New research reveals the people guilty of wrecking America!

Summary: This is the scariest thing you’ll read this year. For a decade, since 4 July 2006, I’ve warned that the Republic was dying from our neglect — that the Constitution has died in our hearts (the only place it lived). Surveys, such as Gallup’s Confidence in Institutions poll, showed the rot. Now a larger survey reveals that the very foundation of the Republic is washing away while we remain complacent and self-congratulatory. See the For More Info section for ideas what to do about this.

Our burning constitution

The Danger of Deconsolidation: The Democratic Disconnect.”

By Roberto Stefan Foa and Yascha Mounk
In the Journal of Democracy, July 2016.

Read the full paper. Here is an excerpt. Headers and red emphasis added.

Summary

“The citizens of wealthy, established democracies are less satisfied with their governments than they have been at any time since opinion polling began. Most scholars have interpreted this as a sign of dissatisfaction with particular governments rather than with the political system as a whole. Drawing on recent public opinion data, we suggest that this optimistic interpretation is no longer plausible. Across a wide sample of countries in North America and Western Europe, citizens of mature democracies have become markedly less satisfied with their form of government and surprisingly open to nondemocratic alternatives. A serious democratic disconnect has emerged. If it widens even further, it may begin to challenge the stability of seemingly consolidated democracies.

Forecasting

 

The difficulty of predicting social change

“For four decades, Die Welt, one of West Germany’s leading newspapers, refused to acknowledge the existence of an East German state. Since the paper’s editors expected the communist regime to collapse within a matter of years, they put scare quotes around its initials whenever they discussed the German Democratic Republic (GDR). While other papers reported about the policies pursued by the GDR, Die Weltun failingly wrote about the “GDR.”

“Sometime in the summer of 1989, the paper’s leadership finally decided to give up on the pretense that the East German regime was on theverge of collapse. The communists had been in power for so long, and seemed so well-entrenched, that the scare quotes had become an embarrassing denial of reality. On 2 August 1989, reporters were allowed to drop the scare quotes when writing a bout the GDR for the first time in the paper’s history. Three months later, the Berlin Wall fell. On 3 October 1990, the GDR ceased to exist.

“The editors of Die Welt radically misjudged the signs of the times. At precisely the moment when they should have realized that support for the communist regime was dwindling, they finally reconciled themselves to its durability. They were hardly alone. The collective failure of social scientists, policy makers, and journalists to take seriously the greater confidence in the durability of the world’s affluent, consolidated democracies.

“But do we have good grounds for our democratic self-confidence? At first sight, there would seem to be some reason for concern. Over the last three decades, trust in political institutions such as parliaments or the courts has precipitously declined across the established democracies of North America and Western Europe. So has voter turnout. As party identification has weakened and party membership has declined, citizens have become less willing to stick with establishment parties. Instead, voters increasingly endorse single-issue movements, vote for populist candidates, or support “antisystem” parties that define themselves in opposition to the status quo. Even in some of the richest and most politically stable regions of the world, it seems as though democracy is in a state of serious disrepair.

“Most political scientists, however, have steadfastly declined to view these trends as an indication of structural problems in the functioning of liberal democracy, much less as a threat to its very existence. …

“In our view, however, this optimistic interpretation may no longer be tenable. Drawing on data from Waves 3 through 6 of the World Values Surveys (1995–2014), we look at four important types of measures that are clear indicators of regime legitimacy as opposed to government legitimacy:

  1. citizens’ express support for the system as a whole;
  2. the degree to which they support key institutions of liberal democracy, such as civil rights;
  3. their willingness to advance their political causes within the existing political system; and
  4. their openness to authoritarian alternatives such as military rule.

“What we find is deeply concerning. Citizens in a number of supposedly consolidated democracies in North America and Western Europe have not only grown more critical of their political leaders. Rather, they have also become more cynical about the value of democracy as a political system, less hopeful that anything they do might influence public policy, and more willing to express support for authoritarian alternatives. The crisis of democratic legitimacy extends across a much wider set of indicators than previously appreciated.

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The Premier of Ontario visits a mosque, revealing much about our society

Summary: Small incidents in the news often reveal hidden but large trends in society, if we examine them carefully. Such as a recent visit by Ontario’s Premier to a local mosque. Her political allies cheer; her political foes laugh and mock. But it tells us so much more. {Also, see yesterday’s post: Trump points to Sweden’s problems with migrants. Then they riot, again.}

Kathleen O’Day Wynne, Premier of Ontario.

Kathleen Wynne

Kathleen O’Day Wynne is the first female premier of Ontario and the first openly gay head of government in Canada (see Wikipedia). To build bridges with the local Christian community, she visited a fundamentalist church — and followed the appropriate Scriptural guidance. She sat quietly, head covered — even going beyond the Paul’s advice, to sit in the back of the church.

“Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. 5 But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head — it is the same as having her head shaved.”  (1 Corinthians 11 4:5.)

“Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. 35 If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.” (1 Corinthians 14 34:35.)

“A woman should learn in quietness and full submission.  I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.” (1 Timothy 2 11:12.)

Of course, this is impossible. If Premier Wynne visited a church and was asked to sit quietly, head covered, her tirade would have blown the roof off. But, as most readers know, she visited a Toronto mosque on January 30, the day after six died during an attack at a Quebec mosque — and, as the Toronto Sun reported, she obeyed.

“While the men prayed, she sat patiently in the back corner of the mosque waiting to {speak}.”

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Trump points to Sweden’s problems with migrants. Then they riot, again.

Summary: While America grapples with its irrational debates about immigration, Sweden grapples with the consequences of massive immigration from failed states. Their experience is rich with lessons for America, as Sweden seems unable to see — let alone understand — what is happening. This also provides another example of how the US press automatically declares Trump wrong, even when there is some truth to what he says.

Aftermath of riot in Rinkeby, Sweden

Policeman at aftermath of riot in Rinkeby, Sweden on 21 Feb 2017. © TT News Agency / Fredrik Sandberg, via REUTERS.

Slowly Trump’s performance as president becomes clear, how he handles the complex multi-dimensional aspects of the role. Uniquely he has become our Court Jester. Much of what he says is entertaining nonsense. But occasionally he says unmentionable truths that we need to hear. Such as the recent chatter about Sweden’s open borders policy, which reveals much about our inability to clearly see the world — and our push-back to news about it that disrupts the approved narrative.

 

The reaction was swift. Automatic mockery from the Left, and an interesting response from Sweden’s official Twitter account.

Reality quickly pushed back, hard, with stories about a new riot in an area of Stockholm with a large migrant population — with notable riots in 2010, in 2013, and 2016. See “Police intervention in Rinkeby was followed by riots and looting” in Dagens Nyheter, one of Sweden’s largest newspapers (see Wikipedia).

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A plutocrat honestly explains the new politics of America

Summary: After decades of work by America’s plutocrats, aided by our apathy, they control all 3 branches, not just Federal but also most State and local governments. Control of a few more States will allow them to amend the Constitution, further entrenching their power. To better see where we are going, see this passage describing the UK (and US) government before the great democratization brought forth by three world wars (2 hot, 1 cold) and the Great Depression. {First of 2 posts today.}

Robert Morley as Andrew Undershaft

Robert Morley as Andrew Undershaft. Getty Images.

 

Who is the government of our country?

Remarks to an aspiring politician
by Andrew Undershaft, CEO of the giant defense contractor
Undershaft & Lazarus.

From George Bernard Shaw’s play,
Major Barbara (1906).

 

“I am the government of your country; I, and Lazarus.  Do you suppose that you and half a dozen amateurs like you, sitting in a row in that foolish gabble shop, can govern Undershaft and Lazarus?

“No, my friend; you will do what pays us.  You will make war when it suits us, and keep peace when it does not.  You will find out that trade requires certain measures when we have decided on those measures.

“When I want anything to keep my dividends up, you will discover that my want is a national need.  When other people want something to keep my dividends down, you will call out the police and military.

“And in return you shall have the support and applause of my newspapers, and the delight of imagining that you are a great statesman.

“Government of your country!  Be off with you, my boy, and play with your caucuses and leading articles and historic parties and great leaders and burning questions and the rest of your toys.  I am going back to my counting house to pay the piper and call the tune.”

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The Great Wall is a fun film showing us a great Chinese-American future

Summary: The Great Wall is a powerful film misunderstood by critics. It is masterfully produced and acted, with a vision we need to see — about working together for something greater than ourselves, and about the promise of America and China working together as partners.

The Great Wall - poster

“The Great Wall”

Now in theaters. Directed by Yimou Zhang.
Staring Willem Dafoe, Matt Damon, Tian Jing, and Andy Lao.

“The Great Wall” tells the story of European mercenaries searching for the secret of gunpowder who become embroiled in the defense of the Great Wall of China by an elite force against a horde of monsters. The first English-language production for Yimou is the largest film ever shot entirely in China.”

I grow sad reading the critics’ reviews with their inability to be reached by simple emotions and stories. They get excited by films embodying Leftist ideology or post-modern sensibilities (almost overlapping categories). They like especially fine CGI, and nice children’s films. These are people that would hate most classic films, if they saw them for the first time without knowing their reputations. We see this in their reviews of “The Great Wall”. They hated it (a Rotten Tomatoes score of 35%); many appeared to have watched it blindfolded.

A Taotei

It is a simple film the key to a great story. As in the best monster films (e.g. The Thing, in both the 1951 and the 1982 versions), the monsters provide an existential challenge to the group. In this case, an endless horde of monsters (the Taotie) from a meteor attack China. If China falls, so will the world. They are fought at a re-imagined version of the Great Wall by the Nameless Order, an elite force of China’s army of awesome skill, wielding impressive (but appropriate for the time) weapons.

The film has many strengths. The cinematography is fantastic, with skillfully shot combinations of gripping panoramas and close-in shots of the battles. Unlike many films these days, I could always follow the action — knowing who was where, and what they were doing.  The many small touches gave it texture seldom found in American films. Some of these were visual, such as the stack of bloody harnesses of the dead Crane Soldiers. Some were plot notes, such as the monsters’ adaptive tactics (like Afghanistan insurgents, not as dumb as believed).

The settings showed imagination on a scale rarely found in Hollywood. The actors portrayed exception people, but avoided the rug-eating so popular today. Instead they respond to events as actual people do.

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A climate scientist assesses the threat of climate change

Summary: Eminent climate scientist Judith Curry gives a brief assessment of the threat of climate change, starting from first principles — such as the definition of “risk”. It is a timely reminder, as the debate about the public policy response to climate change moves into hysteria.

“US politics could be focused on preventing climate change from destroying all life on Earth. Instead, it’s focused on Vlad Putin & Nordstrom.”

— David Sirota on Twitter (74 thousand followers). He is a radio host based in Denver, nationally syndicated columnist, and Democratic political spokesperson. He says this often, ignoring those pointing out that the IPCC’s Working Group I’s reports say nothing remotely like that. See his Wikipedia entry.

Global Warming

 

The ‘threat’ of climate change

By Judith Curry,
Posted at Climate Etc, 29 January 2017.

Posted under a Creative Commons License

 

A major disconnect in the discourse surrounding climate change is interpretation of the ‘threat’ of climate change.

Last week I attended the annual meeting of the American Meteorological Society in Seattle.  It was a very good meeting …One of the best things about such conferences is the opportunity for extended face to face discussions with other scientists.  I had one such discussion that triggered the theme for this post.  This scientist (who will remain unnamed) does not disagree with me about climate change science in any significant way, although he has more confidence in climate models than I do.  In particular, he has publicly discussed the uncertainty issue.

He doesn’t take the ‘heat’ that I do largely because, in spite of these substantial uncertainties, he makes statements about the ‘serious threat’ of climate change, substantial risk of dangerous or even calamitous impacts,  reducing this risk requires a reduction of carbon emissions.

We both agree that there is the ‘possibility’ of extreme impacts if the warming is on the high end of the model projections.  We agree that we can’t quantify the probability of such impacts; it is best to regard them as ‘possibilities.’

So, what is the differences in reasoning that lead us to different conclusions regarding policy responses?

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A philosopher reviews “The Phantom Menace”, a great film with hidden depths

Summary: Today we have a review of The Phantom Menace by philosopher Kelley Ross. He looks beyond the CGI and Hollywood glitz to see the underlying themes. There is much to examine. The depth of the Star Wars films accounts for much of their enduring popularity.

 

Review of Star Wars: Episode I,
The Phantom Menace

Staring Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, and Jake Lloyd.
Directed and written by George Lucas.

Review by Kelley L. Ross,
Posted at Friesian.

Re-posted with his generous permission.

 

…It is the first movie since Titanic to move me to tears — over the death of Qui-gon. But I must be a sentimentalist, since I also recently found The Sixth Sense just as moving.

Liam Neeson (as Qui-gon Jinn), Natalie Portman (as Queen Amidala), and Jake Lloyd (as Anakin Skywalker) are perfect and convincing in their roles. Neeson is what we always needed to see about a mature, functioning Jedi, going about the business of defending peace and justice. He does it most convincingly, right from the beginning, as we might expect from the man responsible for the portrayal of Oscar Schindler. We see quite a bit more of Neeson in Phantom than we did of Alec Guiness in the original Star Wars (Episode IV: A New Hope). Qui-gon is basically present and in charge of most of the action for most of the movie. We become familiar with him in many circumstances and come to know him as a tall, commanding, confident, and noble but also fatherly figure (note the graying hair).

Perhaps after many years of Homer Simpson, Ed Bundy, and contempt for the 50’s ethos of Father Knows Best, it is hard for critics to recognize a real father figure again. This is no buffed up Rambo and certainly no “wooden character,” nor, as McCarthy says, “a basically stolid guy with only moderate charisma.” No way. At key moments Qui-gon is even notable for his affection:  touching on the shoulder with concern and protection Anakin’s mother (caressing with his thumb), Anakin (with both hands, twice), and Padme (during the pod race), and in the end, while dying, lovingly touching the cheek of Obi-Wan. In our day, we might even be afraid to show such affection for fear of being accused of …

  • sexual harassment,
  • child molestation, or
  • being gay.

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