America slides to the right, faster. Why? What you can do about it!

Summary: Today’s post gives excerpts from some of the best political analysis of the year, concluding with suggestions for those people who care to do something about it.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

El Reagan: viva revolucion

Contents

  1. The best political analysis of the year.
  2. Excerpt #1: The Problem.
  3. Excerpt #2: The real problem, part one.
  4. Excerpt #3: The real problem, part two.
  5. What you can do about all this.
  6. For More Information.

 

(1)  The best political analysis you’ll read this year

A slow-mo revolution has been running in America since 1980. We have entered the steep part of the “S” curve, when laboriously built political machinery of the Right reaches maturity and exerts its full power.

There have been hundreds of articles about this. Pulling all this together is “No Cost for Extremism” in The American Prospect — “Why the GOP hasn’t (yet) paid for its march to the right.” The authors are professors of political science: Jacob Hacker at Yale, Paul Pierson at Berkeley. If not stopped it will shape a new America for the 21st century. I recommend that you read it in full.

On the other hand, why bother unless you’ll do something about it? See the last section for some ideas.

(2)  Excerpt #1: The Problem

According to the news media, 2014 was the year that the GOP “Establishment” finally pulled Republicans back from the right-wing brink. Pragmatism, it seemed, had finally triumphed over extremism in primary and general election contests that The New York Times called “proxy wars for the overall direction of the Republican Party.”

There’s just one problem with this dominant narrative. It’s wrong. The GOP isn’t moving back to the center. … based on voting records, the current Republican majority in the Senate is far more conservative than the last Republican majority in the 2000s. Meanwhile, the incoming House majority is unquestionably the most conservative in modern history, continuing the virtually uninterrupted 40-year march of the House Republican caucus to the hard right.

The GOP’s great right migration is the biggest story in American politics of the past 40 years. And it’s not just limited to Congress: GOP presidents have gotten steadily more conservative, too; conservative Republicans increasingly dominate state politics; and the current Republican appointees on the Supreme Court are among the most conservative in the Court’s modern history.

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Appeals to fear gain little support for the Left on climate change. What next?

Summary: Fear has worked wonders for the Right but despite massive investments it has failed to produce much for the Left, hence their diminished state in US politics. As their major campaign clanks on with little public policy effect, some on the Left ask questions about this tactic — and scientists’ studies give answers. Today’s post reviews the action, on which so much depends.  {1st of 2 posts today.}

Few activists,Left or Right, believe John. They find FEAR a more reliable tool.John 8-32

After 25 years of fear barrages, one of the greatest efforts of the Left in recent history, public concern about climate change in the US remains low vs. other environmental risks (see this post and a 2015 Gallup poll). Now they’re beginning to ask questions about their tactics. Why has fear worked wonders for the Right but done so little for them?

It’s a pivotal moment for the Left in America. Climate change has been their key issue, one that ties together much of their work and in which they have invested massive resources. So far it has failed due to a combination of an uncooperative climate, opposition from the Right, and an unusually fear-resistant public. How they react might determine the role in US history for another generation — or longer.

For an excellent long-form look at these complex issues, see Andy West’s article at Climate Etc about “Contradiction on emotional bias in the climate domain“. He sets the stage…

Along with a great deal of subconscious or unconsidered emotive communication advocating CAGW {catastrophic anthropogenic global warming}, deliberately emotive communication campaigns have been a feature of the Consensus (in its widest sense, i.e. including government agencies, NGOs, much of academia etc.) for many years. There doesn’t seem to have been any systemic effort to hide this approach.

Quite the contrary; articles and papers discussing the various merits or otherwise of specific emotive crafting are easy to find, often with recommendations for improved efforts along the same lines. And this literature is clearly phrased in the context that such campaigns are, as self-perceived, a norm. Perhaps even more than just a norm; a gratifying achievement with an aspiration for more. Yet the relative lack of success of these campaigns (as assessed via surveys) has caused more reflection and analysis in recent years.

Diagnosis of failure

West cites many powerful articles about this. Here are excerpts from several of them. First, “The Role of Emotion in Global Warming Policy Support and Opposition“, Nicholas Smith and Anthony Leiserowitz, Risk Analysis, May 2014. What makes people concerned about climate change? Appealing to which emotion gains the most support?

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Why all American should beware of the police

Many posts discussed police violence against the underclass and mentally ill. But in New America all Americans (except the rich) should be wary of the police. This post from the archives (updated and expanded) explains why. Read it. The life you save…

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Summary: Today’s post is a change of focus. Instead of discussing the evolution of the-America-that-once-was into New America (#NewAmerica), let’s talk about how to cope in it. For example, what should you do when questioned by the police? You have identified yourself, and now the questions begin…

Clombo, played by Peter Falk

Real police are not like Detective Colombo.

Contents

  1. Don’t talk without an attorney present.
  2. Fear police interrogations
  3. We’ve vulnerable because we’re all criminals.
  4. Fear the security services.
  5. A historical note.
  6. For More Information.
  7. Hollywood teaches us to love the security services.

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(1)  Don’t talk without an attorney present

The evolution of the-America-that-once-was into New America has changed almost every aspect of our society. But one aspect more than most. “Law enforcement” agencies have become the security services; less responsive to the public, serving shadowy masters, larger and better funded, more focused on political concerns than crime, far better armed, and more willing (even eager) to use force.

Here is some advice on dealing with them, a presentation by James Duane (professor at Regent Law School and former defense attorney) explaining why you should never agree to be interviewed by the police in a criminal matter without your attorney present (transcript here):

{ Click here to read the rest. }

Key facts about the drought that’s reshaping Texas

Summary: The farmers and ranchers of Texas exhaust its groundwater as they suffer from a severe drought, which activists blame our burning of fossil fuels. What do scientists say? How severe is the drought? What are its causes? How will this reshape Texas? It’s another test case of our ability to see and adapt to our changing world. {1st of 2 posts today.}

“Texas is a state of mind. Texas is an obsession. Above all, Texas is a nation in every sense of the word.”.
— John Steinbeck in Travels with Charley in Search of America (1962).

US Drought Monitor: March 2015

Click to expand.

Texas Seal

Contents

  1. More hysteria from the Left.
  2. Status report from Texas.
  3. Learning from the past in Texas.
  4. Let’s try science!
  5. Look to the future.
  6. For More Information.
  7. The Hydro-Illogical Cycle.

(1)  More hysteria from the Left

The media overflows with debates asking do you believe in climate change? As with evolution, much of America remains in denial. Some on the Right deny that it’s happening now; some on the Left deny that it’s omnipresent in history. Both use science as magicians use their wands: to confuse us. But we have reliable sources to guide us. How to find them is the subject of many posts on the FM website.

Today we look at the Texas drought. The New Republic gives us a well-written example of how not to do it: “Fear in a Handful Of Dust” by Ted Genoways — Excerpt:

Climate change is making the Texas panhandle, birthplace of the state’s iconic Longhorn, too hot and dry to raise beef. What happens to the range when the water runs out? … Soon, environmental activists and reporters {ed: not scientists} began to ask whether “drought” — a temporary weather pattern — was really the right term for what was happening in the state, or whether “desertification” was more appropriate.

… In fact, hydrologists estimate that even with improved rainfall, it could take thousands of years to replenish the groundwater already drawn from the South Plains.

… “If climate change is the real deal,” {Linden Morris} said, “then the human race as we know it is over. And I don’t believe that.”

Climate change is the “real deal”, but someone should tell Morris that few scientists believe we are “over”. Genoways’ confusing article mixes together several trends, most seriously conflating three important but largely unrelated trends: groundwater depletion, the current drought, and climate change.

Farmers and ranchers have been draining the Ogallala Aquifer (a finite store of water, part of a system underlying about 80% of the High Plains) at an ever-faster rate since the 1940s. In Texas they accelerated their pumping during the current drought. As scientists have warned for generations, at some point we will exhaust this great aquifer network and the Midwest economy will irrevocably change. It’s a phase in our history, like the California and Alaskan gold rushes. (For more information see this by the USGS; also seen the graph showing depletion levels here.)

But despite his apocalyptic language, Genoways doesn’t show that many climate scientists (let alone a consensus) believe that climate change, natural or anthropogenic, is largely responsible for the Texas drought. Let’s see review the evidence, and listen to what they actually say.

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Why are we militarizing American society?

Summary:  Previous posts in this series showed how America has militarized. Today we ask “why”? The answer is superficially obvious, but the deeper reasons are mysterious. This is the conclusion to a series about the militarization of America.    {2nd of 2 posts today.}

Purgamenta hujus mundi sunt tria: pcatis, bellum, et frateria.”
-— This world is purified in three ways: by plague, by war, by monastic seclusion (proverb).

The new Statue of Liberty

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Contents

  1. Why are we militarizing?
  2. Cui Bono?
  3. Is America militarizing?
  4. Other posts in this series.
  5. For More Information.

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(1) Why are we militarizing American society?

“War is one of the great agencies by which human progress is effected.”

— Opening of “The Benefits of War” by Stephen Luce (Rear Admiral, US Navy), North American Review, 1 December 1891. He founded the Naval War College and was its first president.

The previous posts in this series described some aspects of the militarization of American society, from our geopolitics to our entertainment. Now for the big question: why? Few people agree with Admiral Luce’s enthusiasm for war, mostly burned out of western culture by the horrors of WWI and WWII.

We know why people of the Military Industrial Complex support the militarization of society; as Ike warned us in 1961. But why have we responded so enthusiastically to this militarization? Previous generations of Americans mocked militarized states like Prussia, all those marching soldiers in their fancy uniforms while instead we built a great nation.

So I asked one of the brightest people I know, Steve Randy Waldman (he writes at Interfluidity). He replied that for 120 years foreign wars have been good for America (as a whole, with the sacrifice of only a small fraction of our people). From 1846 – 1966 — from war against Mexico to the turning point in Vietnam — wars destroyed our rivals and stimulated our economy (e.g., the stimulus of debt-fueled WWII spending decisively ended the Great Depression), often bringing us new territory.

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We can’t fix police violence because we don’t know the cause

Summary: Police violence is a hot issue in 2015, as NSA surveillance was in 2013. Activists probably will make the same two mistakes now as they did then. First, they’ll build an inadequate political coalition (many whites fear blacks more than the police). Second, they’ll fail to understand the roots of the causes of the problem, making effective treatment difficult or impossible.  Here we look at the latter problem.  {1st of 2 posts today.}

Police: To Protect and to Serve

The pressure grows for reforms to the US law enforcement apparatus as the number of police brutality reports grow. By now it’s well documented, as in this detailed report by the ACLU: “War Comes Home – The Excessive Militarization of American Policing“. Of course resistance from the police has arisen along with opposition from the Right (see this and this story).

Yet the debate includes little discussion about the nature of the problem, which remains on the simplest level. The violence results from “bad apples” among police, plus “insufficient training” and “racism.” There are excuses also, such as “the police shooter was nervous because so many criminals have guns” and “the police shooter feared for his life.”

These are partial truths, at best, on which we’ll build controversial solutions with high odds of failure. Accurate diagnosis should precede treatment if we’re to have good odds of success. Agitating for change is nice, but not enough. Let’s review some important factors at work here.

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The neocons captured the Star Trek universe, as they’ve captured America

Summary:  This post looks at the evolution of the Star Trek “universe” from 1964 through today, using it as a mirror to help us see how we’ve changed. It gives us a clear picture, but one we might not want to see. This is the second in this series about the militarization of American society; see the conclusion tomorrow.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

GARTH: “You, Captain, are second only to me as the finest military commander in the galaxy.”
KIRK: “That’s very flattering. I am primarily an explorer now, Captain Garth.”

— From “Whom the Gods Destroy”, first aired January 1969. It was a different America.

Spock: vulcan peace sign

Contents

  1. Evolution of the Star Trek universe.
  2. The evolution of Star Trek is America’s.
  3. Other posts in this series.
  4. For More Information.

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(1) Evolution of the Star Trek universe

One often-mentioned aspect of the great Star Trek saga, first conceived in 1964 and still running, is that it provides a mirror showing the evolution of American society. The longest trend is its gradual militarization. Roddenberry pitched it as a “Wagon Train” to the stars, explorers moving though a new universe of wonders. The Enterprise met new peoples, sometimes hostile, sometimes friends, sometimes incomprehensible.

Mostly episodes in the original Trek featured exploration, commerce, and diplomacy. These took place during a cold war with the Klingons and Romulans, with some conflicts and even battles (echoing the geopolitics of the 1960s). There were shows about frontier clashes (“Balance of Terror”, “Arena”, ), proxy wars (“A Private Little War”), cold war gamesmanship (“The Enterprise Incident”, “Journey to Babel”), fighting off invaders (“By Any Other Name”), and an outbreak of total war (“Errand of Mercy”).

But these were more than offset by the explicitly anti-war tone of the series (“The Doomsday Machine”, “Day of the Dove”, “Spectre of the Gun”, “The Corbomite Maneuver”, “A Taste of Armageddon”, and the twist endings to “Errand of Mercy” and “Arena”).

The series slowly grew darker, generation by generation, as the Star Trek universe shifted from Roddenberry’s original vision to that of today’s neocons. Deep Space 9 was a war story. Voyager journeyed though a realm of high tech races that resembled the Balkans. I consider this among the darkest of scenarios, where sentient species develop god-like powers without intellectual, moral, or spiritual growth.

The last series, “Enterprise” wars are ever-present: between Andorians and Vulcans, an invasion by the Sphere Builders (in which millions on Earth were killed, and the planet itself escaped destruction by seconds), and a temporal cold war (which briefly turned hot and almost destroyed our time line).

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