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Under the cloak of liberalism America slides to Fascism

20 October 2012

Summary: Today’s post shows that another American has become aware that our two major parties have broadly similar policies, differing mostly in the speed with which they’ll take us to oligarchy and empire. That’s not to say that the choice is unimportant. Speed is deadly for us, allowing less time to resist.

This is the 7th in a series of posts about the possible death of the Second Republic, and the evolution of a new political regime.

Under the Cloak of Liberalism – America on the Cusp of Fascism
By Norman Pollack, CounterPunch, 12-14 October 2012.
It’s well worth reading in full. This excerpt looks at the choice offered us in 2012.

Obama is unassailable, enjoying the protective cloak of the state secrets doctrine (which, also as the National Security State, he invokes constantly), the liberal glossing on all policy matters, thanks to the extremely able spinmeisters Axelrod and Rhodes, and an adoring, submissive, uncritical base, in deep denial and for whatever reasons unwilling to examine the administration’s record. That record confirms the long-term political, economic, and moral bankruptcy of the Democratic party, whose differentiating character setting it apart from the Republicans lies in the magnitude of skilled evasion and/or deception surrounding policies which themselves replicate the central elements in those of their opponents.

Republicans sincerely criticize Obama because they are too ignorant to recognize, in their rush to antigovernment rhetoric, that he takes the same position as they smoothed out to please a base at best composed of pretend-radicalism and, equally, to ward off criticism from those who desperately want to believe his earlier promises. This comes down to political theater at its cruelest.

The list of actual betrayal is long and virtually covering his public policy without exception. (A good start can be found in the critical essays in Hopeless, a true icebreaker for the uninformed prepared to listen.) Let me select several obvious examples.

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  1. Health care, in which Obama savaged the single-payer system, thus preparing the way for the same on the public option, meanwhile silencing, or rather, delegitimating all dissident voices, at the same time as exempting health insurers from antitrust prosecution and favoring Big Pharma;
  2. Civil liberties, a good litmus test of democratic governance, in which Obama’s Department of Justice argued against granting habeas corpus rights to detainees, invoked the Espionage Act against whistleblowers, carried surveillance beyond that of previous administrations, with the National Security Agency one of the culprits practicing the black magic of eavesdropping, while renditions and “black holes” continue and even agencies like FDA spy on its employees;
  3. militarism, from which foreign policy, including trade policy, cannot be excluded, in which the drone – as Obama’s signature weapon–terrorizes whole populations reeking destruction from the skies, naval power displayed from the South China Sea to the Mediterranean, a whole new generation of nuclear weapons in the pipeline (exempt from potential budgetary sequestration), a military budget itself second to none, and what appears to be a permanent state of war;
  4. the omissions, which by their absence speak volumes about the purposes and policies of his administration, in which job creation and foreclosures have not been addressed, climate change, wholly disappeared, gun control, nonexistent, poverty never, never mentioned, and business and banking regulation the compounding of phoniness on phoniness, not unexpected considering Obama’s belief in deregulation and bringing in the Clinton-Rubin crowd of free marketeers.

How much more or worse damage can Romney and the Republicans do? They might fuss about same-sex marriage and contraception, while Obama, in his Pacific-first geopolitical vision and concrete strategy, wants to encircle China, and press for an economic agenda promoting further corporate-wealth concentration.

About the author

Norman Pollack is a Harvard Ph.D. and the author of The Populist Response to Industrial America (1962), The Just Polity: Populism, Law, and Human Welfare (1987), and The Humane Economy: Populism, Capitalism, and Democracy (1990). He is a Guggenheim Fellow and professor of history emeritus at Michigan State University.

For More Information

(a)  To see all posts about this go to the FM Reference Page Obama, his administration and policies.

(b)  About our journey to fascism:

  1. America is the new Rome. Late Republican Rome (not the best of times), 13 October 2011
  2. Important:  What will replace the Constitution in Americans’ hearts? Let’s check for Fascism., 29 March 2012
  3. A look at the future of the Republic: we will choose leaders that we trust, 14 May 2012
  4. A look at the future of the Republic: we will choose leaders that we trust, not the ones we need (part 2), 15 May 2012
  5. More evidence that the military is slowly cutting itself off from civilian control, 15 July 2012
  6. Gallup’s polls show who we trust, pointing to a dark future for our Republic, 15 August 2012

(c)  Posts about change following the hope:

  1. American history changes direction as the baton passes between our political parties, 18 May 2008 – Importance of the November 2008 political landslide.
  2. “Don’t Let Barack Obama Break Your Heart” by Tom Engelhardt, 21 November 2008
  3. Obama’s national security team: I hope you didn’t really believe in change?, 26 November 2008
  4. Obama supporters mugged by reality (and learn not to believe in change!), 9 December 2008
  5. Change you should not have believed in, 10 February 2009
  6. Quote of the Day, 20 May 2009 — Connect the dots between Bush and Obama to see the nice picture.
  7. Stratfor looks at Obama’s foreign policy, sees Bush’s foreign policy, 30 August 2009
  8. Motto for the Obama administration: “The more things change, …”, 5 September 2009
  9. Change, the promise and the reality, 11 October 2009
  10. Another bold action by the radical leftists of Team Obama, 9 September 2010

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74 Comments leave one →
  1. Drake West permalink
    20 October 2012 12:14 am

    Sensational Hogwash!

    Like

  2. Arthur permalink
    20 October 2012 1:04 am

    I think it is clear that we are legally already a fascist state, and also if by that is meant the amalgam of corporate interests and government.

    Our government is there for corporate interests — commonly called “the economy”, which has precedence over everything, and which in fact finances the political process to suit their purposes. Add to that the militarization of the police and their behavior in relation to the ordinary Americans and to Americans who gather to protest anything, the various aspects of a national security state, which again, justifies anything, the quasi-dictatorial powers assumed by the Executive branch, the use of torture and arbitrary imprisonment, the immense prison population, and the loss of basic rights ever since the Bush administration, and last but not least the extortionist tactics of the large “banks,” which have consummated the largest theft from the public treasury in history–Bill Black has exhaustively investigated the fraud in all this.

    Nine eleven was the watershed. The gov’t has been effectively hijacked by a species of mafia, who engage in criminal actions without fear of reprisal. The neocons in the Treasury and in key positions of influence regarding foreign policy are the same as under Bush. The linkage with extremist Zionism is also intact, whatever the appearances.

    It has taken Americans a good decade to figure out that their country has been taken from them — although even now a large portions remain totally propagandized. The unspeakably vulgar and degenerate media have a lot of blame in this, but they became thus in proportion to their concentration in just a few corporate hands.

    If history is any guide here, the empire will fall through overreach and loss of its moral qualities, and the US Union may very well unravel.

    Like

    • 20 October 2012 2:26 am

      (1) “I think it is clear that we are legally already a fascist state”

      Great point! It’s difficult from today, deep in the weeds, to determine such a thing. You might find the other posts in this series of interest; links are in the For More Information section at the end.

      (2) “If history is any guide here, the empire will fall through overreach and loss of its moral qualities, and the US Union may very well unravel.”

      While all that lives dies, including Empires, they often last for centuries. Oligarchies are quite stable. History suggests that they are more stable than democracies.

      Like

  3. Sam permalink
    20 October 2012 4:38 am

    Yes, oligarchies have lasted for centuries–possibly you have in mind Italy during the Medicis and certain ancient Mediterranean plutocracies, but this is neither the ancient world nor even the world of the Renaissance; nor what is in question are city states but a vast and increasingly heterogeneous country with global hegemonic ambitions and, like the rest of the modern world, utterly dependent on non-renewable energy sources. Moreover, the modern world is the creature of its technology and its industry, not to mention its fantasy-ethos of eternal growth and “progress.” The rate of change of the modern world is very rapid and it is accelerating, and it has a tremendous and in large measure negative impact on the environment and on human culture.

    As for the US, which on the whole comprises a clearly decadent and increasingly even degenerate culture, I give it no more than 5-10 more years of existence as such. But, as the Moslems say, “God knoweth best!”

    Like

    • 20 October 2012 12:26 pm

      “I give it no more than 5-10 more years of existence as such. ”
      I have heard people saying that since my years in college 30+ years ago. They’ve all been wrong, and I expect Sam’s prediction will be wrong also. Large organizations change slowly, and decay even more slowly.

      “The rate of change of the modern world is very rapid and it is accelerating”
      Agreed. And mostly good, especially in the economic growth freeing the world’s people from lives of poverty and pain.

      “on non-renewable energy sources”
      Agreed. We have a century to manage the transition to new energy sources. Many alternatives are under develeopment in labs around the world.

      “a tremendous and in large measure negative impact on the environment”

      In the emerging nations, certainly. In most of the developed nations pollution levels have declined a lot, and probably will continue to do so. For an example see Good news: air quality in the US has improved!

      “and on human culture.”
      Perhaps according to your values. In mine the progress freeing slaves, women, gays — and many other aspects of life — tilts the score very heavily to the positive.

      Like

  4. Sera permalink
    20 October 2012 5:31 am

    In fascism, the state controls the corporations/big business. In America, it is the corporations/big business that control the state. That’s makes Americans ‘reverse fascists’.

    Like

    • 20 October 2012 5:55 am

      I would be cautious in overuse of such labels as ‘fascism’. Re big F fascism (ie Italian) – Even a cursory glance at their history in 1920’s Italy would reveal how little there is in common (the Fascists economic trump being the curious ‘class collaboration’ concept).

      As for small f fascism, that has been a generic socialist slur, usuable against virtually any opponent for a good 80 years. This practice has apparently spread to the respectable left since the end of the cold war.

      Like

    • 20 October 2012 12:12 pm

      The other posts in this series discuss this in greater detail. But fascism, like democracy, is a broad classification. Such systems can take many forms. They need not look like 1940s Italy any more than democracies must look like Athens in 500 BC.

      Like

    • 20 October 2012 12:16 pm

      “In fascism the state controls the corporations/big business. In America, it is the corporations/big business that control the state”

      I think that overstates the nature of both. Both are partnerships. Fascism involves a strong partnership between large businesses and the State. Clearly the US is moving in that direction, but I think it an exaggeration to say the State is controlled (or a puppet of) businesses in the USA.

      Like

    • 20 October 2012 9:00 pm

      Reminds me of old Russian joke, goes like this:
      “Under capitalism, man exploits man. Under communism, it’s the opposite!”

      Like

    • guest permalink
      21 October 2012 10:01 am

      There is a more recent joke (coming from Eastern Europe, obviously) about this:

      Everything the Communists told us about communism was a complete and utter lie. Unfortunately, everything the Communists told us about capitalism turned out to be true.

      Like

    • 21 October 2012 4:28 pm

      Thanks for posting; I had not heard that one!

      Like

    • guest permalink
      21 October 2012 5:37 pm

      Regarding fascism, one could perhaps find more appropriate comparisons closer in time and in space than the usual ones dealing with Italy, Germany or Spain.

      What about Latin America?

      There are several examples of countries with two entrenched parties monopolizing power (often called “liberals” and “conservatives”), always at each other’s throat, but in fact serving an oligarchy with marginal differences in their policies; with a sprawling police apparatus that blithely violates law, spies on people, abducts them, tortures them, judges them in show processes, and even sends assassination squads to foreign countries; with a lionized military always hailed as the bulwark against subversion, lavished with budgets and privileges; with a plutocracy living from rents on natural resources, mining, agriculture, and state-granted commercial or service monopolies.

      What about looking at, say, Uruguay 1972, instead of Italy 1922 or Germany 1932?

      Like

    • 21 October 2012 6:00 pm

      Guest raises an important point, but one beyond my ability to discuss. Can anyone point to books or articles discussing Latin America’s affair with fascism?

      All that we have on the FM website is this March 2010 article about the rise and fall of Argentina. From a time when people said “rich as an Argentinian” to today’s sad story.

      Like

  5. Duncan Kinder permalink
    20 October 2012 6:46 am

    America ( as a geographic expression ) may very well be turning rotten, but its becoming fascist would be inconsistent with the broader contemporary decline of the nation-state.

    Like

    • 20 October 2012 12:05 pm

      “broader contemporary decline of the nation-state.”

      Agreed. But the decline of the State is a theory, nothing more, so far.

      Like

    • Duncan Kinder permalink
      20 October 2012 9:34 pm

      There are some very non-theoretical events going on in Catalonia right now. See, eg: “Spanish Prisoners“, Ricard González and Jaume Clotet, op-ed in the New York Times, 3 October 2012.

      Like

    • 20 October 2012 9:40 pm

      The important thngs to know about the social unrest in Europe taking place:

      • It’s small, relative to that of past events during the past 50 years in both Europe and America.
      • It’s small relative to that expected by many people (including me), considering the long severe economic stress.
      • It’s difficult to determine the depth and magnitude of these protests.

      Guessing, the protests in Spain and Greece are far smaller than we’d have in the US under similar circumstances. Their social cohesion is very high!

      Like

    • Duncan Kinder permalink
      21 October 2012 5:39 am

      I, myself, on Facebook, have expressed my surprise that there is not already a guerrilla uprising in Greece. But for present purposes note that 1 million in Barcelona have demonstrated for Catalan independence, which evidences weakness of the Spanish nation state. And the Basques apparently are beginning to act up.

      Meanwhile, the south of Italy, and Sicily in particular, have been harder hit than the north.

      Meanwhile, drug cartels are pushing up into Europe not only into Spain, Portugal, and Italy but also into the Balkans, which grow increasingly Balkanized. Greece used to be a bedrock of stability for the Balkans. No more;

      And Angela Merkel is being booed even in Germany.

      Like

    • 21 October 2012 4:02 pm

      I too have been astonished at Europe’s fantastic social cohesion under years of economic stress — with no end in sight. Some attribute this to their low ethnic diversity; some to their relatively low levels of income and wealth inequality; some to their willingness to suffer today in pursuit of unification.

      It’s difficult to assess the seriousness of the protests Kinder mentions. Small sparks of little consequence? The start of wildfires?

      “And Angela Merkel is being booed even in Germany.”

      True, but not the big picture. She remains the most popular major politician in Germany; and the German public remains committed to unification. Her coalition remains committed; and the opposition is even more so.

      Like

    • Duncan Kinder permalink
      21 October 2012 6:30 am

      See also this: “Amid the Echoes of an Economic Crash, the Sounds of Greek Society Being Torn“, New York Times, 20 October 2012.

      Note, however, that Golden Dawn, mentioned prominently in this article, is neo-Nazi, fascist. But that hardly defines things.

      Like

    • WTF permalink
      21 October 2012 9:36 pm

      I spent two weeks in Catalonia/Andorra, end of July 2012. My children are dual citizens (1/2 catalan), and we needed to attend to inheritance issues. this involved visits to “Spanish” government offices (guarded by heavily armed SWAT teams), local/catalan government offices, lawyers, banks. Most of the city was normal, but there were big protests around Barclay’s Bank along the discordancia (Passeig de Gracia). My late wife’s relatives are all in favor of independence. The family elders are conservative “CiU” (Convergencia i Unio) types, businessmen. They told me that most conservative Catalans now see Madrid’s incompetence (either socialist or PP/conservative) at managing the national economy as the tipping point toward supporting independence.

      Most people are resistant to the radical-left elements of the independence movement, but the RadLeft are a vocal minority, and after independence (the first vote will be 2014?) will probably drive everyone crazy.

      Almost everybody I met has someone in their immediate family that is now unemployed. If not, then certainly many in heir extended families. Many elderly grandparents are having to support their adult children who are unemployed, or pay for the grandchildren’s education. Family businesses are frequently in trouble, or are worried about when the recession will hit them. Credit is almost nonexistent.

      Background: The first thing that my late wife told me she remembered as a small child in Barclelona was watching public executions on TV. The “fascist” dictatorship was still publicly executing Catalan dissidents by firing squad (mid to late 60s). On the other hand, when he was young (just before the civil war, 1930s), her grandfather was targeted for execution by a radical anarchist cell for being a business owner.

      Unlike the USA, wild swings in politics are not unknown in Spain or Catalonia. Since and long before 1492.

      Like

    • 21 October 2012 9:42 pm

      (1) I’ve long wanted to write about the power of assassination as a tool to shape a society. It has a long history. Extensively used during the French Civil War, by the Japan’s military during the 1930s, by Fatah to gain control of the Arabs in Palestine, and in a thousand other times and places. It works best when opposing moderates, gentle people who will not reply in kind. When the other sides does respond in kind, the conflict can gut a society — as it did the late Roman Republic.

      (2) Why does WTF describe Spain’s fascist dictatorship as “fascist” (in quotes)?

      Like

    • Duncan Kinder permalink
      22 October 2012 3:13 pm

      The Basques are also making noises:

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/oct/21/pro-independence-basque-elections-spain

      LI have also read a report somewhere that Andalusia has more social unrest than Spain generally.

      Like

    • 22 October 2012 3:16 pm

      Yes, but quietly. Some protests are inevitable for a nation in a long recession like Spain’s. But the big picture is that so far conditions remain stable, with the EU unification project retaining strong support on both ends: Germany, and the peripheral states.

      Like

    • Duncan Kinder permalink
      25 October 2012 5:30 am

      Here’s an article about the Chinese mafia’s “State within a state” in Spain right now:

      “… But this migration, dizzying in its evolution in countries like France, Italy and Spain, has not come with full social integration, but too often has been limited to strictly business contacts. It is precisely this failure to integrate into the host societies – expressed by the concept of “Chinatown” – that has helped give rise to “states within a state”, in the words of several police inspectors, to a kind of Chinese extraterritoriality where justice or working conditions, for example, are determined by the Chinese and not by the state.

      Operation Emperor has exposed a web of money laundering and tax evasion of gigantic proportions. Two elements stand out in the police operations over recent years against human trafficking, exploitation of workers and tax fraud….”

      http://www.presseurop.eu/en/content/article/2927801-chinese-mafia-s-state-within-state

      Like

    • 25 October 2012 5:49 pm

      Fascinating info Duncan. Almost laughable that at the end his solution is to ask the Chinese to assimilate more. Goodness.

      Breton

      Like

  6. 20 October 2012 1:30 pm

    “Under the cloak of liberalism” Obama is a classic neo-liberal or New Democrat. When I first heard Bill Clinton say he was a New Democrat, I thought good!, new is good. But New Democrats are pro-corporate, pro free trade and off shoring jobs, and anti-union. In other words, they are way to the right of Richard Nixon. Worth looking up wikipedia definition of neo-liberal.

    Like

    • 20 October 2012 1:42 pm

      SDW makes an important historical comparison. Nixon and Obama advocated many similar domestic policies as shown in this post, with Nixon being the more radical. The similarity is even closer in terms of civil liberties and foreign policy.

      This shift to the Right is the big story in America’s political evolution. Like so many aspects of America, we close our eyes to avoid seeing it.

      Like

  7. 20 October 2012 3:12 pm

    Fascinating to arise and see the Headlines of this Post. Quite strong talk inside this, folks. Most will dismiss it and that is some proof of its truth.

    Americans are in serious trouble, no matter how you choose to structure or wordsmith the expose. Many simply see that they have few choices and willingly or unwillingly go along….its a job, I have bills to pay and a family to feed. They slink off everyday, seeking respite somewhere, cursing under their breath, if so inclined. Openly dismissing the Dream as a nightmare now. Mention it and see the response.

    As mentioned above “legally” we are already shackled by some very dangerous fascistic tendencies and so far the Enforcers are ready to implement these. And many want the jobs designed to stymie any naysayers or interlopers. T’ s very clear if you wish to see.

    America is in a sobering-up phase. A time of reflection interspersed with denial. Few fully recover for life. Most eventually go back to drinking. The seeds of its demise are very old: Look up Engine Charlie and his heartfelt statement: “…because for years I thought what was good for the country was good for General Motors and vice versa.”

    This will go on a long time absent an exogenous event or series of events There is simply no will to change course and such changes will be very difficult.

    Visit any affluent areas’ Regional Mall and witness the incessant consumption enabled by the credit/debt Econ. It is all so normal for these people and they have no sense there is anything amiss nor will they listen to any alternative voices. But that alone is a very old life choice, generational actually.

    This is an Engine that must go on. Tinkering? Silly people, move along.

    Breton

    Like

  8. jacksmith permalink
    20 October 2012 3:32 pm

    “Give me Liberty, or Give me Death!”
    — Patrick Henry on 23 March 1775 to the Virginia House of Burgesses (full text here)

    What a brilliant ruling by the United States Supreme Court on the affordable health care act (Obamacare). Stunningly brilliant in my humble opinion. I could not have ask for a better ruling on a potentially catastrophic healthcare act than We The People Of The United States received from our Supreme Court. If the court had upheld the constitutionality of the individual mandate under the commerce clause it would have meant the catastrophic loss of the most precious thing we own. Our individual liberty. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Supreme Court.

    There is no mandate to buy private for-profit health insurance. There is only a nominal tax on income eligible individuals who don’t have health insurance. This is a HUGE! difference. And I suspect that tax may be subject to constitutional challenge as it ripens. This is a critically important distinction. Because under the commerce clause individuals would have been compelled to support the most costly, dangerous, unethical, morally repugnant, and defective type of health insurance you can have. For-profit health insurance, and the for-profit proxies called private non-profits and co-ops.

    Equally impressive in the courts ruling was the majorities willingness to throw out the whole law if the court could not find a way to sever the individual mandate under the commerce clause from the rest of the act. Bravo! Supreme Court. Thanks to the Supreme Court we now have an opportunity to fix our healthcare crisis the right way. Without the obscene delusion that Washington can get away with forcing Americans to buy a costly, dangerous and highly defective private product (for-profit health insurance).

    During the passage of ACA/Obamacare some politicians said that the ACA was better than nothing. But the truth was that until the Supreme Court fixed it the ACA/Obamacare was worse than nothing at all. It would have meant the catastrophic loss of your precious liberty for the false promise and illusion of healthcare security under the deadly and costly for-profit healthcare system that dominates American healthcare.

    As everyone knows now. The fix for our healthcare crisis is a single payer system (Medicare for all) like the rest of the developed world has. Or a robust Public Option choice available to everyone on day one that can quickly lead to a single payer system.

    Talk of privatizing/profiteering from Medicare or social security is highly corrupt and Crazy! talk. And you should cut the political throats of any politicians giving lip service to such an asinine idea. Medicare should be expanded, not privatized or eliminated.

    We still have a healthcare crisis in America. With hundreds of thousands dieing needlessly every year in America. And a for-profit medical industrial complex that threatens the security and health of the entire world. The ACA/Obamacare will not fix that. The for-profit medical industrial complex has already attacked the world with H1N1 killing thousands, and injuring millions. And more attacks are planned for profit, and to feed their greed.

    To all of you who have fought so hard to do the kind and right thing for your fellow human beings at a time of our greatest needs I applaud you. Be proud of your-self.

    God Bless You my fellow human beings. I’m proud to be one of you. You did good. See you on the battle field.

    Sincerely
    jacksmith – WorkingClass :-)

    Like

  9. 20 October 2012 3:49 pm

    Adding to my remark about Obama being a neo-liberal, my average Democrat friends are suffering from a cognitive dissonance as they say with a hurt or quizzical look, “Yes, I’m for Obama but . . .

    The press does its usual job of obfuscating the ground swell to the right and classifies Obama as a liberal. The right calls him a socialist. As a result, I doubt one Democrat in a hundred understands what a neo-liberal or New Democrat is.

    Like

  10. Sam permalink
    20 October 2012 4:22 pm

    (1) “Today’s post shows that another American has become aware that our two major parties have broadly similar policies, differing mostly in the speed with which they’ll take us to oligarchy and empire. That’s not to say that the choice is unimportant. Speed is deadly for us, allowing less time to resist.”

    If on the whole the change is “good,” why the need for speed to “resist?” Moreover, they are not “taking us” to oligarchy and empire; we are already an oligarchy and empire.

    (2) “The rate of change of the modern world is very rapid and it is accelerating”
    Agreed. And mostly good, especially in the economic growth freeing the world’s people from lives of poverty and pain.”

    It is intellectually implausible to extrapolate in such wholesale fashion from the entire ancient world today’s 3rd world conditions created by colonialism. Moreover, there has been a serious price paid for certain so-called improvements of the modern world. I would repeat: Moreover, the modern world is the creature of its technology and its industry, not to mention its fantasy-ethos of eternal growth and “progress.”

    (3) “Large organizations change slowly and decay even more slowly”

    There remains the implacable fact of rapid change. The US is not an “organization,” and it is an empire. As for it being “good” in your estimation, that is beside the point.

    Historical empires, and more especially, empires since the Renaissance, have not lasted long and have collapsed rapidly; and before they did, they were over-extended and in significant ways corrupted. The US has changed radically already, it is patently over-extended, internally its economy is seriously corrupted, and its republican government has vanished. A serious case can be made for its approaching collapse–the precise duration left to it is unknowable, of course, but it is within a decade or decades and certainly not centuries–and as with the recent Soviet and British empires, its collapse will be sudden and many people will be surprised.

    (4) Regarding non-renewable energy sources: “Agreed. We have a century to manage the transition to new energy sources. Many alternatives are under development in labs around the world.”

    This is what is called “optimism.”

    (5) Regarding a tremendous and in large measure negative impact on the environment: “In the emerging nations, certainly. In most of the developed nations pollution levels have declined a lot, and probably will continue to do so. For an example see Good news: air quality in the US has improved!”

    We don’t live in nations, ecologically speaking; we live on a planet. The accelerating degradation of the biosphere ought to be evident.

    (6) and on human culture: “Perhaps according to your values. In mine the progress freeing slaves, women, gays — and many other aspects of life — tilts the score very heavily to the positive.”

    Fragments do not make a whole. If you think American culture today represents a human summit, turn on your television, go to Disney World or Las Vegas, read the headlines on Yahoo and, in short, immerse yourself in our dazzling and profound American “culture.” Technology does not a culture make. Top TV shows:
    1 American Idol Not airing in the next 14 days
    2 Dancing with the Stars Mon, Oct 22 08:00 PM ET ABC
    3 Bones Sat, Oct 20 11:00 PM ET WGNAME
    4 Revenge Sun, Oct 21 09:00 PM ET ABC
    5 NCIS Mon, Oct 22 03:00 PM ET USA
    6 New Girl Tue, Oct 30 09:00 PM ET FOX
    7 Grey’s Anatomy Mon, Oct 22 01:00 PM ET LIFE
    8 Big Bang Theory Sat, Oct 20 08:00 PM ET TBS
    9 Bachelorette Not airing in the next 14 days
    10 So You Think You Can Dance Not airing in the next 14 days
    11 Suits Not airing in the next 14 days
    12 Person of Interest Sat, Oct 20 09:00 PM ET CBS
    13 Voice Mon, Oct 22 08:00 PM ET NBC
    14 X Factor Mon, Oct 22 08:00 PM ET FOX
    15 Modern Family Wed, Oct 24 09:00 PM ET ABC
    16 Two and a Half Men Sat, Oct 20 03:30 PM ET FX
    17 Criminal Minds Mon, Oct 22 09:00 AM ET A&E
    19 True Blood

    Like

    • 20 October 2012 5:39 pm

      I am not sure what Sam is saying, but his replies make little sense to me.

      (1) “If on the whole the change is “good,” why the need for speed to “resist?”
      You put the word change in quotes, but I did not use that word to describe our political processes. Please don’t misquote me. I said we need to resist because out political evolution is IMO bad.

      (2) “It is intellectually implausible to extrapolate in such wholesale fashion from the entire ancient world today’s 3rd world conditions created by colonialism.”
      I said that the changes in the world today were “mostly good, especially in the economic growth freeing the world’s people from lives of poverty and pain.” I don’t know what your reply means. For one thing, I said nothing about the “ancient” world. The process I describe started after WWII and slowly accellerated through the present.

      (3) “The US is not an ‘organization’”
      An organization is a social entity that has a collective goal and is linked to an external environment. The United States is a social entity, with its collective goal stated in the preamble to its defining document, and linked to the external environment by its geographic borders.

      (4) Re: engery — “This is what is called “optimism.”
      No. Those were facts.

      (5) “We don’t live in nations, ecologically speaking; we live on a planet.”
      Parts of the world are getting better; parts are getting worse. By analysis of parts we understand the whole. That’s how science words. Biologists study the world not as a whole, but as a collection of smaller areas, then still smaller areas, down to individual organisms. It’s called reductionism.

      (6) I said “freeing slaves, women, gays — and many other aspects of life — tilts the score very heavily to the positive.”

      (6a) Sam: “Fragments do not make a whole.”
      Whatever, dude. I am sure that impresses people whose ancesters suffered as slaves.

      (6b) Sam: “American culture today represents a human summit”
      I didn’t say anything remotely like that.

      (6c) Sam: “turn on your television, go to Disney World or Las Vegas, read the headlines on Yahoo”
      This snearing at popular culture is not attractive and beneath comment. I wonder what Sam believes people in the past did for entertainment? Read Plato and watch opera? Especially people outside the top 10% (ie, farmers, mostly peasants); what did they do?

      Like

  11. 20 October 2012 6:23 pm

    This is the Game we are playing here folks:
    .

    .
    If you missed the preview (and are under Sixty) —read the Link to Nixon’s legacy to try to get caught up.

    Breton

    Like

  12. 20 October 2012 9:31 pm

    Nationalism is the foundation of all fascism – the promotion of the national identity to mythic status is accomplished through heavy use of propaganda and manipulative populism. Ultimately, it is a process of nationally lying to oneself – looking back to a past era of greatness which is usually a falsehood. E.g.: the US’ constant desire to see the WWI/WWII period as “the good war” that maintained national unity through the cold war.

    Now, we are being sold the cold war era as the period of greatness, and no doubt the next generation will be sold the period of gulf war I as greatness. Nationalism and militarism are really the same thing: there’s little reason for nationalism other than to manipulate popular support for offensive wars. I must add “offensive” because it’s not very hard to talk people into defending themselves – which is why nationalists like to promote the confusing notion of a pre-emptive “defensive” war of offense.

    Rational humans should immediately be suspicious of nationalist messages. For the vast majority of people, it’s never been “their country” or “their king” – the relationship is always top-down, but sold bottom-up.

    Like

  13. 20 October 2012 10:38 pm

    Nationalism is racism writ large.

    Like

    • 20 October 2012 10:41 pm

      I think that’s an exaggeration. For example, nationalism in Europe’s long history has had no large racial component. Germany, France, and England pretty much invented nationalism to drive their wars — which were in effect among cousins.

      Like

  14. Bluestocking permalink
    20 October 2012 11:52 pm

    Today’s post shows that another American has become aware that our two major parties have broadly similar policies, differing mostly in the speed with which they’ll take us to oligarchy and empire. That’s not to say that the choice is unimportant. Speed is deadly for us, allowing less time to resist.

    Your comment begs the question, FM…which of the two candidates being pushed at us is the one who will take us to “oligarchy and empire” more slowly?

    Personally, I find it rather interesting that you should bring this us since I was mulling over this same point just the other day. I found myself thinking of the election as being forced to choose whether you’d rather die from a coronary (Romney) or die from cancer (Obama) because it seems to me that if the Second Republic dies as a result of the policies advocated and enacted by the next President, whoever he may turn out to be, the policies which Romney is likely to put in motion (war in Iran, erosion of the New Deal/Great Society safety nets, yet more financial relief for the people who are least in need of it, etc.) are far more likely to make that death intensely painful but at the same time comparatively quick.

    By contrast, the policies which Obama is likely to put in motion — which in some cases are not as overtly aggressive as current Romney/Republican policies yet which are nevertheless moving in the same general direction — seem more likely to bring about death by attrition and attentuation, not as painful and therefore not quite as obvious (meaning that it potentially might escape detection until it’s too late, like some forms of cancer) but a death nevertheless which is every bit as inexorable and yet which is extended over a longer period of time.

    Of course, this analogy begs a further question: is it possible that speed might actually be more to our benefit than we think? Is it possible that an abrupt shock to the system is what the American people actually need in order to motivate them to get their acts together and start resisting what’s happening, in much the same way that severe angina is more likely to prompt a person to seek immediate medical attention and potentially become aware of a life-threatening heart condition (whereas the symptoms of cancer often tend to be more nebulous and therefore less likely to create a sense of urgency)?

    Like

    • 21 October 2012 12:10 am

      “Is it possible that an abrupt shock to the system is what the American people actually need in order to motivate them to get their acts together and start resisting what’s happening”

      That is a common belief. I disagree. Here’s a biological analogy: sharks first bumb their prey, testing for resistence. Only then do they attack. They are skilled at measuring the ability of their potential dinner to fight back.

      In a similar manner our elites have tested us during the past few decades, testing our ability to resist. They have obviously decided that we cannot effectively fight back. My guess is that they are correct. Our response will be to mutter over drinks and drugs — while playing violent video games — about the coming revolt.

      Like

  15. Thomas More permalink
    21 October 2012 1:18 am

    A friend of mine asserts that Romney is a stooge acting as a “bad cop” to create popular revulsion and push the electorate toward the “good cop” Obama, whose policies are essentially identical, except for minor issues like gay rights and women’s reproductive rights.

    (People who cite alleged policy differences on health care are pervasively uninformed. Romney states his intention to repeal the ACA, while the “health care reform” on which ACA is based is already failing and falling apart in Massaschusetts due to rampant cost overruns — exactly what you’d expect when the government forces all citizens to buy unaffordable private insurance guaranteed to rise limitlessly in price with no cost controls.

    People who claim that Romney differs from Obama in bellicosity toward Iran evidently haven’t been paying attention to the ever-escalating blare of threats and sanctions and military moves toward Iran by the Obama administration — exactly the same kind of propaganda and sanction buildup used by the Bush administration prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

    People who believe that Romney will somehow be worse on civil rights than Obama don’t appear to have noticed that Obama is already ordering the extrajudicial murder of U.S. citizens without even accusing them of a crime, a travesty not even William the Conquerer dared essay against his barons.)

    I’ve had my doubts, but increasingly this seems accurate

    Like

    • 21 October 2012 2:03 am

      I don’t believe much of that is factually correct.

      (1) “A friend of mine asserts that Romney is a stooge acting as a “bad cop” to create popular revulsion and push the electorate toward the “good cop” Obama”

      First, does you friend have any evidence for his wild conspiracy theory? If not, why should we pay attention?

      Second, Romney is very roughly tied in the polls with Obama in terms of likely voters (given their margins of error). This IMO disproves the “stooge”, and not visibly pushing voters towards Obama.

      (2) I don’t believe the comparison between Romney and Obama is accurate, as it exaggerates the similarity between the positions of Romney and Obama. But let’s look at one, as a test of accuracy. Is RomneyCare “falling apart in Massaschusetts due to rampant cost overruns”?

      Romney addresses this on his website:

      Numerous unbiased organizations such as FactCheck.org and The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation – a think tank funded by business – determined that the cost of Romneycare is “relatively modest” and “well within initial projections.” FactCheck.org also concludes “Claims that the law is bankrupting the state are greatly exaggerated.” Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation goes on to say:

      “Despite claims to the contrary, the Foundations recently released analyses of the cost to taxpayers of achieving near-universal access to healthcare showed that the average yearly increase was only $88 million, well within original estimates. Critics ignore the fact that the fundamental problem is not the costs of Romneycare but rather the unprecedented collapse of state tax revenues.”

      The Boston Globe also quotes Jay Gonzalez, who is Massachusetts secretary of administration and finance, as saying “This law has not come close to breaking the bank.”

      (More relevant info from the Massachusetts Taxpayer can be found here and here.)

      Moreover, recent studies show that RomneyCare actually slowed the growth of health care spending in the state of Massachusetts. Here is a quotation from the study:

      Perhaps in part due to the recession, the rate of growth for health-care spending dropped for the nation as a whole (though spending did still grow). However, it’s worth noting that, in the years after Romney’s reforms went into effect, the rate of growth for health-care spending in Massachusetts dropped even faster than the national average did. Between 2004 and 2006, health-care spending in Massachusetts grew almost 27% faster than it did for the nation as a whole; between 2007 and 2009, it grew only 5% faster.

      After Romney’s reforms, Massachusetts went from having a health-care spending growth rate well above the national average to one just a little bit above. Situating Massachusetts in the context of the rest of New England makes the change in spending rates even starker: prior to Romney’s reforms, Massachusetts personal health-care spending grew faster than the New England average most years. After his reforms, it grew slower than the New England average (often having one of the lowest rates of health-care spending growth in the region).

      Like

  16. Lisa permalink
    21 October 2012 4:09 am

    Honestly, I thought Sam’s comments were good, assuming a willingness to understand, and I found your comments a bit churlish and rude, particularly regarding his point on the biosphere. You come off as a bit of a know-it-all and could use a bit of class and magnanimity, in my opinion. Here is this for a rather different take: “The Privilege of Being Human: Ecological Crisis and the Need to Challenge the Twenty Percent” by Joseph Nevins, Common Dreams, 15 October 2012.

    Like

    • 21 October 2012 4:56 am

      Lisa,

      Let’s take your interesting and obviously heart-felt comment in stages.

      (1) You are probably right about the response. But facts are facts, no matter how much they disagree with Sam’s ideology and worldview. If you have objections to specific content — in addition to your (correct) stylistic critque — I would like to hear them.

      (2) Now as for the Common Dreams article, it nicely illustrates why the waning popular support for the green movement. Look at the opening:

      “Although you would not know it from what passes for debate during the ongoing presidential campaign here in the United States, the biosphere is under siege. A historically high rate of ice melt in the Artic, devastating floods from the Philippines to Nigeria, a record-setting decline in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, and extreme levels of drought in much of the United States are just some of the recent manifestations.”

      Most of this is false (I will give you citations if you promise to read them). Although people don’t know the details, decades of false claims by greens have desensitized people to these stories.

      • Although the Arctic ice melt is roughly that of 2007, the largest since satellite records began in 1979, there is little evidence it is historic. We have little data on arctic ice area before the little ice age. Also note that Antarctic sea ice is near record levels.
      • There is some evidence of increased rain levels from the two-century-long (mostly natural) global warming, there is little evidence that the recent floods are unusual in either magnitude or frequency.
      • The drought in the US is not in the least unusual, even during the past 2 centuries for which we have good records.
      • The severity and causes of the Aussie Reef problems are disputed; it might be a natural phenomenon. There are no high-quality long-term records.

      These are simple facts, shown by easily-obtained records (US drought severity) or widely accepted summaries of research (eg, the IPCC). The rest of the article is a mixture of fact (cites a powerful Nature article) and fiction. It’s not a combination that will change many minds.

      (3) Let’s talk about solutions.

      I’ve answered over 20,000 comments during the past 9 years. A very large fraction were dances about simple fact like those raised by you and Sam. I’ve tried dozens of methods of communication, from supine to aggressive. Often very long dialogs. Most not about values, assumptions, reasoning — the subject of normal debates — but simple facts. Nothing works. Zip. Nada. Americans love their partisan information sources, even when shown that they provide a diet of lies. American exult when shown that their political opponents rely on sources that lie to them.

      This is the great commonality in America today that unites both Left and Right, the subject of so many articles on the FM website. Each accurately identifies this problem in their political opponents, but fails to see it exists on their team as well.

      As a result our OODA loop lies in fragments, with America unable to clearly see our serious problems — or respond to them. And we have serious problems. Environmental problems (massive damage in the emerging nations). Economic problems. Geopolitical problems. Probably you and I agree on many of them.

      We’re in the chains of our ideologies, which (both left and right) are held by our ruling elites. The 1%. Good for them; not so good for us.

      So I’m trying something else: shock treatment. For details see Re-envisioning the FM website, becoming soldiers in the war for American’s future. It probably will not work, but it’s the only idea I have at present. It’s better than the other idea frequently offered (see twice on this thread) of waiting for conditions to decay to provide us with a painful shock — in the hope (vain, IMO) that we awaken and take positive action.

      If you have another suggestion I’d love to hear it. The clock is running for us all.

      “An experience of profound contempt is necessary in order to grasp our situation, and our capacity for contempt is vanishing.”
      — From The Closing of the American Mind, chapter “Values”, Allan Bloom (1987)

      Like

    • 21 October 2012 5:13 am

      Lisa,

      Let’s do a quick test.

      You’ve probably read hundreds of articles about global warming, explaining that the world has been warming for the past two centuries. When did humanity become the major driver of global warming? It’s an important factoid.

      There is a rough consensus among climate scientists as to the answer, given here. Was it what your sources told you? If not, how do you fell about that?

      Like

  17. Lisa permalink
    21 October 2012 6:01 am

    I think the global warming debate is just that; I have no fixed view as I am no expert nor am I qualified to interpret meteorological data, and I am very suspicious of people who always appeal to facts — too often their facts.

    I noticed the same appeal in the articles on Modern Monetary Theory, where I think you were administered a sound beating by people who know a whole lot more about the financial system than you appeared to know. One can’t know everything, and as the Chinese say, a man with an opinion on everything is invariably a fool. I am not necessarily for everything written in the article. I said it was a different take. I presume the man is reasonably intelligent and informed, like you, and therefore that you might — just might — be mistaken, if only a little bit, in some of your certitudes, and he just might be right — if only here and there — in some of his observations.

    I agree with you that “we have serious problems. Environmental problems (massive damage in the emerging nations). Economic problems. Geopolitical problems. Probably you and I agree on many of them.” I think the problems overwhelmingly stem from the interferences of the “advanced nations” since the colonial era, nothwithstanding the evident decadence in some respects in the non-modern traditional worlds in the 19th century. Since then, and progressively it is my view that the whole world has been mortally poisoned with false ideals and a false mentality. I doubt very much we would agree on much of anything other than that the world is a mess and that the intellectual situation is a tower of babel. I do wish you the very best in your efforts.

    .

    Like

    • 21 October 2012 4:19 pm

      “where I think you were administered a sound beating by people who know a whole lot more about the financial system than you appeared to know.”

      I don’t believe that is correct. The two professors in the debate were the only professionals speaking — and my comments (few comments, as I let them carry the ball) agreed with their’s. No surprise, as I was just parroting standard economic theory. Mostly I said (repeatedly) that monetization was limited by inflation and the currency, which was also their major message.

      There’s a larger lesson here, once which I (and countless others) have often mentioned. Internet debates tend to be dominated by those with the loudest voices, the simplest stories, and the greatest confidence. Not by the actual experts, who tend to speak quietly with qualified remarks. Not the bombastic but unsupported certainty of laypeople.

      The other lesson, equally sad, is that these debates are probably futile. As Lisa’s remark shows people tend to walk away remembering the loud simplistic certainties. The quiet complex lessons of the experts are lost in the cacophony. This matches my experience in the many long fierce debates here about torture, assassination, the wonderfullness of our wars, global warming, and economics.

      I’ll go one step further, into speculation. Comment sections are a waste of time (guessing). The utility of any medium comes from the one-way transmission of information (broadly defined). People either learn, or not. Agree, or don’t. Comment sections neither teach nor change minds; they’re entertainment (like MTV or dancing bears). That’s a minority view, so I defer to the majority and run one. Tinkering with it in the hope of finding some way to generate value. If anyone disagrees, I’d love to hear why.

      Like

    • 21 October 2012 4:24 pm

      “I think the global warming debate is just that”

      That is the primary message of the 100+ posts about climate on the FM website, most of which just list research marking the boundaries of the debate among scientists. The comments show it to be a contraversial one, producing heaps and heaps of insults as responses.

      Lisa is a rare bird among liberals.

      One project I’ve pondered would be recruiting people to run debates in the comments on the FM website. Lisa sounds like she’d be good at this. Any volunteers?

      Like

    • 21 October 2012 6:40 pm

      Lisa’s comment has so much fascinating content, intelligently and cogently expressed, we could discuss this for days. Here’s another point touched upon, something often discussed here.

      “and I am very suspicious of people who always appeal to facts — too often their facts. … I said it was a different take. I presume the man is reasonably intelligent and informed, like you, and therefore that you might — just might — be mistaken, if only a little bit, in some of your certitudes, and he just might be right — if only here and there — in some of his observations.”

      This is why propaganda works in America today, perfectly stated. The Common Dreams author confidently makes false statements; rebuttals with facts makes Lisa suspicious. The rough equivalence of all sources of information is implied. (Trivia: note the over-generalization as a way to discredit my observations: I specifically stated that his article was “a mix of fact and fiction” — so the “he might be right – if only here and there” is not a rebuttal to my comment)

      Let’s shift to the discussion about MMT she mentions, a discussion mostly between a professor of economics and some amateurs. Prof Dolan patiently corrects their misstatements (noting some areas of agreement, and some areas of debate). This was in effect small group instruction, such as students pay a great deal of money to get. Did anyone debating him learn anything from Professor Dolan? Did any readers, such as Lisa, learn anything — or did they gain net misinformation by treating both sides (Dolan and “opponents”) as equal? We can only guess; I vote with the cynics.

      This is the foundational reality — the raw material — for my posts about America’s broken OODA loop. Unfortunately I cannot well describe it; and presciption of a cure lies well beyond by capabilities. Suggestions welcomed!

      Like

  18. Sera permalink
    21 October 2012 11:15 am

    FM: ” We have little data on arctic ice area before the little ice age. ”

    Here you go… “A Pervasive Millennial-Scale Cycle in North Atlantic Holocene and Glacial Climates“, Gerard Bond et al, Science, 14 November 1997

    There are other places to learn more about ‘Bond Events’.
    .
    .
    FM note: Abstract of that article:

    Evidence from North Atlantic deep sea cores reveals that abrupt shifts punctuated what is conventionally thought to have been a relatively stable Holocene climate. During each of these episodes, cool, ice-bearing waters from north of Iceland were advected as far south as the latitude of Britain. At about the same times, the atmospheric circulation above Greenland changed abruptly. Pacings of the Holocene events and of abrupt climate shifts during the last glaciation are statistically the same; together, they make up a series of climate shifts with a cyclicity close to 14706500 years. The Holocene events, therefore, appear to be the most recent manifestation of a pervasive millennial-scale climate cycle operating independently of the glacial-interglacial climate state. Amplification of the cycle during the last glaciation may have been linked to the North Atlantic’s thermohaline circulation.

    Aslo see Wikipedia entry for Bond Event.

    Like

    • 21 October 2012 3:51 pm

      Sera,

      Thank you for the link to that interesting article. I’ve added to your comment the full citation information and abstract.

      However, this article describes natural cycles that affect (or drive) arctic sea ice, but does not mention past arctic sea ice area or extent — or suggest proxy data by which it could be estimated. Can you explain your comment a bit more for us?

      Like

    • Sera permalink
      22 October 2012 7:30 am

      Bond Events do not show ‘open water’ in the arctic, but rather show extent and height from shoreline samples. This sediment is then carried out to open water and deposited when the berg melts. There are also Heinrich and Dansgaard-Oeschger Events to study… NOAA page on Heinrich and Dansgaard-Oeschger events.

      I do not believe that the Thermohaline was effected as much as some claim, because the heat engine is in the south. Rather, I see the northern part of the circulation moving to the south.

      One of your comments earlier suggested that a ‘Comments Section’ was a necessary evil of running a blog (my interpretation, please correct). Long ago, I commented on this blog about the WX System hurting our merchant marine and helping the pirates. I asked for your help, if I recall. I wrote the IMB and PRC, and two days later the system was ‘changed’. I doubt they made this change after receiving my puny letter. Thank you for your comments section.

      Like

    • 22 October 2012 12:13 pm

      (1) Thank you for your comment. Evidence, esp scientific evidence, is always welcome here. However, I’m having difficulty seeing its relevance to this discussion. I assume you are replying to my comment that “We have little data on arctic ice area before the little ice age.” But the data on Bond events does not, so far as I can see, provide measurements of past sea ice area. Can you explain?

      (2) Thank you for the example of comments working!

      Like

  19. WTF permalink
    22 October 2012 12:12 am

    FM said: “The utility of any medium comes from the one-way transmission of information (broadly defined). People either learn, or not. Agree, or don’t. Comment sections neither teach nor change minds; they’re entertainment (like MTV or dancing bears). That’s a minority view, so I defer to the majority and run one. Tinkering with it in the hope of finding some way to generate value. If anyone disagrees, I’d love to hear why.”

    Your values are from the age of Apollo and Prometheus. (one way transmission). The Internet “democratizes” information at the same time it debases it into a “commodity”. This is the work of Hermes. God of information and deception. (Bernie Neville @ Latrobe.edu) Postmodern culture demands interaction and quickly bores of “one way” information.

    Like

    • 22 October 2012 1:29 am

      (1) “Your values are from the age of Apollo and Prometheus. (one way transmission).”

      I was not speaking of values, but experience from 5 years running a moderately active website — with almost 25,000 comments and 3.7 million pageviews.

      (1) “Postmodern culture demands interaction and quickly bores of “one way” information.”

      Evidence, please.

      Like

  20. WTF permalink
    22 October 2012 12:21 am

    Ironically, the Romanticists in the environmental movement appear to have inherited an arrogance in common with their opponents, and believe that Mother Nature’s ability to provide, via geological climate change, a huge “smackdown” to humanity in any age of its evolution, is somehow limited to the industrial period of human history.

    Like

  21. Henry permalink
    22 October 2012 2:04 am

    Interesting give and take with you and Lisa. By the way, I agree with you: most comments are not worth it and just clutter of the space and dissipate the intellectual energy and focus. I think a website might do well to hire someone to pare away all comments that are mere opinion and subjectivisms and thus do not contribute solidly to the discussion and keep on those that do contribute–whether pro or contra–and so help shed light and not just add heat.

    I think the MMT debate was largely–not entirely, of course–an overly-garrulous time waster. Personally, as a non-economist, I found Rodger Mitchell’s posts and “Jim’s” summary of the perspective the most valuable–as they were very clear and concise, and kept to the essential. Clearly, most people have been unable to wrap their heads around the paradigm change that is represented by these writers. And speaking of “facts,” their knowledge of the actual operational workings of the banking system and its accounting is remarkable.

    I think the weak point in many of your replies is in your insistence on your facts. Facts are inevitably selected, and it is the discernment of the selector that will separate decisive facts. Americans tend to be pragmatists at bottom. Anyway, here I think Lisa hit the nail on the head, and I believe you missed her implicit point, which seems to be that it is principles that count, hence her remark that she doubted you and she would agree on much. from the non-decisive.

    I think the decay in the US mentality is terminal. There are, of course, plenty of honorable and brave exceptions. But that is what they are: exceptions. We have had our run under the sun, and now the world is changing–very rapidly. We still have a very important role to play, to be sure, but our mythology, our ethos, has been swallowed by commerce and hubris and this negatively affects our role, to put it mildly–and just look at the deplorable quality of our political class, which mirrors what we have become and probably what we deserve. And yet, these–hubris and greed–have always been prominent elements in the national character, as are violence, aggression, and bigotry and anti-intellectualism. Also, we–and the Europeans whom we prolong–are a very predatory people. I think a good image of what America–and by extension the entire modern world, which tries to prolong this kind of civilization and mentality–has become is furnished by the whore in the Apocalypse of St. John; and note that the Beast she rides will turn on her eventually. We have neither faced the whore we are nor have we yet discerned the beast.

    Best wishes to you!

    Like

    • 22 October 2012 2:26 am

      “think the weak point in many of your replies is in your insistence on your facts. Facts are inevitably selected, and it is the discernment of the selector that will separate decisive facts”

      I don’t see that in most of these discussions, and certainly not in Lisa’s replies. I see indifference to facts.

      This is of course a defining characteristic of modern America. Post-truth America, as so many have said. As we see in our election. Lies are ok from “our team”, in the service of our values.

      Her example of the Common Dreams article was a pure example. Their lies, through ignorance or deceit, apparently don’t matter when in the service of greater ideological goals.

      Perhaps the majority are right. Perhaps America can close its eyes and run forward, led by the nose by those who shape these ideological faiths. My guess is that this has put us on the fast track to ruin (what I call a broken OODA loop).

      Time will show who is right.

      So here at the FM website we’ll continue our old fashioned search for facts, with hostility to faith-based lies and ignorance. We will listen to experts like Prof Dolan, not amateurs pedaling easy cures as “new paradigms”. We’ll listen to climate scientists, not doomsters scaring people with eco-doom — like the medieval Christians did with their tales of Hell.

      Those other things will continue to dominate much of the Internet.

      These are my epistemological values.

      Like

    • 23 October 2012 11:50 am

      Follow-up about the evolution of a post-fact America

      It’s (obviously) not just on the Left, as we see here on climate change. The Right too has broken free from the shackles of facts. For one of many examples, see this powerful article: “The Voter-Fraud Myth: The man who has stoked fear about impostors at the polls“, Jane Mayer, The New Yorker, 29 October 2012 — About Hans von Spakovsky, a Republican lawyer who served in the Bush Administration, who has promoted strict voter-I.D. laws by hyping a non-existent wave of voter fraud.

      How do our commenters feel about it when the Right does it?

      Like

  22. Jim permalink
    22 October 2012 8:57 am

    Bill Black, Warren Mosler, Bill Mitchell, Randall Wray, Stephanie Kelton, are amateurs? This is a fact?

    Like

    • 22 October 2012 12:07 pm

      FM: “Let’s shift to the discussion about MMT she mentions, a discussion mostly between a professor of economics and some amateurs.”
      Jim: “Bill Black, Warren Mosler, Bill Mitchell, Randall Wray, Stephanie Kelton, are amateurs? This is a fact?”

      There were 182 comments (36 thousand words, 4000 lines). Bill Black made one (long, excellent). Warren Mosler made one (3 sentences). Mitchell, Wray, Kelton did not appear. So “mostly between a professor of economics and some amateurs” accurately describes the discussion.

      Like

    • 22 October 2012 12:15 pm

      Correction: Mitchell, Wray, Kelton did not appear so far as I could tell from the names given on the comments. Bill Black and Warren Mosler clearly identified themselves.

      Like

  23. Jim permalink
    22 October 2012 6:31 pm

    You are a sophist. You lack intellectual honesty and fortitude. When it suits you you change the ground. You refer to the discussion, when in fact during the entire discussion you constantly had recourse to “credentials” and conventional attitudes. You speak of “new paradigms” and “amateurs” when it suits you and revert to “the discussion,” when the thing itself is at issue. And you know it. You select your facts and your authorities to suit your preconceptions or your pig-headedness and present them as the only valid ones–everyone else is soft-headed, twisted by propaganda, or just lying. I will not return to your blog. I have an allergy to types like you, I’m afraid.

    Like

    • 22 October 2012 8:31 pm

      (1) “You are a sophist.”

      That’s an interesting observation, and worth some thought. I’ve long wondered if the sophists got an undeserved bad rap from Socrates. Especially since others (like Aristophanes) saw him as one. Much like Jesus and Paul dissing the Pharisees, when they were at least cousin (in some ways, esp Paul).

      (2) “You lack intellectual honesty and fortitude. When it suits you you change the ground.”

      Examples?

      (3) “You refer to the discussion, when in fact during the entire discussion you constantly had recourse to “credentials” and conventional attitudes.”

      Guilty! But is that a bad thing when discussing matters of vital public policy. When discussing treatment of your child’s illness, are you interested in the healer’s credentials, and degree of expert approval of the treatment used?

      (4) “You speak of “new paradigms” and “amateurs” when it suits you”

      Yes, but with respect to public policy matters I usually refer to new paradigms within the conventional scientific channels. The debates about climate science and economics have made me even more aware about the advantages of doing so. That is, increased my reliance on credentialed experts on these fields.

      (5) “and revert to “the discussion,” when the thing itself is at issue. And you know it.”

      • I don’t understand what this means. Here are some notes about the MMT Threads.
      • My comments were mild compared to the thunderbolts, often personal and insulting, thrown at each other by some on both sides.
      • My comments grew less as the discussion grew more technical. Prof carried the ball. In the third post I contributed only 9% of the comments (by words and lines), vs 24% in the first (a more typical fraction). And much of that was supporting detail (bios, links to more info, etc).
      • In general, debates about scientific matters hold my interest mostly to the extent that they’re anchored in the professional literature. IMO that’s a good rule for laypeople. Opinions differ on this, of course.

      (6) “You select your facts and your authorities to suit your preconceptions or your pig-headedness and present them as the only valid ones–everyone else is soft-headed, twisted by propaganda, or just lying.”

      Examples? In fact, expert evidence and analysis of all kinds is welcomed here. My guess is that your objections here are in effect repeating those about “credentialism” wrt science.

      Since I don’t censor comments, your are in effect objecting to my refusal to respect amateurs’ opinions on matters of high public policy. Well, OK.

      (7) “I will not return to your blog. I have an allergy to types like you, I’m afraid.”

      Fortunately the Internet consists largely of domains where specific views — such as MMT, global cooling, warmistas, peak oil doomsters, and such can find uncritical applause.

      Like

    • 22 October 2012 8:36 pm

      Question for the floor: would readers be happier if I gave uncritical applause to comment? That would be easier for me.

      By happier, I mean in terms of traffic volume (ie, recommend the FM website to friends) and hitting the tip jar?

      As economist Tyler Cowen says, ultimately everything is a market in our society. I hoped to be helping sort out key elements in our collective funk, but wonder if it’s worth the effort.

      If my comments generate little value to people, or active dislike, I will just moderate for civility.

      Like

    • 22 October 2012 8:38 pm

      The number one post in traffic for this year is the post with a cute photo of Katy Perry (redundant, there is no other kind).

      Like

  24. gaiasrequite permalink
    22 October 2012 8:59 pm

    FM: I defiantly think if your readers are in objection to your honest outlook, views and opinions, you should post cute pictures of pop culture idols and rake in the dough….that is a joke

    Like

  25. Henry permalink
    23 October 2012 12:41 am

    My two cents: I think you might consider moderating for content. Mere opinion or emotional outbursts should be removed, since they clutter the thread. Intelligent objections and relevant counter-arguments, or a fresh perspective on matters would be fine if they do not try to hijack the thread. A good counter-argument should try to back-up claims with some citations of qualitative research or studies. Adding to the overall quality of the thread should be the aim of commentary, I believe.

    A big part of the MMT thread for instance was indeed taken up by the presence of too many amateurs–not that there can’t be an exceptionally well-informed and articulate amateur. There is a ton of very serious material published by the Levy Institute, for instance, which should have been referenced. Good material where Black blogs at New Economic Perspectives, and Bill Mitchell’s blog, from Australia, is really first-rate. A pity other MMT heavyweights didn’t join the discussion. By the way, Dolan’s remark that Krugman was an MMT advocate is incorrect, as were a couple of other points. There was actually a run of articles a while back trying to correct Krugman’s view.

    I very much appreciate the way you handle the climate issue; very fair-handed and your references are really valuable. I also think we share appreciation for Chuck Spinney’s articles.

    Like

    • 23 October 2012 12:48 am

      Thank you for the feedback. Without that doing comments quickly get discouraging.

      “I think you might consider moderating for content.”

      I understand and agree with your feelings on this. Many respected websites do so very heavily. Such as Prof Brad Delong, RealClimate, and Skeptical Science. But I hate to do that, and certainly lack the time. My thought — please give me your opinion — is that replying with content is better than censoring content.

      Note: these are all leftist in orientation. Can anyone give names of conservative websites who moderate for content?

      “A big part of the MMT thread for instance was indeed taken up by the presence of too many amateurs”

      I also thought that. But Prof Dolan was carrying the ball on that thread, and far more professionally confident to handle the highly technical discussion. I tend to tether scientific discussions that wander too far from the literature. If people cannot cite something from a major institution or peer-reviewed literature, I give it little credence — as a general rule.

      Like

  26. Henry permalink
    23 October 2012 5:58 am

    Well, it may take more of your time to reply than to prune. I have in mind not so much to censure as to actually moderate by pruning away the more obvious dead wood. Sometimes a crisp short post from someone is really valuable and adds to the discussion, and conversely, sometimes a long post is just long-winded, and of course there are always the sarcastic and rude types who really deserve being disposed of, just as they would be ignored in ordinary conversation. I suppose to make such pruning fair there would have to be some kind of guidelines laid down for what would be and would not be an acceptable post. These could be very generous.

    I remember I once wrote a well-known writer that his readers’ replies really often lowered the tone of his site with impossible comments–nowhere near the level of his articles, often simply highly emotional or even abusive rants. He agreed, but said he didn’t know what to do about it. Eventually he put all comments or “letters to the editor” in a separate section, but that didn’t last long, and he went back to posts and comments–probably to keep his readership, since readers love to comment and see their own published content. Perhaps you could announce an experiment lasting only a month or so, ask your readers to stick with you for this time because then you are going to ask them if they like the new, moderated, way or prefer the old?

    Of course, since most of us have little time, we can choose just to read your post and skip all comments, or quickly scan them to see if there is a good one. You often have good references, and I prefer to spend my time going over to those than to read comments.

    I hope my comment hasn’t been too long-winded!

    Like

    • 23 October 2012 12:04 pm

      Henry,

      Your suggestion is sensible. But other than the added time — which I don’t have — there is another problem. The comments are largely critical of my posts (this is unusual, though not unique, on the Internet). Moderating them as you suggest will only inflame these critics even more. That’s more than I’m willing to deal with.

      “I hope my comment hasn’t been too long-winded!”

      Certainly not. They’re both cogent adn well-expressed.

      Like

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