Category Archives: Politics

The Donald Trump revolution, dismissed as all revolts are in the beginning

Summary: Donald Trump’s assumption of leadership of the right wing of American politics, and perhaps of the Republican Party, marks a milestone in our history. Even if he burns out, we see in him the outlines of a greater leader to follow. Meanwhile the machinery of Republic lies unused, as we tell ourselves there is no difference between the parties and that reform is impossible.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

Donald Trump

NBC Photo, by Chris Haston.

“Sooner or later, everyone sits down to a banquet of consequences.”
— Attributed to Robert Louis Stevenson.

The rise of Donald Trump to a leading position in the Republican Party marks a milestone in the evolution of modern America.

Conservatives have worked for generation to create a body of people ignorant of our history, of economics, and of current events. They’ve created a faux version of economics and a faux version of history (buttressed with hundreds of fake quotes). They have incited fake fears about threatening “others”, foreign and domestic — and the almost certainly coming crash of the US dollar and bankruptcy of the US government.

Perhaps these people have found a leader in Donald Trump — an ignorant, prejudiced and boorish figure even by the lax standards of American politics. He makes previous political outsiders look like George Washington (e.g., Ralph Nader, Ross PerotJessie Ventura, Arnold Schwarzenegger). America has a tradition of populist leaders, such as Huey Long and William Jennings Bryan, but Trump is like them as chalk is to cheese.

Assessing the Trump phenomenon

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How we broke the climate change debates. Lessons learned for the future.

Summary:  This, my 305th post about climate, explains what I’ve learned so far. Climate science as an institution has become dysfunctional; large elements of the public no longer trust it. The politics of climate change are polarized and gridlocked. The weather will determine the evolution of US public policy. All we can do is learn what went wrong so we can do better next time, and wait to see the price we pay for our folly.

“The time for debate has ended”
— Marcia McNutt (editor-in-Chief of Science, next President of the NAS) in “The beyond-two-degree inferno“, editorial in Science, 3 July 2015.

Scientists tell the UN about the coming disaster in “When Worlds Collide” (1951)

Presenting at the UN. From "When Worlds Collide" (1951).

Contents

  1. Why doesn’t America lead the fight against climate change?
  2. How do scientists alert the world to a catastrophic threat?
  3. Case study: the pause.
  4. The most incompetently conducted media campaign ever?
  5. My personal experience.
  6. The broken climate debates.
  7. For More Information.

(1)  Why doesn’t America lead the fight against climate change?

Why does climate change rank at the bottom of most surveys of what Americans’ see as our greatest challenges? (CEOs, too.) Since James Hansen brought global warming to the headlines in his 1989 Senate testimony, activists for action on this issue have had almost every advantage. They have PR agencies (e.g., Hansen’s new paper, the expensive propaganda video by 10:10. They have all the relevant institutions supporting them, including NASA, NOAA, the news media, academia, lavish funding from foundations and charities, even funding from the energy companies (also here), They have support from the majority of scientists.

The other side, “skeptics”, have some funding from energy companies and conservative groups, with the heavy lifting being done by volunteer amateurs, plus a few scientists and meteorologists.

What the Soviet military called the correlation of forces overwhelmingly favored those wanting action. Public policy in America should have gone green many years ago. Why didn’t it?

(2)  How do scientists alert the world to a catastrophic threat?

“Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion.”
— Harsh but operationally accurate Roman proverb.

We have seen this played out many times in books and films since the publication of When Worlds Collide in 1932 — A group of scientists see a threat. They go to America’s (or the world’s) leaders and state their case, presenting the data for others to examine and answering questions. They never say things like this…

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The Big List of Lies by our Leaders. Post it everywhere to change America.

Summary:  Here’s the big list of lies by our leaders. It’s one of the most important posts among the 3,300 on the FM website. It should be posted in every home. America will change when enough Americans no longer accept leaders who lie — even those of their own party. This goes up as a reference page on the right-side menu, to be updated with future lies by our leaders. In the comments post other big lies by our leaders that should go on this list.

“Since becoming a journalist I had often heard the advice to “believe nothing until it has been officially denied”.
— Claud Cockburn (Irish journalist) quoted in Discord of Trumpets: The Autobiography of a Legendary Newspaperman (1956). Often attributed to Bismarck.

Truth in society

Contents

  1. Examples of lies to guide us.
  2. FDR before WWII.
  3. Fear-mongering to start the Cold War.
  4. All our foes are Hitler.
  5. Other examples.
  6. Are we cowards, or just gullible?
  7. For More Information.

(1)  Examples of lies to guide us

“I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy.”
— George Washington in his Farewell Address (1796).

Truth, not Pravda, Will Make You Free

The history of American since WWII is one of lies by leaders that we eagerly embrace. No matter how often they lie, we believe. Here are some of the most outrageous, some of the most influential, and some that are just routine.

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For 50 years Republicans have fought against treaties that brought peace

Summary:  To understand the dynamics and stakes of the Iran deal we should look at our past, rather than conservatives’ confident warnings about the future. The peace we’ve enjoyed for decades results in part from 50+ years of arms control treaties — all strenuously fought by the Right. We can learn much from their false predictions, as they’re repeated today about Iran.

Atomic bomb explosion

Contents

  1. Unceasing war.
  2. Clinton takes a turn.
  3. Obama negotiates a New START.
  4. Reagan the peacemaker.
  5. Conclusions.
  6. For More Information.

(1)  Unceasing war

The far-right’s grand strategy since WWII has been one of unceasing war and rigid opposition to all arms control treaties (we are always in 1938 Munich; are foes are always NAZI Germany). We see that in their opposition to a deal with Iran (where the likely alternative is war), just as we saw in their support for the continued above ground nuclear testing that was blanketing the world with radioactive fallout. Even after a full-court press by Kennedy, 19 Senators voted in 1963 against the first Nuclear Test Ban Treaty JFK negotiated in 1963. Fortunately saner people prevailed.

To get an idea of the results if the conservatives had won, read the National Institute of Health’s pages about exposure to radioactive Iodine-131 from fallout. These debates would play out repeatedly during the next 6 decades, but not always with a happy ending.

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The Left will rue the day they cheered an activist Court

Summary:  The reactions to the Court’s ruling on Obamacare and same sex marriage divide on predictable partisan grounds, as Americans seek what they want. We care little about Constitutional procedure and less about the work of making the machinery work as the Founders intended. It’s the thinking typical of political regimes’ last days, when belief has gone and people just follow the forms.  {We’re back to one post per day, as I consider winding down this project.}

Justice lying down

The Supreme Court has legalized same-sex marriages. David Fontana at Slate gives some of the typical liberal cheering for the Court’s decision on same-sex marriages: “The Justices’ Justice” — “For years we feared the consequences of pushing social progress through the courts. Obergefell v. Hodges will prove we shouldn’t.”  I suspect he’s cheering prematurely.

For a clearer example of thinking on the Left see Matthew Yglesias’ reaction, exultant and quite daft (red emphasis added)…

What’s more, it’s a huge analytic mistake to assume that striking down some law is an anti-majoritarian action. The way the United States government works is that change is very hard. Given the current state of gridlock in Washington, it’s pretty clear that neither a gay marriage legalization bill nor a gay marriage illegalization bill could pass. On marriage equality, like on virtually every other issue, the status quo is simply likely to prevail. Into the breach steps the Supreme Court — in this case, on the side of the majority according to polls.

All in all, I think the American system of checks-and-balances has a lot of flaws. But unelected judges invalidating unjust laws that a majority of the public wants invalidated is basically the system working at its best.

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We emailed Congress but lost on the TPP (again). Let’s try something different.

Summary: Each year we send 200+ million letters to Congress. What does Congress do with them? What’s the result? Is there a better way to help guide the Republic? Repeated failures show the answers, and point the way to a better future.  (1st of 2 posts today}

“Man is by nature a political animal.”
— From Aristotle’s Politics.

Politics of Change

Contents

  1. We’re weak because we’re lone rangers
  2. What happens to your letters, calls,
    …..and emails to Congress?
  3. A path to real power
  4. For More Information.

(1)  We’re weak because we’re lone wolves

The Obama/GOP victory — passing the still-secret Trans-Pacific Partnership — marked yet another defeat for the New Left model of information overload plus individual action. Websites such as Naked Capitalism (imo best of the breed; I read it daily) provided a flood of information about the TPP and urged their now-informed readers to call or write their representatives. This model of political activism is defective, making yet another defeat for the Left almost guaranteed.

Left and Right share the American model of empowered individualism which has taken a deep hold in the minds of the outer party (the managers and professions of America). We become informed, then like John Galt or Bruce Wayne, take decisive action. We feel involved and engaged, although disappointed by the inevitable defeats.

It’s a daft model. Even the 1% understand the need for collective action. They’ve spent decades building organizations to convert their money into political influence, while they recruited, trained, and employed talented people (as shown by the bios in the SHAME Project, creating the equivalent of Jesuits for the 1%).

The people of America lack the wealth of the 1%; our greater numbers make organizational structure even more important than for the 1%. Yet increasingly we see ourselves as lone rangers, increasingly hostile to leadership — as shown by the Occupy and Tea Party movements). This makes us weak.

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The 1% are changing America. It’s our move.

Summary: The moment approaches when every American sees that the 1% are taking it away. Then we each make a choice to go with the flow or resist. Here are a few events that show this time is close. I’ve predicted the events leading to this point, but have no idea how we’ll react. Much depends on our choice.

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

Don't Tread on Me

We’re in the pursuit phase of our battle with the 1%, the quiet coup. Decades of quiet organizing and slow progress (see here & here) — then Reagan began their advance that continues to this day, inexorably accelerating. After breaking down the old order (e.g., unions, campaign finance limits, New Deal era limits on banks) we see them building a New America: dismantling the public-financed colleges (see here and here), shifting the tax burden from the rich to the middle class, and many other changes to core features of America.

The obvious moment of truth will come when events force us to see the systematic nation of these changes. Will we rise to the challenge, or look in the mirror and see cowards? That time approaches. Soon we’ll learn the answer.

(1)  Former NSA & CIA Director Hayden mocks us

This is almost too good to be true. Former CIA and NSA Director Michael Hayden spoke to America’s inner party at the Wall Street Journal’s CFO Conference.

If somebody would come up to me and say “Look, Hayden, here’s the thing: This Snowden thing is going to be a nightmare for you guys for about two years. And when we get all done with it, what you’re going to be required to do is that little 215 program about American telephony metadata — and by the way, you can still have access to it, but you got to go to the court and get access to it from the companies, rather than keep it to yourself” — I go: “And this is it after two years? Cool!”

He was speaking the truth. We deserve to be mocked The USA Freedom Act was mostly cosmetic reform (the NYT agrees). Two years ago I predicted our pitiful response to Snowden’s revelations.

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