Summary: It’s “ask a question” time. In the comments “ask the mineshaft”: post questions about geopolitics — and your answers to other people’s questions. This is a community exercise, from the German “Gemeinschaft” (see Wikipedia).
Questions are especially welcome about current events and recent posts (which appear on the top of the right-side menu bar). Please reply to comments using the REPLY button (to keep the thread together).
- A milestone, and questions for our readers
- Evidence that the GOP has adopted Lenin’s tactics
(1) A milestone, and questions for our readers
Today we passed 3,500,000 page views since opening on WordPress in November 2007 (articles from 2003 to then were at the Defense and National Interest website). So let’s start with three questions asking how to improve what we do here. Please answer in the comments!
- Should we have more articles on the FM website, mostly smaller with a few larger articles?
- How useful are the articles posted here from other sources? Who else would you like to see reposted here?
- How can we improve the comment threads?
- Request for comments on this interesting article about America by a ArchDruid!
- The doom and gloom is far too similar to what has already been said over the last 100 years
- Who “is” Willard Mitt Romney?
(3) Evidence that the GOP has adopted Lenin’s tactics
(a) Then: Republicans have found a sure-fire path to victory in the November elections, 5 February 2010:
The Republican Party appears to have found an almost sure-fire tactic to sweep the November 2010 elections: the worse, the better. Obstruct everything, good or bad. Offer compromises only to confuse your opponents. The American people will blame Obama and the Democratic Party for the resulting disaster.
This tactical insight was a key part of Lenin’s strategy and is attributed to Nikolay Gavrilovich Chernyshevsky. From Britannica (also see the Wikipedia entry):
(1828 – 1889) radical journalist and politician who greatly influenced the young Russian intelligentsia through his classic work What Is to Be Done? (1863). … Landowners accused him of stirring up class hatred; and, although the extent to which he was actively subversive is a matter of controversy, he was arrested in 1862. After two years’ imprisonment he was exiled to Siberia, where he remained until 1883. … In the USSR he was considered by many to be a forerunner of Vladimir Lenin.
(b) Later they partially admitted this.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, interviewed by Major Garrett in National Journal, 4 November 2010 (gated; link here):
MCCONNELL: We need to be honest with the public. This election is about them, not us. And we need to treat this election as the first step in retaking the government. We need to say to everyone on Election Day, “Those of you who helped make this a good day, you need to go out and help us finish the job.”
NATIONAL JOURNAL: What’s the job?
MCCONNELL: The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.
Their actions, refusing to participate in almost any Obama initiative — no matter how pressing the national need — shows their intent and values more clearly than any words will do.
(c) It was their goal from inauguration day, shown in this excerpt from new book The New New Deal by Michael Grunwald (2012):
People were pretty demoralized, and there were two totally opposite thoughts on how to approach the situation,” a McConnell aide recalls. “One was, `we don’t like the president, we ought to pop him early.’ The other was, `he’s really popular, we should work with him, because that’s what people want us to do.’ The boss’s take was: Neither.” McConnell realized that it would be much easier to fight Obama if Republicans first made a public show of wanting to work with him.
Biden says that during the transition, he was warned not to expect any cooperation on many votes. “I spoke to seven different Republican Senators, who said, `Joe, I’m not going to be able to help you on anything,’ he recalls. His informants said McConnell had demanded unified resistance. “The way it was characterized to me was: `For the next two years, we can’t let you succeed in anything. That’s our ticket to coming back,’” Biden says.
The vice president says he hasn’t even told Obama who his sources were, but Bob Bennett of Utah and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania both confirmed they had conversations with Biden along these lines.
Hat tip on this to Greg Sargent at the Washington Post.
33 thoughts on “Question time on the FM website, and some big news of this week. Post your questions and answers!”
What do you think of this piece? I believe it’s quite alike your thoughts and predictions of the future of America.
“A Crisis of Legitimacy“, The Archdruid Report (Druid perspectives on nature, culture, and the future of industrial society), 8 August 2012 — Opening:
John Michael Greer is the Grand Archdruid of the Ancient Order of Druids in America and the author of more than twenty books on a wide range of subjects, including The Long Descent: A User’s Guide to the End of the Industrial Age, The Ecotechnic Future: Exploring a Post-Peak World, and The Wealth of Nature: Economics As If Survival Mattered. He lives in Cumberland, MD, an old red brick mill town in the north central Appalachians, with his wife Sara.
(1) Greer’s work has come up in comments before in threads about peak oil (this is the most complete), and not favorably: with my reactions ranging from “wrong” to “incomprehensible”.
This article is about politics, and seems more reasonable to me, from a quick skim. With one large exception.
This is the foundation of his argument, from which he concludes that the US government could quickly blow away. IMO (it’s a complex subject, and I have not carefully read his article) that’s wrong.
The examples he cites — which also include “France in 1789 and Russia in 1917” — were all slow affairs. The sudden change in power was the climax of a long slow multi-generational process. The exception is Eastern European, states occupied by the USSR; when the occupation ended their governments of course changed. Comparing any of these to the US is IMO daft, the kind of exaggeration typical in fringe writing. Often a fruitful source of inspiration and new ideas, but not balanced evaluation.
I appreciate FM for the authorship of opinion and the quick response in debate. However, as a person who is tuned in to the deeper philosophical dialog among the online crowd, the constant attempt at opinionated education is tiresome.
It is far too easy to gain traction and generate a reaction when the diagnosis of a problem is destruction. I understand how much effort goes into this site and appreciate the opportunity to read and learn but, I would like to learn more about the national leaders that are working! In a nation of free men and women we must have at least a few clear examples of bravery and leadership for good worthy of discussion and catchy headlines?
The doom and gloom is far too similar to what has already been said over the last 100 years…
Perhaps you can provide some examples. I don’t see the relevance of your comment to what’s on the FM website.
(1) I don’t see any correspondence between the TR quote and today. I’d say we’re in almost the exact opposite situation. Rather than “fierce discontent with evil, a determination to punish”, we have apathy, complacency, and ignorance. Perhaps we read different newspapers. Tell me yours; it sounds more fun than mine.
Our fierce discontent with evil (probably not exactly what TR had in mind):
(2) “the diagnosis of a problem is destruction”
There are certainly lots of doomsters writing in the comments, who foresee certain destruction of everything from the Republic up to life itself. But I’ve consistently said that they’re wrong. That’s perhaps the single greatest theme of this website.
(3) “I would like to learn more about the national leaders that are working! In a nation of free men and women we must have at least a few clear examples of bravery and leadership for good worthy of discussion and catchy headlines?”
I suggest a subscription to the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and People. You’ll get that in ample quantity. Here we try, in our small way, to tell you the rest of the story. Sometimes that’s good news — the peak oil doom and climate doom are not here, and are relatively low probability over reasonable time horizons. Sometimes its not.
(4) Please visit the FM Reference Page Good news about America. There are 22 posts there. Circulate them among your friends. These get very low traffic. If they get traffic, I’ll write more.
(1) TR’s quote relates to the human condition we all suffer and are lead to believe does not exist. It should be clear that we are seeing a resurgence of evil with incomprehensible lone gunman shootings, the physical/emotional disconnect of neighbors and citizens, and the acceptance of the muck rakers influence. How can one not recognize the “tea party” as the last great hope for Madisonian America? They get zero credit for the peaceful, law abiding, struggle for independence. In fact they are targeted by the ne’er do wells in high society and labeled bourgeoisie. “a crusade of appetite against appetite”
(2) Critical thinking is great, critical theory is not. Trying to follow along, I see more similarities to the puritanical reasoning of Chomsky in the moral certainty of the diagnosis over the solutions. FM’s optimisic view tends to come in the form of a question, absent of the critical swagger. The revelation of politics in all aspects of public life does not prove our major parties stand for the same future, as FM alluded to in the August 5th essay.
(3) Silly response. The publications referenced clearly do not offer the rest of the story when it comes to bravery and leadership. I understand people would rather see a car wreck but, the Kony 2012 vid/narrative was a huge success online and perhaps focusing on the fight of the good by laying out the challenge to give context would make the opinion sharable? People seem not to understand context these days.
(1) “TR’s quote relates to the human condition we all suffer a”
That’s not at all how I read TR’s speech. IMO he’s talking about specific phenomena, one’s inherent to human society — but not necessarily dominant in every time and place. As I said, our situation more closely resembles the opposite of what he describes. You must read very different newspapers than I do.
(2) I cannot make heads nor tales of these statements. But then I only took one comparative literature and one philosophy course.
(3) “The publications referenced clearly do not offer the rest of the story when it comes to bravery and leadership”
If it interests you and you think it important, then you write about it. The newspaper and magazine accounts give me all that I want about our heroes and leaders.
Who “is” Willard Mitt Romney? Do you believe he has vast ambitions either foreign or domestic like McCain and Obama when they were candidates for POTUS?
Also, to answer your questions, I prefer the longer pieces (they give me analysis and insights I can’t get elsewhere) and the other articles reposted both of which including your panoply of links. As for the comment theads, I preferred the old comment system where subsequent comments on a comment went beneath it and comments in the thread itself when chronologically from top to bottom
“Who “is” Willard Mitt Romney?”
Great question. Our knowledge of high officials is always less than we believe. My guess is that he had a Road To Damascus moment after his defeat in the 2008 primaries, and resolved to win at any cost. He reminds me of Halberstam’s (Best and the Brightest) description of Hubert Humphrey in the 1968 election:
But our’s is a universe of paired dualities. The other side of this coin is that perhaps Romney campaigns with lies because that’s what we want. Perhaps that’s all we understand (Obama may have the exact same view of us, but executes it more skillfully — perhaps because he has less integrity). See this explained in Why do awesome people – like us – have such inadequate leaders?
What is the truth? Excuse me, as I must go and wash my hands…
“Who “is” Willard Mitt Romney? Do you believe he has vast ambitions either foreign or domestic like McCain and Obama when they were candidates for POTUS?”
I agree with FM, that really is a brilliant question and I’ve thought a lot about it. The only answer I can provide towards Romney’s ambitions is that he has one absolute guiding principle from which he will never waver. He will do or say anything that might get him closer to being President.
Beyond that, the man really does seem to be an Etch-a-Sketch. Anything he says or does just seems to disappear with a gentle shake. It is a statement of how weak the Republicans have become (and they are still MUCH stronger than the Democrats) that this was the best man they could find to fill their single most important public position.
But, as FM has said many times before, it doesn’t seem to matter what the President believes as the Presidency has been captured by powerful interests. The winner of the presidency in 2012 will predictably lead the fourth term of George W. Bush regardless of his intentions.
I agree. But what about after the election? Might Romney surprise us, as have so many Presidents before him?
FDR ran as somewhat to the right of Hoover in 1932 (“balance the budget!”) and on the “keep us out of the war” platform in 1940. Nixon ran as a cold warrior in 1968, and went to China in 1972. Obama ran as a Democrat and has largely governed as a Republican.
Perhaps the old Romney will re-appear in February 2013. Having done what’s necessary to win the approval of foolish voters, he’ll become a wise bold leader!
Obviously this is one of my fantasies (my favorite, among the G-rated ones). Romney’s incompetent behavior during the past 2 months dims its plausibility. The Bain Capital fiasco: I was owner, Chairman, CEO — but not responsible for anything. Refusal to release more than one year of his taxes (those returns must contain something very ugly). Now this, choosing a VP that probably brings no votes to the ticket (anyone so far right would not vote for Obama, period).
I like the Disqus comment system.
I think it is unobtrusive and organizes comments and sub comments well. Also, there is the ability to up-vote comments.
The WordPress software is free, supported by advertising. We have no control over its features.
I think we have heard quite a lot from FM about the science and data behind global warming/climate change, but have we heard much about FM’s opinions on the policy proposals and new laws? I can’t recall.
Do you agree with NextbigFuture’s call for big-tent policies regarding ‘pollution’ in general versus data dependent climate change theory policy? “Climate Change questions do not need to be conclusively answered to determine global actions for the next 30 years“
It’s not the dumbest thing I’ve read this week. But it’s a contender. It’s a nice list of things to do. There are a thousand and one such lists. Why is this more important than the others? What’s the risk-cost-benefit analysis?
“and extraction of uranium from seawater should be undertaken.”
Yes, on the second Tuesday of next week. Let’s work all day on it.
Yeah, it’s not the dumbest thing I have read all week either. Cool.
Still, the uranium from seawater idea suggests that they should limit the number of lines they do before writing.
If William Faulkner had drank a few bottles less scotch, the plot of The Big Sleep might have made more sense. But then, as he said, “Who cares?” It’s a great film!
FM, you wrote in another post you are a Republican and have been for 30 years. Why, if you and the party diverge on vision?
“Why, if you and the party diverge on vision?”
That’s a great question. I don’t believe most Republicans and I have divergent visions (though that’s worth some thought). I believe the GOP — and the Democrats — have been captured, reforged as instruments to benefit a small fraction of Americans. This is part of the “quiet coup” I — and others — have written so much about during the past two years.
Both parties belong to the American people. We should take both of them back.
(1) How can we improve the comment threads?
I’d like to see you set up a forum. I’ve have yet to find a political forum that breaks up the obvious partisan lines, other than single issue forums. We need a forum for the people Mark Satin calls The Radical Middle. A forum for people who want to get serious about restoring the republic (or building a new one). For ex-republicans (I’m pretty much liberal myself but I’ve concluded that most liberals are politically counterproductive.) I imagine it would take a lot of work to keep it from being overrun by various factions.
(2) Also, what’s your take on The Radical Middle? (It’s a book but it seems most of it is on the website: http://www.radicalmiddle.com).
(3) How useful are the articles posted here from other sources? Who else would you like to see >reposted here?
The content is good, but I think our problems have been diagnosed to death. It’s time to start planning what we’ve got to do.
I don’t buy his doomer stuff either, but this other recent article seems far more in tune with what you’re talking about, as he discusses political participation and civil society: The Degeneration of Politics, 1 August 2012.
(1) Building a forum
I’d like to see such a forum. Well-moderated forums focused on a specific field work better for discussions than threads on a website. It’s a special application, with its own needs — and takes a lot of work to setup. Generating content and running a forum are different functions, and doing both requires a pool of people. For a model of a successsful forum I recommend the Small Wars Council.
As with almost everything, we have more good ideas than willing & competent people to execute them!
(2) Radical Middle
Haven’t seen it. Thanks for posting a link. Perhaps other readers will comment!
(3) Moving from diagnosis to prescription.
I share your frustration. But I have no solutions. I have seen no reasonable solutions. That tells me that we do not understand the problem. These things take time to work through. The answer might seem obvious once someone finds it.
Perhaps he’s right. We cannot speak with certainty about such high-level political phenomena. IMO the first two paragraphs are wrong in detail. As for the rest, I’d like to see citation of some experts. I lack confidence in ArchDruid’s knowledge of US political history (esp after reading his writings on peak oil), and he discusses 19th century politics on a level beyond my own knowledge.
Why is the American Left so weak? You’ve mentioned this multiple times in juxtaposition to the American Right.
That’s a great question. I don’t have a clue as to the answer. A related question: why is America so much more conservative than other developed nations with regards to most public policy issues?
“Why” is so often the most difficult of questions.
I could write a book on this, but I’ll try to boil it down to the fact that deep down (or not so deep down) their culture doesn’t want to win:
1. Their culture is afraid of power.
They seem to have taken Tolkien’s Ring Of Power literally. They believe that power automatically corrupts, failing to understand that power always exists, the only question is who has it.
I think this is mostly a reaction against the holocaust. However, words only influence our friends, not our enemies. So liberals have convinced themselves to unilaterally disarm, both literally, and in a propaganda sense. Liberals understand how the right gained power, they know about the stealth candidates and the PR-run “think tanks” and how propaganda works. But they’re “better than that”.
2. Their culture is heavily influenced by middle class introverts.
People who are used to thinking and clever chatter. Most of the time their skin isn’t really in the game. On the right we have the best manipulators (advertisers and PR, being paid to win) in charge of do-ers who leave the thinking to others – jocks. So they go into the fight planning to “git ‘er done” while liberals are arguing over who came up with the most clever quip for the surrender ceremony.
I think most of the rot in the west is simply because we’re getting more and more comfortable. And the middle class is more comfortable than than the working class.
3. They really think they won the sixties.
Teenagers being defiant know-it-alls who get hyped up over fashionable ideas is perfectly normal and healthy, but when you have as many as the baby boomers, being marketed to (that is , flattered) by so much of the economy, weird things happen.
After thousands of years of civilization, a darwinian process had by the 1950s created a culture that wins. The teenagers engaged in knee-jerk rebellion against every element of a very successful culture (“What are you rebelling against?” “Waddya got?”). When you try to be the opposite of a winner, you become a loser.
In a proper democracy liberals and conservatives need each other: liberals come up with ideas, 90% of which are crud (because 90% of everything is crud). Conservatives are there to shoot down the bad ideas, and to slow down the good ones until they are perfected.
In a proper system the dialogue goes like this:
What we’ve got now goes:
I could go on and on, but enough about what’s wrong, we need to think about what to do about it.
What we need is to bring back the concept of honour/chivilry/ the gentleman. Think about it, for most people today Gentle-Man is an oxymoron. People need to “get” that you can be strong and civilized at the same time. That you can be capable of ruthlessness without being a bully.
When liberals organize that should have affirmative action for do-ers. Have the academics come up with ideas, have do-ers look them over, have PR (flatterers) sell them.
They need to admit that the sixties were in the long run a disaster – no, not because of the Altamont Music Festival (Those happened every weekend in every major city, we called them “bar brawls”). Some good reforms were started, reforms that probably would have gotten going without all the deliberate alienation, the know-it-all-ism, the stupid frigging protests.
They need to admit that while the holocaust was the work of white male conformists with guns, it was also stopped by white male conformists with guns.
They need churches. You don’t have to actually believe the details, hardly anybody ever has.
Ok, ok, I got it – the masses are asses. But guess what? They still exist, and they still vote, and insults won’t make them disappear.
Work up enough self control to ignore the shiny object issues and work on procedural stuff like, I dunno, the fact that the Senate is completely unrepresentative, to the GOP’s advantage? Where are the plans to make each borough of NYC a state, for Senatorial purposes? I’m sure the only reason the GOP hasn’t’ done this with Texas is because they don’t want to give us any ideas.
You know how there’s a right to remain silent? Lots of the time, it’s best to use it. “Self-Expression”, and getting attention for the sake of attention doesn’t help. A “demonstration” is just that. It can demonstrate your strength, self-control, and organization. Or it can demonstrate the opposite, as pretty much every post MLK protest has. Sometimes the best way to communicate is to stop talking. I think I’ll do that right now.
(4) “why is America so much more conservative than other developed nations with regards to most public policy issues?”
Imagine if a German politician started saying that the Germans, the greatest people in the world, won the last war but were stabbed in the back by rootless urban intellectual elitists who are not “Real Germans”, and that we’re surrounded by traitors and enemies who can only be stopped with unrestrained state violence. He wouldn’t get very far – people would figure out that it’s just nazism with updated code-words.
Imagine if an American politician started saying that Americans, the greatest people in the world, won the last war but were stabbed in the back by rootless urban intellectual elitists who are not “Real Americans”, and that we’re surrounded by traitors and enemies who can only be stopped with unrestrained state violence. Well, you don’t need to imagine.
Europeans have seen for themselves that right-wing populism leads to ethnic scapegoating, which leads to war and/or genocide. America hasn’t, yet.
Wow. That’s a broad and deep answer! It deserves careful reading and though. Thank you very much for posting it.
>”Sometimes the best way to communicate is to stop talking. I think I’ll do that right now.” [Keeps going]
I might as well acknowledge by hypocrisy in the above post. I was calling liberals “they” but really I still have all the bad habits I was talking about.
That reminds me of one of the best things about this blog – while all the others say “look how ignorant and sheepish THEY are”, here it’s “look how ignorant and sheepish WE are”.
That’s a great comment!
Looking at the header of the FM website one sees the Smackdown Page, a tribute to the complexity of our situation — and human fallibility, hubris, and folly. It grows continually.
(4) “why is America so much more conservative than other developed nations with regards to most public policy issues?”
Partial answer: the origins of american politics are unique, and differ from the more modern european experiments. American politics retain more medieval values than do european systems (Leonard Liggio). Europeans had to restructure from the ashes of WWII, and were able to more easily embrace inclusive, postmodern and Marxist ideas. Americans were “stuck” with a system that was being run by powerful industrialists with no incentive to change. Even FDR’s “New Deal” was largely unwound over the last 25 years after Ronald Reagan started a trend of lying to the american people by making the most anti-democratic policies sound “patriotic”.
Again, the Left has become discredited and weak (see Orwell on Leftist infighting), so meaningful, sustained and vigorous opposition to the right is feeble.
Americans have forgotten the radical and revolutionary origins of their politics, and have slowly and incrementally come to accept an imperialist paradigm.
An alternative: “Integral Politics“, Steve McIntosh, Tikkun, 2007 — excerpt:
This is more a history question than geopolitics but it’s still somewhat relevant. Why is Alexander Hamilton so often maligned in the teaching of American history and Abraham Lincoln praised, even though both men are so seemingly intellectually similar? Is this just another manifestation of Americans being contradictory?
“Why is Alexander Hamilton so often maligned in the teaching of American history ”
I didn’t know that. Can anyone give us an answer?
I don’t have in-depth knowledge on this any more (I used to read a great deal about the Jefferson-Hamilton feud) but it can be boiled down to a few key points.
The argument between Jefferson and Hamilton over the future of the country still echos down to this day although it appears to me that Hamilton is winning these days, for better or worse.
Here’s a good brief description of the argument: “Hamilton vs. Jefferson“.
FM note: The link is from the Country Studies website, which gives:
Everyday we can learn something new. Thanks for posting this interesting episode from US history, which echoes down to our time!
FM, even though the Ryan plan is severely flawed and obviously favors the rich, do you think its still the best option? The debt is indeed a serious issue that needs to be resolved, and there’s viable doubts as to whether Obama would be able (or willing) to effectively tackle it in his potential second term. Like you, I have no love for either party. That said, election day is looming and, in my opinion, one candidate has just endorsed an explicit plan for dealing with a huge issue, while the other still hasn’t put forth anything concrete.
Also, wouldn’t the Ryan plan help end corporate welfare? Taking money out of government would take away incentives for private interests to raid and plunder it. Or do you think that enhanced regulations on private industry is a more viable/realistic option? I greatly respect your views, and will be looking forward to hearing what you have to say.
Re: Ryan plan
As my post (and analysis by dozens of experts) showed:
(1) The effects of the Ryan plan would be to roll-back the government to pre-New Deal size. Like that of Third World nations. I doubt that GOP elites intend any such thing.
It’s sucker-bait. Like FDR in 1940 running on “Keep us out of the war”. LBJ running in 1964 as the peace candidate against war-monger Goldwater. Nixon running in 1968 to end the Vietnam War. And countless Republicans running as deficit-fighters, while they vote for tax cuts that send the deficit sky-rocketing. We’re like Charlie Brown, always falling for the lie.
(2) The macroeconomics of the Ryan plan were done by Heritage, and quickly shown to be quite bogus. Their response: pull it from their website.
(3) The fiscal situation is ominous, but (unlike that of our peers) almost totally self-inflicted. It results from insane tax cuts and our dysfunctional health care system (so unlike those of our peers, that deliver equivalent care for half or 2/3 the cost). Relatively minor fixes will do the job.