Sunday, September 24, 2023

Sci Fi News & roundup!

Topical note: Probably my fiction story most pertinent to today’s Artificial Intelligence ‘crisis’ - "Stones of Significance" - responded to a challenge: Is it possible to write a tale that is set after the Singularity?  A positive singularity, when humans have effectively become gods? 

Well, the creation of vastly superior new minds could have one of two consequences. Either organic humanity will be left in the dust ... or else we’ll find some way to go along with the ride!  How might we accomplish that? By the same brain layering effect that got us the prodigious skull-puters we already have! Adding layers upon layers. The story is available in my anthology Best of Brin.

An aside from reality, not SF: Some of this also made it into my WIRED article - Give Every AI a Soul or Else - (July'23) that dissects the three standard 'AI-format' assumptions that are clutched by the geniuses now unleashing their 'gollms' (Generative Large Language Models) upon the world. These clichéd assumptions - that nearly all of them take for granted - are three totally familiar formats - familiar because they have long been seen in both sci fi and dismal human history... three formats that can only lead to disaster!

I'm suggesting instead a fourth; That AI entities can only be held accountable if they have individuality... even 'soul'...  (The WIRED piece was condensed-down from a much larger, more detailed inquest into today's AI landscape: I'm looking for a venue willing to explore it in 7000 words! See also my related NEWSWEEK op-ed (June'22) that dealt with 'empathy bots'' that pass Turing Tests and feign sapience and personhood. A prediction six years ago that came true, to the month.)  

== More great Science Fiction News! ==

I highly recommend Inner Space and Outer Thoughts: Speculative Fiction From JPL Authors"Fact ignites fiction in this first-of-its-kind anthology of speculative tales by Caltech and NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) scientists, engineers, technologists, and students. Experts at the frontiers of their fields, along with renowned Caltech alumni such as David Brin, S. B. Divya, and Larry Niven, present accessible and nerdy science fiction stories informed by their experience at Caltech or JPL."  And yes, I have read them all, amazed that so many great stories flowed from so many busy techies.

Have collectable hardcovers you want to protect with slipcase boxes? Here’s your best source!  Everything About Books! They accommodate both ready-to-order and special-custom requests. Plus other services for the truly devoted bibliophile. See these fine examples the company made for us! Browse their website with loads of examples.

Here's the list of authors in this season's cast for About The Authors TV: Andy Weir, Malka OlderKim Stanley Robinson, Nisi Shawl, Daniel Jose Older, Martha Wells, Jonathan StrahanFonda LeeSteven Barnes, Tananarive Due, Larry Niven, Walter Jon Williams, Dean Koontz, David Brin, Daniel Abraham, Lauren Beukes, Nancy Holder, Christopher Paolini, Sherillyn Kenyon, Scott Sigler, Kevin J. Anderson, David Weber, James Morrow, Carrie Vaughn, Charles Gannon, John ShirleyRobert J. Sawyer, R.A. Salvatore, Terry Brooks, and Joyce Carol Oates!

Nice fan art. Nathan Goldwag created a world map showing a desperate fictional struggle between the remnants of civilized humanity and a burgeoning Nazi empire, aided by “revived Aesir” or Norse ‘gods’ manufactured by necromancy… all from my Hugo runner-up novella “Thor Meets Captain America , from The River of TimeAlas, things get even worse for the world as that novella segues into the full (and gorgeous) graphic novel The Life EatersWatch the vivid trailer See Nathan's extensive collections of other - Maps of the Multiverse.

Aside: Does that apocalyptic tale disprove the canard that I am an optimist? Since heroes (like you?) arise to fight against evil. (And note this was all before Marvel decided to revive Thor... and the Captain... and especially the obscure/forgotten “Ironman.”)

What's my optimistic take? That citizens like you can rise up. Fight for how we differ from 6000 years of wretched tyranny!  The question is whether or not you will.

== Sci Fi Roundup ==

A high school kidnapped by aliens! Novus Mundi Press has just republished my Sky Horizon YA series: Colony High and Castaways of New Mojave (written with Jeff Carlson). Aliens kidnap a California high school! And volume three has just been handed in! Diaspora Disaster co-written with Dr. Steve Ruskin.

The Hugo Nominees for Best SFF Novel of 2023 include: The Daughter of Doctor Moreau, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, The Kaiju Preservation Society, by John Scalzi, Legends & Lattes, by Travis Baldree, Nona the Ninth, by Tamsyn Muir, Nettle & Bone, by T. Kingfisher, and The Spare Man, by Mary Robinette Kowal. Winners to be announced at the Chengdu Worldcon.

And yes, the nominees list is a better reader's guide than the mere winners!

Just released: Epically popular authors Peter Cawdron (The Art of War) and Eliot Peper (Foundry) each have terrific new novels out.

And here's a blast through science fiction classics - with a fun web page running through Twenty-five great tropes in science fiction.

John Yarrow’s time travel novel - Future's Dark Past. With humanity on the brink of extinction, futuristic time travelers go back in history to change the dark past, but time is running out for them in more ways than one. 

Here’s a lovely little amateur recitation-story (no actual character or dialogue) about human destiny in case we are fated to be the First Race of starfarers… a possibility that I also explore both in my (Hugo winning) short story “The Crystal Spheres” and in my sci fi comedy novel The Ancient Ones. 

Watch a cool Graphic Novel trailer about a noir future: eJunky is “a twisted noir thrill-ride into a ‘Blade Runner’ meets ‘The Matrix’ in ‘Brazil’ fantasy world. Lust, power and existential dread layer Tana’s terrifying dreamscape where your own memory can’t be trusted.” 

Hugo finalist Gideon Marcus has a way-fun SF Young adult series... hard SF...that begins with the adventures of KITRA!

My colleague Bruce Golden has released his new novel The Omega Legacy, which speculates on what kind of civilization artificial intelligences might create, should humanity be driven to extinction.

I tell my writing students: “Start with a murder mystery!” John G. Bluck did in his novel, Murder at NASA: “By 2030 the investigation into the brutal murder of a NASA Space Plane Test Manager has grown cold, so the FBI assigns Agent Rita Reynolds with the impossible—find a lead.”

This volume - Jewish Futures: Science Fiction from the World's Oldest Diaspora —the literary heir to the Wandering Stars anthologies of the 1970s and ’80s (and leading off with a very personal essay by Jack Dann, who edited those books)—extrapolates Jews and Judaism into a wide future. Sometimes moody, sometimes laugh-out-loud funny.

== Media rants ==

Some years ago, Jill Tarter, Brian Keating & I panel-discussed a showing of the 1997 film Contact and Jodi Foster's portrayal of Jill, at UCSD's Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination. Searching for actual alien life, not elusive-dumb-UFO space elves. Here's a recording of the event.

A faux documentary about the Martian invasion of Victorian Europe using black and white photos and film along with "interviews" with old veterans and military "historians". World War I trench warfare, biplanes etc. vs. Martian tripods with heat rays. Cool?

Along similar lines... See also this way groovy collection I got to be part of, with the very same shared conceit...War of the Worlds: Global Dispatches, with accounts of the Wells's Martian War as told by other writers of the time, Conrad, Verne, Lovecraft, Freud.... as channeled by great writers of our own time.

And a reminder that you are NOT required to surrender your science fictionally bold sense of wonder to a dipply-silly and stunningly dumb UFO Cult. Here's my general dissection of the ever-recurring UFO mania... and the 10% of it that might be worth looking at.  Dig it, guys, no one alive has studied 'the alien' as a general concept more than I have across 6+ decades, from SETI to astrophysics and planetary science, to NASA... to... well, thought experiements in so many exploratory SF stories. And hence, my biggest complaint is that these UFO tales are so.... repetitively and illogically dull!

OTOH I totally agree with this article from Inverse: “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Should Have Been the Future of Blockbusters.” The flick was terrific and left all superhero stuff in the dust. A dust of endlessly repeated tropes ("Collect all the magic dinguses!") and tiresomely-same Achilles-wannabe superheroes, that studios foist upon a public that doesn’t want to work hard, even in their sci fi. In Valerian, Luke Besson gave you a chance for something almost as much fun as The Fifth Element, but even more daring

Ah, well. Your loss.

== Finally, your duty as a sci fi fan... ==

... is to Pay It Forward! SF has been very good to you.  

It’s arguable that we are all here today, edging past potential disasters like nuclear war, because of dire, self-preventing prophecies of sci fi! An argument that I back up in Vivid Tomorrows: Science Fiction and Hollywood.  Indeed, SF conquered the world!  In the movies, TV and games that entertain billions, while preaching lessons of worry, danger and (occasionally) promise.

Alas, most of those games and shows are also pablums - at-best distilled essences - devoid of the subtlety, texture and complexity found in higher-end novels and stories! Sure, as a novelist I’m biased!  But if you subscribe to this community – and have read this far – then so are you! Biased – (the way AIs will be!) - in favor of actual reading. In a fast-changing future, won’t we need complexity, subtlety and multilayered thought? 

Beyond writing Vivid Tomorrows, I’ve pushed two projects. One is TASAT: There’s a Story About That, which could give future decision-makers access to 120 years of sci fi thought experiments that might be useful in a crisis. It’s been slow going – building a functioning web tool. Though at any point TASAT might save the world! (Volunteer programmers welcome! Speak up in comments.)

The other project can be pursued by any Sci Fi FAN community! A project that could help prevent True Fandom from dying out, like other failed cults. And (alas) I've been making this point for decades.

I have re-posted the “Killer Bees Letter” here on my other – less-used but more formal blog, on Word Press. Please if you care about literary SF fandom, give it a look.

We are the tribe that explores concepts for fun! Concepts like the vast array of nuanced dangers and opportunities that lie above, beyond… and just ahead.

SHARE THAT FORWARD!  And thus help to save the world.


Lorraine said...

What is the story behind the Union of Israel-Iran?

Larry Hart said...

scidata in previous comments:

triggered a flashback to THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN (1971)

The Andromeda Strain was what actually made me wonder back in 2020 whether COVID would mutate to a less-deadly but more-contagious form. Apparently, art presaged life.

* * *



I assume you're referring to "Thor Meets Captain America".

Just my own personal sense, but I took it to be a consequence of the fact that both nations would need to hold off Nazi expansion into their territory, and would take all the help they could get. Remember also that in real life, Israel and Iran were friendly to each other until the 1979 Iranian revolution.

GMT -5 8032 said...

I sometimes feel depressed about the current state of sci fi fandom. I loved the non-media cons and the media cons (before CreationCon and other for profit businesses took over). I remember how media fans were not always welcome at Worldcons.

I loved both kinds of cons. I met our esteemed host at a tiny Columbus Ohio con while I was spending a week at home from my job in the Caribbean. I saw him again at a Chicago world on in 2000 (one of the best cons I ever attended).

Now, both of the Columbus conventions are defunct. The fans seemed to be getting older and we did not see many youngsters there. I get my con fix by going to Origins gaming fest, but I am tiring of gaming now; too many of the games are just rehashes of card based games. I miss playing WW2 armor miniatures. I miss playing naval miniatures (I managed to play a few games of HARPOON run by the legendary Larry Bond). I will probably give up gaming and help run events.

David, I pray that your initiative succeeds. I don't want the sci Fi community to die off as we age out.

duncan cairncross said...

From previous
tungsten rods at hyper velocities

I started thinking about that - Tungsten would be very useful as a Rod from God on Earth because of the atmosphere

But in space its higher density would not be useful - so Iron rods would do

The Dart impact showed that an explosive impact (from the velocity) was much more effective at changing the orbit than a simple momentum transfer - as in ten times

So Iron rods - but I'm thinking LONG rods - as the impact velocity is miles above the speed of sound the rods would hit more like a train of particles - each one blowing a fresh hole deeper in the asteroid
Thinking hundreds of meters long - possibly with a nuclear bomb on the end

GMT -5 8032 said...

I love the 1971 version of THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN. I remember seeing in the theater with my dad (he would have been the age I am now). That was one of the best of Hollywood's sci Fi movies directed by Robert Wise. 8 years later he directed the first STAR TREK film which, for all of its flaws, was the most mature and intelligent of the STAR TREK films.

Alan Brooks said...

“ of two consequences.
Either organic humanity will be left...”

Must it be either/or?
Couldn’t humans make (be) multiple copies of themselves, both organic and inorganic?

Larry Hart said...

GMT -5 8032:

...the 1971 version of THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN. I remember seeing in the theater with my dad (he would have been the age I am now)

I'm not quite awake, so my brain may be misfiring, but is your dad 52 years older than you?

I guess that's not so unbelievable. I'm 41 years older than my daughter. It just stood out to me for some reason.

David Brin said...

“What is the story behind the Union of Israel-Iran?”

The peoples and nations were actually quite close, till the fall of the Shah. In the Life Eaters universe several million Jews got out of Europe to join a middle eastern alliance against the Nazi-Aesir plague.

Of course Andromeda Strain comes to mind! Though the dust on your own roof may be up to 1% micrometeorites.

Duncan the rod concept is not for big balls like Dimorphos. Something 300m or less would be exploded by such a rod. Bigger? The rod can plow a path for a nuke.

GMT good inputs.

“Must it be either/or?
Couldn’t humans make (be) multiple copies of themselves, both organic and inorganic?”

If so, then it is individual choice whether to go along for the ride. Which means that is the winning consequence.

Tony Fisk said...

SF has always tended to stand for 'Science Fiction/Fantasy', with not too much emphasis placed on the adjective (other than by the hard stuff) Indeed, the relationship is captured by Clarke's Third Law.*

I think SF fandom is suffering the same fate predicted for believers of 'the God of the Gaps': all the heady gosh wow fiction is being replaced by sober fact. Much of that fact is still gosh wow, but it has also placed restraints on what might be; faster than light travel in particular. Sorry, Scotty!

Existential dread being what it is, the trends in SF fandom have moved on from the Golden Age's preoccupation with rockets and what they can carry, past biological plagues (living and unliving), and on toward AI singularities and climate change.

I agree with OGH about literature being the preferred medium for nuanced ideas. Which isn't to say that film (or games) can't provide some insights.

I'm intrigued to see what 'The Creator' has to say about AI.
(Of course, that is what trailers are for...)

* In case you didn't know, Clarke's Third Law states: "Any technology sufficiently advanced is indistinguishable from magic." Clarke appears to have coined it on the fly at the end of an essay where he identifies his second ("In order to discover the limits of the possible..."). He drolly concludes by noting that, since Newton and Asimov were satisfied with three...

GMT -5 8032 said...

Larry Hart, your math was good. My dad was born in 1908 and was 63 when we saw the film. I am 63 now and turn 64 in less than 2 weeks. Dad was 51 when I was born.

Darrell E said...

Larry Hart said...

"The Andromeda Strain was what actually made me wonder back in 2020 whether COVID would mutate to a less-deadly but more-contagious form. Apparently, art presaged life."

From what I understand this is a common progression. A virus that kills its hosts is not as successful, in an evolutionary sense, as one that doesn't. The most successful traits, that result in highest reproduction, are high rate of transmission and low rate of lethality.

Of course, that doesn't mean a virus can't become more lethal over time. Reality is messy.

Larry Hart said...

Darrell E:

From what I understand this is a common progression.

I wasn't claiming supernatural levels of prescience for wondering if the virus would progress that way. I was admitting to nerddom for the fact that my brain immediately went to The Andromeda Strain ion the way there.

scidata said...

That was a very scary movie. But what lurks in the mind 50+ years on is that some life, or pre-life, is non-evolutionary. That is, it's been changeless for billions of years. Kind of makes War of the Worlds or Jurassic Park look harmless in comparison. I like what OGH said about the awesome mysteries of the cosmos that are yet to be discovered.

Larry Hart said...

Scarier than The Andromeda Strain

Too much to excerpt the whole thing here, but the link is not paywalled.

Donald Trump wasn't a very effective president because he had no idea how the government worked. For his first two years, the Republicans had the trifecta, but they blew it because they were waiting for Trump to send his program to Congress and he was too busy bloviating to actually create a program and send it to Congress. He now understands that and if he gets a second chance, it will be completely different. He wants to remake the entire country and roll back 100 years of progress. He wants to make America Great Again—say, as it was during the administration of William McKinley. The Heritage Foundation is working on Project 2025, essentially detailed plans that he can send to Congress on Jan. 20, 2025, if he wins, as well as other things.
Of course, many of these things are illegal, but suppose Trump just does them anyway. When even John Roberts says: "Enough already" what happens when Trump then asks: "How many divisions does the Supreme Court command?" In his first term, Trump surrounded himself with people who respected the law, like John Kelly and Jim Mattis, and who tried to fend off his worst impulses. He won't make that mistake again. AG Jim Jordan, DHS Secretary Marjorie Taylor Greene, and Defense Secretary Matt Gaetz will certainly support him. As Maya Angelou put it: "When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time." Democrats who are whining that Joe Biden is too old might want to take a look at Trump's platform.

GMT -5 8032 said...

Tim Gurner, the businessman described in this report is probably one of the worst examples of a wannabe feudal lord for whom the suffering of his subordinates is a crucial element of his enjoyment of life.

Laurent Weppe said...

«Starship Troopers was deliberately weird. Okay so the buggers could send rocks across interstellar space using biological methods. And yet the portrayed-fascist humans claim they aren't intelligent?»

There’s nothing weird about that: as Umberto Eco and Primo Levi pointed out, fascists are prone to depict those they want to enslave/genocide as simultaneously intrinsically inferior to them AND an existential threat.

Therefore the buggers are at the same point non-sentient AND able to do absurdly enormous feats of enginery


«“Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Should Have Been the Future of Blockbusters.”»

The movie was inferior to the original Comic book series. It toned down the weirdness of the original, watered down Laureline (who, in the comics is clearly the most competent part of the pair, not that Valerian is incompetent, mind, he’s just, well, outmatched), also, tiny pet peeve of mine, Point Central was NOT a originally space station built by Humanity.

But, yeah, compromises had to be made, you can’t convert word-for-word 23 comic books into a single 2 hours long movie and I should be glad that an adaptation was made, etc, etc, etc…
(Also, the "Major Tom" scene is one of the best SF scene ever made)

Alan Brooks said...

The 45th stated, in reference to Milley’s calls to China, that the punishment for such “egregious” behavior in times gone by was “DEATH”

Larry Hart said...

Alan Brooks:

The 45th stated, in reference to Milley...

Is there any doubt as to the consequence of Trump essentially screaming, "Will no one rid me of this troublesome [whoever] ?!!"

Our law isn't designed to handle someone who doesn't kill someone and doesn't order anyone to kill someone, but simply lets it be known that he'd like someone to be killed, whereupon a number of groupies will do the deed. He has essentially weaponized the First Amendment.

duncan cairncross said...

Our law isn't designed to handle someone who doesn't kill someone and doesn't order anyone to kill someone, but simply lets it be known that he'd like someone to be killed, whereupon a number of groupies will do the deed.

Is that not what Charles Manson did ?

David Brin said...

Darrell: “A virus that kills its hosts is not as successful…”

I assume you’ve read “The Giving Plague”? it’s all about that… taken to the limit.

“Donald Trump wasn't a very effective president because he had no idea how the government worked. For his first two years, the Republicans had the trifecta, but they blew it because they were waiting for Trump to send his program to Congress and he was too busy bloviating to actually create a program and send it to Congress. …”

Well, yeah. But… that assumes they cared at all about the red meat ‘agendas’ they yowled to the types we now call MAGAs. But they never funded even the dam’ wall. Caring only and solely about maintaining and expanding tax grifts for aristocracy, they did nothing about their promises re immigration, abortion, infrastructure, or the ‘GREAT!” health plan to replace Obamacare. They certainly never canceled Obamacare, when they had the power. Raving about the meat issues seemed to work fine.

But eventually, Nazis witll rise. At the end of Cabaret … “you still think you can control them?”

Abortion is just the start. If they regain power, they will end the hypocrisy and be all that they claim to be. Nehemia Scudder, 12 years later than Heinlein predicted.

Alfred Differ said...


Our law isn't designed to handle someone ...

I disagree. What they have to do is prove intent and that's usually done by catching insiders who don't want to go to prison along with the leader. Insiders can speak to the speaker's intent and avoid the hearsay objection by BEING THERE.

That's how they are nailing Two Scoops.

Larry Hart said...

duncan cairncross:

Is that not what Charles Manson did ?

Hmmmmm. Trump has millions more followers, and they don't necessarily have direct contact with him. But maybe the law does have some teeth in that area.

* * *

Dr Brin:

They certainly never canceled Obamacare, when they had the power.

They would have except for John McCain's "no" vote. It was that close.

If they regain power, they will end the hypocrisy and be all that they claim to be.

The article I posted earlier this morning implies that Trump would go through with replacing career employees with political toadies and asserting "unitary executive" authority over all federal agencies. Then, to insure that no Democratic president ever acquires that authority, they'd double and triple down on voter suppression.

David said...

The article I posted earlier this morning implies that Trump would go through with replacing career employees with political toadies and asserting "unitary executive" authority over all federal agencies. Then, to insure that no Democratic president ever acquires that authority, they'd double and triple down on voter suppression

The swivel-eyed loons have been asking for years, "When do we get to use our guns?"

Fox News was created to make money.
To do that, you need a reliable, consistent audience to sell to advertisers.
If you don't want to spend money competing with the incumbents (ABC, CBS, NBC - and Murdoch is absolutely penurious), well then, the most effective way to keep your audience when your product is inferior, is to convince them that everyone else is lying to them. That only Fox gives them the real inside story. Why? Well, the Other Guys are the ones who have cleverly figured out how to hold you back. Deny you your rightful due.

Over time, this morphs into the paranoia, conspiracy theories and mindless raving hate that now dominates the modern conservative movement and the GOP.

Trump is a symptom of this disease; Frankenstein's monster has broken loose and he ain't gonna heel to the surviving Koch brother any time soon.

Tony Fisk said...

Our law isn't designed to handle someone ...

This statement, in the same paragraph as a quote about being rid of turbulent priests from someone about eight and a half centuries prior?

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Over time, this morphs into the paranoia, conspiracy theories and mindless raving hate that now dominates the modern conservative movement and the GOP.

That sounds like a law of psychohistory.

* * *

Tony Fisk:

This statement, in the same paragraph as a quote about being rid of turbulent priests from someone about eight and a half centuries prior?

I'm not sure where the inconsistency is. Are you thinking that American law does penalize someone for merely making a verbal suggestion that it would be better if someone disappeared?

scidata said...

Larry Hart: That sounds like a law of psychohistory

Ding ding ding - 10 points.
Psychohistory is only a predictive tool in the FOUNDATION universe. Here on 21st century Earth, it's much more useful as an analytical tool to reveal how humans behave in bunches.

Yesterday, while lamenting the lack of Brin books in the SF section, I added that there are zero psychohistory books in the sociology/politics section. The staff is growing hostile to my visits. I may soon get barred at the door.

mcsandberg said...

Deleted original post, article is behind paywall.

Here's a key bit from it:

"More broadly, at an absolute minimum, governments need to establish an approval process for any AI that is deployed at large scale, showing that the benefits outweigh the risks, and to mandate post-release auditing—by independent outsiders—of any large-scale deployments. Governments should demand that systems only use copyrighted content from content providers that opt in, and that all ma- chine-generated content be labeled as such. And governments need to make sure there are strong liability laws in place to ensure that if big tech companies cause harm with their products, they be held responsible.

Letting the companies set the rules on their own is unlikely to get us to any of these places.


Larry Hart said...

The New York times shares Dr Brin's assessment:

In Wolff’s telling, Murdoch is a sort of hapless Frankenstein, abominating the monster he set loose on the world but unsure how to fight him. This waffling, however, is a product of the same venality that has always undergirded Murdoch’s old-fashioned right-wing politics. In his farewell letter, Murdoch, the Oxford-educated son of a wealthy Australian media executive, poses as a populist, decrying a media that’s in “cahoots” with elites, “peddling political narratives rather than pursuing the truth.” This is pure projection: Fox exists to peddle self-serving political narratives, deceiving its audience under the guise of respecting it. In “The Fall” — a book that isn’t for anyone who doesn’t want to encounter casual slurs — Murdoch says of the celebrity anchor Sean Hannity, “He’s retarded, like most Americans.” The last thing Murdoch wants to do is risk lower ratings by leveling with the audience he looks down on.

scidata said...

"Haes rittaahditt" in Aussie-speak.

David Brin said...

Any of you expert and talented at using Midjourney?

Larry Hart said...

But Murdoch’s legacy is decided. We are hurling toward another government shutdown, egged on by Hannity. The electorate that Fox helped shape, and the politicians it indulges, have made this country ungovernable. An unbound Trump may well become president again, bringing liberal democracy in America to a grotesque end. If so, it will be in large part Murdoch’s fault. “The Murdochs feel bad, about Tucker, about Trump, about themselves,” writes Wolff. Just not bad enough.

Alfred Differ said...

Side question:

Has anyone here read Lori Garver's book from last year?
(...or listened to it for audiobook fans)

Larry Hart said...

Both sides don't do it.

You still sometimes see analyses that treat Democrats on the left and Republicans on the right as equivalent, but they’re nothing alike. The progressive wing of the Democratic Party is, in fact, interested in policy; it tries to push the party’s leadership in its direction, but it’s willing to take what it can get. That’s why Pelosi, with only a narrow majority during Biden’s first two years, was nonetheless able to get enacted landmark bills on infrastructure, climate and technology, while McCarthy can’t even keep the government running.

David Brin said...

LH: Making the government not-run is a feature to thsm, not a bug. For the sincere idiots on the Freedom Caucus, all civil servants (and now FBI and military officers) are pure evil... to those who are blackmailed, that stance is simply what they are ordered to do by... the oligarch putschists, whose goal is for a well run USA to fail. To fail bigtime so we flee to feudal lords.

Robert said...

Larry: We are hurling toward another government shutdown

You know the rest of the world looks at those and wonders what y'all are smoking that that is considered a normal part of politics, right?

David Brin said...

Help Request. Okay so I am typing along, alas, looking at the keyboard, and realize no letters are forming onscreen. It's not just Word! I am being popped off of the keyboard increasingly often and have to use the mouse to re-establish the cursor. I upgraded to Ventura, no help. I figure some background program demands the mac's attention briefly and doesn't put it back. Anyone have any idea what's going on and how to stop it?

locumranch said...

A few items catch my attention, the first being a reference to tales that take place after a 'positive singularity when humans have effectively become gods' and the second being an assertion that Luc Besson's 'Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets' SHOULD HAVE been the future of blockbuster films.

In the first instance, one needs to look no farther than Arthur Byron Cover's brilliant tales of a pathetically godlike humanity in his 'Autumn Angels', 'An East Wind Coming' and 'Platypus' collection.

In the second instance, one sees that the so-called uniqueness of Luc Besson's films is highly derivative, being mostly borrowed from Métal Hurlant's highly stylized sexual fetishism, as evident in Besson's popular 'Fifth Element' but noticeably absent in his unsuccessful flop 'Valerian'.

As I am currently held captive in California, I have deliberately kept my posts to a minimum because the stupidity out here is so strong that it burns, since pretty much every west coast intellectual pretends ¡surprise! when they get more of the dysfunctional & criminal behavior that they reward.

Increasingly, it seems that the pending 2024 election amounts to little more than those who seek to eternally perpetuate social dysfunction & those who seek to end it, which is a done deal either way, as that which cannot continue will stop.


Not a mac expert by any means, but the trackpad tends to be extremely sensitive to vibration, accidental touch & unstable surfaces, often kicking me off the screen I'm working on, much like a deliberate mouse click. Try adjusting trackpad sensitivity on System Preferences.

Tony Fisk said...

I have noticed that inadvertently touching the touchpad (assuming your keyboard has one) can sometimes shift the cursor in unexpected ways. More modern ones can be switched off. (Yes, I do need to upgrade!)

Tony Fisk said...

@Larry I was really noting that Trump's 'Godfather' tactic has been around since Henry II, at least. It surprises me that the British (and, by extension, the US) legal system hasn't caught up (esp. since it had to contend with how to try a naughty monarch)

Alan Brooks said...

Hispanics could be integrated into California, if the strong willpower was there to do so; and the patience.
Would take a generation or two.

David Brin said...

4 out of 6 paragraphs might be mistaken for coming from a normally opinionated/argumentative/sane sci fi fan with grumpy nitpicking but cogent points. Even the other two were less insane than usual. Um...could it be his neuroses deeply fear that California might be curing him? Sure looks that way, from here.

Only the most dazzlingly creative and productive - even in agricultural and industrial and money generating terms - place on the whole planet. With crime rates (outside of Google and Apple) much lower than average across red states (except Utah)... so....

No touchpad. I suspect a very occasional glitch in the keyboard cable. Will check tomorrow. Thanks.

Robert said...

David: Anyone have any idea what's going on and how to stop it?

Is your trackpad failing? That started happening to me and eventually got so bad that I had to stop using the trackpad (and switch to my old Magic Mouse, which I fortunately still had).

GMT -5 8032 said...

Regarding the Affordable Care Act, maybe McCain was wrong to save it. The ACA was heavily influenced by the insurance industry; we need to stay alert to the profits built into that law and try to understand whether the benefits justify the costs. I think that Chief Justice Roberts increased public cynicism towards the Court when the opinion he authored held that the mandatory coverage structure was a “tax.” This even though the legislators voting for it argued that it was not a tax. Maybe if he is lucky, that precedent will not be used again. In my experience drafting hundreds of low level rulings in virgin areas of law, you need to think forward on how your decisions are going to work together. It is hazardous to find a clever way to save a vital program; you can’t always count on the courts putting up with that approach.

I go to lunch regularly with former co-workers at the Ohio Attorney General’s office and the Ohio Department of Taxation. The DOT is full of “lawyers” running things…law school graduates who have spent their entire careers in the Department and never really practiced law. They don’t bother to draft regulations…too much work (and regulations have to be renewed every 10 years or they are rescinded); they just issue “information releases.” They don’t try to make their decisions work together; they just decide which issue they want to win in each case. The result…the Department is losing almost all of its cases now. The Assistant AGs in the Tax Section of the AG’ office are demoralized. The woman who is head of the Appeals Management Division at the DOT has never litigated a tax case; they picked her because she was passive and compliant. She takes orders and never questions them.

Oh well. I hope I will end up at the IRS; things are generally more professional there. I know which offices to avoid (the ones that are hyper-partisan). There is a good chance I will end up litigating cases in the Self Employed/Small Business Division… I just have to hope that the fools in the national GOP don’t take away too much of the $80 billion of extra funding for the IRS. I know they have cut down the funding; but it can only be done via legislation.

As for the Ohio Department of Taxation, the only hope there is for a Democrat to get elected governor and clean out all of the Deputy Directors and Executive Administrators. And while I am a Republican, I will probably vote for a Democrat to become governor in the next election…provided that the GOP candidate is not a specific former office holder who is an old friend. Sad thing is, even if a Democrat wins, all of the current Executive Administrators are Democrats so they are likely to become the new Deputy Directors in a Democratic governor’s administration. You just can’t get the rats out of there. Tax Departments will never fail or go out of business, no matter how poorly they are run.

David Brin said...

Robert I use a bluetooth mouse (and a new one made no difference) and a wired keyboard. No trackpad. Desktops forever! Used a nice macbook while in Houston. Nice. But WHY would anyone do that at home? Masochism?

GMT there's no argument that institutionalization of steadily augmenting bureaucracy is one of many dangers in a complex civilization! SHuirn - alternating parties - supposedly helps. Though not when one party's higher levels have become utterly criminal.

There are many reforms needed to forestall that... and note that Gore did trim the DC workforce and got laws passed limiting paperwork and requiring clear language. Dems banioshed the ICC and CAB and broke up AT&T (badly, but it was time) and are easing too-slowly out of the damned Drug War.

I have many quasi or partly libertarian proposals! Some are in Polemical Judo:

ut I am FAR less afraid of dispersed and reciprocally competitive civil servants than I am of secretly conspiratorial Sa'u'di sheiks, KGB 'ex' commissars, hedge moguls, carbon lords and ALL the world's casino mafiosi and most of an incestual, rapacious caste of CEO golf buddies.

David Brin said...

Are any of you wizzes at Midjourney or other art golems? Have ANY of you read The Ancient Ones: ?

I have a couple of prompts that just aren't working. Suggested variations?

"In a whimsical or comedic style: an elegant, unhappy count dracula vampire is tied to the ground by thin ropes, like Gulliver, while tiny lilliputian robots dance on him jubilantly." photo-realistic

"In a whimsical or comedic style: From atop a tomb, a Star Trek officer watches enthralled as shambling zombies on a hilltop serenade a strange moon."

"In a whimsical or comedic style: a beautiful vampiress, wearing a provocatively torn Star Trek uniform plus cape, approaches, eyes gleaming, fangs glistening."

Unknown said...

Re: Loc/CA, a man sees what he wants to see and disregards the rest. None of us are immune to that, but we have different blind spots...

There's a scene in an otherwise forgettable SF novel, "Hunting the Callaghan's Blood", where a main character winds up on a planet that has rejected interstellar civilization, and (for safety's sake) confides to the well-armed*, paranoid locals that the nanite health care and pollution-free energy and flying cars is all a fake, and the outsiders are really miserable and unhealthy. And they believe her. I used to think this was unrealistic, but then, you know, the George Floyd riots happened, and all the liberal cities in America burned to the ground. Repeatedly.

*well-armed by 20th c standards, as the local tech base can only produce primitive weaponry like AR-15s, but hey, if you get shot by a bullet rather than a blaster bolt, you can still die...


P.S. Rupert Murdoch has a lot to answer for, but he got his wish - he got rich. That he helped push our future further towards Mad Max on the Star Trek/Mad Max meter might be a feature to him rather than a bug - after all, he's not going to be around to enjoy a happier future.

David Brin said...

Does anyone remember how one recovers older versions of a document in Word on a Mac?

Tim H. said...

duncan cairncross, see
Kinetic bombardment was looked at in the sixties, Niven & Pournelle added that to the "Snouts" repertoire of destruction in "Footfall".

Tim H. said...

On OGH's keyboard, if you suspect hardware, try the least expensive option first*, plug into a different USB port, 2nd, a different wired USB keyboard (It will work with nearly any of them) you might have on the premises, 3 new cable, if replaceable, last, a shiny new keyboard (Unless you want it anyway).

1, I know you must already know that, being reminded of it might save you time & money.

Larry Hart said...

GMT-5 8032

In my experience drafting hundreds of low level rulings in virgin areas of law, you need to think forward on how your decisions are going to work together.

Since at least the 2000 Bush v Gore decision, the current Republican supreme court has made a point of not considering consequences. They decide what they want to promote at the moment, even the things that contradict the other things.

Tim H. said...

A brief opinion on "Bothsiderism", it's well to remember human personalities may be thought of as sculptures of polished stainless steel, precious metals, cut gems and ovine, equine , bovine by-product. Everyone has all of these, and for a multitude of reasons exhibit predominantly the shiny, or not so shiny bits. Even "Scheisswurst's" worst bootlickers possess the shiny bits, they were seduced by "Quick, easy results" and "The ends shall justify the means".
Also, one of the commentariat at Gin and tacos once said "Both sides will bend you over, but the Democrats will apologize, warm the probe and use lube, that's important!".

Darrell E said...

Tony Fisk said...
"@Larry I was really noting that Trump's 'Godfather' tactic has been around since Henry II, at least. It surprises me that the British (and, by extension, the US) legal system hasn't caught up (esp. since it had to contend with how to try a naughty monarch)"

To a degree, the US legal system has. The most prominent example is the RICO Act, which came about expressly to enable the legal system to bring slippery "Godfathers" to justice. Similar sophisticated legal mechanisms have been developed over the past several decades by the FBI that enables them to bring terrorists to justice before they commit the acts of terror they are planning.

A problem, though, is that these sorts of cases are difficult and take a lot of time and resources to prosecute. What that means is that only big enough fish that have made a big enough splash get that kind of attention from the justice system.

Larry Hart said...

Tony Fisk:

@Larry I was really noting that Trump's 'Godfather' tactic has been around since Henry II

My eyes were opened to the ways of power by a line in a graphic novel written by Frank Miller (before 9/11 made him a one-trick pony). The speaker is the thoroughly corrupt Senator Roark addressing the hospital bed of the cop who shot the senator's perverted son:

POWER doesn't come from a BADGE or a GUN. POWER comes outa LYING and lying BIG and getting the whole damn WORLD to play ALONG with you. Once you got everybody AGREEING with what they know in their hearts ain't TRUE, you got 'em TRAPPED. YOU'RE THE BOSS. You can turn reality on its HEAD and they'll CHEER YOU ON. You can make a SAINT out of a gibbering NUTCASE like my high-and-mighty BROTHER. You can beat your WIFE to death with a BASEBALL BAT like I did and leave your FINGERPRINTS all the hell OVER it and a dozen WITNESSES will swear on a stack of BIBLES you were a thousand miles away.

There's what, maybe FIVE HUNDRED PEOPLE in this hospital? FIVE HUNDRED PEOPLE. And every blessed ONE of them would HEAR it if I was to pump you full of BULLETS. I could be standing here LAUGHING and holding a smoking GUN and I wouldn't be ARRESTED. I wouldn't even be QUESTIONED. I wouldn't have to say a WORD. They'd COVER IT UP for me without me even ASKING them to.

Darrell E said...

An opinion on bothsiderism, anyone at this late date still arguing that both sides are comparably bad is delusional. Sure, there's plenty to criticize among the DP. That's normal. The RP these days is not normal. Nearly all of the normal RP have left their party and have been fighting it with harsher advertising campaigns than the DP. Degrees really matter, in real life that's all there is.

Tim H. said...

Darrell E, Yes, that! Many in ascendancy at the (Formerly) GOP seem bereft of ideas, and merely say the opposite of anything a Democrat does, this goes back a long time, southerners once thought pumpkin pie should not be consumed by any Real resident of Dixie.

mcsandberg said...

Dr. Brin

You can go to Word's File Menu and "Browse Revision History" on the latest version 16.77.1.

You can also nav to the folder containing the document and open Time Machine if you've got it running.

Robert said...

David: I use a bluetooth mouse (and a new one made no difference) and a wired keyboard. No trackpad.

I assume you've restarted the computer and the problem persists. No suggestions, then, other than to try a different keyboard just to eliminate that as a factor.

Robert said...

David: Does anyone remember how one recovers older versions of a document in Word on a Mac?

I would use Time Machine, assuming you're running it for backups.

Tim H. said...

One more thing on the keyboard, if your current Mac lacks USB A, a male A to male C adapter will work, your Mac should be able to function with any USB keyboard, but a Mac compatible or genuine Apple makes it easier.

Tim H. said...

Expletive feeling my age, a USB hub might also be the source of a keyboard connectivity issue, try plugging into the Mac directly. Just looked most desktop Macs have at least 2 USB A ports, except for the iMac, if you have one, you'll want a male A to male C adapter to use older keyboards, and it won't have the potential issues of a hub. Bon chance!

David Brin said...



“"Both sides will bend you over, but the Democrats will apologize, warm the probe and use lube, that's important!”.”

Stunning absolute baloney, well crafted to push the underlying narrative of the Right, to hate Civil Servants and all other nerd castes as oppressors… though luring folks into that conclusion with an implicit “Liberals will patronizingly pat you on the head while ordering you around!”

Bull. This is about opposites. It is about future vs. past (6000 years of rule by inheritance brats). Science vs fact-hating incantations.

And one party IS trying to follow Adam Smith’s recommendations to INCREASE the % of the population who reach adulthood skilled and healthy and eager to compete. Sure, some lefties do aim to controllingly equalize outcomes. But it is the aim of most liberals to equalize OPPORTUNITIES TO COMPETE. If he were here today, Smith would be a flaming Democrat.

“Many in ascendancy at the (Formerly) GOP seem bereft of ideas, and merely say the opposite of anything a Democrat does…”

Again with the baloney. That is NOT the GOP criterion.

EVERY Republican endeavor is aimed at reducing effective competition, in markets and politics and life in general. Every… single… one. Please name one exception.

SOME democrat endeavors are goody-goody leveling, and some may even be controlling… e.g. to save the planet. But a wide swathe of them aim at recreating the flat-fair-level competitive playing fields that gave us the productivity and confidence of the rooseveltean era.

Only one party actively fosters what the right used to claim to want… competition. And that includes a society of confident adults educated and rambunctious enough to question the bureaucrats! ("WHY do you want me to bend over again?")

YOU DID NOT INVENT THAT TRAIT. You suckled it from every film Hollywood ever put before you. It is a trait that MAGA suppresses with their Great Leader cultism.

Along those lines…
Frank Miller is evil now and was evil then. His entire mythos - and that of Orson Scott Card - is to give up on any chance of a democratic enlightenment, or democracy or institutions or competitive reciprocal accountability… or even your neighbors being anything other than bleating sheep.
Miller is among the most-evil traitors to a civilization that’s been very very good to him, who’s alive today, by my reckoning.

Tim H. said...

Dr. Brin, Yes, what the Democrats do is a level of magnitude less than the (Formerly) GOP, but it's sufficient to expose them to the charge, I blame the GOP for it, they thought that cutting the Democrats off of money from organized labor would end their periodic humiliations at the polls, hence the anti labor Jihad. It failed to kill the Democrats, but left them vulnerable to charges of "Bothsiderism". FWIW, I have voted exclusively Democrat for over twenty years, they're close enough to what a working class person needs and a larger Congressional majority would help. To seal the deal, Democrats have an old fashioned, one might even say conservative attitude towards governing, they don't act like they only have to work with people who voted for them.

Larry Hart said...

Tim H:

Democrats ... they don't act like they only have to work with people who voted for them.

Or like they only have to work for people who voted for them. As opposed to (say) Chris Christie or Donald Trump, who really do weaponize the power of government against those they find inconvenient.

It was Reagan--as California governor--who once explained cutting funds for public colleges by saying something like, "Why should I allocate money for people who are going to protest my policies?" He must have said that when I was very young, and I was only in my teens when I first heard about it after the fact, but something told me there was something disturbing about viewing government in those terms.

* * *

Dr Brin on Frank Miller:


His work is certainly strewn with allusions to Ayn Rand novels. "Senator Roark" is only the tip of the iceberg.

Tim H. said...

Larry Hart, I had also heard that story also. Years ago when Jerry Pournelle was above the grass, he noted some other contemporary conservative* author had a book out:"Trash People". Which had to have been written by someone with little to no comprehension of genetics, after all, I don't believe one would have to look back very many generations in the past to find people indistinguishable from "White trash" in the ancestry** of self proclaimed genetically superior folks.

*I feel I must make that distinction, even though conservatism has been tied to white supremacy since William F. Buckley, it went downhill from there.

** Or "Incestry" in some cases ;) .

David Brin said...

Tim H You keep backpedaling in order to preserve a stance that remains utter, utter bullshit. I appreciated that you hold your nose and vote for Dems as less-bad. Your part of the coalition to save the nation and planet is welcome. But it is based upon a reflex that is sanctimony-driven but deeply unhealthy.

These... are... opposites. The republicans exist entirely to render the American Enlightenment extinct. A big part of that is portraying science as just another incantation cult. And civil servants as bossy, patronizing prigs (maybe with good intent, but all uniformly bossy). Above all, to end competitive reciprocal accountability -- competition - as a core basis for citizens to participate. For citizens to hate bureaucrats INSTEAD OF the 0.001% trillionair lords who are re-establishing feudalism.

This is not about 'order of magnitude less." it is polar opposites on almost everything that matters. And the difference in CONGRESS behavior, when in the majority, proves it. Yes, some parts of the massive wave of 2021-22 Pelosi bills were a bit 'socialist." but the bills were hugely about transferring power from oligarchy to voters, from rich parasites to uplifting poor kids SO THAT THEY CAN COMPETE.

It was about saving the planet, rebuilding infrastructure, stimulating a hugely successful return of manufacturing to US shores, unleashing the crippled IRA on uber-lord tax cheats and so on. And gerrymander cheating.

In contrast, until recently the ONLY major measures passed when the GOP owned all branches was tax grifts for the rich and crippling the IRS. Till recently, when the fevered Nazis began demanding actual action on stuff like abortion, GOP Congresses were LAZY, holding fewer meetings, hearings, days in session than eve, while forbidding any form of negotiation.

I'm sorry, but while there are ANECDOTALLY oppressive leftists, taking that into account, your view of things is towering ... malarkey.

But why am I bothering. You did not address any of my earlier points. All you have done is double down on - liberals are the same only nicer.


I have said enough about that stinking raving traitor Frank Miller here:

reason said...

David I think there is a simpler way to view this - Democrats want an inclusive society and Republicans want an exclusive one.

scidata said...

Or, Democrats want a society and Republicans don't.

locumranch said...

My problems with California have nothing to do with diversity & everything to do with magical thinking, the problem being that I'm surrounded by crazy people who think more laws will prevent people from breaking the laws that they have always broken because these additional laws are unbreakable:

(1) San Francisco plans to fight epidemic drug abuse by providing drug users with more resources with which to obtain drugs;

(2) Oakland has reduced its speed limits to compensate for the increased numbers of speeders, reckless drivers & traffic scofflaws who have appeared after the city stopped its police from enforcing the traffic laws; and,

(3) The State of California has vowed to eliminate retail crime, shoplifting & strong-arm robberies by DECRIMINALIZING retail crime, shoplifting & strong-arm robberies, even as retail outlets flee the state at an alarming rate.

Of course, the above erroneous assumptions are made even more absurd by the state's inherent capiophobia, as justified by 'SoA' & Defund_the_Police supporters.

This, then, is what sets the Very Smart Progressive apart from everyone else:

The Very Smart Progressive really really believes that they can create the magically unbreakable law that each & every disobedient lawbreaker must necessarily follow because the magic of law compels them.


David Brin said...

Once again, I must say that drinking California’s water and breathing its air is doing locumranch a world of good! His conservative talking points were… cough/choke… somewhat based on… reality!

#1 is a true statement. Yes, it would be an insane move… if the Prohibition puritanism of Nancy Reagan et al ever had ANY positive effects, fulfilled any promises or benefited anyone but narco lords and prison guard unions. In contrast, some EU countries have had very successful experiments with drug addicts maintaining inexpensive doses and jobs, paying taxes instead of costing us $$$. Try arguing on THAT rather than a half sentence nostrum.

#2 Guys how many times have I said there are lefty mayorships and touwn councils who are nut jobs?

Likewise #3 is the same topic. Target is leaving a dozen poor areas because imbeciles restricted shoplifting deterrence.

So? WE admit we have a nutter wing. Such admission is hard for L to do, since his entire party is nuts.

Alas, he finishes with “defund the police.” GET OFF THE FOX TEAT! Just because YOUR lunatics run your asylum doesn’t mean it’s true of liberals, 95%+ of whom hated that phrase and are moderate, reasonable folks.

As if you’d recognize that trait, sir. Still, you really ought to have your water or other substances tested when you get home. This trip has been very good to you.

Tim H. said...

Dr. Brin it is annoying having judgments pronounced on me from half a continent away, by someone who's never seen me IRL. I am serious that the enormous money contributors the Democratic Party has been forced to rely is is enough for the usual suspects to pronounce it "Bothsiderism" and the DNCs mortal fear of repeating 1972 doesn't help matters. In spite of all that, I'm not holding my nose to vote for Democrats, I'm working class, policies optimized for the .01% won't pay off without massive investment tax credits that the deficit hawks will never allow.Missouri appears red because of a lot of Gerrymandering, the work of people who act like being Republican is more important than being American.

David Brin said...

Tim I am sorry if I came across confrontational. It's just that I sincerely believe you model of the situation is just plain wrongEach of us can make a care.

Me: the parties are opposites in almost all meaningful ways.

You: there is some donor favoritism among dem officeholders and some patronizing "We know best" atitudes among dem appointees and among civil servants, who dems prefer over rule by feudal lords.

But while your (paraphrased by me) assertion is as true as mine, it matters far less when dems have an agenda of transparency, to expose to light ALL kinds of political donations, to limit Sper PACS, to force politicians to reveal their financial interests and the rest. And if they get real power they will enact maybe 70% of reforms you like. While GOPpers want ever-more shadows for puppeteers to work from.

If you don't like dem authorities - while voting for them in preference to worse repubs, that's your privilege.

But it is not about matters of degree. They are (politically) entirely different species. With opposite aims for our children.

Paradoctor said...

Dr. Brin:

In your review of the "Atlas Shrugged" movie, you wrote:

"Ayn Rand was deeply influenced by Karl Marx — virtually an acolyte, in fact. She kept essentially intact Marx's scenario of bourgeois decadence, guild protection, capital formation, conspiratorial competition-suppression, class-narrowing business cycles and teleologically inevitable divergence between the worker and owner castes.

The chief difference is that Rand — a Russian emigre — stops short at the penultimate phase of Karl's projection — the moment of pinnacle capitalist consolidation — freezes it and calls it good. Tearing out and throwing away all hints of the next and final stage prophesied by Marx."

Rand is like a fundamentalist preacher who's secretly a Satanist. She believes the plot of the holy text, but reverses the good guys and bad guys.

Hmmm... given the known corruption of many a preacher, how do I know that there aren't fundamentalist preachers who are secretly Satanists?

Paradoctor said...

And how do I know that there aren't Satanists who are secretly fundamentalists?

David Brin said...

An angel trying to provoke End Days is a common idea, including the plot of the flick Constantine.

David Brin said...

Currently live on Coast-to-Coast AM... Call in now!

David Brin said...

858 501 4721

Tony Fisk said...

Hmmm... given the known corruption of many a preacher, how do I know that there aren't fundamentalist preachers who are secretly Satanists?

Never was sure which way the Chattering Order of St Beryl turned.

Tim H. said...

Tony Fisk, the impression I got was they made a short lateral step to "Cult of Mammon".

Tim H. said...

Dr. Brin, they're far worse than opposites, they are an ideological void, the ones in ascendancy now have no idea of what they might want and a detailed, long list of what they hate. what they appear to be doing is "Say the opposite of anything a Democrat does* and lick fundie boots". I still work so I don't wish to entirely uncloak, but I'm nearly as old as you and have a sibling your age, I'm also aware that the Democrats must appeal to diverse interests and that's okay. I also know folks that might come to a bad end if the party I'm getting tired of thinking of rude names for grants the "Fundagelicals" they're every wish, possibly even special camps for unbelievers. In short, they have made an alliance with folks who want a judgement day NOW, since god doesn't appear to be doing it*.*
The Democrats are a lot closer to what I think will work, I'm of an age that's known to lean GOP, but the ones I might like have been purged. If we ever met IRL, I feel I could explain better, but it's unlikely, I'm at best "Fan adjacent".

*And it would be crude to mention the acronym that's extremely opposite of Democrats.
**Iain M Banks, Surface Detail

Larry Hart said...

Tim H:

folks who want a judgement day NOW, since god doesn't appear to be doing it**
**Iain M Banks, Surface Detail

Reminds me of Dave Sim's take on the arrogance of Hitler's Nazis. "God made a mistake choosing the Jews. It is up to us (Nazis) to correct God's mistake for Him."

Tim H. said...

Larry Hart, I find it reminiscent of the old secret rapture joke, that God called the righteous to him and no one really noticed the absence of a half dozen people.

Larry Hart said...

Tim H:

God called the righteous to him and no one really noticed...

My "Mike Doonesbury's summer daydream" is the the Christianist fundies really do get Raptured exactly the way they believe/hope will happen, leaving the rest of us to get on with our lives.

Darrell E said...

Rapture? I've got a Rapture story.

Back in the good old days, I was about 21 or so, my not yet then but future wife and I rented an apartment with a high school girlfriend of hers. One Friday evening we decided to rent a video (as in VHS) from the Blockbuster video down the street. As we were browsing around looking for something we'd all like to watch the ladies decided they wanted to get one of those kind of movies. I prudently stepped into the background and let them take the lead.

They go to the desk and ask the clerk where those kind of movies are. He hands them a a big 3-ring binder that contains a simple list of titles, no pictures or descriptions.

They pick a movie titled The Rapture.

Now, I had no ideas or expectations about what this was going to lead to. I was equal parts scared, worried and excited.

So my future wife's girlfriend pops the giant VHS cassette into the soon to be primitive VHS player, and the movie starts.

To the severe disappointment of the ladies, it wasn't one of those kind of movies after all. It was a movie about the crazy Christian Rapture! And it was a really bad movie, not B more like D.

I was somewhat relieved, but even to this day I sometimes wonder what might have happened had that movie actually been the kind of movie the ladies wanted to see that night.

I also wonder how that movie made it onto that list. Was the person responsible also confused by the title? Or was the person responsible a devout Christian intent on tricking some dirty sinners?

Larry Hart said...

Darrell E:

...or was the person responsible a devout Christian intent on tricking some dirty sinners?

I would bet the mortgage on that second option.

Tim H. said...

I've sometimes seen the "Works" of Ellen G. White shelved with science fiction at used book stores, with less excuse than "Dianetics" ending up there.

David Brin said...

Cute story Darrell! Ah might have beens...

Did any of you ever see the British sitcom COUPLINGS? One episode revolved around the guys having left "Lesbian Spank Inferno" by mistake in the VCR, and havint to explain to the girlfriends that they watched it for the "philosophy."

Two hours on Coast to Coast last night. First time in 9 years. The call-in audience asked mostly good questions! Belying th promos and commercials for astrology, UFO revelations, stem cell dietary supplements and a coming revelatory episode on psychic phenomena. I was careful to emphasize an open mind while making some'think aboput it' points about UFOs.

WOnder if they'll have me back in less than another 9 years!

Unknown said...

"An angel trying to provoke End Days..."

"Dogma", cheesy as it is, is hands down the best of these. There are some folks who could use the Clockwork Orange treatment, with repeated screenings...


P.S. There's a Sherri Tepper novel* where the fundies of a near-Earth universe/reality turn up as the enslaved subhumans of another, complaining about their fate. A lot like Dante's enemies turning up in Hell in his Inferno

*checked - it's "Beauty", if you're interested

Tim H. said... had a Matthew Sheffield bit OI liked, I think it touches on an unintended consequence of "Bothsiderism"*

Matthew Sheffield @mattsheffield

Joe Biden gave an important speech today about MAGA fascism, but this was the most crucial line:

"Democracies don't have to die at the end of a rifle. They can die when people are silent, when they fail to stand up or condemn threats to democracy. When people willing to give away what's most precious to them because they feel frustrated."

#Fascism has always been unpopular. It can only win when the majority gives up in disgust. Don't let the bastards grind you down.

My working class angle on this; The "Folks" behind this can't say any of this in polite society, so they've reverted to flinging poo at everything we hold dear, hoping to repel enough people that they can take over and openly treat us with the contempt that is the only thing of substance in their (Peristaltic) movement.

*:"Bothsiderism" is less an evil plot than a desperate attempt by the media to do their jobs without provoking their fabulously wealthy, wing nut masters.

Darrell E said...

Senator Feinstein has passed away.

David Brin said...

Tim, your model has merit and individually the statements bear truth. And will you note how it smugly idendifies most of your neighbors as sheep or lazy or lemmings?

I look around and see passion far more than laziness. and it is passion that can kill. Passion driven by stoked-up sanctimony and self-righteousness (SR) pushed by incantations that cry out "MY kind of people see the TRUTH!"

Sure, that was how Hitler riled his brownshirts and it is working well with MAGA's all out war all-out war vs ALL fact using professions, from science and teaching, medicine and law and civil service to the heroes of the FBI/Intel/Military officer corps who won the Cold War and the War on terror.

But it also propels splitters on our Union side of this Civil War, pumped up with righteous dudgeon that they are the ones who see all the injusticve in the world and "milquetoast' liuberals like Biden/Pelosi are little better than Republicans-lite.

While I agree with the overall DIRECTION that those SR junkies on the ill-named 'left' want to go - toward a future where insipid generalities like race/gender/background no long cauterize opportunity, their sanctimony addictions extend to absolute refusal to re-evaluate counter-productive TACTICS - like shitting on their own allies, shattering thje only coalition that can (incrementally) save the world.

Even if I were wrong about Dems being 70%+ light vs 90% dark foes... we must act vigorously AS IF that is true, in order for light to have a chance.

So drop your endlessly repeated fallback about DP secret donor masters! SHOW THEM TO ME! Funny thing how they armstwist their servant senators into repeatedly voting for campaign finance laws..

Tim H. said...

If you haven't already read "Surface Detail", skim this synopsis:

I think this is what the folks who are worked up about any sinner that practices a sin they don't, absent any upload technology, I suspect they'll settle for less. The current sub-optimal compromise seems much more livable. I wonder if anyone in one of the noisier denominations has any cultural memory of what tended to happen to preachers in the antebellum south who cast shade on the practices of the wealthy?
BTW, biden's fine, I don't expect the GOP, as my Father knew it, to happen in any meaningful way in my remaining lifetime.

Larry Hart said...

Post-mortem on the Republican "debate"...

David Faris, writing for Slate, makes an interesting argument that Republican primary candidates are leaning into extreme, unpopular positions because they really don't care about pivoting to the center if they get the nomination. Their thinking, in his view, is that winning the Republican nomination is really what matters, and institutional advantages (e.g., the Electoral College) will take care of the rest.

Molly Olmstead, also writing for Slate, points out that Republican presidential candidates are barely bothering to pay lip service to evangelicals anymore. The clear lesson of the Trump years is that culture wars stuff is more than enough to keep them loyal. If Olmstead is right, and we think the evidence is pretty strong, then the evangelicals' power over the Republican political program is going to get weaker and weaker over time.

Laurent Weppe said...

«Their thinking, in his view, is that winning the Republican nomination is really what matters, and institutional advantages (e.g., the Electoral College) will take care of the rest.

Alan Brooks said...

He’s said that defunding police leads to a not inconsiderable percentage of them taking more bribes, and doing shakedowns, than they would otherwise: +/- 10%

David Brin said...

"I don't expect the GOP, as my Father knew it, to happen in any meaningful way in my remaining lifetime. "

We still hope that a critical mass of 'decent republicans' will declare a new party. But it seems very unlikely.

The one thing big enough would be a KGB defector bringing over and releasing all the blackmail files.

The radicals will only lose command over the GOP if the Roberts court ends all gerrymandering, allowing distrcts to no longer be dominated by extremists. That, too, is unlikely... probably because those KGB files include Roberts.

Tim H. said...

The immediate factor that gave FDR a large enough majority to give the GOP generations of derangement was they were too tightly identified with the big money, who conspicuously shat the bed and timid policies from Herbert Hoover, who should've known better*. Given the influence over policy, a repeat performance is entirely possible, too expensive an engine for change. With additional potential hits against average National intelligence from long COVID (Charles Stross reposted a Twitter item showing correlation between British counties that suffered most from Mad Cow in 1992 & those that voted for "BREXIT"), Remembering an Arthur Clarke non fiction title from last century, 1984, a choice of catastrophes, if memory serves, the potential "Compound Failure" is even more knotted now! Another possibility is a splitting of the Democrats to create a more left party and a possibly more attractive to purged Republicans pro business party. near future science fiction keeps getting overtaken by reality.

*A hypothetical 2nd Hoover administration might've enacted a watered down new deal sort of program, but might've had disastrous ties to Germany, given his distaste for the CCCP, the Ribbentrop-Molotove pact might've derailed that...

Keith D. Halperin said...

@Dr. Brin:
"If he were *here today, Smith would be a flaming Democrat."
From what I read (, he was a Scot with pro-American sympathies and an acquaintance of Benjamin Franklin.

While I lack significant knowledge of British politics, I'm GUESSING Smith would today possibly be either a supporter of the Scottish National Party (SNP), or the Liberal Democratic party (LDP)... If he were pragmatic (committed to forming governments) and not ideological, he might support the moderate wing of the Labour Party (LP) instead of the LDP. From what I read in **Charlie Stross's blog, the UK Conservative Party (CP) appears to be adopting some of the GOP's less reputable characteristics, so I would guess he wouldn't be a Tory.


*I assume you mean just temporally here and alive, and not a 21st Century American citizen (in which case I would agree with you).
**I think I'll ask Charlie Stross what he thinks Smith would be today..

David Brin said...

"Another possibility is a splitting of the Democrats to create a more left party and a possibly more attractive to purged Republicans pro business party. near future science fiction keeps getting overtaken by reality."
WHat's needed is better Dem polemic to say: "We listen to our radicals when they demand progress toward a better world. We often negotiate with our radicals over how. But we do not give the craziest ones control over a party or a nation... unlike the GOP. If you moderate conservatives are unable to tell the difference and swallow Fox-incantations that "ALL dems are just like their craziest!" then you remain part of your own side's craxy."

Smith cared about flat fair creative competition, a word the left frowns upon and that the right speaks only to utterly betray it. But Smith knew Competition is only flat fair creative when the number of knowing, confident and daring competitors is highest. Which means NO child left out and NO feudal lords cheating. So yeah, only one faction does that. He'd be there and not with the feudalists.

Unknown said...

Just a tiny snippet before my morning walk - The Musk has been reported as saying (privately) that he thinks most people are NPCs. Looking at the labor safety record of Tesla, this seems likely to be correct.


P.S. this also jibes with him being nice to his fellow PCs.

Unknown said...


I followed you over to Charlie's last night, and I'm glad they were able to figure out which Smith you are asking about...


David Brin said...

Pappenheimer, Charlie hasn't answered an email from me in over a decade. Whatever his snit is, I frankly don't give a darn. He and Cory Doctorow are very valuable guys, who would be twice as effective if they weren't so 'fraid that someone else (an ally) might be just as smart. Feh.

Do pass along distillations from his site, now and then. I am sure the discussions are cogent. Even 50% as much as here! (Though almost certainly more dogmatic, alas.)

David Brin said...

Any of you who remain Fred Hoyle fans, just remember - October The First Is Too Late. For the rest? Alas, your loss. But never mind!

scidata said...

Unfortunately, Hoyle books don't seem to have audio versions. I gave my 2nd printing of H.G. Wells' A SHORT HISTORY OF THE WORLD to my younger son for his birthday. He married into a family of anthropology & SF, although he never showed any interest in either one growing up. 20th c. time & history books are the best. Lots of beautiful minds. If things had gone better (no world wars), we might be 500 years further ahead.

Unknown said...

Of course I remember 10/1 = 2L8 but it's been nearly ten lustrae since I last opened that book.


Keith Halperin said...

@Pappenheimer: Thanks. They’ve discussed Smith a bit, but haven’t addressed my question yet. I’ll
restate it and see what they say about contemporary Adam Smith’s politics.

@Everyone: the Charlie Stross blog may be more dogmatic (or dogmatic in a different way than here), but usually less vituperative than here (and much more British-focused)…

David Brin said...

Vituperative? Here? ;-)

I can be a bit rude in arguing, I confess... and am known to backtrack and apologize. But might their comity be due to - um - uniformity?

Larry Hart said...

Republicans who have no problem with a violent incursion into the Capitol in order to disrupt an official proceeding have the backs of their hands nailed to their foreheads over a fire alarm.

Still, Republicans were quick to link the alarm to the vote on the spending bill. At a news conference after the spending measure passed, Mr. McCarthy criticized Mr. Bowman, suggesting he set off the alarm in an attempt to obstruct proceedings. “When we found that an individual elected to Congress would pull a fire alarm, that’s a new low,” he said.

Representative Nicole Malliotakis, Republican of New York, has drafted a motion to expel Mr. Bowman from the House, her office said.

“This is the United States Congress, not a New York City high school,” Ms. Malliotakis wrote on X. “To pull the fire alarm to disrupt proceedings when we are trying to draft legislation to AVERT A SHUTDOWN is pathetic.”

Keith Halperin said...

I can’t speak to that, except there’s a little overlap (like me) and there don’t seem to be any “Procol Harem/Boka Haram”-types.
(After 300 comments, the discussion often goes ANYWHERE- there were recently several comments on the history of slide rules…) I’d GUESS both are largely middle-aged/elderly English speaking white guys- the heart and soul of SF!

Unknown said...

Dr Brin,

I suspect Loc would have been long since banned from Charlie's, but there is a lot of argumentation over there, from (I think) a wider range of nationalities. The level of scientific discourse is pretty high at times*, though for some reason they often seem to come back to bicycles, and then the Strosshammer gets threatened. Or so I heard.

*From what I can gather. How am I going to tell a good mycologist from a bad one, for instance?


P.S. Scidata, I really hate to say this but war can supercharge technological development - I doubt that aviation, for instance, would have progressed nearly as far as it has without major nations pouring tons of money and brainpower into the field in their struggle for air superiority. Let alone rocketry, and radar, and computers...and atomics. Please note I am NOT arguing in favor of war. It's just a side effect.

David Brin said...

I'm not the only one to have noticed the the chief war-changing techs emerging from WWI - that changed battle for the next century - are those almost absent from the Ukraine war - airplanes and tanks. While infantry and artillery are grinding onward, as in WWI. Of course it's all due to tech advances making tanks and planes sitting ducks. Indeed, those same techs are making counter-battery artillery the real Queen of the Battlefield. And from what I can see, Western-aided Ukraine is winning that fight, which is far more important (for now) than mere territory.

This phase is about attrition... but carefully mostly one-sided attrition. The only way this can end well is if Putin's greatest fear... a 1917 Moscow march by fed up Russian soldiery... bring this to conclusion.

The third player now is drones, which seem remarkably like the biplanes of WWI both in appearance and sound and also rate of rapid development. Plus ça change....

In light of the MAGA right's desperate maligning of Mark Milley and almost the entire US officer corps... calling them "procurement politicians"... one must respond with:

1. Milley's uniform tells his career at a glance. Paratrooper in the 101st, ranger, many combat commands, combat infantryman...

2. ALL senior officers are required to spend time in procurement! And from what I've seen in Ukraine, the job they have done is utterly beyond even the most optimistic expectations. Aside from deep sadness over this tragic madness, we seem to have SO got our money's worth in every single system I have seen.

Indeed, that kind of grownup competence is one reason the oligarchs now incite MAGA rage vs the FBI/Intel/Military officer corps who won the Cold War and the War on terror... along with ALL other fact using professions, from science and teaching, medicine and law and civil service to the heroes.

Larry Hart said...

No shutdown (at least until November 17). Congress passed a bill, largely with Democratic votes, which at least didn't contain ridiculous MAGA requirements like national abortion bans, defunding the Justice Department, or reducing the salary of the new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs to one dollar.

It did (unfortunately) contain no money for support of Ukraine, something I hope President Biden can work around with budgetary tricks like Trump used to fund his stupid wall.

I wonder if Democrats made a deal with McCarthy to back him when Matt Gaetz calls for McCarthy to be removed as speaker. I don't know whether to root for that outcome (with the deals McCarthy would have to have made to acquire that Democratic support), or for the Freedom Caucasians to actually remove McCarthy and then try to find a replacement--one who most likely would not be as much of a quisling. My conclusion at the moment is that I don't care which of those two things happens. It's a win either way.

The president released a statement saying that the stopgap measure is “good news for the American people,” while adding plenty of ire at Republicans who, he says, brought this situation to the brink. “But I want to be clear: we should never have been in this position in the first place. Just a few months ago, Speaker McCarthy and I reached a budget agreement to avoid precisely this type of manufactured crisis. For weeks, extreme House Republicans tried to walk away from that deal by demanding drastic cuts that would have been devastating for millions of Americans. They failed.”

Biden also calls on McCarthy to support legislation that would continue to support the war in Ukraine. “We cannot under any circumstances allow American support for Ukraine to be interrupted. I fully expect the Speaker will keep his commitment to the people of Ukraine and secure passage of the support needed to help Ukraine at this critical moment.”

Larry Hart said...

In the above quote from President Biden, I believe he is using the word "expect" in an aspirational rather than literal manner.

David Brin said...

"budgetary tricks like Trump used to fund his stupid wall." Dems should use against him that he had ALL power 2017-18 and did zip about his wall.

Robert said...

I suspect Loc would have been long since banned from Charlie's, but there is a lot of argumentation over there, from (I think) a wider range of nationalities.

Unlikely. Charlie tolerated the Seagull for years. It takes a lot of work to get banned for bad behaviour.

Advocating for Nazis _will_ get you banned — unsurprising given Stross' ancestry. And aiming hate towards LGBT people (also a Nazi trait, FWIW).

scidata said...

Pappenheimer: war can supercharge technological development

Competition and cooperation are the drivers of development. War is an easy trap that can harness and focus technology, but not invent it. Enlightenment is much harder*, but ultimately much more exciting and productive. Most of us have stared at the first Solvay (1911) pic where European physical scientists met to argue and compare research notes (i.e. compete and cooperate). It all went to hell in a handbasket a scant three years later. Supercharged or supertragic?

* It took 99.9% of sapiens' time on the planet to finally light a candle that flickers but illuminates with more power and success than every war ever fought

Unknown said...


I don't disagree with you that science (along with scientists, and the rest of us) suffers when there is no free exchange of information across borders. I read during the 80's that the USSR sent some scientists over to a US collegium on fusion research, and some 3LA covered up the Russians' blackboard*. From whom was this being kept secret? Russian scientists knew something was up (i.e. Manhattan) when their US counterparts started dropping off the map and their findings were no longer published....

It's that sweet, sweet funding. Mostly short-term funding for applied research, but the breakthroughs jump-started further breakthroughs after the war. I'd offer a synthesis - military research can advance science, but military/political boundaries can distort the goals and damage the body of science as a whole - and not just science with military applications, thinking of Lysenko.

*Pournelle story, so take with as much salt as your preconceptions suggest


P.S. This is mostly over my head, but my two obols' worth (spot me a couple when it comes time for the ferryman?)

Unknown said...


Ah, the_Seagull. Well, you got me. That entity (pre-chatGPT, so presumably human) disproves my hypothesis. Correction noted.


Oger said...

Apparently, Elon Musk has involved himself in our internal politics by openly promoting the AfD.

Since that party ist considered hostile to the Constitution by the majority of the 17 domestic Secret Services we have, he now is also considered to be an enemy of our constitution. And state.

If certain circles within our services decided to make certain decisions, I probably would not object this time.

He has become a threat to our national security.

duncan cairncross said...

Hi Oger

So someone who has contributed MORE to the future of humanity than any other single person is to be eliminated because he supports a POLITICAL PARTY!

And one that has no power and no likelihood of having any power

Have you no sense of proportion at all????

duncan cairncross said...

I have my voting documents for the next election

We have the
Center Left Party - Labour
Center Right Party - National
The Greens
Two "Right Wing" Parties - Act and New Zealand First

Legalise Cannabis Party
Animal Justice Party

Then we have Eight!! loonie toones conspiracy theory parties

I am actually quite pleased with this as the eight loonie parties will be taking votes from the Center Right and the Right Wing Parties

My Definition of "Loonie Toone"
Anti-Vaxx, Global Warming Denial, Getting all het up about "Genders", Banning Abortion

Tony Fisk said...

The overall strategy may well be attrition (of Russian forces), but I'd be more sanguine about Ukraine's position if they could get control of the heights East of Novoprovkia. From there they can cut off the rail with artillery. With the Kerch bridge out of action that would leave just the coastal road to supply occupied Zaporizhia, Kherson, and Crimea.

Paradoctor said...

anti-vax = pro-virus

Robert said...

So someone who has contributed MORE to the future of humanity than any other single person

Wow. So Elon Musk tops Einstein, Newton, Pasteur, or absolutely any other person, ever? I find myself questioning your sense of proportion.

Alan Brooks said...

It was Elon who aided Ukraine,
not Einstein, Newton, or Pasteur.

Another member of the Murder Milley Club:

Oger said...

@duncan cairnross
And one that has no power and no likelihood of having any power

He is or was the richtest man on Earth. That in of itself is power. Lawyers, mercenaries, politicians, arms, tech, attention - pick your favorite.

Next, he controls a social media company that once helped topple dictators, but has become a cesspit of right-wing agitation, with an army of millions of bootlicking lackeys at his disposal. He actively censors left-leaning accounts and journalists who displeased him.
That ist an immense political ressource.

Thirdly, He controls a satellite network that, yes, was vital to Ukraines survival ...but then used it to dictate his own ideas in how this war should end.

Fourthly, he has his own small intelligence and security service (probably with a size and budget smaller nations have for these matters) and although they are mostly used for counterintelligence and ferreting Out whistleblowers....who knows?

Finally, the AfD already is at rank two and might come out on top during the next federal and state elections in the east. They are exactly the kind of looney tunes you mentioned, plus adding revisionists, putinists, antisemites and racists.

He is hardly a powerless man.

(You are in an enviable position in NZ, both politically and geographically.)

scidata said...

Recent history may come down to sports played and/or praised:
Biden - football
Obama - basketball
Milley - hockey

Dubbya, DT, George Will - baseball

I'd go along with your synthesis offer. The military laying claim to scientific advancements is like Pharoahs crowing about the pyramids they created. The real secret sauce of FOUNDATION isn't psychohistory, it's the rise of entire society based on widespread scientific literacy. Petrarch and others called one Belgian university "A New Athens". Terminus was sort of the same thing to millions of young readers.

Larry Hart said...

duncan cairncross:

So someone who has contributed MORE to the future of humanity than any other single person

Comics and movies are full of evil geniuses who are able to perform technological miracles and who nonetheless use their powers to stomp with jackboots on the upturned face of humanity. The one does not preclude the other.

Der Oger said...

On the article:
Thank you for the Alt History Maps! I will share that link elsewhere.

One of my (never really explored) starting point ideas for a pulp fiction rpg was: What if the Boxers had won because their alleged mystical fighting powers were true? What would that mean for the Great Ghost Dance of the Native Americans, the Tattoos of the Maori, the practicioners of Voodoo in the caribean sea and southern states, the dervishes and sufi?

On the Norse gods:
In my interpretation of the Edda, the Norse Gods and especially Odin had only one goal: Filling Valhalla with worthy warriors. To that end, they fostered rivalries between the various kings in their realms, first supported them, and then, when the time for harvest had come, betrayed them so that they could collect their souls. So, in my view, I find the "blood ritual" theory somewhat difficult - I'd rather assume the Norse Gods would have been appalled. Except for Loki and the Giant Kings, maybe. Rather, they would have supported military leaders, soldiers and partisans regardless of the nationality.

Alan Brooks said...

What Elon Should have done for Ukraine:

Larry Hart said...

Der Oger:

I find the "blood ritual" theory somewhat difficult - I'd rather assume the Norse Gods would have been appalled. Except for Loki and the Giant Kings, maybe. Rather, they would have supported military leaders, soldiers and partisans regardless of the nationality.

I think you're confusing cause with effect. In the story, the blood ritual was what invoked the Norse gods in the first place. It wasn't what endeared the Nazis to the gods.

I also don't find it implausible that if the Nazis could bring legends to life, those legends would resemble the Nazis' own interpretations of the legends, regardless of what the original Norsemen believed.

* * *

A perhaps-unappreciated detail in the story is one that I like. One of the aging old-time Nazis asks the protagonist why a Dane would side with the mongrel races, and he replies essentially, "Why are you still harping on that old master race crap? Your cause was never really about that at all." That's a paraphrase, but you get the gist.

Larry Hart said...

Hard to argue.

Intellectually and creatively, Trump is the antithesis of [Toni] Morrison, but if I come to understand that when Trump says “people,” it is confined to his people, then his inane utterances make more sense to me. In fact, the whole of the MAGA universe begins to make more sense to me.
It isn’t as simple as saying that Trump wants to drag the country backward. He wants to do something far more destructive: He wants to marry the country’s more intolerant past to a more autocratic future. He wants to bend his brand of straight white male nationalism into a kind of totalitarianism. That his definition of “the people” is implicit, not overt, only helps him. The fact that there are women, people of color and L.G.B.T.Q. Americans who support him doesn’t alter the fundamental nature of his appeal.

And I believe that many of his most ardent followers understand this intuitively. They idolize Trump because his craven desire for power, and the protection from prosecution that he believes it will provide, would also offer them a ride on his coattails.
This is, I believe, why Trump maintains strong support even as his legal troubles grow: He has been unflinchingly loyal to one portion of the body politic, and his followers are simply reciprocating.

They don’t worry about Trump torching the country if he’s re-elected, because they believe that they will frolic in the ashes. They believe that whatever benefits Trump will eventually benefit them. Trump has deceived his people into believing in trickle-down tyranny.

Robert said...

Alan: It was Elon who aided Ukraine, not Einstein, Newton, or Pasteur.

With all due respect to the Ukrainian people, I do not equate "aiding Ukraine" with "the future of humanity".

I will note that Starlink satellite use GPS clocks, which wouldn't work without an understanding of relativity, and of course rely on orbital mechanics which traces back to Newton.

scidata said...

One of the more plausible alternate histories I've seen is the Maya. They had mathematics, understanding of deep time, and fairly complex sociology/politics. Most importantly, they had the 'Americas advantage': ocean borders. Perhaps just one or two tweaks might have triggered their survival & flourishing - domestication of animals (like the tapir), metallurgy (which would require trade), eventual European protectorate, etc.

Der Oger said...

With all due respect to the Ukrainian people, I do not equate "aiding Ukraine" with "the future of humanity"

But stopping Putin might.
As does stopping people undermining democracy to reinstall feudalism, this time founded by Tech Oligarch Tsars.

Tim H. said...

Known by the company one keeps, and fascists seem to like him. That's a problem.

David Brin said...

Oger, while I don’t go as far as Duncan, Elon’s actual palpable positive outcomes vastly outweigh the silly fulminations… and his incredible incineration of $40Billion by torching Twitter. (He could have used that $ to bribe 500Million folks to switch to a new platform.)

Likewise, enabling Ukraine to hold itself together in the 1st year matters more than asking them to use some other comms system for outward attacks later, when they are fully up and running and have alternatives.

The ‘intel service’ I doubt.

WTF is AfD?

Scidata… I like baseball! I hate GF Will, the “Worst American.”

LH while I agree with that interpretation of Trumpian fascism, the oligarchs who STILL “think they can control them” only want a world of control and trickle-up inheritance-brat governance. They mostly want to be top families in Brave New World, not 1984. Problem is they realized nerds won’t allow that. So Prepper Apocalypse “Event” is their fallback option.

Let’s recall that everyone thinks “my kind of people” should be trusted with solving all this! That’s terrifying re fascists. But the woke-ist lefties’ Identity Politics is also pretty awful. Your social rank depends on check boxes… non-male, non-ortho, poor, non-white… I’ve been publicly bullied by such preeners, ranking me as subhuman and inherently evil for lacking those traits.

Scidata… the Maya were in a phase of utter brutality that led to their collapse.

Lorraine said...

AfD is a literal political party made up of literal Nazis, in Germany.

Der Oger said...

WTF is AfD?

The Alternative for Germany is a far-right political party. It is strongest in the new states - Saxony, Thuringia, Brandenburg, with 30+% of votes in the polls.
The Federal Office of the Protection of the Constitution, as well as certain state offices have categorized the party as partially hostile to the constitution, which could be seen as a step to ban it (which would require the Federal Constitution Court to judge on this matter). Some members can be labeled as "Fascists" and "Nazi Bitches", since some criminal courts ruled that this would be no slander. KZ memorial institutions have placed a ban over a number of party leaders.

While the party program has the same talking point as many libertarian and conservative parties have, members have often behaved in xenophobic, nationalistic, sexist, anti-American, anti-progressive, climate-change-denying, antivax/provirus, antisemitic, revisionist, and Putin-friendly fashion. They dream of disbanding the EU and allying with Putin, dividing up the continent.

In short, they are Nazis.

In federal polls, they have 22% (up 10%) and might end up as the strongest party in 2025, if the CSU in Bavaria does not gain at least 5% of all votes (which would exclude them from the next Bundestag). There are open talks about the CDU abandoning the "Firewall" strategy of no cooperation, and even about forming coalitions.

Oh, and we have state elections at the next weekend.

I am not looking forward to that.

Laurent Weppe said...

«AfD is a literal political party made up of literal Nazis, in Germany.»

AfD is a party founded by austerity fetichists who thought they could tame racist voters and quickly got subjugated by their own hirelings. Theirs is basically the GOP’s 20th century history condensed in 10 years, and another proof that nothing is stupider than educated people who fancy themselves philosopher kings capable of puppeteering fascists with nobles lies.

Unknown said...

Folks, anyone supporting AfD is firmly in Late-Stage Henry Ford, whatever their prior accomplishments. And --- yep, Musk is for AfD. Find another tech hero, this one's done.


Larry Hart said...


And --- yep, Musk is for AfD.

He might run into the fact that Germany doesn't have our First Amendment.

* * *


Dubbya, DT, George Will - baseball

Doesn't Trump praise football, though (the "tough people")? He did once own a football team.

* * *

Dr Brin:

They mostly want to be top families in Brave New World, not 1984. Problem is they realized nerds won’t allow that. So Prepper Apocalypse “Event” is their fallback option.

Well, unless we can convince them that plan A is viable*, we have to treat them as if they are inflicting plan B on us, no matter that it's their second choice.

It's been awhile since I read Brave New World, and I can't currently find my copy, but were there "top families" in the book? My recollection is that the very concept of family had been eradicated, and that the society wasn't structured for the benefit of the Alphas at the expense of the others, but for everyone including the Epsilons to believe that their caste benefited most. The point wasn't to exploit the lower classes, but to keep people working essentially as slaves to the machines upon which all life depended.

* Maybe we can convince them to retreat to their hidey-holes prematurely and then feed them false information about the outside world**. A variation on the B-Ark strategy.

** Like "Portland and Chicago have burned to the ground." Maybe FOX is already doing something like this. Or doing a trial run.

Laurent Weppe said...

«It's been awhile since I read Brave New World, and I can't currently find my copy, but were there "top families" in the book»

More like top “bloodlines”, but since the Alphas pretty much leave among themselves, it’s a bit of a potato, potahto basket case of institutionalised oppression.

«society wasn't structured for the benefit of the Alphas»

Oh no, it WAS structured for the benefit of Alpha, the first chapter does show kids from the lower castes being tortured to make sure they’ll never seek leisure outside what’s provided for them by the regime.
The thing is, since imagination is frowned upon if it produces anything other than the hedonistic pleasures of which the Alphas receive the lion share, you can get punished if you seek something outside of it.

Larry Hart said...

Lurent Weppe:

More like top “bloodlines”, but since the Alphas pretty much leave among themselves, it’s a bit of a potato, potahto basket case of institutionalised oppression.

What I was getting at was that the rulers didn't specifically preference their own sons, since the whole idea of family and fatherhood was exterminated. Collective preference, perhaps, but (to mix alluions) that's a different thing, in fact the opposite thing.

the first chapter does show kids from the lower castes being tortured to make sure they’ll never seek leisure outside what’s provided for them by the regime.

Again, I don't have the book in front of me, but aren't you describing a scene in which embryos are conditioned rather than sentient beings tortured?

the hedonistic pleasures of which the Alphas receive the lion share

But IIRC, it was not a case of the lower orders being oppressed so that the Alphas could expropriate value from them. Everyone's primary function was to serve the machines. The hedonism was to keep them content with their lot and to distract them from wanting anything else.

IMHO, Brave New World was not a warning about oligarchic rule, but a warning about subservience to mechanization--men living in order to serve machines instead of the other way around.

Alan Brooks said...

Newton and Einstein didn’t directly help inflict Russian casualties. Starlink did. Regaining territories isn’t what matters; even if Russia is completely chased out, it can still lob missiles into Ukraine; but when a Russian soldier is permanently removed from the equation, it means it takes eighteen years to grow a new one. Can’t invade another country if cannon fodder is lacking.
So it is the future of humanity, because China knows its soldiers can die like flies, also.

duncan cairncross said...

In "Brave New World" the "machines" were needed to support the population

Brave New World was a society that HAD to run that way in order to support the huge population

Moving away from that would have resulted in 90% of the population dying

A "Warning" novel - but warning about several different things

scidata said...

1984 shows that humanity can be conquered. BNW shows that Humanity can be tamed.
It's wonderful to hear others' take on BNW. CB forever!
"No two people ever read the same book."
- Edmund Wilson

locumranch said...

According to Aldous Huxley: “62,400 repetitions make one truth.”

As I've now seen this 'Nazi' slur directed against Elon Musk, the American Heartland, Israel and pretty much anyone who refuses to support the official leftist-progressive agenda, the modern progressive tends to see Nazis everywhere, their only blindspot being their own reflection, as evidenced by the standing ovation that the Canadian Parliament just gave to a LITERAL Nazi, a 98 year old Ukrainian who fought for the 14th Waffen SS Grenadier Division against the Allies during WW2, in order to express their unconditional support for Ukrainian President Zelenskyy.

Of course, it does not end there, as a recent survey of US political affiliation found that 34% of Democrats feel that Americans have "too much freedom", 47% of Democrats feel that speech should be legal & free "only under certain circumstances", and "fully three-fourths of Democrats believe government has a responsibility to limit (and censor) hateful social media posts".

This is exactly how Fascism came to America, disguised as 'anti-fascism', 'political correctness' and 'social progress' --- multiple repetitions thereof --- and this is why free speech advocates like Elon Musk have come under increasing attack.



Larry Hart said...

duncan cairncross:

Brave New World was a society that HAD to run that way in order to support the huge population

That was certainly Mustapha Mond's justification. He had a whole chapter devoted to it.

Moving away from that would have resulted in 90% of the population dying

I'm not sure whether that is meant to be taken as gospel, or whether that represents the fear of the leaders like Mond. I can see them being so afraid of what might happen under any other circumstances as to never let it be tested.

Many Republicans currently think that way about Democratic Party rule. It must never be allowed to happen because "we'll lose our country!" That doesn't make it true.

Larry Hart said...

NOT a political post. Just funny. It might not mean much unless you're already a fan of Stephanie Miller's radio show, but I thought it was amusing enough to share.

Since a bunch of you are Steph heads, you asked how I got involved with Ms. Stephanie Miller and her delicious, daily radio orgy. Kind of simple really: In the summer of 2009, I heard she was reading my posts on the air, so I got in touch and said, "Well, shit, if you're using my stuff, why not have me on?" I had to make all kinds of promises to be FCC compliant (which I've only fucked up twice in over 14 years). We discovered on the first time I appeared that the sexual tension between Steph and me was so intense that I've heard listeners spontaneously orgasmed, which made things extra awkward if they were already at work. Thus a long-term relationship was born.

Alan Brooks said...

The majority of the 3/4 want to limit shouting Fire in a crowded theater.
An extremist minority of the 3/4 want First Amendment rights only for themselves.
Now that Communism has finished, the far left is less of a threat than the Right; the far left is too incompetent to run this country. But the far right is competent: they can pass nasty laws and break skulls quite adroitly. And ‘don’t try that in a small town!’ includes free speech, because when no witnesses are around, someone can get a shellacking for saying the wrong thing.
Plus they can build more prisons to give the homeless a place they can always feel they are welcomed in.

David Brin said...

Welcome home from California, locum. We can tell you are back to drinking whatver tainted water source makes you normally rave.

While anecdotally there are tons of fanatics on the far left who are eager to censor or repress speech, that wing has never (except a few cities) controlled a major party or national agenda, unlike your cult of book burning (yes) crypto Nazis, who (today!) tried to do a huge favor for 'ex' commissar Putin.

Want free speech? Join us in pushing for a ban on non-disclosure agreement NDAs, to reveal everything in David Pecker's safe, to expose every financial and tax document in both the Biden and Trump families and see who actually gets $$$ from the K Street Swamp. Bets? THought not.

Seriously man. Calif was very good for you/

Alan Brooks said...

A decade before the 98 yr old fought in the war, 5- 10 million Ukrainians were starved.
Besides why pick on a guy that old?

Larry Hart said...

the modern progressive tends to see Nazis everywhere,

Like the ones at Trump rallies who actually display actual swastikas.

When someone tells you who they are...

David Brin said...



Larry Hart said...

A reader comment in the column rather than the column itself, but it does a good job of explaining a certain political dynamic, including certain posters on this blog:

Stupid people have a weird kind of pride, and crave respect. However, the "elites" don't give it to them. Trump did. He gave them permission to hate, and to discriminate. And to use religion as a fig leaf for being jerky.

One HUGE thing that the political elite on the left have never grasped is that stupid people HATE . . . AYTCH AY TEE EEE . . . to admit they were EVER wrong. If someone convinced them at some point that the sky is green, they will argue TO THE DEATH if anyone tells them they are wrong. Because that means they have to admit they were suckered, and thus don't deserve respect.

Stupid people also HATE being told they are wrong by smart people . . . nerds, geeks, blah blah. Again, they close down and resist.

You have to engage these people carefully by having a discussion on their level and in their manner of thinking and speaking.

What do left-wing pundits and operatives do? They preach, demean and dismiss. THAT'S why no progress is being made with the old Democratic base in the Heartland. They hear the left, and they snort and walk away.

Until the Dems take this to heart, they will continue to lose ground to fascism.

Larry Hart said...