Category Archives: politics

The battle must begin at state level

There are vital issues that get shunted aside in the ongoing public obsession over Trump’s latest tweetstorm. In The Case for Paying Less Attention to Donald Trump, Ed Burmila, in Rolling Stone, makes a cogent point that we should pay less attention to our current president — and more to what the confederacy is doing to our fellow citizens, down at the state level, where the GOP’s lock on more than thirty out of fifty statehouses and 65 out of 98 state legislature chambers, has set them to work doing no less than re-establishing feudalism.

LESS“Donald Trump’s presidency has been a disaster, but he has succeeded beyond his wildest expectations in one key way: getting attention – attention that fills the void where the rest of us have a soul…. (But fighting back) begins with winning back the state legislatures that draw electoral maps and make the rules that shape elections,” writes Ed Burmila.

In other words, this is no time for timid appetites. The goal should not be to shift twenty-five swing Congressional seats, but 125! And that will be a hollow victory without a thousand State Assembly wins.

These state races are the most important battlegrounds for now.

This coalesces three themes that I’ve pushed for some time.

impeach-trump1: Don’t seek to impeach Trump! Not yet. Our civil servants are now fully alerted to the insanity and they should be able to protect us, for the time being. For now, Trump is the Republicans’ nightmare. Impeach, and the confederates will just rally behind a President Pence and march with savage discipline. See this explored in more detail in my essay, The Move to Impeach Trump is a Trap.

2: Gerrymandering (one of the most horrific betrayals of citizen sovereignty) and other electoral cheats — such as voter suppression — are central. These plagues upon our electoral system have metastacized till even Supreme Court Justices Samuel Alito and John Roberts cannot ignore them, anymore. (Or else they are simply not Americans.) But we need clever and strong backup plans, explored further in Gerrymandering & American Democracy.

3: Retaking many of those states will not be done by running Santa Monica liberals in deep red districts. Go ahead and run liberals and Bernites etc in swing constituencies. But in districts that are deeply conservative by personality, we need candidates who are pro-science, pro-rights, honest, logically fact-loving and un-bigoted… but who can also relate to locals… by personality.

Elsewhere, in a 3-part series, I talk about the richest possible source of such candidates, military colonels and captains. Men and women of rectitude who can compel even the reddest voter to actually listen to a democrat, possibly for the first time in his or her life.

See also 314 Action, which seeks to advocate for a pro-science and fact-based agenda in public policy — and also to encourage scientifically and technically trained men and women to run for office.

crowdpacBack to the article by Burmila… the point relates to how YOU should allocate your political time and energy. Yes, national issues matter! Give money to the fight against gerrymandering, and Schwarzenegger will match your contribution in this  campaign on Crowdpac: This is our chance to make gerrymandering unconstitutional. 

Furthermore, Burmila adds:

“The payoff of being politically active simply is greater in down-ballot races. House and Senate races are of course important, but the marginal benefit of adding one more volunteer to those campaigns is small compared to what an activist can contribute to a local race. Throwing your donation and evening volunteering hours into the miasma of money and noise that is a modern congressional race is like spitting into the ocean. In a local race, the time and money you can donate will be much more impactful. Knocking on doors and speaking to a few hundred voters on behalf of an unknown candidate in a state assembly primary could make a real difference.”

This is where you can make a difference — at your local and state level.

Give the rest of it a read. Then give some thought about that retired officer you know, who happens to live in a red district. It’s arm twisting time.

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Russian relationships: collusion or treason?

I know bunches of sincere, thoughtful conservatives who are THAT close to defecting. They admit their party has gone insane, but cannot bring themselves yet to use the “T-Word.” They keep being distracted by squirrels. Like “There’s been no proof yet of actual collusion.” Or “Russian meddling didn’t clearly affect the election outcome.”

1. Irrespective of GOP-Russia collusion, the fact is that Putin’s FSB Security Agency wanted the GOP to win, not just the presidency, but across the board. That outcome is what they blatantly sought. And that is a fact of profound political redolence. It should deeply bother all patriotic Americans. While that motive and goal is not a court-of-law conviction, it is consistent with mountains of evidence that the Republican Party is not healthy for the U.S.

2. All right then, but did the GOP collude with Moscow, toward that goal? We are not (yet) in a court of law, so demanding court-of-law proof of GOP-Russia collusion is just plain wrong. The pile of circumstantial evidence is overwhelming. It’s a mountain!

Manafort, Flynn, Pence, the ENTIRE circle of people surrounding Jared Kushner, secret meetings and channels! Scads of business connections and sweetheart deals with Russian-mafiosi oligarchs. Exxon, for H sake! “Emoluments” amounting to billions! You know I could go on and on.

Dig it. We do not need to be hamstrung or stymied by court-of-law standards when deciding that something stinks to high heaven and the security of the American state is at stake. Those who demand court-of-law standards are Fox shills. They scream “witch hunt!” while the townsfolk close in on a coven of pointy-hatted, Satan-chanting crones who have children suspended over a cauldron. These may not quite be witches — (heck, not one of them is female) — but we are perfectly right to demand answers to our questions.

3. Court-of-law hairsplitting over definitions of “obstruction” are necessary when deciding on criminal prosecutions and whether to deprive the perpetrator of either life or freedom with prison. But it is an absurd standard politically. These are traitors, pure and simple. That is “traitors” with a small-t … for now… until it’s proved in court. But the shoe fits.

4. The same term applies to those who drag their feet over reforming the weaknesses that the Putin-cabal tried to exploit. The issue is not whether the FSB etc were THE tipping factor in 2016. The issue is the fact that Congress is holding ZERO hearings about how to strengthen U.S. electoral processes, investigating corruptible voting machines. The horrific influence of partisan secretaries of state. Gerrymandering. Weaponized narrative. They would leave all of that in place, for future elections. If you don’t call that implicitly complicit, then you have your head in the sand.

They are complicit. As the old saying goes: “We’ve settled what you are. Now we’re just trying to determine the price you sold us out for.”

It is the “T-Word.” We’re only arguing over whether it is “t” or “T.”

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Do we need an election fraud panel?

President Donald Trump signed an executive order Thursday forming a commission on voter fraud and elections, an action many Democrats say is aimed at justifying his unfounded voter fraud claims.  (“Millions cast illegal ballots, giving Hillary Clinton her huge popular vote margin,” right.)  Instead of appointing a blue-ribbon, bipartisan committee of nationally respected sages, the commission will be spearheaded by Vice President Mike Pence and controversial Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Kobach, who helped on the Trump transition team, is a lightning rod for critics who have accused him of extreme racism and having ties to white nationalists.

Kobach has advocated for strict voter identification laws. Riiight.  Kansas. By far the worst governed state in the Union. Go there for wisdom.

To be clear, I have never objected to gradually ramping up the requirements that voters show ID. But there are two giant considerations:

(1) there is not evidence at all that this is a major problem requiring urgent-rapid action. Voter fraud has repeatedly been shown to be almost nonexistent.

(2) there is a simple test as to whether the  red state GOP legislators, where voter ID laws that have surged, are sincere, or attempting bald-faced suppression of US citizens exercising their rights.  What is that simple test? When red states have passed these restrictions, have they also allocated 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! See my earlier posting: Voter ID laws: scam or accountability?

So, here’s the simple test. Have any of the GOP-led state legislatures who passed stiff voter ID laws also passed funds to help poor citizens to GET the IDs they need? Very few actions would be as much 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” and 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. Confederates.

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Science: To March or Not to March?

I will be marching for science on Earth Day this weekend, to support scientific research… and our future. If you can’t attend the main march in Washington DC, there are over five hundred events in cities across the globe.

What is it all about? The organizers explain, “The March for Science is a celebration of science. It’s not only about scientists and politicians; it’s about the very real role that science plays in each of our lives and the need to respect and encourage research that gives us insight into the world. Nevertheless, the march has generated a great deal of conversation around whether or not scientists should involve themselves in politics.” As Brian Resnick writes in Vox, “The March for Science will celebrate the scientific method and advocate for evidence-based decision-making in all levels of government.”

Specific issues of concern include steep cuts proposed for science and environment budgets, the marginalized role of science in policy decisions and the lack of a science advisor for the current administration. Trump’s view of climate change as a hoax is particularly worrisome.

slate-scienceIs this the best way to engage the public? A recent essay in Slate – Scientists, Stop Thinking Explaining Science Will Fix Things – attempts to show (days before the march) that scientists need better tactics in explaining matters like climate change to the public. And yet, I find the writer’s proposed methods to be little improvement:

Tim Requarth writes, “Research also shows that science communicators can be more effective after they’ve gained the audience’s trust. With that in mind, it may be more worthwhile to figure out how to talk about science with people they already know, through, say, local and community interactions, than it is to try to publish explainers on national news sites.”

Sure, but those suggested methods are way to wimpy for this stage of a civil war, in which every fact-centered profession is under fire. As the author himself shows:

“At a Heartland Institute conference last month, Lamar Smith, the Republican chairman of the House science committee, told attendees he would now refer to “climate science” as “politically correct science,” to loud cheers. This lumps scientists in with the nebulous “left” and, as Daniel Engber pointed out here in Slate about the upcoming March for Science, rebrands scientific authority as just another form of elitism.”

P1010497This kind of tactic needs ferocious, not tepid response. How have I dealt with those who wage war on science?

It’s useful to remind people of the benefits of science. “Science has always been at the heart of America’s progress. Science cleaned up ur air and water, conquered polio and invented jet airplanes. Science gave us the Internet, puts food on our tables and helps us avoid pandemics,” writes Denis Hayes in The Los Angeles Times. Our exploration of space has led to innumerable payoffs, including solar cells, fuel cells, advances in robotics, human health and image processing, as well as communication, navigation and weather satellites — plus a generation of scientists, engineers, artists and teachers inspired by the marvels of space.

Basic research keeps American manufacturing and industry competitive. I find it effective to point out that at least half of the modern economy is built on scientific discoveries of this and earlier generations. And… that Soviet tanks would have rolled across western Europe without our advantages provided by science and research.

I ask whether expert opinion should at least inform public policy, even if experts prove to be wrong, maybe 5% of the time. I ask them if we should listen to the U.S. Navy, which totally believes in climate change, given that the Russians are building twelve new bases lining the now melting Arctic Sea.

I ask why, if they demand more proof of climate change, their leaders so desperately quash the satellites and cancel the instruments and ban the studies that could nail it down.

Sure, it pleases vanity to envision that scientists – in fact the most-competitive of humans – are sniveling “grant huggers.” But if that’s so, then:

1- Where is a listing of these so-called “grants”? After 20 years, no one has tabulated a list to show that every scientist believing in climate change has a climate grant?

2- What about meteorologists? They are rich, powerful, with no need of measly “climate grants.” Their vast, sophisticated, world-spanning weather models rake in billions from not just governments but insurance companies, media and industry, who rely on the miracle TEN DAY forecasts that have replaced the old, ridiculous four-hour “weather reports” of our youth. These are among the greatest geniuses on the planet… and nearly all of them are deeply worried about climate change.

science-haiku3- Funny thing. The Koch brothers and other coal barons and oil sheiks have offered much larger grants” to any prestigious or widely respected scientists who will join the denialist cult… I mean camp. None has accepted. So much for the “motivated by grants” theory.

No, I’ve weighed in elsewhere about how to deal with this cult. And it does not pay to be gentle.

Science matters. If you can’t make it to the March in Washington D.C, find your local Science March and let your voice be heard, loud and clear.

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Science Fiction, Cool War and Civil War

Science fiction – or more accurately, speculative fiction –  has a rich tradition of exploring What if... scenarios, exploring alternative paths of important historical events, asking questions such as, “What if the South had won the Civil War?” or “What if America had lost World War II?”

Just a few of the multitude of novels diving into divergent paths for the American Civil War include Harry Turtledove’s The Guns of the South, Terry Bisson’s Fire on the Mountain, and Ward Moore’s Bring the Jubilee. The recent, best-selling Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters posits that the Civil War never happened and slavery persists in regions of America. Even politician Newt Gingrich has written in this genre: his novel Gettysburg, co-written with William R. Forstchen, explores how history might have unfolded if the Confederacy had won this crucial battle. In a more outlandish speculation, William Forstchen’s Lost Regiment series, beginning with Rally Cry, envisions a Civil War era Union regiment transported through time and space to an alien world.

But science fiction more often projects into the future. Something deeply human keeps us both fascinated and worried about tomorrow’s dangers. Several recent novels have foreshadowed a possible – and plausible – hot phase of the recurring American Civil War. I’ve written extensively about what I view as ongoing Phases of our American Civil War; luckily most segments of this persistent animosity have been tepid or cool, though the 1860s fever was near devastating. Indeed, I fear, with current tensions, the possibility that something could go volcanic. This was portrayed – in retrospect – by my post-apocalyptic novel The Postman, which has been receiving a surge of attention lately, for its depiction of “holnists” whose rationalizations sound very much like those of Steve Bannon.

One novel I’ve touted lately is Tears of Abraham, by Sean T Smith, which chillingly takes you toward a disturbingly hot second Civil War, a deadly struggle of countryman against countryman. What would happen if the U.S. split apart into warring states — set off by a far-reaching conspiracy? A president who declares martial law as states take steps toward secession. This page turner offers vivid, believable action and characters, along with sober, thoughtful insights into what it may mean — when the chips are down — to be an American. What divides us… and what unites us?

This seems particularly relevant considering the deep divides across America during the election cycle of 2016, where Red States and Blue States were more bifurcated than ever, seemingly unable to fully comprehend the opinions and problems of their own neighbors.

220px-TheCoolWarAnother science fiction vision that came to mind, given evidence of recent efforts by foreign powers to sabotage our democracy and economy, is The Cool War, published by science fiction master Frederik Pohl back in 1981. This tale portrays ongoing slow-simmering international tensions, a series of shadow wars where rival countries seek to sabotage the economy and markets of their enemies — and allies. In fact, I deem no novel to be of more immediate pertinence to any member of our defense and intelligence communities.

Wars, cool, cold or hot? David Rothkopf, editor of Foreign Affairs, distinguishes them, commenting, “The purpose of the Cold War was to gain an advantage come the next hot war or, possibly, to forestall it. The purpose of Cool War is to be able to strike out constantly without triggering hot war, while making hot wars less desirable (much as did nuclear technology during the Cold War days) or even necessary.”

51YXFeqOcQL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_In a similar vein, the near-future thriller Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War by P.W. Singer and August Cole envisions a revived Cold War, with rising tensions between the United States, China and Russia. An all-too believable war played out not just on land and sea, but also in space and cyberspace.

Returning to parallel universes, Philip K. Dick’s alternate history of World War II,  The Man in the High Castle — follows a scenario where the Nazis have won the war; it has been vividly adapted in the recent television series of the same name by Amazon. I’ve also explored that dark aftermath where the Nazis won World War II in my graphic novel, The Life Eaters. Connie Willis has revisited World War II in her novel, Blackout. Three time travelers find themselves stranded in London during the Blitz, facing air raids and bombing raids.

Another book just hitting the shelves –  American War by Omar El Akkad – is a dystopian novel about a Second American Civil War breaking out in 2074. The United States has been largely undone by devastating ecological collapse, a presidential assassination, the onset of a virulent plague arising from a weaponized virus, and a militantly divided North and South. The novel vividly portrays a doomed country wracked by vicious guerrilla raids, refugee camps interning displaced citizens, accompanied by relentless violence and death.

Whew! One can only hope that dark visions from these nightmarish scenarios might serve as self-preventing prophecies — much as George Orwell’s prophetic 1984 girded many to fight against the rise of any possible Big Brother to their last breath. Can we resist the divisions that threaten our country?

Indeed, our civilization’s ultimate success may depend on our foresight — perceiving potential problems we are able to navigate, mistakes we manage to avoid. Science fiction has often served to shine a light to reveal possible — and catastrophic — pitfalls in our shared future.

Warnings we would be wise to heed… and wounds we would be wise to heal.

 

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A defense of liberalism

 

Lest the media’s obsession with bad news suggest that the world is going to hell in a handbasket, Harvard Professor of Psychology  Steven Pinker argues in an interview that things have actually gone a lot better over recent centuries, and at an accelerating pace:

“A shift in the summum bonum, or the highest good, towards loose humanism, where life is better than death, education better than ignorance, health better than sickness,” he says, “is what I believe we are seeing currently.”

Pinker’s historic and statistical analysis that violence is on a continuing downward trend is expanded upon in his 2011 book, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, where he discusses factors such as globalization, a shift in value systems, the increased quality of life, particularly for women and children, as well as the profound driving force of the rational ideas of the Enlightenment.

And yet, Pinker notes, “Since we are tribal creatures, there is always the temptation to backslide.” A temptation we must resist.

Progress-happensProgress has happened and continues to happen… in our attitudes toward the environment, toward racial discrimination, toward equal rights for women, toward greater awareness of LGBTQ issues… and gradually toward leveling economic inequality.

Yet so many wallow in nostalgia. Often nostalgia for a past that never was. America was built by men and women who dreamed and built, who believed – and believe – in something called progress, in negotiating positive solutions for a better future. For all.

Why do more highly educated people veer toward liberalism? The Pew Research Center recently released a study showing that nearly a third of those who went to graduate or professional school maintain liberal views on social, economic and environmental matters, whereas this is true for just one in 10 Americans generally. “An additional quarter of postgrads have mostly liberal views. These numbers reflect drastic change: While professionals have been in the Democratic column for a while, in 1994 only 7 percent of postgrads held consistently liberal political opinions,” reports Neil Gross in The New York Times.

This might have been interesting as the introduction to an article about the topic. But the article failed to explore this thread in more depth. Though one thing is clear — highly educated people are more cognizant of time horizons that encompass a recognition of change.

altruistic-horizonsWhen the ambient fear level is high, as in civil war riven Syria, loyalties are kept close to home. Me against my brother. My brother and me against my cousins. We and our cousins against the world. Alliances merge and are broken quickly, along a sliding scale that appears to be remarkably consistent.

The general trend seems to be this: the lower the ambient fear level declines, the more broadly a human being appears willing to define those tribal boundaries, and the more generous he or she is willing to be toward a stranger. See this explored in my earlier article: Altruistic Horizons: Our tribal natures, the ‘fear effect,’ and the end of ideologies.

Michael Shermer has expanded in more detail upon the profound influence of rising levels of rationality and reasoning on our morality in his book, The Moral Arc: How Science and Reason Lead Humanity Toward Truth, Justice, and Freedom. Shermer, the founder and director of The Skeptics Society, argues powerfully that we are living in the most moral and just period of our entire history, largely as a result of the Scientific Revolution and the Age of Reason and their impact on human society. The expansion of this moral sphere has led to widespread democracy, civil rights, and greater justice for more of humanity. (As well as rising standards of living and improved health and sanitation.)

change-nostalgia-1The world was different in the past. That is not just a reason for nostalgia but also for recognition that change will continue. That change must continue. (The kind  of disruptive change that makes science fiction by far the most pertinent literature of our era.)

Liberalism is an attempt to harness and steer change. Hence it is not leftist per se… Marx thought that steering history was futile!  It is this belief that we can refashion ourselves and society using tools of discourse and/or science that makes the educated liberal.

Well… yes… compassion and empathy, too. But it is no accident that free enterprise, markets, entrepreneurship – all desiderata that supposedly the right cares about – do far better when liberals are managing the state.

Sorry, it is a blatant and overwhelming fact, Jack.

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Is there room for compromise?

Our political landscape has been deliberately polarized so that the mere concept of “negotiation” toward possible positive-sum — or win-win — solutions is simply inconceivable in the minds of average Americans. I’ll put aside whom I blame — it’s not equal, though both sides contribute. And the fact that complex issues have automatic “sides” is part of the problem.

Gun control is an archetype for how desperately stupid the situation has become. On the face of it, we have facts:

  1. Almost no one is calling for removal of personal weapons from American life – an absurd prospect that would be impossible and any attempt would likely cause revolution.
  2. After years in which white males deemed gun ownership to be their (romantically envisioned) recourse to some day use insurrection against any future-hypothetical government oppression, they now see non-whites taking up precisely that recourse… arming themselves and using weapons in insurrection against what they perceive as current and palpable government oppression.
  3. Moderates have long pointed to the great American success story, putting potentially lethal devices filled with explosive chemicals and potential to do harm into the hands of millions, even teenagers, who then use these devices with stunning care, diligence and statistical safety. Motor vehicles. Sure, they kill approximately the same number of Americans each year as firearms. But they are used – in close proximity to other people – roughly 100,000 times as frequently as firearms. Per capita-hours.

The proposal that has been long on the table is to treat firearms exactly like motor vehicles. In fact, if you look at the vehicle codes in most states, you could squint and imagine just doing a global from “cars” to “firearms” and you’d almost be there. Licensing, registration and – above all – insurance have worked with autos… with higher levels required for commercial vehicles, trucks etc. … and why not the same thing for assault rifles?

There is one and only one response from NRA types and that is the Slippery Slope Argument (SSA). Once the government has a list of licensees and registrations, ‘the government” could then go to every address and demand personal weapons be handed over.

It may surprise you to know that I have some sympathy for this argument! Certainly such things have happened in the past. As a science fiction author, I am willing to ponder far-out scenarios, especially those that have some historical precedent. And while it seems 99% likely that any such program of confiscation would spark the very revolution it was meant to prevent… and most of those assigned to carry it out would refuse… nevertheless, this is where we get to the place where our divide is partly the fault of the left.

JeffersonRifeHow ironic that liberals seem unable to discuss with their neighbors the notion of a Jeffersonian Insurrectionary Recourse… the notion that the citizenship should retain the right and ability to rebel against tyranny. During the outrageous Bushite years, I know many who simmered, and some who started arming themselves. Yet the party line meant they could not say it, out loud.

Is the Insurrectionary Recourse merely romantic twaddle, in an age of drones and smart bombs and nukes? Is it likely that a city filled with angry rebels could stand up against the US Army? In fact, the answer is yes, because the Army is made up of citizens who would likely rebel if ordered to carpet bomb American cities… which is ironic because they’d also refuse to go around collecting guns. Sorry NRA fellahs, you can’t have it both ways.

I go into this in much more detail here: Brin Classics: “The Jefferson Rifle”

… including my suggestion for how to get out of this mess. Because the NRA guys are ignoring one, final major flaw in their position. One major fact:

  1. The Second Amendment is stunningly weak. It is by far the weakest amendment. And just yelling that it’s strong will not make it strong.

“A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

Sure, the gun guys proclaim that we can ignore the entire first half of that wording. And maybe courts today will agree with them. But a day will come when a frightened public and/or a new court will turn to those first 13 words, especially the first four, and let the state “regulate” away. Stop yammering that it can’t happen. It not only can. It will. And you know it.

In my other paper I offer up a win-win. A way that the insurrectionary recourse might be retained and bolstered by a better amendment! 

How about… Setting aside one kind of weapon from all future registration or awareness by anyone… in exchange for treating all the others exactly like cars. It is sensible. It gives all sides what they need.

What’re the chances, you suppose?

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Demonization and the deliberate destruction of U.S. politics

survival-richestLet’s start with Survival of the Richest: How the recovery left the middle class behind: All right, this is Mother Jones. Still, any conservative American who actually has the guts to look at these graphics will come away realizing that we truly are at 1933 again. And that we must do something about the skyrocketing wealth disparities that threatened every past generation of the American Experiment. And that Supply Side Voodoo Economics assurances have by now proved 100% lies.

Past generations found reasonable, compromise solutions and negotiated pragmatically to both keep a vibrant flat-open-fair-competitive capitalism and maintain social mobility.

Indeed, it is to prevent such negotiations that today’s oligarchs have financed the destruction of politics in the U.S. (e.g. the “Hastert Rule” that no republican may ever negotiate with democrats, over anything, ever. It is an explicit and openly stated rule within the party and the chief reason that Newt Gingrich was fired as a leader of the party, for negotiating with Bill Clinton both the Budget Act and Welfare Reform.)

It is for that reason the right spares no effort to call Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) the same thing as Satan Incarnate… even though our parents in the Greatest Generation adored him more than any other human.

Fact, is, FDR effectively SAVED capitalism and the wealthy, in America. The aristo fools who demonize him and seek to restore feudalism seem too stupid to realize the alternative to a middle class America — such as FDR built — is not feudalism… but tumbrels. They should be the ones seeking a new Roosevelt. reciprocal-demonization

== Can science overcome demonization? ==

I oft point out the top feature of the re-ignited U.S. Civil War – that normal politics of deliberation/negotiation is dead in America, killed by reciprocal demonization that’s funded by — well — traitors.

But science offers hope! Yes, we tend to think the “other side” is motivated principally by hatred. See my earlier posting: Who Benefits from the Politics of Outrage?

“But according to a new study being released by PNAS, it’s possible to get people to think more positively about their opponents. All it takes is a small cash payment to get people to step back and think. And with a more positive understanding of the opposition, people become willing to think that compromise is possible.”

Be afraid Rupert! All it will take is $12 per US citizen to get them back into a mood for negotiating with their neighbors! Now, get me the ear of Warren Buffett…

== Selling Cynicism == secret-government

In sharp contrast to that positive news… now dive into this paean to cynicism in the Boston Globe by Jordan Michael Smith, “Vote all you want. The secret government won’t change.” While surficially satisfying, the essay in fact is flat out dopey food-for-lazy-cynics, pushing the pablum sneer that voting does not matter, because Obama is just the same as Bush.

Alas, all Mr. Smith proves is that there are lefty-fools, as well as righty ones. Want just one devastating example?

In 2013 the Obama Administration supported what the Bushites opposed, the most important civil liberties action in 30 years. A declaration backing court decisions that citizens have an absolute right to record their interactions with police. Had Republicans been in the White House, the cases might have been appealed to the Supreme Court and possibly reversed.

And this is likely to be extensible to other authorities. This precedent empowers citizens to make the inevitable top-down glare at least somewhat two-way. No Republican supported this move, which arms us with a core entitlement to use fast-improving technology to balance power, at least somewhat. At least in principle it does! At the level where it matters most — on the streeets. It will be up to us to keep extending it, indefinitely. sousveillance

Mr. Smith’s whines about NSA spying are the sign of a dismally unimaginative reflex. Nothing will stop surveillance. Drive it out of the NSA and it will dive somewhere else, even harder to supervise, like a game of whack-a-mole. But it can be rendered harmless with sufficient sousveillance!

That is where the fight should be radical, militant and fierce. But we are undermined by fools who sit and cynically glower that “there’s no difference.” (That is, if Mr. Smith is not already in the pay of Rupert Murdoch.)

No difference? Here’s another huge, huge area of dem-gop divergence that would matter, if our punditocracy were 1/10th as smart as they think they are: The diametrically opposite doctrines under which liberals and conservatives wage war.

We are seeing this difference play out, yet again, before our very eyes.

But the final dismissal of such monstrous cynical sneers is simple enough to repeat to yourself, over and over again: “It’s the Supreme Court, stupid. It’s the Supreme Court, stupid. It’s the Supreme Court, stupid. It’s the Supreme Court, stupid. It’s the Supreme Court, stupid. It’s the Supreme Court, stupid. It’s the Supreme Court, stupid. It’s the Supreme Court, stupid. It’s the Supreme Court, stupid. It’s the Supreme Court, stupid. It’s the Supreme Court, stupid. It’s the Supreme Court, stupid. It’s the Supreme Court, stupid. It’s the Supreme Court, stupid. And… oh yes. It’s the Supreme Court, stupid.”

== You would actually re-hire these guys? ==

Name one unambiguous statistical metric of US national economic, social, scientific, fiscal or middle class health that improved across the span of any recent GOP tenure in power.   (In any way that can be reasonably attributed to their governance.) You cannot name more than a couple that did not plummet.  Let’s state that clearly. Outcomes from both Bush administrations were almost universally disastrous.  And those include conservative metrics such as near total destruction of US military readiness.

One measure of the delusion dominating America’s gone-around-the-bend right wing is the matter of military readiness. At the end of the Clinton Administration, 100% of major US military units were rated fully combat ready. By the time GW Bush left office, not a single major army or marine unit was so rated… half have now regained that status.http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/…

Do outcomes matter at all to you?  Or only Fox-assertions and anecdotes and incantations to feel good.

Fact, more than half of those statistical metrics improved markedly under Clinton and Obama.  Nothing I said here has anything at all to do with left or right.  It is simple outcomes appraisal.

Adults do it.  Fox-watchers do not.

manchurian-candidate-politicsIn fact, such a perfect record of doing damage to America almost beggars explanation. (And make no mistake, the “brain trusts” of both Romney and McCain were filled almost entirely by Bush appointees.)  Elsewhere I’ve offered 20% odds… or 1:4… that the almost perfect tally of unalloyedly harmful outcomes from both Bush presidencies might… just might … have been deliberate:  “Indeed, it does parsimoniously fit all Bush Administration outcomes, far better than the standard theories: dogmatism, venality and stupidity. But the truly curious thing is that absolutely no one will discuss a lesser-odds option — the “manchurian” one — even just to have it on a corner of the table.”

Well, well. I stand corrected. The “Manchurian scenario actually has been broached in a few places. Once by Robert Buzzanco, Professor of History, University of Houston. But even more bitingly by the brilliant cartoonist Tom Tomorrow. Come on.  Do what you can, before the mid-terms. And vote.

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How Far Conservatism Has Changed

All right, it is an important U.S. political season.  As a registered Republican and a frequent speaker at libertarian gatherings, I remain hopeful that this will be the year that several million temperamentally conservative Americans wake up to the way their movement and the GOP have been hijacked. And that only a shattering drubbing at the polls will send the American right back to the drawing boards — learning to do politics again. Including negotiation about real problems. Oh, but it will be so hard!

The oligarchs who have done the hijacking have ordered up so many narratives, from “birther” paranoia to climate denialism, from preaching “oligarchy is gooood for you” to utter lies about U.S. history. I will explicate the best and most hilariously most damning example below — the George Soros Effect.

thats-not-austinBut first — In That’s Not What They Meant!: Reclaiming the Founding Fathers from America’s Right WingProfessor Michael Austin examines dozens of books, articles, speeches, and radio broadcasts by such figures as Glenn Beck, Mark Levin, Sean Hannity, Larry Schweikart, and David Barton to expose the deep historical flaws in their use of America’s founding history. In contrast to their misleading method of citing proof texts to serve a narrow agenda, Austin allows the Founding Fathers to speak for themselves, situating all quotations in the proper historical context.

What emerges is a true historical picture of men who often disagreed with one another on such crucial issues as federal power, judicial review, and the separation of church and state. As Austin shows, the real legacy of the Founding Fathers to us is a political process: a system of disagreement, debate, and compromise that has kept democracy vibrant in America for more than two hundred years, but that regularly comes under attack.. How extreme has been the veer off any path of sane conservatism?

A commenter on the New York Magazine site said: Nothing underscores the change in the Republican Party more than to read Dwight Eisenhower’s 1956 Republican Platform: government-head-heart

PHILOSOPHY: “Our great President Eisenhower has counseled us further: “In all those things which deal with people, be liberal, be human. Government must have a heart as well as a head. “

LABOR: “Workers have benefited by the progress which has been made in carrying out the programs and principles set forth in the 1952 Republican platform. All workers have gained and unions have grown in strength and responsibility, and have increased their membership by 2 millions. “

EDUCATION: “Republican action created the Department of Health, Education and Welfare as the first new Federal department in 40 years, to raise the continuing consideration of these problems for the first time to the highest council of Government, the President’s Cabinet.”

FOREIGN POLICY: “We shall continue vigorously to support the United Nations.”

SAFETY NET: The Federal minimum wage has been raised for more than 2 million workers. Social Security has been extended to an additional 10 million workers and the benefits raised for 6 1/2 million. The protection of unemployment insurance has been brought to 4 million additional workers.

ENVIRONMENT: “We recognize the need for maintaining isolated wilderness areas to provide opportunity for future generations to experience some of the wilderness living through which the traditional American spirit of hardihood was developed. Added more than 400,000 acres to our National Park system, and 90,000 acres to wildlife refuges.”  

==On George Soros==  soros-globalization

All right. Here is one of the most powerful examples of the mad-right’s narrative machine, and how sadly incurious millions of our neighbors have become, nodding and swallowing anything that gets fed to them on Fox. Use this!  Ask your crazy uncle what he thinks of a man named… George Soros. He’ll tell you all about Soros! How he is a criminal mastermind with a huge media empire that has suckered millions in Blue America into raving socialist-communist frenzy. Never mind that Soros’s wealth and media “empire” are minuscule compared to the triumvirate of Rupert Mudoch, the Koch boys and the Saudi royal family, all co-owners of Fox. Folks following the narrative call George Soros a “super-leftist” master-demon.

A special moment: they nod in terror when Glen Beck howls “Soros toppled EIGHT foreign governments!” In fact, that’s true! For once, Beck ain’t lying at all. George Soros did help to topple eight foreign governments! He is, indeed, a formidable fellow. Alas, in a sign of how far GOP intellect has plummeted since days of Goldwater and Buckley, not one audience member of the Beck or Limbaugh or Fox riefenstahl-rallies ever lifts his head to ask … “Um… Glen? Rush? Sean? WHICH eight foreign governments do you credit Soros – the “super leftist” with toppling?” In ten years of daring these guys, none of the Fox-ites I’ve  confronted has ever been able to name even one of those toppled foreign governments. It just never occurred to them, to ask.

Are you ready to ask? Ready for the list? Here are those eight foreign governments Beck/Limbaugh/Fox credit George Soros with toppling.

The communist dictatorship of Hungary.

The communist dictatorship of Poland

The communist dictatorship of Czechoslovakia

The communist dictatorship of Romania

The communist dictatorship of Bulgaria

The communist dictatorship of Estonia

The communist dictatorship of Latvia

The communist dictatorship of Lithuania

And mind you it isn’t just uber-conservative Beck and Limbaugh who credit Soros with this terrifying feat! The Heritage Foundation and AEI and most conservative pundit-castes have repeated it! Along with many GOP candidates. (Though sometimes the figure is nine since it rightfully should include East Germany.) Indeed, Soros’s relentless efforts to undermine the USSR and communism made up his core life’s work and even many sane modern political observers credit him substantially.

soros-EULet’s make this explicit. Glen Beck and all those other right wing mavens officially credit terrifying leftist George Soros with the toppling of the Iron Curtain and the end of the Warsaw Pact, the liberation of hundreds of millions and the victorious end of the Cold War. Huh. I thought it was that other liberal (compared to today’s GOP) Ronald Reagan. In fact, they both share equal credit with Michail Gorbachev and with the plan’s architect – George Marshall. (With Jimmy Carter deserving more of an assist cred than you’d believe.)

Look, the crux here is not who actually tore down the wall. Hey,let’s credit the people of those nations, above all. No, the crux is this: why are the viewers of Fox and Beck/Limbaugh so cosmically stupid that they never — any of them — ask enough questions to notice the tsunami of ironies and contradictions at their Nuremberg Rally? So… um… where does this ghastly example of looniness, incuriosity and knee jerk obedience to declared dogma leave the credibility of today’s monster that has hijacked the once intellectually solid American conservative movement?

Oh, pity Barry Goldwater. spinning 6000 RPM in his grave.

== Make that 10,000 RPM… ==

I have long believed we should be dealing with crises with a multi-pronged approach. The far-left, in opposing even experiments in (say) ocean fertilization, is almost 10% as crazy as today’s entire US right. (Yes, that crazy!) Both sides poison pragmatism, which is portrayed on this page about ways to ameliorate the incredible harm that carbonate-driven acidification is doing to our oceans. phforecast But yes, there’s no doubt it is the Denialist Cult doing the worst harm.

Ocean acidification is the silver bullet, boys and girls. It is undeniable. It cannot be armwaved away with Fox-nuremberg-style sieg-incantations. It is pure fact, and caused by human generated CO2. And it threatens our children. Furthermore, those who would sneer us into doing nothing – refusing even to negotiate moderate improvements in energy efficiency that would save consumers billions – are complicit with murdering the future.

Do not let them get away with the tactic of yelling “Squirrel!” and pointing elsewhere to change the subject. Repeat it. “The oceans are going acid. The oceans are going acid. The oceans are going acid. The oceans are going acid. The oceans are going acid. The oceans are going acid. The oceans are going acid. The oceans are going acid…. “…And if YOU guys keep this up, and the seas die, we will remember you. Yes you. By name.”

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The right narrative to fight voter-suppression candidates

I sent the following suggestion to the campaign of Jean Schodorf, who is running to oust the “worst Republican in the world” – Kris Koback – from the office of Kansas Secretary of State. Schodorf is that rare creature, a genuine prairie conservative who would have been republican all her life, till she realized that the madness that has hijacked today’s GOP is not temporary and recently switched parties. Unlike the millions of sane but in-denial “ostrich republicans” who have buried their heads, moaning and hoping the craziness will just go away, Schodorf is taking it on, head-to-head. Zeroing in on Koback’s blatant and extreme efforts to suppress thousands of native born Kansans from exercising their right to vote.

Here is my suggestion… which any of you are free to pass along to your own favorite candidates-for-sanity.

 ————

Dear Jean Schodorf,

voter-suppression-laws-voteDavid Brin here – best-selling author and scientist – with a suggestion how to manage the voter-suppression issue in your coming electoral campaign.

Let’s start with the obvious: You will get almost nowhere just proclaiming that Voter Suppression laws are unfair.  That will be dismissed as “the whining of losers.”

There is a much better “judo” argument that will expose the Voter ID campaigns as hypocritical cheating… a much more powerful accusation.  Please carefully read my argument below, which is cribbed from one of my more well-known postings: Steering Our Outrage in Wrong Directions.

“In fact, as a moderate, I am not opposed to gradually increasing the demand that voters prove who they are! Even though at-precinct voting fraud is virtually nil, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with improving care and accountability. People who are against voter ID improvements in any form are probably dogmatic, too.

voter-repression-laws“But — and here is a very big “but” — if these laws aren’t aimed solely at stealing elections for the GOP, then the states in question would have accompanied the new regulations with measures aimed at helping their citizens to comply with the new burdens.

“States routinely give “compliance assistance” to major corporations, when new regulations apply to them. 

 “But apparently not one cent has been appropriated in any red state to help the poor, or young, or women, or minorities to get the required ID, a move that would also help them in so many other aspects of life.  In some cases, simple access to ID might help them to STOP being poor.

“Please dig that well, because it is the alarm and utter proof of both cheating motives and lying hypocrisy. How much have red states allocated to help newly disenfranchised citizens to comply with onerous new state regulations?  Not… one… red… cent.

Hypocrisy“Hypocrisy is still punished by some voters. If this point of compliance is hammered home, maybe ten percent of the voters might be swayed, and that’s a lot.

“Hammer that this is what the once honorable and intellectual movement of Goldwater and Buckley is reduced to. Not winning elections based on the merits of their evidence or by comparing the outcomes from their party’s past periods of rule. Rather, all efforts go to cheating and more cheating. And if you support this cheat, then no amount of arm-waving will let you escape the clear fact — that you are a cheater, too.”

Yes, that is a very aggressive way to put it.  But this issue could be a killer for candidates opposing the swarm of vipers who have taken over the party of Lincoln, Eisenhower and Reagan.

With cordial regards,

David Brin

http://www.davidbrin.com

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