David Brin: Appointing good people… and surviving the bad. And Judo tactics!

And so we have truly entered Bizarro World...

David Brin — scientist, speaker, technology consultant and one of the World’s Best Futurists — discusses the state of science in government and gives Democrats some good advice for November.

[For more by David, visit hiswebsite for his best-selling books and short storiesandblog for his timely commentary on world events.]

Appointing good people… and surviving the bad. And Judo tactics!

Courtesy of David Brin

I won't join the maelstrom of noise surrounding the Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination, since we have other business in this posting. But I will offer three quick points:

  1. If there's danger of "ruining his life," then yes, burden of proof falls on the accusers. But that's an absurd standard. This is not a trial that might lead to prison. It is a job interview for a promotion, and we prospective employers have a perfect right to consider even unproved accusations. And to demand that nominees have no shadows, even unproved ones. And so…

  2. …send us someone else! It's simple. Go to the GOP bullpen and send another candidate. Are you saying you don't have a deep bench of qualified, grownup conservatives? Even someone who hasn't been "groomed" by the oligarchy for decades?

  3. What's with those suddenly-canceled Kavanaugh personal debts, which are asserted to be from illegal gambling? Even if that turns out to be calumny, don't we deserve to be sure this isn't blackmailable?

Enough. Everyone is chattering about this. Let's move on to things you'll find nowhere else.

Science advice, at last?

In the 42 year history of the post of Presidential Science Adviser, some of the smartest humans have been appointed to help U.S. presidents grasp how scientific matters — confirmed facts and gray-unknowns — might bear upon policy decisions. Never was the position unoccupied anywhere near as long as Donald Trump has left it. We’ve been left to guess why… though your guess is probably right.

Elsewhere I commented when it seemed that the job might go to David Gelernter, a Unabomber victim and former tech-progressive who has veered down far-right paths… but who undoubtedly told Mr. Trump “I’ll still tell you if something is clearly untrue.” Oops, mistake. Poof, there went his chances.

All this time, “the highest-ranking science official in the White House has been a 31-year-old poli-sci grad who is a deputy assistant at the (eviscerated) Office of Science and Technology Policy.” (Not even ‘in’ the White House; OSTP (what’s left of it) is next door, in the Executive Office Building.)

Now, in a shock — possibly as a sop to the RASRs (Residually Adult-Sane Republicans) who still teeter inside the GOP tent — meteorologist Kelvin Droegemeier, an expert on extreme weather, has been nominated to the position.

Extreme weather would seem to be a highly pertinent topic, nowadays, and Droegemeier’s former colleagues say his views on climate change align with those of most scientists. And… “There are other scientific policy concerns that would benefit from a fully staffed OSTP, like the ongoing opioid epidemic.”

Clearly, something happened behind the scenes. May we all live to learn what it was. Because this is not in character for the Donald Trump who railed that “glaciers are advancing as never before!” (Um they’re not and you should get big bar bets from your mad uncles about that.) In any event, there is no law that says the President has to ever meet with his Science Adviser.

That would change, under my proposed FACT ACT!

Judo Tactics to flip Congress!

It was a brilliant political judo move – and no democrat will learn from it. In '94, Newt Gingrich's "Contract With America" made the GOP look serious, pragmatic, reformist, and their resulting transformation of Congress lasted to this day, rendering all but 2 years of the Clinton & Obama administrations legislatively neutered. Look at it! Half of the provisions were actual reforms… that (natch) the GOP later backed away from. The other half were rationalizations for a program of national rape that continues today. But look at how well-expressed and politically potent the Contract was!

Dems could do this. Even one prominent dem could do it — offering a to-do list of tasks to be done — in time to affect the mid-terms. Promises that would draw attention, shake things up, Here's one example:

"Along with others, on both sides of the aisle I promise to help end the vile way that the minority party has been treated, rendering half of all Americans without any influence or voice.

"When Democrats are in the majority, we intend to push for a reform that will give every member of Congress – majority or minority – one blank subpoena per year, that she or he can use to demand testimony from any person, for two hours, before a committee of choice. This will empower member independence and make chairmen dependent on members, instead of the other way around.

"In this way, the minority party will never again be deprived of their right and duty to investigate, even when they are outvoted. Republicans used their majority power to neuter investigations and crush the voice of half the country. We will not act that way, when we regain majority! We will not stifle our honest, adult republican neighbors. And to prove it, we'll give up the power to do so!

"We will act like the Congress you want and deserve."

Sound persuasive? I can offer up nine more proposed "contract" items that would leave the foxites gaping like stranded fish. Why not use the most effective Congressional election strategy ever concocted for the benefit of the People, and not liars?

Alas, while the confederate side is corrupt and destructive, they have feral instincts at polemic. And no democrat has even a clue how to do polemical judo.

Stop pinning your hopes on “collusion”

Stop using the fussy-sounding word “collusion.” Two Scoops has made it his own. So be agile. Try “cahoots.” It is down-earthy and gets right to the point. For example, when members of the cult try to veer into calling mafia-run Russia a model Christian friend, point them to the Russia-Iran alliance and watch them stammer…

…and remind them that the Kremlin and KGB remain the same, with the same goal, to undermine the western experiment in open-fair-accountable rule of democratic law. This enlightening article compares Moscow's current cozy support of the US radical right to their 1930s subversion via the American far-left. There are no essential differences. Indeed, some of the very same men are using some of the very same methods against us, as they did back when they wore hammer-and-sickle pins and sang the Internationale. As Paul Krugman points out: “Not long ago, Republicans insisted that Russia was our greatest threat, and that Barack Obama was betraying America by not confronting Vladimir Putin more forcefully; now Putin is one of the good guys, and the base has gone along with the change. We have always been at war with East Asia.”

See this cogent analysis of how the 1930s Soviet Union used exactly the same methods to inveigle their way into control over the American far-left (and were thwarted my our moderate labor movement) as the same agencies in the same building are using to take over our entire mad-right. Only without members of the moderate-sane – but cowardly – US right doing a damned thing about it.

“Cahoots,” indeed. Only in fact I do not expect Mueller to nail Two Scoops for it. Everyone should see how plainly blatant the treason is, across the entire Fox-maddened GOP. But it is hard to prove perfectly in a court of law. So, I'm betting it will all be brought down by accountants, as happened with Capone.

Watch. It'll be money laundering.

Are you worried yet?

No, no. Nothing to see here. Look away. It’s all made-up lib’rul war-mongering. Look away as — “Russia Prepares 300,000 Troops For Its Largest War Games In 4 Decades.” It will involve more than 1,000 aircraft and the help of Chinese soldiers. The Kremlin says it has not mustered drills on such a scale since 1981.

No, no. These ex-KGB guys can be trusted, now that they have switched from hammer-sickle pins to mafia oligarchy. Watch the orange ball and listen to the fox. Trust the Kremlin. They… are… your… friends…

Meanwhile, as he and his fellow oligarchs get massive infusions and tax cuts that send US deficits skyrocketing, “Trump says civilian government employees won't receive raises in 2019, citing budget strain.” Of course the motive is blatant. Demolishing civil service protections that go back 140 years has been a top GOP priority. But if they can’t fire-em, then squeeze a lot of them out, financially. Part of the war on all fact-using “elites.”

"The United States trade deficit widened in June and is on track to be the biggest in a decade despite President Trump’s efforts to slash it. For the first half of 2018, the trade deficit in goods and services hit $291.2 billion, the federal government reported." Keep this in mind as we consider…

The stunning justification for an expected betrayal

“New in GOP logic: Antipoverty programs worked so well, we must get rid of them.” A report released last month from the White House’s Council of Economic Advisors takes an amazing tactic to support new restrictions on the safety net. The right’s brain trust now assures us that comprehensive antipoverty programs are no longer necessary because 50 years of such interventions — yes, those same ones long hated, and their effectiveness belittled, by the GOP — have succeeded so spectacularly that poverty is largely a thing of the past.

Mind you, we all expected this phase two of the plan by Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell and the oligarchy to first give huge tax gifts to the rich and then use the resulting supernova deficits as an excuse to undercut help for the poor.

For the record, serious/sober Entitlements Reforms were fully negotiated back in the early 1990s, under Bill Clinton, between moderate Democrats and sane Republican politicians… when such existed. Among the many crimes of Dennis “Friend to boys” Hastert was driving a stake through the heart of reasonable, negotiated entitlements reform.

But consider the stunning declaration that “there’s almost no poverty in the U.S. because Great Society programs mostly worked.” This op-ed takes on the stunning calumny of that disingenuous position, by showing how the problem has not gone away, and any person of conscience should demand we improve our methods – or find new ones – to erase poverty’s curse. (Though if you compare today to 1960s images of gap-tooth hillbillies and illiterate sharecroppers and coldwater tenements, certainly the nature of poverty has changed.)

But I take another tack. “So now you are admitting that the endeavor that was started by the WWII Greatest Generation (who adored FDR) and carried forward by Lyndon Johnson, pushed by labor unions but resisted by generations of Republicans…actually worked well?

Um, then, who, across our political spectrum, has credibility, right now?

Let me surprise you by saying “not far-lefties.” If the entire right has gone bonkers-corrupt-treasonous-loco, there certainly are some at the opposite extreme who have a peculiar and deeply harmful mania… absolutely never to admit that any reform ever did any good at all. In a puritan fetish that would make Miles Standish proud, they insist that nothing good has come of 70 years of liberal efforts to reduce race and gender prejudice or poverty or to protect the environment. Faced with voluminous evidence — e.g. from Steven Pinker and Peter Diamandis — that our liberal society has achieved great things — for example reducing the fraction of world children who are hungry to the lowest rate in human history and ensuring 90% of kids go to school — their response is volcanic rage.

Their reason? A loopy notion that – were we ever to admit how far we’ve come – good people would feel less incentive to work at the rest of the effort needed, to save the world. It is a patronizingly offensive reflex and a deeply harmful one, when bragging about the effectiveness of liberal reform is exactly how to sell more of it.

And so we have truly entered Bizarro World, where right-wing think tanks extoll the effectiveness of the measures pushed by FDR, Johnson and ML King – hoping thus to end those programs. Meanwhile, far-lefties pour venom at anyone who points to progress achieved by those reformers.

Hence I have to ask… who writes this crap?

And what happened to a nation of rational minds, committed to pragmatic, ongoing progress?


Read more of the latest by David Brin at theContrary Brin blog:

Impeachment is a dream. Get over it and fight effectively.

Science Fiction helps expand our "horizons of inclusion"

“Forbidden Fruit” and how a legal doctrine may decide the fate of America