Eyes to the Sky

The accolades continue to pour in for Dr. Stephen Hawking, who passed away this week, thus ending an era for physics, astrophysics and cosmology.  At about the same time, our Chaos President turned his own limited thoughts to space.  To paraphrase Trump:

“Space!” he said, pronouncing the word with a hint of awe.  “Space is a war fighting domain.  We have the army, the navy, the air force… why not a Space Force?”  He waved his hands in the air, as if to frame the idea, then added dreamily, “A Space Force… a Space Force… why not?”  When asked about an upcoming NASA mission to Mars, he said nothing of intrepid exploration, expanding human horizons, the search for extraterrestrial life, the intriguing possibility of terraforming another planet; not even the image of a red Tesla on Mars crossed his mind.  All this man could think to say was, “If my opponent had won the election, we wouldn’t be going to Mars… no, we wouldn’t.”  So space is all about fighting more wars, and Mars is further confirmation that he did defeat Hillary in 2016.

When Stephen Hawking turned his thoughts to space, there were no warships in sight.  Gazing up at the night sky, he saw the universe replete with all-consuming black holes, lively subatomic particles, the river of time flowing past.  Among many scientific milestones, he joined quantum theory with general relativity by proposing that small amounts of radiation (known as Hawking Radiation) managed to escape from black holes, something never before imagined.  His admonition to us, “Look up at the stars and not down at your feet,” has been quoted all week.

Compared to Trump, Hawking lay at the opposite end of the spectrum of neuro-psychological development.  His vision was so wide and deep, his imagination so powerful, that he could actually “see” theoretical, abstract events happening in space.  Trump, on the other hand, not only has extremely narrow vision, he has trouble with simple object permanence.  In Piaget’s first stage of child development, from 7-9 months of age, an infant becomes capable of holding the image of an object in mind, so that if that object disappears from view, the child knows that it still exists.  Hence the game “Peek-a-Boo.”

When Trump holds televised meetings on immigration at the expiration of DACA, or gun control after yet another mass shooting– meetings attended by prominent Congressional members from both parties– he pleads dramatically for a “bill of love,” makes full-throated statements that “something has to be done” to protect the Dreamers or teenage victims of gun violence, demands that “both sides come together… send me something and I will sign it!”  The day after these meetings, when Feinstein, Schumer, Pelosi, Ryan and McConnell have gone back to the Capitol Building, they cease to exist, and Trump turns back (Peek-a-boo!) to ICE, and to the NRA.

Lacking object permanence, can he still be blamed entirely for the thousands of lies coming out of the White House since Inauguration Day?  Yes, he lies all the time, and knowingly (for example when he insisted to Justin Trudeau that the US has a trade deficit with Canada, and later privately admitted he had no idea whether that was true).  But might some of his lies result from a fluid understanding of reality; vision perceived through a narrow concrete tunnel; calcified memory banks incapable of maintaining object permanence?  In other words, is it a form of dementia that keeps Donald Trump from developing a broader, more enlightened perspective?  If not, then please look up at the stars, Mr. President, and not down at your feet.

It is said that the concept of Hawking Radiation was ill-received by science fiction writers– but not this one; after all, in order to explain the space engine in my novel Fourth World, I had to create a subatomic particle called the capacitron!  Who can predict what new empirical evidence will emerge by 2196, what amazing inventions and discoveries are yet to come?

Here’s an excerpt from Fourth World:

On the blank wall facing his bed, a floor-to-ceiling image of the Mars Wellness Institute flickered to life, accompanied by swells of grandiose martial music.  The five-story MWI seemed relatively nondescript, especially as the view expanded to include extravagantly stylish apartment fronts; towering, elegant spires topped by colorful flags which fluttered in a non-existent wind; bustling parks lush with faux-vegetation; and graceful pedestrian arches (look at all those graceful pedestrians, Benn marveled) in the background.  The Highland City Compliance Center came into view, above its imposing stone entrance an engraved quote from J. P. McGrew, the first mayor of Highland City: To Each New Generation on Mars, Greater Wealth and Status.

Rolling his eyes, Benn pictured the buildings and grounds of Tharsis One, which consisted of dull metal sheds of all sizes, lumped together in seemingly haphazard fashion, and often resting on bare soil, with a rudimentary first-generation terrasphere arching over all.  J. P. McGrew must not have meant each new generation at Tharsis. No elegant spires, graceful pedestrians or colorful flourishes here. No grand public projects of any kind. In fact, over ninety percent of the habitable structures in Tharsis One were hidden beneath the planet’s surface, in case of a breach in the terrasphere.  We live like moles, safe only underground, thought Benn with a shudder.

In contrast, the metrospheres of the New Colonies, built out of new/improved “chain-link” metallopolymers and lined with stout plasma shields, allowed the raising of cities a hundred times the size of Tharsis One.  These materials admirably resisted gamma rays, meteorites, the extreme seasonal temperature variations in the South, the six-month long winters, and the horrifically violent dust storms that returned each spring. Not to mention the occasional Marsquake.  No, the new colonists had no need to cower underground as the Martians did. They breathed purified, odorless air; their children played in bright, radiation-free sunlight filtered by translucent domes high overhead; they engaged in professional and social lives approximating those they had left back on Earth.  Benn struggled simultaneously to imagine the Utopian life, and to resist even thinking of it, as he stared at the visual on his narrow bedroom wall.

 

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Super Blue-Bloods

The Bay Area has had front-row seats in the past couple of months for two major celestial events:  first the total solar eclipse (I’ve already lost the special glasses used to view that), then a few days ago, the total eclipse of a super blue blood moon (super because of its size at the moon’s closest distance to the Earth along its elliptical orbit, blue because it was the second full moon in the same month, and blood because of its color, imparted by red light from all the sunrises and sunsets on Earth passing through the atmosphere to be reflected back from the moon).  Shivering in my greatcoat and wiping the condensation off my binoculars at 4:30 in the morning, I watched the super moon gradually bleed red as it slivered into the pre-dawn darkness.

It brought to mind an early morning in my novel Fourth World Nation (the sequel to Fourth World), when Benn steps out during the Double Lunar Eclipse Festival to explore the Martian colony where he now lives:

“Low in the morning sky, Deimos and Phobos sat perfectly aligned as Mars moved between them and the sun, plunging both moons simultaneously into darkness.  Over the preceding hour, Benn had watched tiny Deimos, which was 20,000 km away and appeared like a slow-moving star in the sky, duck into hiding behind Phobos, which was not only larger at 22 km across, but also much closer, appearing more like a small moon.  Phobos, circling the planet at high speed from west to east, had swallowed its little brother, and now both sons of the ancient Greek god Ares (called Mars by the Romans) lay in their father’s dense shadow.  Q!  A double-lunar eclipse!  Benn had never witnessed one, simply because he had lived most of his life underground.  It was highly unlikely that anyone from Tharsis Colony had ever seen such a spectacle.

In contrast, everyone in Highland City was out in the streets to begin the holiday, despite the early hour.  All eyes, drowsy or alert, were directed upward for the duration of the eclipse, which, although relatively brief, did not disappoint the cheering crowd.  The rarity of the phenomenon, the surrounding media buzz, and above all, the opportunity to throw a city-wide party at five-thirty in the morning more than compensated for the brevity of the actual eclipse.  In fact, the festival would stretch through the entire day, from unusually early opening times for the downtown bars, to the Mayor’s Parade at ten, and the lunar-themed dinner menus at many restaurants.

Among the myriad festival events, Benn had highlighted a noon concert by the Highlander Symphony; the program on his da-disc featured “The Planets” by Holst; Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” transcribed for horn and Mars-harp; and finally, Panic and Fear, a modern piece by LaGuardia.  What a stark difference there was between Highland City, where wealth and a sophisticated population could support a “world-class” (albeit a small world) symphony orchestra, and Benn’s home colony of Tharsis, where the only musical ensemble was the five-man pit orchestra at Tharsis-on-Avon, the Shakespeare company.  At the thought of that singularly talentless quintet, Benn had to laugh.  Their conductor often made his musicians play over the actors’ voices, and Benn’s best friend Jace had sometimes stopped in the middle of a soliloquy to rail at them.  What had Jace called them?  Scurvy rogues?  Rampallions and fustilarians?  Was he making these up?  No, he remembered:  Basket-hilt stale jugglers!  At one particularly disjointed rehearsal, Jace had rushed downstage, drawing his cutlass and yelling, “Away, you cut-purse rascals, you filthy bungs, away!”  When the conductor responded with a rude hand gesture, Jace had raged on, “I’ll tickle your catastrophe; I’ll thrust my knife in your mouldy chaps!”  Hmm, Benn chuckled, maybe there was high culture at Tharsis, after all.

On this rare day off, the first thing that struck Benn—who had so far been shuttered away in an underground lab at MWI—was that Highland City clearly tried to fashion itself after New York Metropol—even their Mayor had been imported from there.  He savored the great outdoors by strolling aimlessly north on Av7, east on St46, then north again on Av5, stopping to explore the illogically-named neighborhoods.  Notably, there was no rise in altitude at Morningside Heights, neither park view nor terrace at Parkview Terrace, and he would have been shocked to find a river at Riverside Drive.  Pleasantly diverted, Benn wandered on, taking in the fascinating billboards and door signs on every street.  They reflected the City’s ethnic and cultural diversity (at least commercial diversity, down here at street level).  Overhanging the arched entrance to Nasser’s Lunch Site was a rocket ship that looked like chunks of meat on a skewer; its menu spoke with a Mideast Zone accent, promising an oasis of lush, exotic pleasures within.  Several doors down, Benn peeked into The Pho Chateau, a chain restaurant originally based in Earth’s Mekong District, which offered moon-shaped rice noodle dishes, served family-style in a Baroque white-and-gold paneled room, its high ceiling ringed by a slate mansard roof.  The menu at The Pho Chateau’s gilded entrance depicted dancing dumplings which accurately reflected the elongated shapes, if not the movements, of Deimos and Phobos.  Farther up Av5, a quasi-religious group calling themselves the Highland Druids hawked tiny Aresite amulets and gave demonstrations of Areodynamic cookery, which, they claimed, had healing powers tied to the phases of both moons.”

The similarity to New York City had already struck Benn at a high-society dinner party.  Here’s another excerpt from Fourth World Nation:

“From his long wait in line, overhearing the nasty comments that the cream of society made about one another, Benn had concluded that the oldest families in Highland City enjoyed far less prestige than the newer ones.  Some even referred to them dismissively as Oldies (at least they weren’t called Martians, a distinction enjoyed only by natives of Tharsis)!  Benn thought again of the archived black-and-white films.  Unlike the New York high society they were trying so hard to emulate—where the oldest established families, many with Dutch or English surnames, looked down on social climbers and the nouveau riche—here, wealthy Oldies like the Monroes were perceived as the most backward colonial subjects.  It was the recent arrivals from Earth who occupied all the positions of power.  Unlike the early settlers of colonial New Amsterdam and New York, whose philanthropic families became permanent fixtures of city life, their modern equivalents on Mars had become largely irrelevant, as a growing technocracy rapidly supplanted the old plutocracy under the PWE.  Still, the old families understood the rules governing fashionable society.  They had defined local tradition, and that was something the diverse newcomers craved.  Therefore the Monroes and other Oldies were invited to high-society events; however, whispered the young technocrats and their spouses to one another, the blue-bloods should not let that further puff up their leathery egos, which some compared to overstuffed, old-fashioned club chairs.

 

Most Likely to Secede

In the late 1970’s, my college friends in Connecticut sometimes teased me about coming from California:  a huge earthquake, they said, would one day split the state from the rest of the country, depositing it into the Pacific Ocean; better buy some oceanfront property in Nevada!  Perhaps they were thinking metaphorically of the degree to which California remained separate, in terms of its liberal politics, mindset, laid-back lifestyle, tolerance, diversity,  weather, inventiveness etc.  People here love to point out that, if ranked alongside all the nations of the world, California’s economy would be No. 6.  We have economic engines such as the Bay Area, Silicon Valley, famous Wine Country, Central Valley agriculture, biotech and space industries, superb universities, electric cars, Google, Facebook, Twitter, touristic natural beauty, great Mexican food and, well OK, Hollywood too.  Talk of seceding from the Union has always been a distant background noise, and not always originating from our own state:  didn’t someone in the Utah state legislature, about two years ago, propose that California ought to be cut off?

Our Chaos President’s negative attitude toward California seems to be– surprise!– making things worse.  He has moved to vastly expand offshore drilling along the California coastline, threatening coastal ecology and economies, as well as public health.  His tax “reform” will increase the federal tax burden for Californians, prompting the state Senate to come up with a creative counter-proposal.  He has undertaken punitive measures against sanctuary cities which are being challenged in the courts.  His FCC has overturned net neutrality rules, and the fight to restore a free and open Internet has moved from Washington DC to Sacramento.  He has withdrawn from the Paris Accord on climate change, so that Governor Jerry Brown now attends the international climate meetings and commits California to surpassing the terms to which the US previously agreed.  While Trump wants to prop up coal and oil, California is fast building up solar and other renewable energy.  Trump’s first move as president was to cancel the Trans-Pacific Pact, leaving the US on the sidelines while China expands its influence in Asia and Europe; California has prudently continued to negotiate its own, separate trade deals on the world stage.  Now North and South Korea have begun talks, encouraged by China and Russia– again leaving the US to worry from the sidelines, largely because of Trump’s bellicose schoolyard tweets about Kim Jong-Un.

Since California is within range and directly threatened by North Korea’s nuclear weapons, shouldn’t Jerry Brown be attending those talks?  But California doesn’t possess a nuclear arsenal– or do we?  What about the decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and the threat to withdraw support for Palestinian refugees unless they toe the line?  Should Jerry clear some time on his schedule?  It was a dramatic moment when all but a handful of nations in the UN voted to condemn the Jerusalem decision:  isolating the US from former friends and allies in the Middle East, Asia and Europe must be the guiding principle of this Administration.  By so diminishing the international stature of the United States, Trump has increased the leadership role of California.

Should California secede from the Union, aside from the dubious legality of such a move?  The actions of the Trump Administration make it look as though the Union is seceding from California (as it is from the rest of the world)!  But despite that, I would argue against secession.  Spoiler alert:  Even in science fiction, forming a separate nation is fraught with unforeseen consequences.  In Fourth World Nation, the second book in the Fourth World Series, the Martian colonies declare their independence from Earth.  Here’s an excerpt:

When the applause finally stopped, Ran began by addressing Khalmed Salman.  “Superintendent Salman, you represent the Pan-World Electorate in this historic transition.  Do you have anything to say?”

Salman’s tone was stoic but contained something chilling, like a sharp blade buried just beneath the sand.  “Yes, perhaps historic to you, but not to the PWE.  By taking control of the colonies,” he said, his dark gaze sweeping the room, “you imagine that you have defeated us, but quite the opposite is true.  We will withdraw all of our personnel and resources to Earth, and in our absence, the consequences of your actions will become painfully clear:  the  law and order you have taken for granted will disappear; your Resistance movement will break up into factions pitted against one another; the material supplies necessary to maintain function in the cities will run out.  All remaining PWE ships will transport troops as well as any civilians who wish to depart for Earth.  Within four weeks, however, you can expect that a new fleet of fully-manned warships will arrive to retake the colonies.”

Or at least retake Congress in the mid-term elections.  On that optimistic note, I wish all my readers a happy 2018!

 

 

Sanity Clause II

Remember when the truth was important?  In a previous post (11/8/17), I bemoaned the fact that the country has been sliding into a collective delusional state, where there is a “new normal” and alternative facts can turn everything upside-down.  The truth becomes fluid (or is simply dismissed as inconsequential, as Sarah Huckabee Sanders has done); anything becomes possible; and history can be rewritten before it has even happened.  I had hoped that the Sanity Clause in our social contract would set things straight, but that appears increasingly to be a big pie in the sky.

Michelle Goldberg writes in her Opinion column today, “There is a debate over whether Trump is unaware of reality or merely indifferent to it.  He might be delusional, or he might simply be asserting the power to blithely override truth, which is the ultimate privilege of a despot.”  Hmm– delusional or overriding truth:  which is worse?

Arguing for the former, Dr. Bandy Lee, a forensic psychiatrist at Yale Medical School, represents thousands of mental health professionals when he writes:  “We are currently witnessing more than his usual state of instability– in fact a pattern of decompensation:  increasing loss of touch with reality, marked signs of volatility and unpredictable behavior, and an attraction to violence as a means of coping.  These characteristics place our country and the world at extreme risk of danger.”

Timothy Egan, in the NY Times, points out that our Chaos President still questions Barrack Obama’s birth certificate; does not believe his own words on the infamous “Access Hollywood” sexual assault videotape; still thinks (without any evidence) that three million fraudulent votes caused him to lose the popular vote; endorsed a website that says the Pope uses magic to mastermind world events; and “gave a thumbs up to a media outlet that claims NASA runs a child labor colony on Mars.”

No kidding.  For those unfamiliar with Alex Jones’s Infowars channel, he’s the apoplectic guy who claims that the Sandy Hook massacre of schoolchildren and teachers was a staged hoax.  A guest on his show claimed that NASA has secretly kidnapped children and is keeping them as sex slaves on Mars, forcing a NASA spokesperson to deny the existence of such a colony.  It’s just incredible, the kind of insanity that passes for conspiracy theory (already a very low bar)!

Here’s some Fake News from my sci-fi novel Fourth World:

“When had Tharsis One and Two dropped off the map?  Shortly after the Great War of Unification.  Mr. Otis Walker, Benn’s second-grade teacher, had explained it many times- often in heatedly emotional terms- to his young, impressionable students.  From the Martian (that is, Tharsis) viewpoint, the centralization of Earth’s government in 2096 marked the beginning of the end:  birth of the Pan-World Electorate.  What was it like, his teacher wondered, receiving the news that your home government no longer existed; that your country had been all but destroyed in a cataclysmic global war?  That NASA, an agency of the former United States of America and your lifeline to Earth, had suddenly vanished?”

What, no NASA?  It must have been brutal, hearing that there would no longer be any kidnapped sex slaves…

 

 

 

 

Shameless Commercial

Dear Friends,

The long wait is over!  It’s been just over a year since the release of Fourth World, and during that time the response to my first novel has been fantastic.  In addition to the usual suspects (e.g. immediate family), many friends-of-friends and distant acquaintances have expressed admiration for Fourth World.  For the numerologists out there, and those who love “objective” data:  out of 13 reviews, 11 gave the book five stars– and the other two, four stars.  The main complaint I’ve heard is that people are anxious to know what happens to the mysterious hero/anti-hero Benn Marr, and to his sometimes-befuddled friend Lora.

You may recall the final paragraph of Fourth World (spoiler alert):

 

Walther Beame shook his head, overcome by a heady mixture of resentment, relief and triumph.  Stepping forward once again with the Dermamist squeezed tightly in his trembling hand, he uttered through gritted teeth, “Welcome home, son.  Welcome home.”

 

Is Benn returning home like Leopold Bloom, or Ulysses, or is he more the Prodigal Son?  The answer to that and other burning questions lies in the sequel, Fourth World Nation (this is the second part of a planned trilogy).

To quote my own blurb on the back cover:  “The year is 2197, and young Benn Marr has joined the Chimera Project.  To escape the clutches of a greedy pharmaceutical corporation and the Pan-World Electorate, Benn and Lora flee to Mars, where they encounter the cruel effects of colonialism:  shameless exploitation, political inequity and militaristic oppression.  They are swept into the deadly conflict erupting between the world government, the Resistance, and a mysterious, quasi-religious cult.  It is a conflict which turns all of Benn’s relationships, as well as his conception of his own uncanny abilities, upside-down.”

 

Fourth World Nation is available on Amazon, in paperback or as an eBook (you can download the Kindle app for free).  There are links to both books on this blog, but here’s the Amazon site:

 

https://www.amazon.com/Fourth-World-Nation/dp/1973142503/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1509379909&sr=8-1&keywords=Fourth+world+nation

 

For those who have yet to read Fourth World, the first book in the science fiction trilogy, it really is best to start at the beginning.  Fourth World is also available on Amazon, as a paperback or eBook.  Here’s a link to that site:

 

 

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01LWVNG6A/ref=cm_cr_ryp_prd_ttl_sol_0

 

 

My heartfelt gratitude to everyone for your generous comments, reviews and support!

 

All my best,

 

Chee Chow

 

 

Let’s Take A Closer Look

One evening in 1978, when I was in medical school, I described to a few dinner companions a fantasy/sci-fi machine for diagnosing illnesses.  CT scanners (which provide multiple computer-generated cross-sectional views, or tomographs, of the body using x-rays) had only recently been invented, and MRI (using NMR technology taught to us in physical chemistry classes at the time) was still a few years away.

My dream machine, I explained to my dinner mates– whose eyes I could see were beginning to glaze over– would compile all the tissue cross-sections to generate a 3-D picture, a hologram.  At that time, CT’s limited resolution showed us the organs and tissues, but what if we could greatly increase the resolution with a different type of energy beam, something other than x-rays?  Radar?  Microwaves?  Cosmic rays?  Who knew?  We would see not only tissues but cells, then drill down to the level of cell nuclei, mitochondria, chromosomes, even individual genes.  The resolution of the imaging technique was the rate-limiting step.

With my dream machine, abnormal cells would stand out right away; combine that information with indicators of tissue metabolism (PET scanners would come along later) and even images of gene sequences, and before you knew it, surgical biopsies of live tissue– for example, to diagnose cancer– would no longer be needed.  “You could examine the hologram from all different angles, then perform a virtual biopsy!” I exclaimed (stimulated by the excellent wine we had with dinner).  The computer, having obtained all necessary data from the high-resolution scan, could “biopsy” pieces of the 3-D image, then project them on a screen for the pathologist:  this could be repeated over and over, without any pain to the patient.

Well, the dream machine is one step closer.  This week– only 36 years later– a newsletter from the dean of Yale Medical School announced the arrival of a high-resolution cryoelectron microscope with tomographic capabilities, enabling researchers to view specimens in 3-D from multiple angles (unfortunately you still have to obtain a specimen, as nobody has figured out how to put a whole patient into the machine).  It can tell us the atomic structures of membrane proteins– now that is small!  By the way, the three scientists most responsible for developing cryo-EM received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry this month.

(Not making any claims to the Nobel Prize– just saying).  Here’s an excerpt from my science fiction novel, Fourth World:

Lora stepped out of the Pan-Bio Analyzer, commonly known as the Probot, and reached for her paper robe.  Her skin was flushed and tingling- it felt like a Sonicspray, she thought, only without the blowing sensation.  The Probot scan, which produced a detailed analysis of anatomy and organ function- it would have detected a gastric ulcer, sinus infection or brain tumor, for example- was the final part of the physical evaluation required of all students, and she had passed without a hitch.  So had Benn and Sool, who were already on their way to the first formal lecture for the incoming class of interns, scheduled to begin in Cushing Hall in just a few minutes.  After a week of organizational meetings and introductory talks, it was a much-anticipated moment.

Lora nodded to the technician seated at a control panel, hurriedly crossed the cold Probot Chamber to the adjacent dressing room, and exchanged the robe for her standard-issue orange bodysuit.  Almost everyone attending YaleConn Med- not only the lowly interns- wore those bodysuits to class, so Lora shrugged off their resemblance to the prison uniforms worn by PsySoc reformees back at Tharsis One.  In a way, Lora was disappointed that the computer hadn’t found anything wrong with her:  no explanation for the distracting noise, that persistent insect buzz that had kept her up for part of the night.  It was faint, but intermittently took on a pronounced throbbing pattern- quite annoying.  Neither Benn nor Sool seemed to hear that noise, whatever it was:  A blood clot?  Eustachian tube dysfunction?  Seizure activity?  The Probot said no, no and no.  Meaning that there wouldn’t be an easy remedy.

 

 

Welcome to Our Planet

Eight months ago, coincident with our Chaos President’s dark and threatening inauguration speech about “American carnage” (see my previous post, Inauguration Blues), six people entered an isolated environment on the Big Island of Hawaii, a NASA-run simulation of life on Mars.  Amazingly, their eight months separated from the world have passed, and yesterday the four men and two women emerged to discover that Donald Trump is still the Chaos President, still denying climate science, still unable to build the Great Wall of Mexico.  They will find the world unsubtly and unsettlingly different, however:  while they were gone, the US has withdrawn from TPP and the Paris Agreement, circling its wagons and surrendering its leadership position worldwide; multiple hurricanes, boosted by warm ocean waters and rising sea levels, have laid waste to the Caribbean and parts of Texas and Florida; DACA has been rescinded, exposing 800,000 young people while 11 million undocumented immigrants continue to live in fear; North Korea has launched missiles over Japan and tested a hydrogen bomb; the President has blustered at the United Nations that we may have no choice but to “totally destroy” North Korea; he has also doubled down on his statement that neo-Nazi white supremacists and those protesting against them are equally to blame for violence; a parade of White House officials have departed in disgrace; a special prosecutor is closing in on the Trump campaign’s collusion with Russia to influence the election; the GOP is cynically trying for the fifth (or is it the sixth) time to bring their cruel and destructive healthcare agenda back from the dead (see my previous posts Vive le Healthcare and Kill Bill 3)– Trump wants this bill, which would result in millions losing healthcare coverage, passed by next week, before the Congressional Budget Office and other expert groups can provide any analysis of its dire consequences.

In Inauguration Blues, I advised the six Martians-in-training, when they finally came out of isolation, not to utter the classic line, “Take us to your leader.”  But I’ve changed my mind; they should absolutely see our Chaos President, if only to demand of him, “What’s happening to our world?  Why are you doing this?”