Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Is the system rigged?

Oh, how spectacularly right Donald Trump was, in his most-cogent statement… that the election would be “rigged.”  

We all know it happened in 2000 when George W. Bush's own brother -- Florida Governor Jeb Bush -- "lost" 60,000 democratic voter registrations (later proved totally valid) enabling (with a dozen other cheats) W to win Florida and the White House by 167 votes.

But this article - Was the 2004 Election stolen? - shows in excruciatingly painful detail how that one was, as well.  And how the Republican Party retained control of Congress for 20 out of 22 years, despite a majority of citizens always voting against them.

This next year, with the GOP operating the voting systems in 33 out of 50 states, perhaps we’ll see a transparency miracle as some patriot squeals how thoroughly Trump was right about rigging. (Last time I urged some billionaire to offer ‘henchman prizes” to lure truth into the open.) 

But this article on 2004 offers a look at the methods. Starting with clear evidence that exit polls were not and are not biased. The polls were correct. It was the voting machines that lied.

"Republicans had a distinct advantage (in Ohio): The man in charge of the counting was Kenneth Blackwell, the co-chair of President Bush's re-election committee. As Ohio's secretary of state, Blackwell had broad powers to interpret and implement state and federal election laws -- setting standards for everything from the processing of voter registration to the conduct of official recounts. And as Bush's re-election chair in Ohio, he had a powerful motivation to rig the rules for his candidate. Blackwell, in fact, served as the ''principal electoral system adviser'' for Bush during the 2000 recount in Florida, where he witnessed firsthand the success of his counterpart Katherine Harris, the Florida secretary of state who co-chaired Bush's campaign there."

Ken Blackwell bought voting machines from Diebold (whose CEO Wally O'Dell had committed in a letter “to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the President." Long lines, disenfranchisement, funny exit polling results... all in a state Bush could not be re-elected without. But above all, the voting machines, which in most red-controlled states have no paper audit trail.

Ken Blackwell. Where is he now? Trump taps former Ohio official Ken Blackwell to lead domestic transition team.  Seriously. Could John Grisham have written that? 

Risking Godwin overload, here's an illustration of another era’s version of rigging, in the German referendum of 1934. The “yes” box (granting the chancellor unlimited power) was a wee bit biased. As, of course was the counting. Though sure, fervid-racist-lying populism also helped you-know-who to carry the day.

And now it's 2016. Donald Trump wins states that, according to exit polls, he should lose. Yes, there are the embittered blue collar workers; yes, there are arguably errors and weakness in the Clinton campaign. But once again all the lucky breaks go for the GOP candidate.” 

Rigged, indeed.  Good call, Donald. How'd you know? (And no, we haven't even mentioned, this time, the whole fake news and Russia thing or "weaponized narrative.")

People, this time the Confederacy knows better than to leave.  Their putsch is from within. They are romantics who will take no prisoners. Because they talk themselves into thinking we'd do the same. Hence they shrug off cheating as necessary for their own survival. No matter how many times we prove, again and again, that we are not like them.

The good news? They always get a head start. But of the Union side we are made of no lesser stuff than the Greatest Generation. And our kids are simply fantastic.

== The Billionaires' Government ==

Stick a sterling silver fork in Trump’s ‘populism’. So says Dana Milbank, describing the gourmet meetings, as Trump fills his government with billionaires, Wall Street veterans and guys who tripled their lavish inheritances by dissolving U.S. companies.  By far the richest cabinet in history, replete with parasites, top to bottom and nary a working stiff like Joe Biden to be seen.

See also:


Alas, Milbank and others actually believe this hypocrisy might undermine DT’s working class white-boomer-male support. But he is wrong. Because this was never about economic self-interest or working class angst or pain or class resentment.  

It all makes sense when viewed as Culture War. A million southern men marched in 1861 and died defending their own oligarch oppressors - plantation lords - because they shared a cultural spite toward snooty, citified northerners. 

Today, “facts” and “consistency” are university things, professorial and hence (as taught by Fox) the enemy. If Trump’s appointments gall folks like Dana Milbank, then that is a feature, not a bug. Already, the right-o-sphere is proclaiming DT’s genius at setting foxes to guard the henhouse. “Who better?” they are crowing. 

Do not expect this to be won by fact or argument. But take solace as he pushes Fox-ism to the next level, assailing not only scientists, teachers, doctors and every other knowledge caste.  He won’t be able to resist making Joe McCarthy’s mistake, attacking the intelligence community and the United States Officer Corps. You can already hear the incantation "deep state!" It is code for waging war upon the last fact-people standing.

 And that’s when they will go too far.

== Cool War ==

There are no front lines in war or peace,” the late Israeli leader Shimon Peres said in an interview way back in 1995 when the influence of the internet was first being felt. “Science knows no borders, technology has no flag, information has no passport. The new challenges transcend the old notion of boundaries.”

Global data transfer of private information, not to mention the alleged Russian meddling in the U.S. election as well as regular bouts of cybertheft from China and America’s own cyberattacks on Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs, have proven Peres prescient. As former four-star general and CIA director David Petraeus wrote in The WorldPost, “Cyber capabilities are further blurring the boundaries between wartime and peacetime, and between civilian and military spaces.” In the military realm, he says, cyber has now become a borderless domain of warfare. Yet, as with nuclear weapons in the past, he concludes, “Security in the century ahead will depend more on our moral imagination — and with it, the ability to develop concepts of restraint — than it will on amazing technological breakthroughs.”

Also in the World Post: Matthew Dallek argues that cyber technologies will change warfare as much, if not more so, than the advent of air power, which enabled the “total war” of firebombing or nuking major cities. To prepare for what the future might bring, he advises that “we allow our fears to inspire our thinking, and anticipate new perils and consequences before they show up at all of our doorsteps.” For philosopher Peter Singer, what we are more likely to confront, at least in the near term, “is a competition more akin to the Cold War’s pre-digital battles, where you saw a cross between influence and subversion operations with espionage.” He adds: “That’s particularly true with what Russia has been up to.” 

We’ve seen what a difference communications can make. After the 9/11 attacks, New Yorkers acted with alacrity and stunning coordination, with average citizens doing much of the emergency work – and rebelling against enemies on Flight 93 – because they were empowered by primitive cell phones. In New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina wrecked the entire cell network and citizens were unable to self-organize.  I have often written -- told audiences in places as high as the White House OSTP – that it should be trivial to fix this vulnerability, by simply equipping our mobile devices with a backup, peer-to-peer (p2p) text passing capability.  Folks at Qualcomm have told me that their chips can already support this!  All it would take is for AT&T and Verizon to “turn it on.”
                                                                                                                             At which point the U.S. and Canada would need only a few backup repeaters across the Rockies and Plains to have at-minimum a totally-robust telegraphy system – say at the 1940 level – for all citizens, no matter how much damage some enemy inflicts.  How long have I been saying this? And offering other ways to boost our resilience? At least 15 years.

(By the way, such a capability needn’t undermine the telcos’ profits one iota, unless they are too inept to program in charges, when texts get passed out of a dark zone into cell tower range. I could do that with my pinkie.)

Now comes word that the folks who got us boxed into this corner of fragility will profit from it: “AT&T has won a lucrative contract to build and manage a nationwide public safety network for America's police, firefighters, and emergency medical services. The First Responder Network Authority, or FirstNet, will run in parallel to current networks. "FirstNet will provide 20MHz of high-value, telecommunications spectrum and success-based payments of $6.5 billion over the next five years to support the network buildout." 


Oh, in Brinnews: Wisconsin Public Radio aired a 12-minute segment asking me to explain how self-righteous indignation can be an addiction, perhaps as fierce - and potentially devastating to our society - as heroin. Years ago I gave a talk about this at the National Institute on Drugs and Addiction, and the notion has been gaining traction. Alas, too slowly to help ease us out of this (deliberately provoked) era of stunning, indignant fury.

Listen in, if you are willing to look at your own angry "high" in a new light!

And finally… Pew released a report on social media and negative political trends with quoted bits from (among others) Brad Templeton and me. Pew does the smartest stuff.  Almost as if we were members of a species worthy of actual civilization, and not short-tempered twits.

Hell yes it's rigged.  And our minds are hacked. Wake up.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Chaos - and disturbances - in the Oval Office

The good news? Donald Trump is behaving so incoherently, unable to parse sentences, claiming to have coined phrases like “pump-priming,” announcing to the nation that “no one knew” that Abraham Lincoln had been a Republican, and changing his story about firing the FBI director within hours. You know I could go on and on with examples… like covfefe... any one of which would have put DT’s supporters in a tizzy, if they saw it done by a Democrat.

Putting that hypocrisy aside, there is a silver lining to this behavior. It means our protectors – the grownups – are fully warned. The adult men and women in the intelligence and law communities, civil service and military officer corps are already mentally prepared to do their duty, if something outrageous tips over into threatening – instead of just irritating or infuriating – the republic.

This is why I recently posted a plea for folks not to push hard for impeachment! (See below.) I gave a dozen reasons, any one of which should convince, including the mob of highly disciplined and leak-proof Dominionist fanatics that would enter the White House with a President Pence.  But the biggest reason is, again, the skill and professionalism of our protector caste. 

Aside: A dozen years ago, after a speech at an alphabetical and secret agency, I asked a couple of senior guys the following question: “I know you can’t answer this, but do you have a group or division charged with watching out for subornation of high officials of the United States?” From puzzled looks, I realized that the word “subornation” seemed strange to them, despite the fact that this method was used in struggled between nations for 4000 years and is well described in Sun Tzu's The Art of War.

The word isn’t strange to them anymore, I betcha.  See a chilling image of DT grinning with the Russian ambassador and foreign minister, the day after Trump fired the man overseeing the investigation of Russia-GOP connections.

This is why many of you are hearing the term "Deep State" being bandied by your conservative friends and their hypnosis channels. After waging war upon almost every single profession that deals with facts - from science and teaching to journalism and so on - the cult now finds they must undermine and discredit the last few standing: the FBI, the Intelligence Community and the United States Military Officer Corps. "Deep State" is the clarion call to denounce those fact-users, as well, by raising the spectre of an Orwellian "inner party" or concealed state run by conspiratorial bureaucrats.  

Mind you, I do think Suspicion of Authority is an important factor in the American psyche! And deep states have happened and might happen here. But right now, the protector caste is blatantly our main hope for maintaining the one thing most in danger of utter destruction by Fox and its co-conspirators.

Grownup maturity. The patriotic adulthood to respond calmly and purposefully, when we have clearly been invaded and suborned.

“To me, the question might finally come down to this,” Celeste Wallander, President Obama’s senior adviser on Russia, said. “Will Putin expose the failings of American democracy or will he inadvertently expose the strength of American democracy?”

== The loony-immature impeachment impatience ==

Back to the panic room. Those waving their arms and screaming "Impeach now!" are either shrill fools or else work for the Kochs, who can see everything they built being discredited by Donald Trump.  Take this fellow's spiel in Der Spiegel. "A Danger to the World  It's Time to Get Rid of Donald Trump:  Donald Trump has transformed the United States into a laughing stock and he is a danger to the world. He must be removed from the White House before things get even worse."

Bull and and 100% wrong, in every conceivable way.  As I have said elsewhere, timing is key. Trump is a GOP problem, now. Our civil servants and intelligence and military communities are now fully warned about him and are busy isolating and neutralizing his ability to do sudden or devastating harm.  Sure, he can still wreak havoc on budgets and short term international relations and court appointments etc... I am not making light of all this. But on the truly major, existential plane, he is currently not really a danger to anyone but the Republican Party.  

Whereas (I cannot repeat too often) Mike Pence is a truly dedicated Dominionist, who would fill the White House with tightly disciplined apocalypse fans. Read about why patience is now our greatest virtue.

More on the Dominionists below.

== Worshiping Reagan? ==

As Doyle McManus reports in the LA Times, “There are two kinds of conservatives in the Republican Party now: those who still invoke the memory of Ronald Reagan, and those who see more value in Trumpism…. When President Trump spoke at the conference on Friday, he never mentioned Reagan’s name at all.  Neither did Stephen K. Bannon, the president's chief theoretician. Instead, they talked about what Bannon called “a new political order” — one that leaves big parts of Reaganism behind.”

McManus focuses on policy differences between Reagan and Trump, and they are many. But this drift toward omitting the central deity of conservatism has a deeper meaning. Quick. Name one GOP leader between Reagan and Ryan who was even mentioned at the 2016 Republican Convention!


 Except for frenzied Trumpist Newt Gingrich, all were brushed under the rug, including both Bushes, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Dennis (friend to boys) Hastert, Tom (convicted felon) DeLay, Boehner, McCain, Dole, Romney....  In fact, name a Republican between Eisenhower and Ryan who was even mentioned by the party at the RNC, other than Reagan and Newt! This shows how writhing ashamed Republicans are, of their record at governance.  How desperate they are, to double down with new heroes, shouting "squirrel!" and pointing offstage at ever-greater hallucinations, rather than face the fact that their side has gone insane.

== Trump reversals add up daily ==

President Donald Trump says he’s open to raising the federal gas tax to fund infrastructure improvements -- a position that could pit him against his fellow Republicans in Congress and might hit rural voters who supported him harder than others.” -- reports Bloomberg News.

Yipe! “President Trump said Monday he’s considering breaking up major Wall Street banks and could support bringing back a Depression-era law separating consumer and investment banking.” -- reports The Hill.

And now he calls the House "health bill" - which he praised to the skies, a month ago - "mean and completely wrongheaded. Oh. My.

  == The Prosperity Gospel Strikes ==

We’ve all heard of it. The Prosperity Gospel preaches that God rewards virtue in this life, in direct proportion to the degree that a person follows a specific set of doctrines, incantations and beliefs… and not just heavenly reward, but with money and health, as well. As evidence, the preachers point – to themselves!  Aren’t they prospering, from the donations of tens of thousands of followers? When a parishioner has luck, they claim credit. When bad fortune falls? You didn’t believe fervently enough.

What about the testimony of history? That health and wealth have only a slight correlation with virtuous living? Answer: what kind of a sinful nerd would cite – or even knows any – history?  Ah, but it’s accelerating, as tens of millions double down on a hysteric sense of denial, as demonstrated in this interesting article, showing how the GOP “health plan will hurt the very people frothing for it.

Trump’s rise came as a preacher of the prosperity gospel. His promise to repeal Obamacare and replace it with just about nothing in particular relied as much on dissatisfaction with the current law as it did the delirious optimism of prosperity, and the idea that the real way to better America was to make life better for healthy and wealthy people, and to further link the two, writes Vann Newkirk in The Atlantic.

== The Dominionist Core ==

The “American ISIS is called “Dominionism” – an offshoot of fundamentalist Christianity that proclaims its desire for a coming apocalypse, as foretold in the gruesomely sadistic and opposite-to-Jesus-in-all-ways Book of Revelation.  Moreover, while they strive to topple our civilization, they also fervently declare that:

* The United  States once was, and should again be, a doctrinal Christian nation, denying the equality of other religions, or even other versions of Christianity.
• Dominionists endorse theocratic visions. The U.S. Constitution should be seen as a vehicle for implementing Biblical principles.
• Dominionists hold that wealthy people are superior to the rest of humanity and that government should be captured by them to serve only them.


As evidence of the last point, Dominionist preachers point to themselves – rich as Midas from parishioner donations that are never taxed. Dominionism means they no longer hide their mansions, ranches and helicopters, but flaunt them as proof of God’s love, promising poor suckers that they, too, will have helicopters, once the unbelievers are toppled and their wealth redistributed.

Blog commentaror Peter Olotka wrote in with the following tabulation of Dominionists in the Trump Administration -- all  of them recruited and vetted by Trump’s Dominionist Vice President:

Vice President  Mike Pence  
HUD Secretary  Ben Carson
Education Secretary  Betsy DeVos
Energy Secretary  Rick Perry
Attorney General  Jeff Sessions
CIA Director  Mike Pompeo
Agriculture Secretary  Sonny Perdue
HHS Secretary  Tom Price
EPA Director:  Scott Pruitt

Note that Trump had never met most of the Cabinet before he was President. Then, recently added:  Voter Fraud Commission: Kris Kobach, Secretary of State in bankrupt Kansas. And rumored to be on the shortlist for FBI Director: John Cornyn. 

Other powerful members of the cult include Steve Bannon & Kelly Ann Conway. Both are on the Council for National Policy a secretive Dominionist organization which has been planning a US government take over for decades. Kelly Ann is on the executive committee: Earlier notable (raving) dominionists included Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachman. There have also long been rumors – backed up by investigative reporting – of a cabal of Dominionist Air Force Generals who are high in the nuclear chain of command.  (The other services have resisted this infiltration.)


I have certainly written about the Dominionist  frenzy.  My own take is that this movement - along with almost every other aspect of this debacle - is driven not so much by religious faith as by:

1- The needs of a swathe of oligarchs (not all billionaires, but a lot of them) who want to lock in feudal social order...

2- Hatred of intellect. Of all the smartypants city/university types. This is why Hillary Clinton miscalculated, thinking DT's own words would bury him. He rose up in the esteem of the confederate rank and file, each time he infuriated us; that was his chief attractive trait and remains so.  

This means his bulwark of support, the untouchable core of maybe 1/3 of the population, will not be moved by our complaints over crazy stuff. Every seething yelp we emit goes straight to their pleasure centers.

Bear in mind that impeaching Trump will empower these people, even more! Wait. Wait until Congress changes hands. And I'll tell you later how to do that.

We need new tactics.

== Surveillance and such ==

Operation Bedbug
This interactive map shows which hotels around the world are part of Operation Bedbug – an intense campaign by the Chinese government to buy up hotel chains that might then spy on guests, tapping the house WiFi, installing cameras and bugs, especially in locales that host tech conferences. 

This honey pot trap was exposed at the famed Waldorf-Astoria in NYC, by INVNT/IP and Mark Anderson’s Strategic News Service. As a result, the Waldorf lost so much business from (rightfully) paranoid officials and executives that the hotel effectively went out of business.
     
Not mentioned is the other danger – using these hotels to lure lonely officials into bad judgment and behaviors that make them subject to blackmail.  ALL of you should beware.

== Republicans vs Democrats ==

And finally... a few things that are independent of left-right politics distinguish Republican presidents from Democratic ones.  Exceptionally telling is what they do after leaving office.  

GOP ex-presidents -- 100% of them -- retire to a ranch or farm, hold court, play golf, engage in some craft, sit on a few corporate boards. 

DP ex-presidents -- almost all of them -- scurry about frenetically and busily arm-twisting and speaking for causes, trying to save the world.  The one exception was Lyndon Johnson, who was so exhausted and wounded in the post-Vietnam miasma that he just kinda waited on his ranch for it all to end ASAP.

There are other distinguishing traits. Every Democratic nominee for president chooses a running mate who is both highly qualified and rather boring. 

With one exception, GOP nominees pick running mates who are spectacularly unqualified to run a great, technologically advanced and forward looking civilization.  That exception was Ronald Reagan, whose choice was - on paper -- hugely well qualified.  And that choice went on to become the worst president of the 20th Century. (His son is no longer the worst of the 21st Century. Some distinction.)

See another non-political hint at the core difference of personality between the parties... obsession with symbolism... which also lies at the heart of our present madness.

An amusing anecdote how one fellow – frustrated by a bad grade – was almost entirely responsible for getting through the most recent amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  It is also a warning to put time limits on these things.

And now enough. This perspective-dumps just keep getting longer, alas. Oh for a boringly grownup republic, once more.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

On Voter Fraud, Immigration, and Economic Disparity

== The New “Voter Fraud” Commission ==

As usual, Democrats are right to complain… and they are doing it all wrong.

President Trump declared a commission aimed at justifying his unfounded voter fraud claims.  (“Millions cast illegal ballots, giving Hillary Clinton her huge popular vote margin.”) But instead of appointing a blue-ribbon, bipartisan committee of nationally respected sages, the commission will be spearheaded by Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, often tied to white nationalists.

Riiight.  Go to Kansas - by far the worst governed state in the Union - for wisdom. I'll get back to that, later.

To be clear, I have never objected to gradually ramping up requirements that voters show ID. (See my earlier,more extensive postings on this.) But we need to bear in mind:

(1) There is no factual evidence that this is a major problem requiring urgent-rapid action. Voter fraud has repeatedly been shown to be almost nonexistent.

(2) Other forms of cheating are either blatant -- gerrymandering -- or seem extremely likely - e.g. many red states use voting machines that cannot be audited and are made by known-rabid rightwing partisans.

(3) There is a simple test as to whether red state GOP legislators pushing voter ID laws are sincere, or attempting bald-faced suppression of US citizens exercising their rights.  What is that simple test? When red states pass these restrictions, do they also allocate money for compliance assistance

Whenever the federal government – or most states – apply new regs upon business, there is almost always some provision offering those businesses help in complying with the new regs. Sometimes the help is modest, often it is substantial. But the principle is well-established. Moreover, if a new regulation’s impact hits small fry hard – like mom and pop establishments – then the calls for compliance assistance are compelling!

So, here’s the simple test. Have any of the GOP-led state legislatures who passed stiff voter ID laws also alloted funds to help poor citizens to get the IDs they need? It's a win-win, since getting clear ID will also help poor folks to do banking, establish businesses and lift themselves out of poverty. A concerted effort to help a state’s citizens get ID would be both beneficial and prove that those legislatures were sincere. It would refute the accusation that these laws have one sole purpose – cheating.

Okay, here’s the crux. The on-off switch. The total fact that proves criminality and treason. Not one of these red states have passed even a single penny of compliance assistance, to accompany a stiff, new regulatory burden they slapped on their poorest and most vulnerable citizens.  In fact, many of these red – no, they must be called gray – states went on a binge of closing DMV offices “to save money,” mostly in poor or democratic-leaning counties. They made compliance with their own law harder. Deliberately much harder.

Hence the indictment is proved. As it is with the utterly laughable-hypocritical “commission” that Donald Trump just appointed.  They are exposed as liars. Cheaters. Betrayers. Hypocrites and traitors. Confederates.

== Disparities in wealth.. and lifespan ==

Want the wealth disparity problem brought starkly home? Look at this chart. Then ponder what one worried analyst wrote, in late April:

"What is interesting is that whereas Mr. Trump was elected (partly) because he promised to improve the condition of the American worker, since his election, the 0.1% have gained the most as the stock market capitalization has increased by over $2 trillion. Therefore, by now the wealth of the top 0.1% should exceed the wealth of the bottom 90% for the first time since 1941. Remarkably, the recent pronouncements by Trump and coterie suggest that they equate the stock market strength with a strong economy as well…."

Notice how the blue line started surging upward, in tandem with the red line's fall, with the arrival of Ronald Reagan's tax cuts on passive capital gains. 

Tell me. Do you actually think the crushed middle class will continue to drink the plantation lords' koolaid -- the soothing rhetoric that the beneficiaries of this trend aren't the ones to blame for it?

 Lifespan disparities among the races have been narrowing (in the U.S.). Good news... though that may change. Meanwhile, lifespan disparities have been increasing geographically. Look at the map. Now squint and correlate it with our red-blue divide. Several observations:  (1) Appalachia and the Olde South got huge help from FDR, then Kennedy and Johnson, and these disparities declined. (2) They started climbing again directly after the arrival of Nixon-Reagan and the installation of GOP governments in those states.

Indeed, look at the fiscal condition of states like booming, creative and budget-balanced California vs disasters like Kansas, Oklahoma, Mississippi and...

There is something called Outcomes Correlation. When outcomes so clearly correlate with policies, that doesn't prove the policies were responsible for the outcomes. But it does create that presumption. It shifts the burden of proof onto those who hold otherwise. In this case, the correlation suggests that citizens of these states should recall why their parents adored FDR and Kennedy and Johnson.

It suggests that they have been very badly governed by their GOP state leaders, whose confederate policies (favoring rich plantation lords) might be discredited compared to policies that show blue states doing ever-better.  Outcomes appraisal should "trump" left-right dogmas or identity-populism. Outcomes appraisal is a sign that you are sapient, capable of examining what's in your self- interest.

What's in your outcomes-correlated self-interest? To never trust a Republican Politician with a burnt match, ever, ever again.

See outcomes appraised in some detail, if you dare: Do outcomes matter more than rhetoric?

== Kansas, Kansas, doodle doo ==

Oh, I promised a further thought about Dorothy's home state.

Almost hidden in the announcement of a $110 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia -- in which Trump treasonously swore to help the sheiks and princes 'get a great deal' from U.S. companies -- is a small matter of industrial shift.  Using Saudi money as a cudgel, Trump coerced agreement from Boeing, Lockheed etc to move production from blue states to red ones, at least partially, with Kansas the biggest beneficiary.

Sure, this is partly just more mean-minded politics.  While Democrats in power sent heaps of blue state generated money (and NASA centers) into Appalachia and the South as part of anti poverty programs, Republicans push cash flows in the same direction as a matter of pure spite and vengeance, with California and New York special targets.

 But there's a particular reason to single out Kansas for this latest huge largesse. You see, under Sam Brownback, the GOP-led state government there doubled down on "Supply Side (voodoo) Economics," slashing taxes on the rich while chopping services for the middle class and poor. The theory posits that giving gushers of gifts to the aristocracy will stimulate economic activity so much that it will erase deficits. In fact, SSVE has never worked. Once. Ever. At all. Anywhere or at any time.

Sure enough, Kansas is now drowning in debt, bankruptcies, ruined schools and collapsing infrastructure. KS voters punished the GOP in the last election, but nowhere near as much as seems likely, next time. Worse yet for the plantation lords, the Kansas economic collapse is so stark that maybe, at long last, a large majority of Americans will get riled up and thoroughly smash the trickle-down insanity.

The lords' hope - underlying the Saudi Arms Deal - is that transferring production from Washington State and California to Kansas will federally prop up the latter state's disaster enough to keep the delusion going for just a while longer. 

And now you understand the insidious sub-text, beneath the news.

== Points of disagreement ==

I’ll happily offer up moments when I don’t disagree with President Trump. (In part because it maintains my credibility to oppose his many deficiencies.) Two of these are found in his admiration for some Canadian policies.  For example, he recently spoke positively of Canada’s single-payer healthcare system. Which we are are now more likely to get, since the recently passed GOP “Obamacare replacement” will explode in short order.

Another is in the under-discussed matter of LEGAL immigration, which has far greater effects than the infamously transfixing topic of undocumented incomers.

“In the U.S., about two-thirds of permanent residents are admitted to reunite with family members,” writes Paul May. “Less than 20 percent are admitted because of their professional skills. In Canada, by contrast, it’s almost the opposite: more than 60 percent of permanent residents are admitted via the economy class, and only a quarter are admitted because of family reunification.” 

The family reunification system, set up by the democrats, is horrible.  Oh sure, it sounds nicely moral and goody-goody and I support reuniting parents and children and young siblings.  But beyond that, it is actually deeply immoral, giving advantage to people in the “home country” who are already way luckier than their neighbors, by having American cousins who send money and advantages. This luck advantage is wretchedly indefensible and has no justification at all.  

Why not let in folks who can adapt to US society swiftly and productively, giving us a win-win? Can you think of any better way to keep us rich and diverse and vibrant -- and rich -- enough to keep being generous in the world and letting in more?

== Miscellany ==

* People are prank calling President Trump's new office to report illegal "criminal aliens" — just not the type of "aliens" President Trump had in mind when he created the office.

* An elder thought: I do wonder if I am the only person on the planet who remembers how, in the 60s and early 70s, there were economists hand wringing a worry that seems utterly weird, today.  At then-present rates, if all the pension plans were fully vested, then by 2010 the workers would - through those pension plans - "own the means of production."  They would own the factories and have the largest share of stock equity.  Then came wave after wave of refusal to vest the pension funds... and the 'problem' is now entirely forgotten!

I can't even get economists my age, like John Mauldin, to remember this.  They get uncomfortable and change the subject. Do any of you remember it, at all? With citations?

* When was America great? I have eviscerated the confeds’ first, reflex answer — the 1950s of “Happy Days” — is easy to refute. But then, romantic nostalgists are adaptable. As they keep moving the goal posts on climate change, they will shift when they say American greatness peaked. Though this article shows how even the first billionaire, in 1916, lived in many ways worse than most middle class Americans of 2017.

Romantic nostalgia is an ancient poison, as described in this interesting piece. “How Nostalgia Made America Great Again.”  See my takedown of 1950s nostalgia here. The Greatest Generation - of that era - wanted desperately to make a better world... and they succeeded.

Anybody who wants to go back to the 1950s insults the great men and women who lived and strived and worked then!

 * A meme warfare unit? A hilarious spoof that ought to be true!


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Science Fiction in the news: Nebulas, flicks and real-life Skynet!

Congratulations to the winners of SFWA's Nebula Award for best in science fiction and fantasy for 2016. Charlie Jane Anders won Best Novel for All the Birds in the Sky, Seanan McGuire won Best Novella for Every Heart a Doorway, William Ledbetter won for Novelette, and Amal El-Mohtar for Short Story.

It's Space Opera Week! "Explore the Cosmos in 10 Classic Space Opera Universes!"  On the Tor site, Alan Brown takes you on a tour of his favorites. Good stuff! (Okay I am biased, but they're all good! ;-)


A recent TV interview, Resolving 21st Century Challenges - on Future Talk TV in the Bay Area, with host Martin Wasserman.

Want something to do with a spare minute, now and then, while out and about with your phone? I’ve begun answering questions on a new phone app called Askers! For info, see TheAskers.com. New users get free credits, so no charge to listen to my first few 1-minute answers - about singularities, uplift, gravity lasers, AI and The Postman flick. You can even earn money by asking popular questions!


The rebooted Omni-Online has featured ten science fiction books that "changed the genre forever." From The Time Machine to The Left Hand of Darkness, 1984 to Neuromancer, The Giver to I, Robot. Very flattered to see The Postman on this list - though there are certainly many worthy candidates for post-apocalyptic fiction.


Oh, we just watched "Passengers" -- the recent film about two people stranded aboard an interstellar luxury liner when their hibernation ends 90 years too soon. A pleasant and well-crafted film that touches traditional notes in freshly sf'nal ways.  What I found remarkable though is that it eschewed the standard need to base everything upon Villainy, Apocalypse, Pessimism, Incompetence and Dystopia (VAPID).* 

The peril and jeopardy and tension in "Passengers" are all the result of bad luck, happenstance, character and a rough universe -- no bad guys. In this respect, it was like "The Martian" and the lovely, gentle Spike Jonze film "Her." One can hope that more creators will rise above the reflexive Idiot Plot and ponder how drama can be told without the lazy, plot-simplifying assumption of stupidity.

Only slightly less rare are shows in which either the villainy is secondary to the generally positive and uplifting theme -- "The Arrival" and "Eureka" -- or else at least some faith is kept with the notion that humans and their institutions can gradually improve: "Star Trek," of course, and "Stargate" and "Babylon Five." Others folks? Oh but the Idiot Plot is vastly more common. Read about it.

== SF interfaces reality and science! ==


NIAC, NASA's Innovative and Advanced Concepts program funds twenty-two visionary space concepts -- many seemingly from the pages of science fiction! Wait for word about the coming NIAC Symposium in Denver, September 25-27. Open to the public, if you register. As a member of NIAC's advisory External Council, I'll be there.


Cloning in the news: Harvard scientists have inserted wooly mammoth genes into an elephant's genome. Wooly mammoth clones may be resurrected in our near future -- a topic visited often in SF. See: "Twelve Memorable Times Science Fiction Sent in the Clones" which offers a selection of novels that explore futuristic implications of cloning, from Hannu Rajaniemi’s The Quantum Thief to Mur Lafferty’s Six Wakes, Richard Morgan’s Altered Carbon, Kazua Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go... and my own Kiln People. Well, a kind of clone, I guess.

AI: Inspiration: The New York Times names science fiction novels that have helped frame the discussion about artificial intelligence, including books from I, Robot to Ghost Fleet and films from Blade Runner to Her

World’s largest hedge fund to replace managers with artificial intelligence.” For years I have warned that “Skynet” is less likely to arise from military programs than from Wall Street, where more money is spent on AI research than at the top twenty universities… and where the central ethos is secrecy, insatiability, predatory, parasitical and completely amoral. Bridgewater wants day-to-day management—hiring, firing, decision-making—to be guided by software that doles out instructions.” And as I write this… we just watched Terminator Genisys last night.  Yipe.

On a more positive note: See an extensive blog posting by  the innovative maven of computational theory - Stephen Wolfram on developing the alien language for Arrival, and how the alien spaceship might work. Plus see his chart on reasons aliens might come to Earth. He offers much more, actually, like a dissection of some concepts for interstellar travel. 


Stephen's more recent, mini-book-length posting offers an amazing, expansive and comprehensive posting - is actually a mini-book, contemplating what insights he has had since his epic book “A New Kind of Science” came out, 15 years ago.


Newly released from MIT Press: Frankenstein: Annotated for Scientists, Engineers and Creators of all Kinds, an anthology of notes and essays commemorating the bicentennial of Mary Shelley's groundbreaking novel. Essays by Doctorow, Bear and others explore the social, ethical and scientific implications of Shelley's tale.

Apparently The Expanse is teetering on the edge of cancelation. Spread the word and consider ways to make your viewership visible. And The Handmaid's Tale is premiering on Hulu.


== News and announcements ==

On Locus Online, eminent critic Paul Di Filippo offers an insightful, thorough and positive appraisal of my new transparency anthology Chasing Shadows. If you were wavering, this might put the book on your Get List! 

How to endure the unendurable? A lovely reading of my short story, The Logs -- from my collection Insistence of Vision.

I originally submitted two scripts to the one page screenplay competition in LA.  The first one -- "Bargain" won the contest! The role of Ronald Reagan was delightfully performed by Peter Nelson. Poor sound quality, but nicely done.

The second one "Diaspora" was also produced -- well sort of.  The reading was less artfully done.  No effort was made to get the accents. Heck, the taxi driver could at least have turned his chair! Still, it's a thrill to be produced! Here comes the bigtime! I hope you enjoy an ironic little piece.

Oh and now this cool item. A team of brilliant cinematographers have forged ahead on the "Neo" film, about humanity's future. Their first announcement trailer won the 'Future-Maker Award' at Beijing's 2016 Global Innovator Conference and was covered domestically in the US. I'm flattered how they made use of my miserably limited supply of erudition and charisma.

Here is a link to the film's news page.  The filmmakers are currently in their 2nd round of financing, aiming to continue production this Spring 2017. Neo was also just accepted into the Realscreen Summit Showdown at the end of January in Washington DC where they will have the opportunity to pitch the film to leading distributors like Netflix, HBO, Discovery, Nat Geo, and more.


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PS... okay I admit it what one of you pointed out. * Substitute "despair" for "pessimism" and you could use "DAVID".