If I Was Rich Enough to Buy Fox News…

I do daydream of someone like Bill Gates buying Fox News, if it can be bought. . . I dream of what I’d do if I was rich enough to buy it myself. I would NOT turn it into a smug, snappish liberal network–I’d make it centrist, or center-left, even though I’m more progressive than that myself. Yet I’d fire Fox News’s famous racist immediately, and 95 percent of their on-air staff and most writing staff. I’d sure bring in diversity in staff and anchors. I would only change the network’s garish on-air look a bit, at first, but gradually make it more grown up. I’d set new rules for reportage: FACT BASED ONLY would be the first one. I’d have a smart staff of fact checkers. I’d make Fox News truly fair and balanced. I’d make the station more news oriented–actual news…I’d get a sane conservative on, with a weekly show, like SE Cupp–I don’t agree with a lot of her ideas, but she despises Trump and Trumpism and dishonesty in media and she’s a strong believer in climate change and vaccines. I would bring in Mitt Romney, a sane and decent conservative, and George Will, as pundits, along with, say, appearances by the likes of Lawrence O’Donnell…I’d have some not-too-liberal liberal with their own network show balancing Cupp….

Yes, I’d make it clear that FN believes Biden was truly elected, that climate change is real, that we should respect science; that vaccines are safe and necessary…I would have some special shows about what honest fact-checking reveals… I’d work toward a cure for the great disease of modern media: conspiracy theories…

Oh yes I’d transform Fox News, but I wouldn’t get all AOC in my changes...

Why, you ask, wouldn’t I make it flat out MSNBC liberal? Because I’d want to keep what I could of the previous audience and simply offer them the facts they’d been denied. I wouldn’t want to alienate every non-Democrat elderly person in the USA. I would want to gradually expose them to enough honest reportage that they’d decide, on the facts, that there was no need to go extremist-right in their thinking. No need to support those who undermine democracy. Yet I would respect their right to a more conservative point of view. And if I didn’t respect the need for a television venue featuring conservative thought (as well as pragmatically progressive, a balance of the two), hysteria on the right would result. Sure, you’d get some hysteria anyway but not suicide-bomber level reactivity…

Ah. A wistful dream.

A lot of people are feeling apocalyptic…Should they?

It’s not exactly apocalypse. The poorly addressed climate-change crisis is coming to a head.The likely collapse of American democracy, yes, is terrifying. The fact that the sea will soon be mostly bereft of fish and sea mammals–it makes me deeply sad and of course it is frightening.

But then the Roman empire fell, the Black Plague happened, the endless wars, The Holocaust happened, and–sadly–humanity is still here. We had to stick around so we could destroy many other forms of life, it seems. But not quite apocalypse.

Do you know what it is? It’s a dumpster fire–and picture someone slowly and steadily, at an ever slightly increasing rate, pouring gasoline into the dumpster…

Things are bad enough that even the New Yorker publishes cartoons like this one:

TRUMP is still in charge of Social Security Administration? So they make it seem…

So I sent a question by email about some confusion I had about a medicare deduction to my social security. I understand what’s going on with it but they’d sent me a letter that was really confusing. This is part of the answer I received by email.

From day one, President Trump has made it a top priority to lower drug prices. Currently, for Part B, the law requires CMS to pay the average sales price for a drug and also pays physicians a percentage of a drug’s sale price. This incentivizes drug companies to set prices higher and for physicians to prescribe more expensive drugs – because that leads to a higher Medicare payment. Through the President’s drug pricing blueprint, the Trump Administration is working to lower drug prices in Medicare Part B drugs.

This arrived TODAY. I suppose they have left over junk auto-responses from the last administration but him putting his name and his campaign claim in the thing…well I heard he did stuff like that…but it’s still there! What the hell! What else from Trump remains in these kinds of responses across government bureaus?

Does it have to be Kamala Harris?

If Biden isn’t able to run for re-election for health reasons, say, or if he is re-elected and Democrats must choose someone to run after him…Or if he’s not re-elected (supposing the GOP succeeds in rigging races through forcing their extremists into secretary of state positions in critical electoral zones) …does Kamala Harris have to be the next Dem nominee for President? I know, we tend to choose the VP of the Democratic President to run… I want a woman President too. I voted for Elizabeth Warren for President during the primary.

But, as per the Washington Post:

Staffers who worked for Harris before she was vice president said one consistent problem was that Harris would refuse to wade into briefing materials prepared by staff members, then berate employees when she appeared unprepared….’It’s clear that you’re not working with somebody who is willing to do the prep and the work,’ one former staffer said. ‘With Kamala you have to put up with a constant amount of soul-destroying criticism and also her own lack of confidence. So you’re constantly sort of propping up a bully and it’s not really clear why.'”

And I remember when a reporter asked her a tough question about her plans for immigration and she got mad, bitterly sarcastic, with him–and she didn’t really answer the question. Harris doesn’t do well with pressure. During the primary debates, she got flustered and wasn’t very focused–unlike Warren–which might be explained partly by Harris over-reacting to pressure, and partly by her problem with prep. Not enough preparation… A political commentator I know said, I wasn’t a fan of hers during the primary. “She kept putting out position papers and then 180 degrees reversing herself when she got pushback. If you’re going to put out a position paper, shouldn’t you anticipate the pushback and have answers for it prepared?”

And she’s notorious for burning through her assistants and aides.

Now imagine what Biden has to put up with as President. Not only Covid and its new variants, not only vast misinformation and flat-out lies, not only the GOP openly preparing to steal elections, not only Trump and his buddies, not only inflation and school massacres, not only a kneejerk-hostile press–but the possibility of WWIII flashpoints in Ukraine and the China Sea.

How would Harris deal with that level of near-perpetual crisis? She wouldn’t. I’d rather have Stacy Abrams, or some other woman run.


My story about Prisons for Profit

The first story in my new collection THE FEVERISH STARS is called A STATE OF IMPRISONMENT. The story about a near-future situation extrapolating today’s privatized prisons. Here’s what I said about it in a recent interview:

Frequently I have something I’ve perceived that I feel needs to be dramatized, and I cast about for the way to do that. I choose the best genre for it, in my view, and work out how to entertainingly express the underlying observation. Other times, I feel my way along, and the story tells me what the theme is; it reveals itself to me.  In “A State of Imprisonment” I started with my own personal anger—I was smoldering over the insane growth and greed in the privatized prison phenomenon. Prisons for profit. When prisons are run by a corporation for profit, rather than as a publicly funded institution, they are inevitably prone to cutting corners on the most basic needs of the human beings incarcerated; food and medical care are minimized for the sake of maximizing profit. Privatized prisons tend to use convicts as unpaid workers in a vastly more exploitative way than prisons did ever before. And there is an incentive to imprison people—accomplishing this through corruption of local justice systems—so to have more people to bill the state for, and to use as forced labor. There’s also an incentive to invent reasons to keep them in prison past their time. This outrage has been foisted on America broadly, in real life, and in places like Arizona it’s now a major industry. It was spreading so much I imagined a future in which an entire state—most of Arizona!—was converted into one big complex of privatized prisons run by a single corporation. Could this happen in real life—a prison that engulfs a whole US state? Probably not; it’s social satire. But I make it believable enough so that the reader can suspend disbelief, and get caught up in the frightening story of a woman, an investigative reporter, trapped in the system—the symbolism, the metaphor, emerges then quite naturally in the narrative…It’s an Orwellian parable based in real contemporary issues.  

And Speaking of Fear…It’s a good time to feel some dread.

Do you have agricultural land you’re not using? Even a quarter-acre, say?

I’ve been hired as a futurist at different times, as a consultant, by Stanford Research Institute for example, and I’m not bad at futurism, my novels bear that out–but more importantly I’m in touch with professional futurists, and scientists. And they’re worried. As you may have some untilled land, can I offer you some unsolicited advice for you and yours…? Study agriculture, to a sufficiency, and set aside some of your land, or more of it—you may well already have a truck garden or small plot —for raising food. You are likely to need to devote even more space to agriculture. This would be mostly for you and your family.

Be very aware of possible wells on your land. If there are streams they may go away. Piped water might diminish a good bit. But the big national problem that people are now beginning to wake up to, like people coming out of a sleep at being awakened by the smoke of their house afire…is going to be food. The supply chain may in large part collapse, due to far worse climate change effects than most people anticipate.

The relative abundance in the supermarket will come to an end in your lifetime. Probably you have an understandable dislike of “the sky is falling” people, and right enough too, but just take those steps for the sake of your family. You need not clear much land to do it. You don’t have to “become a farmer”.

We don’t want to go about frantically chopping down trees for home farming–we should be planting them. But look about you, if you have some land, and set aside a goodish section for growing food. Learn how to do it. There are pleasures in that process…and there is necessity…

If you live in an apartment, grow food on your balcony, or on the roof if they’ll let you–bring soil up there. Or join a community agricultural project.

Also think about storage; dried food, canning. I advise doing this for your children and grandchildren–or simply for your own well-being. That land will feed you if nothing else does. The coming food crisis won’t happen tomorrow—current shortages are relatively minor and evanescent— but it’ll begin within ten to twenty years


Written by a guy who won the Bram Stoker Award from the Horror Writer’s Association.

We’re all scared. That’s the truth. A billionaire in good health has no reason to be scared, in most cases. He won’t show fear, overtly. But he’s often protected by armed guards, security cameras and other devices. Because in the back of his mind, he’s scared.

A happily married woman living in a comfortable, well patrolled suburb has fun with her kids, loves her spouse, goes to church or temple or a mosque, gets much comfort at those places. But she’s scared. In the back of her mind, she’s scared.

We go cheerfully about our lives, yet in some part of ourselves we’re multiply scared. We’re socially scared when we encounter even people we trust. We’re scared of failure; we’re scared of home intruders, of cancer, of the depredations of serial killers and child abductors and the outbreak of chaos and war. We’re scared by the inevitability of death–even if it’s decades down the road…Now we’re scared of wildfires…

Some people are unconsciously drawn to discharge these fears, through horror movies and tales. The horror story doesn’t need to be specific to one’s personal fears. Fear builds up as tension; it builds like pressure in a water main. It must be controlled, sometimes discharged. Some find this release to be especially pleasurable. For some it’s even mildly addictive. Being harmlessly scared, via an art form, releases tension so it’s paradoxically relaxing–after the fact. One even feels a (ridiculous) sense of unreasoning triumph, after the book or movie, having come through what was fearful–untouched.

There is more to the psychological mechanism underlying the delight in horror stories. There are neuroses. There is rage acted out, subconsciously, on the screen. But essentially it comes down to this: we’re always scared. And when we say we’re not–we’re lying to ourselves. You see, we’re always more scared than we realize. In order to live with our fears, we buffer them, wall them off, look away from them. But they haven’t gone anywhere. Most people don’t have the self-knowledge to see themselves as they are; they’re unaware, on a conscious level, of the persistent presence of their own fears…


Is optimism possible in a time when democracy seems fragile; seems on the verge of being overthrown by neofascist, overt racist Trump clones? Is it possible in a time when we see legit headlines like, The world needs to cut its emissions seven times as fast to hit climate goals, U.N. report finds and Thousands of dead sea creatures are washing up on English beaches and so on…

Yes it’s possible. It requires far-seeing, and it requires the labor of comprehending complexity. But, admittedly--optimism, now, is hard work.

As for one *realistic* avenue to optimism, try THIS.

An off-the-cuff review of the new DUNE adaptation

We saw it on HBO Max, so perhaps there was cinematic power we were missing out on. But it seemed towering enough. The visual design of it seemed influenced by the old John Schoenherr covers. And that’s a good thing. He really had the heft and feel of Dune. It had the scope of Dune. Clearly it was “part one” but it worked very well for me–far better than the creative but hubris-choked movie, any cut, by David Lynch. This is Dune as I remembered it. When I open a copy nowadays, I find the dialogue to be…oh, much of it egregiously pompous and expository and just too much. But still the novel was a great science fiction conception, a wonderful vision, a classic of interplanetary dramas. I think it was influenced by The Seven Pillars of Wisdom by TE Lawrence.  AKA Lawrence of Arabia, of course. Note that the movie Lawrence of Arabia came out before the publication of Dune. But it’s quite possible that Herbert read The Seven Pillars of Wisdom too. The novel came out before Star Wars and one is reminded of what Lucas swiped from Frank Herbert (as well as Lucas having ripped off from Jack Kirby comics and other sources) …I think Game of Thrones is also influenced by Dune…And Dune…was influenced by magic mushrooms. Psilocybin. So Frank Herbert told me when he was my teacher at Clarion.

I saw the first three episodes of the Foundation adaptation, based on the Asimov novels, and thought they were trying to be something like this…and the Foundation opening episodes of the series have their fine moments…but ultimately the adaptation of Foundation implodes, corroded by Hollywood hack plotting.

The David Lynch movie was really about David Lynch’s obsessions. This new Dune movie gives us Frank Herbert’s vision.

The Big Question of Our Age

Regarding the problem with the Big Lie spread by Trump. The problem with the Big Lie spread by anti-vaxxers. The problem with the Big Lies spread by racists. The problem with the countless lies spread by Qanon. Here’s the question:

How do we persuade someone they’re being lied to about the facts, when they believe the lie that we are liars?