it.

Today, tsunamis of bile spew at every kind of nerdy people... as well as the very concept of objective reality as the Risen Confederacy foments against every single U.S. profession that heeds things called 'facts.' Science, medicine, law, journalism, teaching, civil service... name ONE exception! Hate toward all Folks Who Know Stuff... screeching also at intel/FBI/military officer corps who won the Cold War and the War on Terror. 

See my posting: Waging War on Expertise. (Where I also shine light upon the far smaller - but almost equally noxious - fraction of folks on the postmodernist left who follow an eerily similar pattern! But who are presently a microscopically-smaller danger. For now.) And in that posting I asked the obvious question.


Why this all-out campaign, that no less than Mark Twain and Robert Heinlein described as an abiding, poisonous current that flows through zones of the American character?

Why? I can only offer theories... some that you may not have seen before. 

First. Culturally, MAGA/confederates are enraged by cities and universities and knowledge professions for a deep, psychic reason that's rooted in an annual trauma! Every year the best and brightest from every high school, in every small town, hug and promise to keep in touch... then head off to bright lights and colleges, then come back changed (if they return at all)

If you squint a bit, it’s amazing how closely this recurring trauma resembles the classic archetype of 'elves stealing your children' that recurred in a very large fraction of past cultures. And it is so sad that no one has studied this.

Second. The fact professions refute almost every meme on the mad right. Certainly 98% of what's said on Fox. Hence, all fact-using professions must be discredited! Yes, even military officers - lest they utter those hated words "Sir, that's just not true."

Above all, the Foxite war against all fact professions is about power

The world oligarchic putsch – aimed at restoring aristocratic rule based upon inherited position and wealth - is resisted foremost by folks who have some power, but who gained it meritocratically, in accountable professions like law and science. People with ability to thwart feudalism's return, who are loyal to the enlightenment experiment: scientists, teachers, civil servants, Law, Medicine, intel, journalism. 

Think about it. All egalitarian, meritocratic professions must be discredited before any lapse back into the 6000 year pattern of inheritance-based feudalism can fully take hold. 

I do not say this to disrespect the victims who suffer most because of confederatism! But do please think about it, asking: what do the uber-powerful have to fear from the powerless? Racism and all that are real and horrible! But to the oligarchs, such dog whistles are just tools to rile up their MAGA grunts. 

Again (and again) this is not zero-sum! The oligarchs' foremost enemies, who they actually fear, those with real power to resist and protect the Enlightenment Experiment...

...are the nerds.

== Oh you poor oligarchs, but even more pitiable Donald ==

If they weren’t the epitome of evil, I’d feel sorry for the oligarch masters of the Republican Party, right now. They're in a tough spot!  

Like the Prussian aristocracy in 1933, they found that their populist rabble-rouser was hard to control, once in power.  Oh, this time it worked much better for the aristos… Trump and McConnell et. al. proved obedient regarding policy matters – delivering tax cuts for the rich and demolishing American politics as a tool for negotiation and adaptation. 

Moreover, the MAGA Confederate mob hasn’t turned on their masters, the way Hitler & co. did.  Not quite. Not yet.

But Trump’s antics and spewings drove nearly all fact people out of the Republican Party, including most members of the U.S. military officer corps, FBI and intel agents and nearly all skilled professionals.  Moreover, grand juries across the nation – composed largely of white retirees – are indicting GOP factotums at staggering rates. Trump personally turned what was to have been a Red Wave midterm election into an embarrassing fizzle…

…and now ol’ Donald seems determined to make continued support for him openly synonymous with outright, explicit treason, with his demand to suspend the Constitution of the United States. 

Moreover, while potentially smoother successors – like DeSantis - are warming up in the bullpen, Trump has made it clear that he will go after any rivals, hammer and tongs, all the way to dukes n’ nukes. If anyone else gets the GOP nomination, he will take his fanatic wing and leave the Party, going rogue. Perhaps violently rogue.

The Oligarchs and their Foxite shills have experimented with having their other dogs repudiate old Two Scoops, but the craven curs always cave. 

See: Trump will go away slowly, then all at once.”    

== Prevent the Howard Beale Option! ==

Hence, the Masters may see only one plausible way out -- a Hail Mary pass! A way to shoot for the win-win. To eliminate their former – now lethally inconvenient – champion while retaining the loyalty of his fervid/frothing base, turning their fury instead against both Democrats and every enlightenment institution.  

Alas, the obvious way to do that was illustrated chillingly in one of the greatest of all movies of all time, Network.

Yes, I refer to the Howard Beale Option.  

Martyrdom. Could anything be more obvious? That is, if they could do it without getting caught. (And hence, we need Henchman Prizes to incentivize whistle blowers, in case that becomes their plan.)

Truly, for the sake of our country and the world – not to mention constitutional enlightenment experiment – we must pray for the continued health of a jibbering-capering, rabid-frothing traitor-madman, and for the continued skill and perseverant guardianship of his Secret Service detail. 

(And yes, with an eye especially on those closest to him!)

We can do our own part, by spreading word that we are wary. That the chief effect of any such martyrdom will be massive whistleblower rewards to lure forth snitching henchmen. And our vow that the words “Howard Beale” will be on everyone’s lips. 

And that the neo-confederacy’s Masters – those Kremlin “ex” commissars and desert murder-princes and casino-mafiosi and hedge lords and inheritance brats and neo-feudalists and Foxite yammerers all know: 

“You made this monster. Now live with what you built.”

== FInal notes ==

“Some of the Kremlin’s blatant falsehoods about the Russian war - aimed at undercutting US aid for Ukraine - are promoted by major figures on the American right, from Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes to ex-Trump adviser Steve Bannon and Fox News star Tucker Carlson….  54 House Republican Freedom Caucus members voted against a $40 billion aid package for Ukraine…”

Don’t tell me it was for budget reasons. Democrats are always effectively more fiscally responsible that Republican administrations.  That’s always. And bet me $$$ on that. (See my posting: Outcomes Matter more than Rhetoric.)

Furthermore, the U.S. and a rapidly strengthening NATO are actually benefiting in certain palpable ways during this conflict, e.g. testing and modernizing technologies and doctrines while brave Ukrainians carry the main burdens, a benefit scarcely visible outside the intel and military officer corps.

(Always recall Trump reacting to Putin's invasion of Ukraine as "Smart, so very smart!" And Michael Flynn and so many other Trumpists openly or covertly lobbying for Moscow.)

Given the spectacular moral imbalance of the two sides and Putin’s dangerous delusionality, there would be more than enough reason to stay staunch in our backing of Zelensky’s brave people. Though in fact, the simmers of pro-Moscow grumbling rising from sectors of the GOP indicate another motive to remain stalwart. 

Their orders from the Kremlin are clear and they dare not disobey for a reason I have asserted for years. Blackmail.

== And... ==

ADDENDUM in the Post – “Casino mogul Steve Wynn's fortune comes not just from Las Vegas but also from gambling hub Macau — making his casino empire there vulnerable to Be-ij-ing's whims. This year, the Department of Justice unsuccessfully attempted to force Wynn to register as a foreign agent due to his ties to that government.” 

Well, he’s not the only gambling mafiosi who is laundering, then channeling funds from the polit bureau directly into the GOP. Look up Sheldon Adelson. In fact ALL gambling czars are huge GOP oligarchs.

...and... finally... in a pair of completely unrelated side notes...

-- December 19 1997… 25 years ago… TITANIC came out, to thunderous success, quickly sinking all competition.  Know what it’s competition was, the same weekend?  THE POSTMAN, of course. In one of the greatest epic fails of release timing ever. Still, Costner’s flick is visually and musically one of the most beautiful ever shot and it’s way big-hearted! I try to look at good qualities and shrug off the rest. And hey, the flick gave me 25 years of something to say to folks in airports.

And RIP my friend, sci fi geek... also pretty darn good musician... David Crosby.

Friday, January 13, 2023

Science advances for a new year - We are (or can be) amazing!

Looking back at 2022: a roundup of scientific achievements... from asteroids to AI and (possibly) fusion. Science journal calls the initial data and images from the James Webb Space Telescope the 2022 Breakthrough of the year.

In light of my many past discussions of citizen science and the rising Age of Amateurs, here’s a list of existing citizen science programs and platforms. 

I was honored to participate in the 50th anniversary volume following up on Alvin Toffler's classic futurist work Future Shock, with the release of: After Shock—“Future Shock at 50” project. You can view the full list of essay contributors here


"The brilliant and insight-filled Closer to Truth TV series features David Brin in a few episodes on consciousness, on alien life, new parameters constraining religion... and whether we live in a simulation."

== Physics wow…==

Investigating the insides of a proton: Okay I may have my union card as a physicist. But the folks doing this stuff are way, way other-species-level smarter than me!  In large clouds of collaboration – and in isolated singular brilliance – particle physicists have been mapping the intricate inner complexity of the proton.

Yeah, the proton isn’t just made of three quarks (two ‘up’ and one ‘down’) but also a fantastic cloud of temporary ones popping out of and back int a gluon ‘sea.’ Plus two ephemeral ‘charmed’ quarks that each weigh more than the proton, itself.

The key concept is pair production out of stressed space from the background Dirac Sea. Almost all such pairs re-annihilate back into the sea, repaying the borrowed mass before the debt is called-in. This kind of thing is also the cause of Hawking radiation next to a black hole AND the 'strange' pair that flickers in and out, within the proton.

And there are those (including me in a pair of older SF stories) who claim that the entire Big Bang may have erupted when one such borrowing was never paid back (so to speak.)   Mind blown yet? See more if you dare. 

Meanwhile... Scientists simulate a black hole in the lab: Not quite the cavitron creation of actual massive micro singularities that forms the underlying premise of my novel Earth. Nor is this quite what the headline implies. This is not a ‘black hole’ but an ‘analog’ that replicates a few of the boundary conditions. Still, kinda cool results.


"A one-dimensional chain of atoms served as a path for electrons to 'hop' from one position to another. By tuning the ease with which this hopping can occur, the physicists could cause certain properties to vanish, effectively creating a kind of event horizon that interfered with the wave-like nature of the electrons," reports Science Alert.

 This in turn created an analog to Hawking Radiation… sort of. The model offers a way to study the emergence of Hawking radiation in an environment that isn't influenced by the wild dynamics of the formation of a black hole.

Well, well. Ain't we something.

== Bio World! ==

Okay let’s start (woof!) with uplift! One team of scientists examines prospects for how humans could artificially select for canine intelligence to such a degree as to produce canines with human levels of intelligence within a relatively short amount of time—600 years.  In other words, the ‘neo-dogs’ I speak of in my Uplift Novels. Um.

Then there’s the hippo who recently half swallowed a small boy!  Reminds me of one of the dumbest (of many) parts of Jurassic Park (a movie I overall love!) It is the insane scene of the kids feeding tree branches to a harmless "veggie" apatosaurus. Dig it, herbivores will snap up meat when they can! Cows who find a wounded cricket, heck even recent roadkill. Those kids woulda been a quick snack!  

Of course Spielberg is not above using some of the tricks I expose in Vivid Tomorrows. Like in the movie "Minority Report" punishing 'woulda' crimes far more harshly than 'did it' ones! In Jurassic Park, maybe some one could suggest they create only herbivores till the security system is tested? Pay for only the elegiacal half of John Williams's score!

A growing body of research suggesting that acetaminophen's (Tylenol’s) effects on pain reduction also extend to various psychological processes, lowering people's receptivity to hurt feelings, experiencing reduced empathy, and even blunting cognitive functions. And leading to increased acceptance of risky activity. While the effects might be slight, they add up, with nearly 25 percent of the population in the U.S. taking acetaminophen each week.

The latest CARTA (Center for Anthropogeny - or Human Origins) symposium was filled with incredible new insights, such as full results from comparing human to non-human primates, genome and effects.  One fascinating revelation, that certain mutations and duplication effects very clearly increased human density and distance-reach of dendrites and synapses, which (one assumes) had strong effects upon mental processing advantages.

But nothing is free! Some of those same changes are correlated or associated with developmental delay, irritability, epilepsy, schizophrenia and autism in human children.  The symposium can now be viewed by recording.

Do folks in Papua New Guinea benefit from immune system tricks in the 5% of their genomes inherited from Denisovans? “These findings dovetail with earlier work on the role of Neanderthal variants in living Europeans. Studies of both Neanderthal and Denisovan DNA in different populations are showing how mating with archaic humans—long-adapted to their regions—provided a rapid way for incoming modern humans to pick up beneficial genes.”

There's so much more (for another time).

What an age! As Zaphod put it... we're not just amazing. We're amazingly amazing!

Except when (as Marvin put it) we're just awful.

Saturday, January 07, 2023

Is democracy "majority rule"? Or something much more complex and effective?

I'll append a few current politics comments at-bottom, especially about the just-culminated and hilariously shameful beginning of the latest U.S. Congress and the Kevin McCarthy Speakership. But overall, this post is about an aspect of Democracy that (alas) is far too misunderstood, even by the myriad citizens who benefit from it.

== What actually is modern ‘democracy’? ==

Knowing that their aging and ill-educated cult is in demographic collapse, the Foxites are now frantically railing against Democracy itself (along with science and every fact-using profession), equating Democratic government with Mob Rule. 

"We are a republic, not a democracy!" they shout, while defending gerrymandering and other cheats to rob voting power from 'easily-manipulated' urban populations in favor of 'Real America.' (Meaning rural/red counties, of course.*)

The latest meme in support of this agitprop campaign is a purported quote from Thomas Jefferson:

"A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine."

As Snopes reveals, not only is this 'quotation' nowhere remotely attributable to Jefferson, it runs diametrically opposite to the philosophy of the 3rd president, who called for Athenian styles of democracy, rather than a Federalist style Republic.  

(Elsewhere I go into several other supposed quote-aphorisms that are flat-out lies, used to diss our Enlightenment Experiment. On the other hand, in emocracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville appraised the versions of active democratic assembly that he saw and pproved mightily.) 

Of course, those pressing this purportedly Jeffersonian meme against democracy are also ignoramus-ingrates, yowling at the very same experiment that gave them everything. Moreover, even if Jefferson had said that, it would have nothing to do with us! 

Because we do NOT have 'majority rule,' in the USA! 

== Not Majority Rule ==

Rather, by design, we have a somewhat more grownup and subtle form of democracy called Minority Veto. 

Find me a time in recent US history when any proposal or opinion held by 51% of the population got saddled on an intensely angry 49%! Generally, depending on its size and intensity - and in the absence of flagrant cheating - large minorities of voters can prevent any "51 percent" from imposing actions that deeply offend them. 

Indeed, the art of politics is all about negotiation and compromise, so that a 51% majority can grow sufficiently larger, while the objecting minority's crucial product of size times vehemence lessens considerably. Only then does any measure generally pass to become law.

This can happen through removal of objectionable features, or else with tradeoffs... you get something in return for getting out of the way and allowing the majority's endeavor to pass. Or else by pushing reforms incrementally  forward, until factors like public opinion can get used to a new idea.

Yes, this often means that progress is slowed, until this kind of negotiated consensus can take form incrementally. Take a famous example - LBJ's Civil Rights Bill of 1964. (Watch the great Bryan Cranston film "All The Way"!) 

In 1964, with the JFK assassination still resonating, Johnson finally had the coalition he needed in order to pass a bill... but just barely! In order to get something before the mood passed, squeaking through an immediate banning of segregation in services and accommodations and public places - by itself the greatest advance of American freedom since the Civil War - LBJ had to strip out the provisions dealing with Voting Rights

Naturally and understandably, activists howled over the omission! MLK himself had to step up and calm them down, just enough to keep the coalition together. Whereupon, with a subsequent landslide in the general election, in their pockets, LBJ/Humphrey et. al. were then able to pass the 1965 Voting Rights Act! (A law that Republican judges and fanatics are now subjecting to full-pressed assault.) 

That maneuver was a classic example of what I described above. A one-year delay that was morally indefensible was also essential, in order to get what a majority of the public by then wanted: incremental progress to fight a century of far worse betrayals.

Likewise, LBJ was able to get NASA fully funded, winning over southern senators by putting most NASA centers in southern states.

Likewise, folks nowadays seem to forget that Bill Clinton's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy re gays in the military was a huge step forward from the situation that preceded it. An incremental step that quickly accustomed military folk and reduced objector vehemence, setting the stage (very soon, in fact) for later complete abolition of another horrific injustice.

It's a list that could go on and on, including the vital Pelosi bills of 2021 and 2022, that entailed so many compromises to keep aboard both Joe Manchin and Bernie Sanders... though the results were inarguably great for a nation whose decision making and problem-solving processes (called "politics") had been deliberately sabotaged by the other party, for 20+ years.

== Our enemies notice this, even if you don't ==

Is Minority Veto actually functioning, right now?


At present, the Mad Right that has hijacked U.S. conservatism uses their "49%" minorities - sometimes 51% majorities but far more often 40% or less - to prevent absolutely anything from happening in the public interest. Not without herculean feats, like those Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer and Joe Biden achieved in 2021 and 2022, over the tightly disciplined uniform resistance of a GOP schooled under the Hastert Rule to never negotiate. Never compromise. 

(Think I am exaggerating? Subtract the Supply Side tax grifts for oligarchy and howls of negativity toward Obamacare and the IRS, and what actual assertive legislation can you recall being on the GOP agenda, in this century? While you are at it, look up Dennis Hastert, whom the GOP made head of their party and House Speaker, sealing the never negotiate rule. Look up his bio all the way to the end.)

The destruction of politics as an art of consensus building in the USA is the core objective of the oligarchic worldwide putsch. Having lost the popular vote in all but two national elections across the last 35 years, and with Democratic policies vastly more popular among citizens, the Republican tactic under Minority Veto is to emphasize the second factor in that crucial calculus of Minority Veto -- size times vehemence -- in order to block any action by the majority, indeed, any assertive political action at all.  

Vehemence has been stoked to a degree that amounts to Phase 8 of the American Civil War.  

The key point to take away from all of this is that the enemies of constitutional democracy - one that is about constantly adjusting and negotiating improvements - are inveighing against the last best hope of humankind, compared to 99.9% of grinding human history. 

When Peter Thiel says "I no longer believe democracy is compatible with freedom," what he means is that neither are compatible with the oligarchy's planned return to 6000 years of feudalism.

== And the relentless return of traitors ==

Amid the roil of modern politics, someone has to point at the unusual perspective. For example, I am less fixated on clowns like Trump or Marjorie Taylor Greene, who are surface shills for deeper sicknesses.

Want a more worrisome symptom? Here's more utter hypocrisy from the Very Worst American. George Will often blathers some things that are obviously good/true, in order to build sly credibility for his endlessly creative and brilliantly parsed incantations in support of treason.

Meanwhile... wasn't that 15 ballot torment of Kevin McCarthy fun? Pundits discuss McCarthy's long list of concessions-to-radicals, in order to squeak into Speaker with a minority of members' votes. Concessions like theatrical Hunter Biden 'investigations' and putting jibberers on the Rules Committee. Plus at least 5 'contract' promises to slash spending and balance budgets. 

One problem. Despite blowhard spews, Republicans have never - across 40 years - been as fiscally responsible as Democrats. Ever, even once. They do have one huge budget cut in mind. (Well more, if they succeed in cutting aid to beleaguered Ukraine.) No, it's not repealing Obamacare; that goal is never mentioned now that the ACA is hugely popular and effective. 

No, the aim is to eviscerate the IRS which got full funding last year, after decades sabotaged by the GOP on behalf of oligarchs, whose Cayman Island grift accounts will now get scrutiny.

So, if the IRS finds scandalous crimes that include GOP pols, might that shred McCarthy's coalition? Get some nutters jettisoned? Get others to finally find their nerve to make that Goldwater Party of decent conservatism?

Hey, I am a science fiction author. But clearly, I also do fantasy.