Category Archives: America

About American politics, our spirit, and our soul

Holiday snapshots of America, food for year-end thoughts about 2016

Summary: Here are snapshots of America at the end of 2015 that give us food for thought about the New Year. None of stories are what they appear to be. If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Distorted Reality

Contents

  1. How Saddam Hussein Gave Us ISIS.
  2. Six Signs That 2016 Will Be Much Worse Than 2015.
  3. Revisiting the ticking time bomb of US stocks.
  4. The Great Republican Revolt.
  5. About the war on Christmas.
  6. Afghan forces battle to push back Taliban in Helmand.
  7. ISIS: The Threat to the United States.
  8. Recommendations of two books & two films.

(1)  Apologists for the Deep State are always welcome in American newspapers: “How Saddam Hussein Gave Us ISIS” by Kyle W. Orton (Henry Jackson Society), op-ed in the NYT — Big demand for explanations why it is not our fault that our invasions and occupations set the Middle East afire.

(2)  A pointless but popular year-end tradition: “Six Signs That 2016 Will Be Much Worse Than 2015” by Claudio Grass (a Libertarian, loves Austrian economics). It is a generic list of the sort that can be produced every December about the New Year.

(3) Revisiting the ticking time bomb” by Mark Spitznagel (CIO of Universa Investments) at Pensions & Investments — His analysis concludes “that the crash should commence right about now.” It’s a powerful analysis. However, it is misleading to describe a 20% drop in stock prices as a “crash”. Long bull cycles in equities tend to end with 40%+ drops as the economy turns down AND the inevitable valuation correction overshoots to below average levels. For more about this see…

(4) The Great Republican Revolt” by David Frum at The Atlantic — “The GOP planned a dynastic restoration in 2016. Instead, it triggered an internal class war. Can the party reconcile the demands of its donors with the interests of its rank and file?” Frum buries the lede: he correctly refers to Trump and the other GOP insurgents as “populists” but quickly drops that insight. It is too hot and implies that the GOP’s “revolutionaries” are potentially powerful.

For more about this see Next phase of the Trump revolution: rise of the new populism.

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Holiday readings about things that might rock America in 2016

Summary: Here are some powerful readings for your holidays about things that might rock America in 2016. Read about them now. If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Knowledge is power

Contents

  1. The Quiet Revolt among Democrats led by Bernie Sanders.
  2. The world of threats to the US is an illusion.
  3. Deaths from Guns, Cars, and Drugs.
  4. The advertising glut that will crash the social media industry.
  5. Two books and two films I highly recommend.

(1) The Quiet Revolt among Democrats led by Bernie Sanders

The Left is also rebelling against its political leaders: “Bernie Sanders: The Quiet Revolt” by Simon Head at the NY Review of Books. The amazing fact about early 21st century US politics is that the leaders of both political parties advocate policies largely repugnant to many or most of their members.

While the GOP’s has produced powerful insurgents who get the most attention, the similar gap in the Democratic Party appears to have grown sufficiently wide to support a strong protest candidate. Sanders does not appear to excite the minority groups, an essential component of the Democratic voting bloc, he has proved the weakness of the Party establishment (much as the defeats of McCain and Romney did to the GOP establishment). This might attract other and more powerful insurgents.

No Fear

(2) The world of threats to the US is an illusion

A few people dare call “bulls**t” on the fear-mongerers that dominate the US media and leadership: “The world of threats to the US is an illusion” by Stephen Kinzer (visiting fellow at Brown), op-ed in The Boston Globe.

Michael Cohen said something similar in January: “Are threats to US bigger than ever? No“. Perhaps more Americans will realize that our national security leaders are lying to us about the magnitude of the threats facing us today, as they have so often in the past …

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Holiday readings about America’s future to power-start your New Year

Summary: The media overflows with useful analysis. Here are suggestions for your holiday reading. These deserve your attention, and might help you better prepare for what lies ahead for us in 2016. We can make a better 2016 — if we work the machinery the Founders bequeathed us.

“There was a dream that was Rome. It shall be realized. These are the wishes of Marcus Aurelius.”
— Maximus Decimus Meridius, in the movie “Gladiator”. America will change when we say such words.

Nothing is Written in Stone

Contents

  1. The Melting Away of North Atlantic Social Democracy.
  2. Are Americans losing faith in democracy?
  3. Important: The New Deal era was an intermission in the long Gilded Age.

(1)  The Melting Away of North Atlantic Social Democracy

A brilliant summary of current knowledge about growing inequality, one of the greatest threats to the Republic: “The Melting Away of North Atlantic Social Democracy” by J. Bradford DeLong (Prof Economics, Berkeley). Here is the opening and closing sections…

Hotshot French economist Thomas Piketty, of the Paris School of Economics, looked at the major democracies with North Atlantic coastlines over the past couple of centuries. He saw five striking facts:

  1. ownership of private wealth … was always highly concentrated.
  2. 150 years — 6 generations — ago, the ratio of a country’s total private wealth to its total annual income was about six.
  3. 50 years — 2 generations—ago, that capital-income ratio was about three.
  4. over the past two generations that capital-income ratio has been rising rapidly.
  5. the flow of income to the owner of the dollar capital did not rise when capital was relatively scarce, but plodded along at a typical net rate of profit of about 5% per year generation after generation.

He wondered what these facts predicted for the shape of the major North Atlantic economies in the 21st century. And so he wrote a big book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, that was published last year.

… We as a civilization could decide that we are not willing to let money talk so loudly in politics. We could keep our politics from being one of establishing monopoly after monopoly and rent-extraction chokepoint after rent-extraction chokepoint. If we manage that, then the forecasts of Keynes (1936) and Rognlie (2015) will come true, and a rise in wealth accumulation will carry with it a fall in the rate of profit, and a highly-productive not-too-unequal society.

But right now money talks very loudly indeed. And I leave the Piketty debate more depressed about our ability to keep it from talking so loudly.

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Why the turkey is not our national bird, and why America belongs to us

Thanksgiving is one of America’s few meaningful holidays in a nation that has been blessed with incredible natural resources and even more incredible good luck at key points in our history. But our greatest resource is one we have built for ourselves: America’s strong social cohesion. Our ability to stand together has carried us through the severe crises of the past two centuries.

Now a new time of crisis begins, and as always centrifugal forces appear to alienate us from our past and from each other. This makes us easy to lead.

Thanksgiving offers an opportunity to remember who we are, coming together to celebrate — and recall our shared history and remember that America belongs to us. No matter how powerful our foes, foreign and domestic, we can are responsible for America and the ability to win.

See Christopher Lasch’s work for an intellectual analysis of this, especially The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy (1994). For a musical explanation suitable for Thanksgiving see the “The Egg” by Sherman Edwards from the play “1776”. It explains why we have the eagle as our national bird — not the turkey or the dove. It’s well worth five minutes of your time.

Best wishes for a wonderful Thanksgiving Day!

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The unspoken issue of the election: America’s descent into darkness

Summary:  Perhaps the most valuable information, & the most difficult to obtain, is not that about the world, but about ourselves. Hence these posts seeking “mirrors” in which we can see how we have changed and what we’ve become. This post looks at the results of the war on terror. Not the effects on the terrorists (who seem either unaffected or even stronger) but on our national character. It’s the most important issue never to be mentioned during this campaign.

He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.
— Aphorism 146 in Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil (1886).

Statue of Liberty in the darkness

 

Assassination of jihadist leaders. Torture by the CIA, added by doctors. Torture in Abu Ghraib prison. A mass campaign of assassination, even including American citizens. Etc, etc; we all know the list. After 14 years of moral decay we have become a New America. But we were warned about the danger of this path.

“The French … The Israelis … The Americans … {these deeds} proving that he who fights terrorists for any period of time is likely to become one himself.”
— Martin van Creveld in The Transformation of War: The Most Radical Reinterpretation of Armed Conflict Since Clausewitz (1991).

We concealed this transformation from ourselves — if not from others — with hypocrisy, as describe in “The Uses of al-Qaeda” by Richard Seymour in the London Review of Books, 13 September 2012.

Alan Krueger’s authoritative What Makes a Terrorist: Economics and the Roots of Terrorism (2007) was notable for being unable to define its subject. Krueger admits that it might have been as well to discard the word in favour of the more cumbersome ‘politically motivated violence carried out by sub-state actors with the goal of spreading fear within the population’.

This excludes state violence, narrowing the field to insurgency or subversion of various kinds, but not all insurgent groups that Krueger – or the State Department – calls ‘terrorist’ make it a strategic priority to target civilian populations. Insofar as they do, they don’t necessarily differ in their methods from state actors. In the ‘war on terror’, a cardinal claim of ‘civilised’ states was that, unlike their opponents, they did not target civilians. Suicide attacks cause indiscriminate slaughter and are an indicator of barbarism; surgical strikes are the gentle civilisers of nations. There is little evidence for a distinction of that sort in the prosecution of recent wars.

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Americans trust the military most. 29% are ready for a coup. Ready for fascism?

Summary: Americans’ support for key institutions of the public collapses, as we trust only the military and police. We don’t need to ask Nostradamus; we can easily see the possible consequences — if we thought about it. Internet discussions might not be the only thing that ends with fascism (Godwin’s Law), or some other form of tyranny.

Broken trust

First, the bad news

Gallup’s annual Confidence in Institutions poll shows that Americans’ support for the institutions of the Republic and our elected officials have been falling for generations  (their first poll was 1973) — except for police (the second most trusted) and the military (#1). For details see Gallup warns us to prepare for fascism!

A YouGov poll on September 2-3 confirms these findings, with more detail. Ugly details.

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