Category Archives: Current Events, Politics, All That Jazz

The Great Solar System War

Just as there’s a “circle of life,” there’s a circle of war. And we’re gonna get circled if we let current events barrel along as they are — I do see people conscious of how interesting the times have become, and speaking out about the dangers (shout out to global climate change, which is co-morbid with what I’m going to say here), and that’s good. Hopeful. But.

75ish years after World War II, the circle seems to be coming around again. Pseudo-Nazis and actual Nazis and assorted bigoted pro-genocide and pro-authoritarian types who might technically not be Nazis or pseudo-Nazis but are so close that WTF is the difference are upset there’s not enough evil and hate and murder in the world and are standing up in droves to demand more evil and hate and murder.

And millions of dipshits, the Dipshit-in-Chief at their head, shrug and say “well, all they’ve done is say they want to destroy our civilization and murder millions of people we can’t object… in fact, I’m kind of cool with it because I dislike some of the people they want to mass-murder… and I’m sure some of them are “very fine people.”

The wheel turns, and it is fashionable to think that nuclear weapons aren’t a big deal and NOBODY is talking about biological weapons anymore because that’s so 1990s who would even do that old-fashioned stuff. Except I’ve got a funny feeling there’s some Captain Trips in test tubes here and there because who throws out a perfectly good weapon after paying all that money to develop it?

Sigh.

I just KNOW World War III is going to break out the same day I sell enough writing to live on for the first time.

That’d be just my luck, you dirty old world.

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Insurance Accountants Decide If You Get To Live: A Twitter Rant Followed By A Here Rant

(PATREON PATRONS: I’m sorry this is here and not on Patreon first. Patreon does not support embedding Twitter rants, and I kind of need them there for this one. Sincerely, I’m sorry you didn’t get to see this first, because this is a quality post. I won’t do this often, and I’ll make it up to you. *WRITES FICTION FURIOUSLY*)

I threw some related tweets on at the end. This is our reality in the USA: our care is outrageously expensive — the most expensive in the world by about double the next costliest nation — in order to pay unneeded middlemen: insurance companies. Our prices skyrocket to pay multimillion dollar salaries to the upper ranks of health insurance and health care provider corporations.

And to preserve those bonuses, those same executives slash access to care, are working on slashing the unprofitable right into the grave to make way for healthy people whose insurance costs continue to rise year after year.

Obamacare was better than what we had before. It hindered the ability of insurance company accountants to decide you needed to die to preserve their profits. It slightly dented the steady rise of health insurance premiums, which have continued to outstrip inflation by a mile for at least 30 years.

But before Obamacare was Obamacare, it was (Republican Mitt) Romneycare. It was the GOP counterproposal to universal healthcare, and as such it was designed to protect insurance and healthcare corporation profits at the expense of the lifespans and quality of life of the American people. And it shows.

We pay more as a nation for healthcare, and our lives are growing shorter and sicker. That’s what we’re buying for all that money. That, and a lot of yachts and fat tax-sheltered accounts in the Cayman Islands for fatcats.

But don’t just believe me. Read about our falling lifespans and sicker lives in Bloomberg, which isn’t exactly known for being a liberal rag.

“But,” you might say, “I’ve heard such terrible things about socialized healthcare.”

Sure, you have. I have too. But the simple fact of the matter is that in any nation with per capita or absolute wealth anywhere NEAR the same ballpark as the USA’s, it does a better job making citizens healthy, happy, and productive than our current or past system has managed to do here in the USA.

Here’s a conservative-slanted Forbes article about ten nations with economies considered more free than the US economy, but which have universal healthcare — which as you recall some of our own GOP hysterically calls “slavery.” I’m not agreeing with all the author’s points — but read it anyway. Overall it backs up what I’m saying above, but from another point of view and with some different conclusions that are, perhaps, less shaded by my own life, in which I have lived with a minor congenital hip deformity that has escalated into me needing a cane for mobility for the last six years (I’m only 47, DAMMIT) and suffering significant, life-and-mood-changing chronic pain. And why do I live with this pain and chronic suffering? Because my hip has never been a threatening emergency, so it’s not treatable. What could have been fixed in a couple of hours 20 years ago now requires a hip replacement I won’t get anytime soon unless I break my hip, in which case doctors will have to replace it (so a doctor specializing in hip replacement surgery has told me) because it wouldn’t heal soundly — and in fact is in danger of becoming necrotic (dead and rotting) because all the cartilage is worn away in there and some of the bone, and bone rubbing on bone and slowly grinding itself to death not only HURTS, but it also squeezes blood vessels and threatens the vital blood supply to keep the bone alive in there.

But I rant.

Takeaway: look, I like several aspects of capitalism. I’m trying to sell you books so I can earn money to make my family’s life better (HINT HINT HEY BUY MY BOOKS PLEASE), and so I am a one-person small business.

But NO SYSTEM SOLVES EVERY PROBLEM. Example: do you know why your local big grocery store has great low prices on an enormous selection of food? Because we have an AIEEE EVIL SOCIALIST INTERSTATE SYSTEM that makes trucking all that food to your store WAY faster and cheaper than the privatized equivalent, a chaotic web of toll roads governed by whoever happens to own each 20 mile stretch — even if they could all coordinate their efforts, which they couldn’t. And the AIEEE EVIL SOCIALIST INTERSTATE SYSTEM is safer than trucking my Washington apples the 2,900-ish miles to Norfolk, Virginia over a chaotic web of toll roads each built to a different company standard of composition and safety and not, after all, guarded by AIEEE EVIL SOCIALIST FEDERAL AND STATE LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES, but by whatever hooligans the local privatized road company could scrape together to protect their toll roads, probably by shooting anyone who looks suspicious from long range because, hey, that’s cheaper than taking chances. Nevermind that my Washington apples now cost $50/lb because of all the dead truckers in ditches with rotting loads of apples behind them.

Yeah, I’ve digressed. But you get the point. Pure ideologies suck, and capitalism is no exception. Just as a healthy diet requires diverse foods to meet our bodies’ many requirements, so a healthy nation requires diverse approaches to meet our peoples’ many requirements.

Healthcare doesn’t work well managed purely by capitalism. Like interstate highways, we need to all contribute a bit of our taxes toward creating and preserving a solid system that meets many needs for all our people.

Could You Imagine?

2067: First Major Metro Goes Off National Electric Grid

I’ve taken up tweeting from the future, example above, in addition to my usual political-writing-SciFi-whatevs antics @Tao23.

It keeps me thinking to turn out those tweets on a semi-regular basis. And the tweets can make a great nucleus for future SciFi News Network posts here, AKA my futurist “predictions.” Older posts are formatted to look kind of like actual articles from the future. I’m seeing more posts like this, where I let the Tweetmorrow tweet stand for the future story and then get to speculate and explain like I’m doing now. This is fun.

Predictions in quotes because who knows what monkeywrenches the future could throw into the works? Our pet Trumphole could yet start a nuclear war and derail everything…

Donald J. Trump on Twitter https   t.co P4vAanXvgm.png

Nothing like trying to provoke a nuclear war in a lame attempt to prove how macho you are, s–t for brains.

…but gee, we’d save his personal pet illusion of his machismo so win-win post-apocalyptic Mad Max hellhole, right?

rick-and-morty-gets-the-mad-max-treatment.png

50 years seems like a reasonable horizon for a major metro going off-grid and relying on locally generated renewables. Solar, wind, biogas, hydroelectric, geothermal, tidal, and more — there are a lot of options for a city to generate its own local power, and for residences and businesses to take themselves off even the local grid. Batteries like Tesla’s PowerPack (and the residential version, PowerWall) make 24/7 power availability practical even with variables like solar, and small local cooperative grids can increase that support — imagine a neighborhood grid with all the batteries and different forms of power generation contributing. Or a college campus grid. Lots of possibilities.

In the lead story of my Closer Than You Think collection, One More For The Road, the protagonist drives into an isolated, long-off-grid town on its own local grid, with nearly every home and business sending up one or more combo wind turbine and solar collector on a long mast, evoking a field of glittering flowers in her imagination. The masts are even retractable to avoid damage in strong winds and storms. They stand tall and slender in light breezes, short and stout in heavy blows, and fold themselves into protective housings during storms, dormant while the town runs on battery power.

Not too bad a vision, eh? Certainly, there will be advantages and disadvantages, ups and downs. A spell of very strange weather might leave residents rationing their power and sending out battery trucks to pick up spare power from the neighbors. But that seems not so much more trouble than the current system that leaves us in the dark if something damages the wires, transformers, or power stations, and releases more and more carbon dioxide into the air to further warp the already wobbly climate.

Tweets From Many Futures

I used to have a Twitter account that was intended to be a writing-only, no politics or social commentary, version of my primary @Tao23 account.

Does that sound like a boring idea? It was. It bored me and a few people told me it was a boring idea and I stopped using it. So it sat fallow for a few months.

And then I decided that, being a science fiction writer, it might be fun to occasionally write a tweet from the future. Which future? Any future that popped into my mind, of course. I’m the guy who has written and published over 100 short stories with hardly any occupying the same universe — I can think of maybe 2 or 3 times that I’ve come back to a world for a second story.

My writing may or may not be a reflection of my ADHDHEYASQUIRREL to some degree.

Anyway, it’s fun, and it’s kind of another brainstorming outlet and I might get a story idea or two out of it one day, and it’s a flexible enough concept that I can be political or social or silly or nihilistic or hopeful or whatever my mood is that day hour.

So. Go look and follow and enjoy, or not, as the urge moves you. Also, I might take suggestions or retweet your tweet from the future if you’d like. Especially if accompanied by bribes — I accept cash, pizzas, or chocolate.

Eclipse, With Children 


Eclipse viewing with the kiddos. We also had a pair of viewing glasses but the natural pinholes between leaves stole the. show. 

The direct pictures are the product of me putting my cellphone camera in manual settings mode & fiddling around until something weird happened. Not sure why the secondary crescent sun image appeared, but I’m super happy it did. 

We’re in Norfolk, VA so we didn’t see totality. But the sun got down to a skinny crescent and the kids got their minds blown by science and nature. And so did I! 

If The Nukes Start Flying…

Torus_Cutaway_AC75-1086-1_5725-NASA-Ames-Research-Center-publicdomain.jpg

Public domain orbital colony concept, NASA Ames Research Center. Go look at all the images, they’re wonderful.

…a goodly number of us dreamers are going to ruefully reflect that it was entirely possible for humanity to establish off-planet settlements following the Apollo program. Settlements that likely could have been self-sustaining by now because in the alternate reality where humankind put as much effort and resources and brains as possible behind establishing populations outside this fragile egg basket we call Earth, the early ones could have been in orbit and on the moon in the 1980s.

There could have been nearly 40 years to chase the kinks out of the recycling loops and life support and hydroponics. To build solar power plants all over the darn place up there and drag a water-ice comet into Earth orbit if we couldn’t find enough to fling up to orbital colonies from Luna with mass drivers.

40 years to send more and more people up and for people to start being born up there.

40 years to establish a reservoir of human beings and our technological knowledge out of range of Kim Jong-Un and Kim Jong-Trump (brothers of another ego-rage-spiritual mother) and their shoe-on-podium nuclear chest-beating.

Sigh.

Lightsail Probes: Not Just For Seeking Out New Life

So, yesterday on Twitter I got to thinking about laser-launched lightsail nanoprobes:

Currently, the big idea is to launch teeny-tiny lightsail probes at neighboring stars to get a look around — current thought is that technology as it is now could handle boosting some 1 gram probes attached to 20 meter lightsails up to 20% of lightspeed.

(I’ve cued the video to a bit about how teeny the working part of the probe would be — if you’re so inclined the whole video is a long, academic discussion of the whole idea that’s pretty decent if that’s your cup of tea.)

With only a few — but even better with a huge cloud, as I briefly fantasize about elsewhere — we could get a fine look at a stellar neighbor and see if there are any planets there that would be practical targets for a generation ship to settle. Think big, I say. Best to get humanity out of this fragile little egg basket we call Earth. Not just into the rest of the Solar System, but into others if we can manage it.

But nanoprobes, good for peeking at the neighbors, could be great for raw astronomy and investigation of the nature of the universe.

The Quanta link in my lead tweet above is about theories regarding the behavior of dark matter. Imagine how useful for that and other questions we itty-bitty humans have about our gigantic universe it would be to launch a gigantic lens of nanoprobes sailing off in a couple of different directions. To fire them out of the plane of the ecliptic and out of the cloud of particles and matter the Sun drags with it through space. To shoot them toward things we want to observe at 20% of lightspeed and compare the observations with what we see when that light and radiation reaches Earth. To fire them off the other way and let them crawl back in time (effectively) to compare to past observations.

To build expanding lenses light-minutes across in interstellar space, peering deeper and more clearly into the universe than humans have ever managed before.

Take some time to really think about it. It’s a breathtaking opportunity for pure science. And pure science, practical-minded friends, pays off in the long run.

You Are The Enemy Of The People

YOUR FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS ARE THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE - PRESIDENT DONALD J TRUMP

The question is, does President Donald “Joffrey” Trump think he’s having a fun wrestling-entertainment-style feud with CNN and most of the rest of the US press in order to boost his personal ratings, as if he were a television show himself?

CNN Had a Problem. Donald Trump Solved It. The New York Times

Read the excellent full story at the New York Times. Seriously.

Or is Donald J. Trump having a Kim-family-of-North-Korea kind of experience, finding himself enraged that the people His Royal Totally Not A King-ness owns dare do something other than gather in solemn worship of The Totally Not Thinning Or Dyed Haired Demigod Who Walks Among Us Little People?

This Shitty Tennis Player Would One Day Be President

“Golden Calf” is probably a mistranslation. This is an ASS. Crop via images posted at Deadspin in a Patrick Redford story you should totally go laugh at.

I think the answer is yes, both, and even more still.

Have you noticed he keeps having rallies? Either he must refresh himself with the blood of mortals on a regular basis or he’s having rallies so he can bask in adulation and remind himself he is worshiped. Which, really, are almost the same thing.

And he does think he’s having a fun feud (I’m sure he’s enjoying himself to some extent, rubbing his hands together and muttering to himself, “that’ll really piss them off” like a standard-issue online troll). But it’s not just fun, it’s active publicity seeking. After all, doing outrageous things for the press is the way he kept his name in the public eye for decades. He craves attention terribly — if only his parents had frickin’ hugged him once in a while we might not be where we are. But we can say that about a lot of famous White (mostly) guys (mostly) who for some reason are always referred to by all three of their names, Donald John Trump.

He obviously loves working a crowd up, and political crowds probably give him the loudest cheers he’s gotten in his life. I’m sure it feels like a blast of pure crack to the naked brain for a lifelong attention junkie. To get those big rally cheers he’s got to keep the mob worked up. If they start thinking the cheers might become less lusty. We see the understanding of that in the disdain and disgust for things like education, expertise, and experience, which he campaigned against nearly as much as he campaigned against Hillary Clinton, and which he has mostly driven out of the Executive Branch and anywhere his direct influence can comfortably reach. It dovetails nicely with the pseudo-anarchic smash-everything-ism of (co-?) President Bannon, as well.

Keeping the mob riled up and validating his feelings of superiority also keeps bothersome qualities like reason, empathy, and humanity from surfacing in his vicinity. And those would be problematic for him because not only might someone question him instead of just shouting WOOO! YEAH! but also I’d say his entire life as a unit is a long illustration of the fact that he just doesn’t get those things. In fact, not only does Donny “the J stands for “teeny hands”” Trump not understand reason, empathy, and humanity, but he appears to hate and be disgusted by those qualities.

Which perhaps is a way of life he learned at the knee of Daddy The Slumlord or Daddy the Racist or Daddy Who Never Said I Love You But Called Poor Little Donny A Screwup Way Too Often.

Which, yes, is sad. But we’re the ones suffering for it. If he’s suffering, it’s down deep in a withered empty shell where once he hid the nascent humanity of his youth, but now keeps a raisin that is probably long dead like an inhabitant of the crawlspace under the house of that famous clown’s house.

At seventy-one years old, he has made the awful lessons he learned his own, and has obviously passed it down to his cold, casually-dehumanizing progeny. A proud heritage.

Before I go further, let me bring the title in.

192273 - Granlund via cagle dot com - press is enemy of dictatorship.png

You can see the watermarks — see the original on Cagle.com and then go on to read hundreds of other political cartoons there because humor is good medicine for worrisome times.

Journalists who publish things other than the praise and uncritical adulation Trump craves are, in his words, “the enemy of the American people.” By which he means that as President, the United States is a thing he owns and therefore the people in it are things he owns and therefore people who are journalists and don’t do exactly what he wants are broken things he owns that defy him. And those are things to be hated and crushed.

Your free press is to be hated and crushed.

Your free speech is to be hated and crushed.

You, too, are an enemy of the people, unless you come to praise and only praise Lord Donald “Being Born Rich Makes Me Better Than Mere Humans” Trumpet Solo.

But, you say, it’s all hyperbole.

I say, he doesn’t know what that is. He believes in his own superiority and your inferiority. He believes it deep down and he avoids thinking otherwise, because he avoids thinking. He has told us just that many times.

All the rest of what I’ve said follows because he has no introspection and/or ambition to be a better person. He sees no need. He believes he is already the best person ever, and he has believed that since grade school.

Trump same as in first grade.jpg

Seriously. He told his biographer this as if it was something to be proud of.

He doesn’t think. He hasn’t the depth to keep someone by his side to whisper “you are just a man” into his ear. He hasn’t — he avoids — understanding who and what he is and why he does what he does and thinks what he thinks and feels what he feels and wants what he wants.

All of the above bleeds and oozes from his every word and action because he doesn’t understand hyperbole, but chooses it as a way of life and mode of communication. And he doesn’t understand civil rights, society, the press, government, human beings, or himself. Period. He’s the ultimate know-nothing, and he doesn’t want to know anything about you except whether or not you’re a Trump worshiper or the enemy.

 

If This Goes On: Healthcare “Reform”

man-2106810-death-pixabay-cc0-pubdom

This is where things could go if they go very, very wrong for the American people — not quite the wrongest. The worst case, as usual, is

nuke

And, as a Cold War kid, that image and possible end is always with me. Yep, we could end up eating squirrels and burying half our kids before they turn five, just like the old days. Traveling in nomadic packs. Living the Mad Max life until the gasoline runs out, then just running around in silly overdone armor hammered out of crap dug out of junkyards because it’s a lot easier than trying to find iron ore and making new stuff now that civilization has dug up all the easy to find metal deposits.

(deep breath)

BUT THAT’S NOT WHAT I’M HERE TO TALK ABOUT, I said to myself.

I’m talking about, what if this health care reform deform sets a trend? This massive wealth distribution to the already very wealthy that slashes Medicaid to the bone and reinstalls lifetime and yearly coverage caps for care and calls for pre-existing condition rate hikes that will price cancer survivors and people with genetic conditions like cystic fibrosis and sickle cell anemia and, you know, old people right out of coverage altogether?

What if this “American Health Care Act (AHCA) is just the beginning? (By the way, GOP? I know you’re all on this “learning and education and expertise are bad” jag, but in American English “healthcare” is commonly ONE FREAKIN WORD SERIOUSLY YOU’RE THE ONES TELLING EVERYONE TO SPEAK ENGLISH? Learn to speak and write English, but not too well or everyone will think you’re one of those EVIL EDUCATED SMART PEOPLE AIEE OH GOD RUN BEFORE IT INFECTS YOU WITH LEARNING.)

But I digress. Again. Unfortunately I’m really good at that.

What if this AHCA passes, and sets a trend, and things just keep going that “if you wanted to be healthy you’d have had sense enough to pick wealthy parents” way for a few decades? How bad could it get?

Let’s imagine. Because that’s my business.

But let’s not imagine this healthcare deform will be alone. No, it will come with other things that are developing in our society. Let’s look.

So. Boom. It passes. Very wealthy people enjoy the windfall of anywhere from six hundred billion to a trillion dollars collectively. Sockaroonie, right into the hands of people who make more than a quarter million a year, but mostly into the hands of people who make a million or more a year. And more for billionaires than for you paltry millionaires.

They squirrel a bunch of it away into accounts in the Caymans and elsewhere (I hear Russia is enjoying a vogue in certain bad-hair-tiny-handed circles for some reason).

They open some new factories in China because First Lady Ivanka (is it Co-First Lady? First Lady of Daddy’s Heart? It’s so hard to keep track) has some there and she says it’s a great place to do business, not like that annoying USA where she’d rather drop dead than have a product made. And elsewhere, wherever the labor is cheap.

They invest some at home, though, too. Building some factories, but soon enough robots can build them, not people. So, mostly buying robots from overseas. But when they build a steel mill or an automobile factory or a social media farm to send out #MAGA tweets or whatever in the USA, rest assured they’ll need dozens of people to run a really enormous factory. Mostly fixing robots and tweaking their programs. It might take a little while to get the robot fixing robots on line, like an extra generation.

The robots aren’t quite there yet, in many professions. But we’re getting there fast.

When the people who are babies now go out to find jobs — and there may not be quite as many of them as we thought, the AHCA and its successors may well redistribute more wealth upward with bigger and better cuts and outright elimination of things like Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, EBT/Food Stamps, and so forth, which means higher infant mortality and more kids who die before adulthood — they may find robots doing them.

And not just the poor kids. The less poor kids, the scions of the dying middle class and the bottom of the upper class, the ones making only a paltry quarter million a year, may find their jobs being done by robots as well. It’s easy to imagine robots digging ditches and selling fries, but they can also order supplies and pay bills and manage expenses and plan advertising campaigns and handle routine legal cases and do surgery and repair cars and dispense prescribed medications.

They’re close to that today. In a generation they’ll be able to do it. Once robots are popular enough, the economy of scale kicks in as it is right now with solar and wind power, and prices drop precipitously, and then everyone will want robot workers and nobody will want humans with their messy bathroom breaks and headaches and needing to attend funerals and weddings and wanting retirement funds and asking for raises because the kid needs braces.

So not only will the money be for the top 1%, but the jobs and the healthcare will be for the top 1%. If you’re really lucky. Maybe all those things will be for the top .1%.

And everyone else?

Well, the ones with the money and the jobs and the healthcare will have to figure out what to do with you.

Maybe human servants will come into vogue and we can all get jobs serving the very rich for room and board and maybe some basic medical care. But probably not for cancer or disability or chronic illness. Servants are cheap. When one goes bad, you throw it away and get another one.

Because now life is cheap, and all the gains of society are routed into the pockets of the megawealthy, and all the cool stuff the robots make goes to them as well.

And if you don’t like it? Robots can make more than cool stuff. They can make war as well. Without risking any precious rich skin. Even the military, traditional route out of poverty, can be handled by robots and very, very few humans indeed.

There are a few million more people who can do without healthcare — or at least, who will have to, to free up some more money to give away to the already very wealthy.

Remember, this is a worst case imagining. Things might turn out better than this. But for that to happen, we’re going to have to fight for it. Hopefully figuratively, with words and protests and votes and candidates who can imagine a better purpose for our society than slashing healthcare for half of the nation in order to put a trillion dollars into the pockets of billionaires.