Category Archives: Politics

We live in the America Bush Jr created, a break with our past.

Summary: Dazzled by Nobel Peace Prize President Hope and Change, people (including historians and political scientists) and have only slowly recognized that Obama has largely continued the policies of his greater predecessor — a man who truly changed the course of American history. Until we understand our past we cannot effectively cope with our future.  {1st of 2 posts today.}

Bush on Mt Rushmore

Passing years make it ever more clear that Bush Jr was one of the few transformative Presidents in US history, decisively changing the course of both domestic and foreign policy. Consider just a few of his major policy initiatives. The roots of these policy changes lie in the past, but he brought them to maturity.

  • His tax laws shifted the burden of Federal taxes from the rich to the middle-class (only slightly rolled back by Obama; State and local taxes were already regressive), continuing the work of our previous transformative President — Ronald Reagan.
  • He shifted the US from its post-WWII policy of containment and support for international law (largely a US-driven creation) to one of militaristic aggression — quite mad for a world in which new power centers are arising).
  • He decisively broke with the New Deal patterns, weakening the regulatory apparatus ability to interfere with corporate profits — and diminishing the influence of other interests, such as unions and environmentalists.
  • He decisively broke with  generations-old legal precedents (e.g., torture, preemptive war, indefinite detention without trial) or centuries-old (e.g., use of mercenaries).

As with many such key moments in time, historians only slowly recognized the change in course if America, and even more slowly explore the factors that made it happen. In the New York Review of Books Mark Danner continues his work reviewing books about this remarkable story (one reason the NYRB should be on everybody’s subscription list). Here we examine the person most responsible for crafting America’s new grand strategy. The origins of Bush’s domestic policies remain to be explored, on another day.

Excerpt from “In the Darkness of Dick Cheney

By Mark Danner
New York Review of Books, 6 March 2014 (red emphasis added)

Reviewing:

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A graph showing the end of America as we know it.

Summary: This is third in a series showing that we’re losing America. This post examines rising inequality of income, one of the major forces reshaping our society and politics. It’s not a class war if we don’t fight back.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

The one graph that ties together the strands making a New America.
Click to enlarge.

The Great Decoupoling

Andrew McAfee, 12 Dec 2012 — Click to enlarge.

This one powerful but dense graph shows the transformation of what we know of as America — born in the fires of the New Deal, WWII, and the civil rights revolution — into the America of the Gilded Age. The top 2 lines (blue and grey) show America’s increasing economic strength: rising labor productivity and GDP. The bottom two show what we get from that (private sector jobs and median household income).

Here you see the slowly widening break in the early 1980s — the Reagan years, an inflection in so many American political and economic trends — as the 1% siphoned off an increasing fraction of America’s income. That growing gap gives them ever more power, allowing them to restructure America’s institutions to better serve them.

Labor unions were crushed. Workers increasingly became contingent, disposable — either “independent contractors” (often de facto employees without the protections of formal employment), or temps, or just pawns to be fired as needed to boost profits. Open borders brought in more workers to drive down wages (e.g., H-1B visas for skilled workers). Enforcement of labor regulations were gutted, allowing growing exploitation of workers, such as illegally treated cheerleaders in professional sports, plus dubiously legal “managers” (no overtime), unpaid interns, and not-independent independent contractors.

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We watch “The Winter Soldier”, then see similar actions in our news. Can it inspire us to act?

Summary:  Hollywood produces a stream of superhero movies like “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”, vividly told tales of successful battles against oppression. They entertain us. But events move against us and we need inspiration. We have strength but not the will to use it. We can find it in our history, in our myths, and even in these movies. Rent a copy. Tell us in the comments how you felt when watching it.  {1st of 2 posts today}

“To build a better world sometimes means tearing the old one down. And that makes enemies.”
— Dick Cheney speaking to Captain America in “The Winter Soldier”.

“People need stories, more than bread, itself. They teach us how to live, and why. … Stories show us how to win.”
— The Master Storyteller in HBO’s “The Arabian Nights”

"Winter Soldier": Helicarrier Crash

Imagine the CIA crashing into the Pentagon.

Do we watch movies to gain new perspectives (as in this speech by Loki) and insights about our changing world? Or to grow accustomed to the dark forces changing our world, shock therapy so that we can read the newspapers with excitement but not hysterics? Consider the recent Captain America film “Winter Soldier”, an obvious allegory to the New American revolution begun by GW Bush and Obama.

Fury: This is Project Insight. Three next generation helicarriers synchronized to a network of satellites that locate objectives. Once launched they don’t need to come down. These new precision long range weapons will eliminate thousands of enemies per minute. Satellites read terrorists’ DNA while they hide. We’ll neutralize many threats before they happen.

Captain A: Punishment usually comes after the crime.

Fury: We can’t afford to wait that long.

Cap:  Point a gun at Earth and call iit protection? This isn’t freedom. This is fear.

We watch with excitement as our representative band of heroes — Captain America, the Falcon, and Black Widow — fight our government and win. It’s entertaining. But it’s only inspiring if when it touches our hearts. And we need inspiration to act, for our leaders build programs similar to Project Insight. As Andrew Cockburn explains:

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Amnesia and anger: one is the problem, the other the cure.

Summary: There is no need for complex solutions to produce political reform in America. We have the machinery. We know our peril as the Republic dies. We need only find the spark within ourselves that will produce action. I recommend anger. We have much to get angry about. Here we look at our leaders’ lies. They lie because we let them. We believe their lies, learn the truth, then forget the story. It’s a FAILure to learn or even react. Anger can short-circuit this process. Anger is contagious, like all flames. Read this and pass it on.

“Anger is easy. Anger at the right person, at the right time, for the right reason, is difficult.”
— Aristotle, in the Nicomachean Ethics, book IV, chapter 5 (slightly paraphrased)

“Telemachus, now is the time to be angry.”
— Odysseus, when the time came to deal with the Suitors. From the movie The Odyssey (1997)

A hand for our leaders

Let’s give our leaders a hand.

We have been emasculated. Our political leaders — of both parties — flagrantly cuckold us, flaunting their allegiance to the 1% without even attempting to conceal it. We react to this ugly truth in a commonplace fashion, with the dreamtime (to use Wolfgang Schivelbusch’s concept). We pretend not to see. We pretend not to care. We tell ourselves that it doesn’t matter. We pretend amnesia, as if we don’t remember. Just as a cuckold fears his spouse will leave him for her more attractive new friend, we fear that our leaders will betray us.

Just as spouses drift away from each other once their trust is broken, we less often work the political machinery of the Republic — not even voting. We have less confidence in its institution and leaders. In both cases the response makes the fear more likely to happen.

Trust

Demanding truth is the first step to rebuilding trust.

There is another way to respond. We can get angry and hold our leaders to account. Let’s start with something easy: let’s punish them when they lie to us. We have not done so for generations, so now they lie to us frequently. Why not? Look at this list of lies, documented in last month’s Why do we believe, when the government lies to us so often?  Notice that all of our wars for 50 years have been justified by lies. That’s quite a record, one of which we should be ashamed.
Charlie Brown falls for the Football scam, again

  • Eisenhower lies about the U-2 (1960).
  • The Tonkin Gulf Incident (1964).
  • Our 1st war in Afghanistan (1979+).
  • Libyan hit teams in America (1981).
  • Iran’s nukes (1984-now).
  • The shooting of Iran Air Flight 655 (1988).
  • Iraq’s atrocities in Kuwait (1990).
  • President Clinton lied, a lot (e.g, 1998).
  • Our 2nd war in Afghanistan (2001).
  • Saddam’s link to Al Qaeda (2002).
  • Saddam’s WMD’s (2002).

It’s sad that we’re so gullible, believing lies from liars — again and again. It’s bad that we don’t respond when we learn that they lied to us. Now for the worse news: many American still believe these lies. We’re like the marks of highly skilled con men who refuse to press charges; we find self-deceit less painful than admitting we were fooled.

It need not be like this. This cannot continue, if we wish the Republic to survive.  Let’s break the cycle at the vulnerable step.  Let’s get angry and punish leaders who lie to us. We can vote out elected officials, demand that political appointees get fired and that civil servants get punished.

It’s the easy first step to rebuilding our confidence in the Republic’s machinery. We hold elections every two years. Let’s start with 2016. America has many good people. Let’s put some of them in office. Vote “no” on liars.

Danger: Angry American

For More Information

See all posts about anger, about our amnesia, about propaganda, and about reforming America and the steps to political change.

Posts explaining why our leaders lie to us so frequently:

  1. Our leaders have made a discovery of the sort that changes the destiny of nations.
  2. The secret, simple tool that persuades Americans. That molds our opinions.
  3. Why do we believe, when the government lies to us so often? When we change, the government also will change.

A few posts about anger as a political tool to reform America:

  1. Now is the time for America to get angry.
  2. In “Network”, Howard Beale asks us to get mad and do something. He’s still waiting.
  3. A simple thing you can do to start the reform of America: get angry.
  4. How can we arouse a passion to reform America in the hearts of our neighbors?.
  5. Should we risk using anger to arouse America?.

Truth in society

If we all saw the same America, perhaps we could fix it.

Summary: After scores of posts attempting to discover the core of America’s problems, recent events highlight one candidate — we don’t see the same world. It makes us easy to rule. We are a gift to the 1%.

“Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”

— Attributed to Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

Speaking for our rulers (Left & Right), Karl Rove explains their more dynamic view:

”We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

— From “Faith, Certainty and the Presidency of George W. Bush” by Ron Suskind, New York Times Magazine, 17 October 2004.

Its getting dark, too dark to see

The clock’s running out on us.

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Contents

  1. In an oligarchy every peon has their own facts.
  2. Why citizens need clear vision.
  3. For More Information.

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(1) In an oligarchy every peon can have their own facts.

When starting the FM website I thought we’d present facts that would provoke debate in the comments about their interpretation and analysis, and the resulting recommendations. People would express their different values and forecasts as we ran through the OODA loop, starting with observations, and discussing our Orientations, Decisions, and Actions.

I was naive. We almost never got beyond debate about facts. No matter how authoritative the sources or clear the data, partisans of Left and Right came out to debate the facts. Or more often, ignore them while denying them. I have often written about the similar reasoning and behavior of Left and Right in America (reliance on propaganda, reliance on ideology over facts) — both are Americans, after all — and this is the clearest demonstration.

Both sides love their facts, however fake. Scientists speak to us about the warming pause — its causes and likely durationwhile Leftists deny their work (literally, they refuse to see it). Leftists build hysteria over a phony campus rape epidemic.

The Right too has a long history of refusing to see reality. The fiercest discussions on the FM website since 2003 were push-backs to my posts showing that the US was failing in Iraq and Afghanistan; millions still believe we won. Also provoking rebuttals were posts early 2008 about the ample data showing that the US was in recession (the NBER made it official in November 2008). As late as Summer they denied it — believing no recession was possible under Bush Jr. See these quotes from June 3 and some weird ones here.

Many on the Right believed that the government deliberately understates the rate of inflation. Some even pay Shadowstats to confirm their beliefs, despite the overwhelming evidence otherwise (details here). Others have crazy beliefs about Obama — that he’s a foreigner, Muslim, radical Leftist. Or that Saddam did have WMDs, and was an ally of al Qaeda.

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A speech by one of Britain’s greatest leaders gives a powerful start to our new year

Only the next generation can see what were the big stories of 2014, but one appears clear even now. In 2014 Americans finally became aware that the 1% has screwed us, taking most of America’s productivity gains since the 1970s. We saw it in the news about rising inequality, in new studies about inequality (e.g., by Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez), and films expressing our fears about our future (e.g., “Divergent”, “The Hunger Games”, “Snowpiercer”), and news about the police oppression of the underclass.

A more interesting stage begins after we assimilate these facts; perhaps it starts in 2015. What do we do about this? Acceptance means becoming subjects, 21st century peons. Willingness to act puts us on a long road, probably beginning with a naive belief in small easy solutions — and that the 1% won’t strike back with the vast economic and political power they’ve gathered during the past 4 decades.

We’ll need inspiration during the inevitable dark days ahead, when victory seems unlikely while the cost appears high and imminent. There’s not much in Western history to draw upon. I recommend re-purposing songs and speeches, ones similar in spirit but directed to different ends than ours of today. Here’s one such speech by Lloyd George, one of Britain’s major reformers and greatest leaders (Prime Minister 1916-1922). We can take heart from his words, applying them to a better cause.

Perhaps we have become too sophisticated and too cynical so that such words no longer stir us. What then will do so? If nothing — we’ve become that passive — then perhaps we can no longer govern ourselves. Stronger people will rule and do so in their interest, not ours. We can console ourselves by tears and fantasy, as each person prefers. But I believe we remain strong when acting together, if only we realize it.

David Lloyd George (1863-1945)

David Lloyd George (1863-1945)

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Conclusion of a speech by David Lloyd George

About honor

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To the London Welshmen at Queens’ Hall, London

19 September 1914, at the start of WWI

Slightly tweaked to apply to us (changes are in italics)

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What we are fighting is that claim to predominancy of a class, a material one, a hard one, a class which if once it rules and sways the world, liberty goes, democracy vanishes … You know the type of motorist, the terror of the roads, with a 60-h.p.car. He thinks the roads are made for him, and anybody who impedes the action of his car by a single mile is knocked down.

… All I can say is this: if the old British spirit is alive in British hearts, that bully will be torn from his seat. Were he to win it would be the greatest catastrophe that has befallen democracy since the days of the Holy Alliance and its ascendancy. They think we cannot beat them. It will not be easy. It will be a long job. It will be a terrible conflict. But in the end we shall march through terror to triumph. We shall need all our qualities, every quality that Britain and its people possess.

Prudence in council, daring in action, tenacity in purpose, courage in defeat, moderation in victory, in all things faith, and we shall win.

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Forgotten what political reform looks like? See this reminder by Taylor Swift.

Summary: Reform movements in America have almost entirely burnt out, with Hope & Change Nobel Peace Prize laureate Obama stamping out the embers. Yet the sparks remain and will catch fire again, sometime. Will we recognize harbingers of change after so many disappointments? See this new video by Taylor Swift; it shows what to look for. (2nd post of 2 today.)

Objects might be closer than they appear

Eagles might be closer than they appear

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The rash of police shootings has the Left hitting the streets again (like OWS but more vigorously), waving placards demanding things while delusionally marching along their road to irrelevancy —  as described in this typical twitter comment (name omitted):

Its all coming down. No amount of armor can stop that now. The Left is in the streets again, the only place that matters right now. The endgame is same whether the street explodes and burns it all down from the bottom or the top finally loses control of ridiculous maths experiment on Wall Street and burns down from there.  If the ‘white majority’ wish to be Fascists history shows what is in store for them.

As 2016 looms ahead the center-Left (i.e., liberals) prepare their bid for power by running long-serving, 67-year old, boring mediocrity Hillary Clinton. She’ll read her lines to generate support from the appropriate demographic and special interest groups. She’ll sing the Hope and Change, and the Democratic Party’s core will hum along with her. But nobody will believe. All but the core know she’s a creature of the banks, the war machine, and the mega-corps. Since the 1% don’t care about the proles mating habits and leisure pursuits, she’ll advocate a miscellany of social reforms (conflict about social policies creates a facade of conflict between the two parties).

Both Left and Liberals in their own way block meaningful efforts to reform America. They give us a choice of paths: boring or futile. Neither taps the public energy necessary to overcome the unassailable might of money. Obama did so in a slight way, showing the potential magnitude of the force available to us — but was limited by the insincerity of his campaign (obvious even in February 2008).

How can we identify a powerful political reform movement in its early stages? Here’s what it looks like:

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