Tag Archives: right-wing

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

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

El Reagan: viva revolucion

Contents

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

 

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

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

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

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

(2)  Excerpt #1: The Problem

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

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

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

Continue reading

Are ISIS terrorists coming to America from a base in Mexico?

Summary: Arousing fear has become not just an effective political tool but a good business in our increasingly gullible America. This post looks at one example from the many in today’s news. An industry has grown to disseminate activists’ scary stories. Like the candy industry it’s big because we love their products although we know they’re bad for us. We’ll need sterner standards if we hope to again govern ourselves. {2nd of 2 posts today.}

Contents

  1. Weaponized urban legends.
  2. Today’s fear attack on America.
  3. Journalists defending us.
  4. Conclusions.
  5. For More Information.

 

(1)  Weaponized urban legends

For years I wondered what happened to the scary but fun urban legends that so often swept across America, as new ones became rare after the bogus Y2K panic attack. Had we learned? Only slowly did it become apparent that this powerful tool has been professionalized by activists and deployed against us for political effect. Amateurs’ creations can’t compete against the product of pros.

Previous posts have debunked the increasingly delusional claims by the Left’s activists about imminent climate catastrophes (either unsupported or contradicted by the work of the IPCC). Here we look at similar activities of the Right. A thousand and one posts could be written and not list a year’s fear barrages dropped on America, and their growing role shaping our view of the world.

(2)  Today’s fear attack on America

A hot meme on the Right concerns the danger from the others to the south. Hordes of young men taking our jobs. Criminals taking our goods and attacking our women. Lazy people exploiting our charity. Sick people bringing diseases. The latest concerns those others working with our foes.

Judicial Watch originates many of these stories (165 thousand followers on Twitter), aptly described by the invaluable myth-busters at Snopes in an article debunking the jihadists coming from Mexico stories:

Continue reading

Did Robert Heinlein in 1961 predict the fall of the Soviet Union? Lessons learned from this.

Summary: Our past can help us to better understand our present. The ills of the present didn’t just appear, and often can be seen more clearly in the past — such as as our penchant for believing fables. This post has it all: a great story about Robert Heinlein’s astonishing prescience, the Evil Empire, demographic collapse, gross errors by experts, a spectacular save at the end, and insights to help us tomorrow.  It’s another in a series about experts.  {1st of 2 posts today.}

Writing about geopolitics = progress by making mistakes

Ask an expert

I find it difficult to guess about the future (track record here). But it’s often difficult to get the past correctly, which makes it almost impossible to accurately see the present.

For example, in 2009 I wrote about the failings of our experts, especially those at the intel agencies, during the Cold War. I cited science fiction writer Robert Heinlein as an example of a non-credentialed expert who got a big question right while they were wrong. I told a commonplace kind of story one sees these days, about how the official sources are wrong when the outsiders are right.

It’s the story so often told by many groups — the climate scientists are frauds people, the down with the Federal Reserve crowd, the anti-vaxers, and the pollutants are everywhere (soda bottles, cell phone towers) tribe — as well as people with whom I largely agree (e.g., the military reformers, the 4GW community, and the peace and justice movements).

It’s an extension of the “crowdsourcing” concept — the anti-establishment belief that wisdom is found on the fringes, in the hands of outsiders. Since 2009 I have found other examples of this. Under examination most proved to be false.

As part of an article about our new cold war (it’s only a slightly chilled dispute, the past repeating as farce) I intended to again cite this example of Heinlein’s wisdom. But my mistakes of the past 5 years (tracked here) taught me to dig deeper before writing. Doing so disproved my 2009 post, giving in exchange some useful insights.

Did Robert Heinlein foresee the fall of the Soviet Union?

In 1960 Robert and Virginia Heinlein visited Moscow. In 1966 he published this note about his trip in Worlds of Robert Heinlein, republished in 1980 as Expanded Universe. In 2009 I cited it as an example of genius by a non-expert. Let’s examine it more closely.

Cover of "Worlds of Robert Heinlein"

For many days we prowled Moskva — by car, by taxi, by subway, by bus, and on foot. Mrs. Heinlein, in her fluent Russian, got acquainted with many people — drivers, chambermaids, anyone. The Russians are delightful people, always happy to talk with visitors … She was able to ask personal questions by freely answering questions about us and showing warm interest in that person — not faked; she is a warm person. But buried in chitchat, she always learned these things:

  • How old are you?
  • Are you married?
  • How many children do you have?
  • How many brothers and sisters do you have?
  • How many nieces and nephews do you have?

Put baldly, that sounds as offensive as a quiz by a Kinsey reporter. But it was not put baldly — e.g., “Oh, how lucky you are! Gospodin Heinlein and I didn’t meet until the Great Patriotic War … and we have no children although we wanted them. But we have lots of nieces and nephews.” Etc, etc.  She often told more than she got but she accumulated the data she wanted, often without asking questions.

… Mrs. Heinlein is a close student of Russian history, history of the Russian Revolution, history of the Third International or Comintern, and so skilled in Marxist dialectical materialism that she can argue theory with a Russian party member and get him so mixed up that he’s biting his own tail.

So far, so good. He’s established some grounds for credibility.

{Virginia said…}  “They claim to have finished the War with about two hundred million and Moscow at four million. Now they are claiming twenty-five million more in the Union, and over a million increase in Moscow. It’s a lie. Unless they are breeding like flies everywhere outside Moscow, they have lost population since the War — not gained. I haven’t found even one family with more than 3 children. The average is less than 2. And they marry late. Robert, they aren’t even replacing themselves.”

…We stopped in many other cities — Alma Ata, Tashkent, Samarkand, Minsk, Vilno, Kiev, Riga, Leningrad, etc. — and she continued her gentle questioning but never found reason to change her opinion. Even out in the Muslim countries of Turkestan the birthrate was low, or the answers seemed to show it.

By the 1990’s Russia’s demographic collapse spread so that the total population began to decline, something rare in modern times except during wars. The Heinleins had discovered this in its early stages 2 decades before the CIA saw it! I was awed. Heinlein had more observations in this article.

One day we were seated on a park bench, back of the Kremlin and facing the Moskva River. I said, “How big does that guide book say this city is?”

“Over five million.”

“Hmmph! Look at that river. Look at the traffic on it. (One lonely scow) “Remember the Rhine? … Ginny, this dump isn’t anything like five million. More the size of Copenhagen, if that. Pittsburgh. New Orleans. San Francisco, possibly.  Yet they are trying to tell us that this dump is bigger than Philadelphia, bigger than Los Angeles, bigger than Chicago. Nonsense. … Three quarters of a million, not five million.”   {1960 population of San Francisco: 740 thousand}

She looked at that empty river. “Not quite as big as Copenhagen is my guess.”

The CIA estimate of Moscow’s population in 1960 was 6 million. Heinlein’s estimate of 750,000 was absurd. That’s almost an order of magnitude difference. Asserting that experts are grossly wrong is a red flag for wingnuttery.

How was it possible for the Russians to claim that Moscow was seven times as big as it actually was? How could I be right and the whole world wrong? The World Almanac gave the same figures the Russians did, all news services seemed to accept Russian population figures. How could a Big Lie that big not be noticed and denounced?

About a year later I had a chance to discuss it with an old shipmate, an admiral now retired but then holding a major command. I asked him how many people there were in Moscow. … He closed his eyes and kept quiet for several minutes. “750,000, not over that.” (Jackpot!)

I said, “Mister 007, have you made a special study of Russia? Or shouldn’t I ask?”

“Not at all. [This command] gives me all the trouble I need without worrying about Russia. I simply worked it as a logistics problem, War College style. That city just doesn’t have the transportation facilities to be any bigger than that. Get much over three quarters of a million and they’d starve. Until they double their tracks and increase their yards they can’t risk a bigger population. You don’t do that over night. They can pick up some slack with the river, but it doesn’t go where they need it most.”

Look, both the Pentagon and the State Department know exactly how big Moscow is, and the Kremlin knows that they know. We were highflying ‘em with the U-2 for four years; you can bet Moscow was carefully photographed many times. Our present Eye-in-the-Sky satellites are so sharp-eyed that they can come close to reading the license plate on your car …

I have one very wild theory. Our State Department may see no advantage in calling them liars on this point. Through several administrations we have been extremely careful not to hurt their feelings.

This should have loudly rang the FAKE alarm for me, since it has so many of the classic elements of urban legends: an anonymous authority figure, an assertion that the author has the hidden truth not visible to lesser beings, and a conspiracy theory about the government hiding truths for mysterious reasons. But I wanted to believe him, and so my critical sense slept.

David Hume

Conclusions

A generation of Boomers grew up with Robert Heinlein as a voice of authority about the world. But this is an odd story in many ways.

Millions still believe Heinlein’s insights from his fiction — such as “an armed society is a polite society” (Beyond This Horizon, 1942), but this assertion about the Soviet Union’s weakness never caught on. Also, after WWII Heinlein was a far-Right conservative. Yet Heinlein’s story contradicts the Right’s belief about the USSR’s growing power, powerfully asserted even in the 1977 by the right-wing Team B (although largely wrong, its members went on to great career success).

Heinlein reminds us that political delusions passed by trusted people are always with us. They are easier to see in the past, which can help us to see them in the present. There are so many of them today, from both Right and Left. I doubt we can regain control of the Republic until we regain our sense of skepticism, even about those we trust.

Also: this post was added to the “Smackdowns” page.

Some thoughts about Heinlein

Here are comments about Heinlein much like my own, from Walter Jon Williams’ “Revisiting the Classics“:

Heinlein had the gift of a perfect avuncular voice: if you were a bright kid of thirteen and curious about the world, he was the kindly uncle who would help you find out how things worked. And as a 13-year-old I read Heinlein and I believed everything Uncle Bob told me: I believed we should bring back flogging (Starship Troopers), practice Upton Sinclair’s version of socialism (Beyond This Horizon), and practice Free Love (Stranger in a Strange Land).  (Of course, when you come down to it, what 13-year-old male doesn’t want to practice Free Love?)

That Heinlein’s various visions of the future were contradictory did not occur to me. I also was unable to distinguish between the ideas that Heinlein meant seriously and the ideas he was just throwing out for their own sake.

When I re-read the book in college, I had the feeling that my kindly uncle was something of a blowhard. Now that I’m older, I’m finding the avuncular voice just the least bit condescending.

Comment by MDHughes:

Stranger’s weird now because it’s not so weird; at the time it must’ve been pure fantasy, and today it passes for current events minus Mars (and we’ll be there soon enough). The sexuality and politics seem plausible … The religious lunatics and stormtroopers are half our political system.

For More Information

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.  See the other posts about Robert Heinlein and the other posts about experts, especially these:

  1. Today’s debate: a passionate defense of credentialism. State your view!
  2. Experts now run the world using their theories. What if they fail, and we lose confidence in them?
  3. Do we face a future without confidence in experts?
  4. Our confidence in science is crumbling. Why? How can we fix this?
  5. 2015 might bring an end to the great age of experts’ experiments on us.
  6. Tips to find the experts that help you see the world more clearly.
  7. Will our geopolitical “experts “lead us to ruin?

 

 

The GOP budget shows us the New America that lies ahead

Summary: The first budget by the new Republican majority in Congress shows what lies ahead for America. It’s another tale of the New America rising on the ruins of the old, as the 1% begins the pursuit phase of the battle against us. These tales are entertainment for the outer party, just exhilaration as they boo the other tribe unless they motivate people to political action. {2nd of 2 posts today.}

“There’s class warfare, all right. But it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”
— Warren Buffet, quoted in the New York Times Magazine, 26 November 2006.Was Marx right?

 

Brick by brick the New America slowly rises on the ruins of the Second Republic. As we see in this week’s headline “Senate passes Republican budget with deep safety net cuts“. It’s a full-court press to reconfigure the US government to benefit the 1%. Excerpt:

The Senate passed a Republican-authored budget plan early on Friday that seeks $5.1 trillion in domestic spending cuts over 10 years while boosting military funding. … which is similar to one passed by House Republicans on Wednesday. … They also showcase the fiscal vision for Republicans, who now control both Houses of Congress for the first time since 2006 and are eager to demonstrate their ability to govern.

… The Senate budget seeks to eliminate U.S. deficits by 2025 without raising taxes through deep cuts to social safety net programs, investments in transportation and education and other domestic programs. At the same time, it proposes to boost defense spending by adding about $38 billion to an off-budget war funding account, and offers core Pentagon budget increases in subsequent years.

This is just the first step. We can expect more drastic measures in the future, shifting taxes from the 1% to us and cutting government benefits. The Hill explains (Note: block grants are a means to shift spending to the States, for easier slashing):

Continue reading

Read like a conservative to see the world in a new way!

Summary: Today’s exercise might open your eyes and raise you consciousness, hopefully in a good way. Here’s what a conservative, of the extreme variety, reads over the course of a week, stories describing a terrifying world of powerful enemies, foreign and domestic, poised to attack (or already subverting America from within). It’s about our weakness and their strength. But more importantly this distorted news flow has tilted the nation’s mental in an unbalanced and fearful way.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

“you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
— John 8:32. Yes, but lies told the weak are more politically useful.

Truth Will Make You Free

How have so many Americans become so fearful and militaristic since 9/11, urging an ever more belligerent foreign policy (despite its repeated failures)? There have been studies showing a large fraction of people with a bias or tilt towards these things, such as “Tea Party Members Cultural Dispositions ‘Authoritarianism, Fear Of Change, Libertarianism And Nativism’“.

But there’s more to it. An industry has arise to feed our fears. The information “diet” we consume exacerbates these traits, so that we see a distorted view of the world, with every threat exaggerated in size and immanence. The repeated failure of these threats to affect us does change their views, mysteriously.

Here’s a sample of stories from just a few days — most from respectable sources (it’s much worse in the shadowy corners of the Internet). Only a few from Fox News and the Washington Times, as that would be too easy. Nothing here from the flow of racism; we discussed that yesterday.

Some of these stories are accurate, but lack context. Some are exaggerated. Some are fanciful. It’s the selectivity of the diet that produces the desired effect, making the subject easy to rule. Imagine credulously reading these every day for years. Terror and a kind of paranoia are natural results, plus a desire to strike before they get us.

Foreign Enemies

How the Military Will Fight ISIS on the Dark Web“, Patrick Tucker, Defense One.  “Al-Qaeda morphs into a new movement since 9/11“, AP. AQ has gone thru more changes since 9/11 than Lady GaGa. Always threatening yet seldom acting.  “The U.S. strategy to defeat the Islamic State is underpowered“, Washington Post editorial.  “Islamic State group’s war chest is growing daily“, AP. Perhaps in a decade or so it will equal that of Liechtenstein ($420 million per year).

Continue reading

Proof pointing to the people guilty of weakening America

Summary: We, Americans, delight in creative explanations blaming others for our problems. “It’s not my fault” is our mantra. Here are two examples suggesting that we can find the guilty parties can be found in the mirror. We can do better.

Einstein about problems

He didn’t say it, but should have

.

In these pages I’ve attempted to convey some of the astonishing aspects of 21st century America. None are more astonishing than our disinterest in learning from our experiences (both Left and Right), and the parallel behavior of Left and Right (about which they’re oblivious). I’ve written scores of posts documenting these phenomena.

The conclusion drawn about these posts by many readers: they accurately describe foolish behavior of the other side (the bad guys), but say I show bias and politicization by pointing out similar behavior by the good guys (which is so obviously different). How sad to see such willful blindness. It’s one of the reasons I wonder about our capacity for self-government. The blind need guides. Perhaps that’s how the 1% see their relationship with us.

Here is an example for each.

Bush = Hitler

The Day of Action protest, 18 March 2006

(1) Bush is Hitler. So is Obama

Many at the Left said that President Bush Jr was like Hitler. Zomblog and Ringo’s Pictures have collected examples. Lied us into wars, illegal government surveillance, indefinite detention at Guantanamo Bay without charges or trials. The Right laughed.

Now the Left applauds Obama, with his illegal surveillance programs, most aggressive-ever use of the Espionage Act of 1917. continued use of Guantanamo Bay, expanded assassination programs (including US citizens). Most of the same things they condemned Bush Jr for doing, plus more that Bush Jr did not dare do.

And now the Right condemns Obama as — Hitler. David Neiwert at Orcinus has a few examples. Google Images points to hundreds more.

This suggests that both Left and Right love authoritarians, so long as they are on the correct side of the political aisle. Both are oblivious to the similarity of their behaviors to the behavior of those they despise. No wonder our politics have become so dysfunctional.

Continue reading

Comment threads about global warming show the American mind at work, like a reality-TV horror show

Summary:  Belief in a secret conspiracy of government scientists manipulating US climate data to exaggerate global warming might join Benghazi BENGHAZI in the right-wing canon. See this happen in real time in the comment threads at Prof Curry’s website, showing the American mind at work on one of our most important public policy issues. It’s a sad spectacle, deserving your attention. We can do better, if only we would try. (updated July 2)

This is second in a series about this fascinating story. It is one of a series of posts using popular media as a mirror in which we can more clearly see who we are, and what we’re becoming.

All Seeing Eye

.

I strongly recommend reading the comments to “Skeptical of skeptics: is Steve Goddard right?“ by Judith Curry (Prof, GA Inst Tech) at her website, Climate Etc.  (update: and to her follow-up post here). It’s a typical discussion about politicized science in America, with comments by scientists, talented amateurs, and extremist partisans. The latter dominate, with anti-science their primary theme.

If you step back from the specific issue, this thread reads like countless others in recent years by the Right (e.g. about evolution, the extreme example) — and by the Left  (e.g., genetically-modified food and nuclear power).  And by both the Left and Right about climate and economics. A common element is people who have little or no understanding of the subject, but confidently proclaim the relevant scientists to be fools, crooks, or charlatans (this is a defining characteristic of the public climate wars, with activists on both sides so condemning scientists on the “other side”).

Political leaders cherish such followers, their vanguard of high-energy “useful idiots” (an essential concept for political engineers, origin unknown). They’re easily directed and immune to rebuttal by fact or logic (they don’t listen to their opponents, who are misguided if not evil). As a chorus they entertain the faithful and can often shout down saner voices.

“Then the sheep broke out into a tremendous bleating of `Four legs good, two legs bad!’ which went on for nearly a quarter of an hour and put an end to any chance of discussion.”

This is a manifestation of an deeper ill in American life, anti-intellectualism. The best-known descriptions of this are two works by Richard Hofstadter. The comment thread at Climate Etc shows both of these traits proudly displayed.

(1)  Anti-intellectualism in American Life (1963).  It includes the belief that everyman can understand technical matters as well as experts, without bothering with years of study. It’s as or more serious now than in 1963.

Twenty-first century philistines, suffering from a lack of imagination and curiosity, have seized upon understandable economic anxieties since the financial crash of 2008, to shepherd an increasingly large flock of American sheep into the livestock freight carrier Pulitzer prize winning historian, Richard Hofstadter, called “anti-intellectualism.” … The American mind is swimming in icy waters …

— “America’s New Wave of Anti-Intellectualism“, David Masciotra (journalist), The Daily Beast, 9 March 2014

(2) The Paranoid Style in American Politics“, Harpers Magazine, November 1964 — To the Right-wing climate scientists are not just wrong, but in an active conspiracy to deceive us — they “fake”, fiddle”, and “rig” the data. Excerpt:

Continue reading