Summary: On rare occasions a book arrives that’s both important and timely. Mike Lofgren’s new book, “The Party is Over”, is both. Here Winslow Wheeler explains why you should read this book. Or, for your peace of mind, you shouldn’t read this book. As citizens, understanding the peril of the Republic creates the obligation to act.
The Party Is Over:
How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats became useless,
and the Middle Class Got Shafted
by Mike Lofgren.
Review by Winslow Wheeler, reposted with permission.
- A review of The Party Is Over …
- An excerpt & other reviews about the book.
- About Mike Lofgren.
- About Winslow Wheeler.
- Other works by and about Mike S. Lofgren.
- For More Information about American Politics.
(1) Book Review by Winslow Wheeler
I recently finish reading my friend and colleague Mike Lofgren’s book, The Party Is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats became useless, and the Middle Class Got Shafted.
The Democrats like to talk about this book because it will confirm what they want you to believe about the Republicans. But the Democrats also hope you will take their word for what’s in the book and not read it. It contains an important chapter about their own party being just as sold out to the Banksters and Big Money as the Republicans — but also so feckless as to comprise, as Lofgren describes them, just half a political party. Your reading the book would be bad news for the Democrats.
The Republicans are happy the Democrats are making noise about this book; that way they can claim it is just a left wing screed. The Republicans especially don’t want you to read any bio of Lofgren (find one here) because that will explain that Lofgren is no lefty, and if you understand that, you might get interested to read what this conservative voice of conscience has to say. That would be bad news for the Republicans.
In short, no one who has standing in America’s current political system wants you to read this book.
That, of course, is why you should read this book.
It also will explain to you why the pundits who bask themselves in their own opinion on TV, the print media, and—in Maryland — with Robo calls are as useless as Anna Nicole Smith in a spelling bee to explain to you how our political system became so dysfunctional and why it refuses to change itself.
And, it — our current political system — will indeed refuse to change itself unless and until its lifeblood — money — is cut off. Lofgren suggests one way that can be done. The Democrats and Republicans will howl how un-American Lofgren’s proposal is. Indeed, if the way our national politics are running today is American, Lofgren is indeed very un-American.
Be un-American: read this book. It will help us all become Americans again.
(2) An excerpt & other reviews about the book
(a) An excerpt from the book: A Devil’s Dictionary, posted at Truth-Out
(b) Other reviews:
- “The Truth About American Politics“, George Packer, The New Yorker, 29 May 2012
- Recommended: “The Central Role of Faux Republicans in the Anatomy of Decline“, Franklin “Chuck” Spinney, CounterPunch, 10-12 August 2012
(3) About Mike Lofgren
Mike Lofgren retired in June 2011 after 28 years as a staff member in the U.S. Congress. From 2005 until his retirement, Lofgren was a professional staff member of the Senate Budget Committee. His primary focus was on national security budgets, but he also worked on such matters as the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 and the 2009 International Monetary Fund replenishment.
From 1995 through 2004, he was budget analyst for national security on the majority staff of the House Budget Committee. In 1994 he was a professional staff member of the House Armed Services Committee’s Readiness Subcommittee. He began his legislative branch career as military legislative assistant to Rep. John R. Kasich in 1983.
He has a B.A. and M.A. in history from the University of Akron. He was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study European history at the Universities of Bern and Basel in Switzerland and completed the strategy and policy curriculum at the Naval War College.
Since retirement, Lofgren has written about politics, budgets, and national security issues. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Washington Monthly, Truthout, and Counterpunch. His essay on Congressional Republicans appearing in Truthout received over a million views. He has appeared on numerous radio and TV news interviews.
This biography is from the Huffington Post website.
(4) About Winslow Wheeler
Winslow T. Wheeler is Director of the Straus Military Reform Project Center for Defense Information at the Project On Government Oversight (POGO).
(5) About Mike S. Lofgren
Mike Lofgren retired on June 17 after 28 years as a Congressional staffer. He served 16 years as a professional staff member on the Republican side of both the House and Senate Budget Committees. His book about Congress, The Party is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless, and the Middle Class Got Shafted, was published in paperback in 2013. His new book, The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government, will be published in January 2016.
(a) Interviews with Mike Lofgren:
- Interview With Mike Lofgren, Truth-Out, 3 August 2011
- “I Know How to Beat Republicans“, Truth-Out, 5 December 2011
(b) Articles by Mike Lofgren:
- “Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult“, Truth-Out, 3 September 2011
- “Iraq Is Not a Model for Libya“, Truth-Out, 7 November 2011
- “Have the Super-Rich Seceded From the United States?“, Truth-Out, 10 January 2012
- “How the media enable the Republican tax agenda“, op-ed The Guardian, 18 January 2012
- “Iran: War Drums Beating“, Truth-Out, 7 February 2012
- “The Right-Wing Id Unzipped, Truth-Out, 14 February 2012
- “Iran and the Shape of Things to Come“, Truth-Out, 23 February 2012
- “Why Republicans Need Remedial Math: Their Budget Plans Explode the Deficit“, Truth-Out, 13 March 2012
- “GOP insider: Religion destroyed my party, Salon, 5 August 2012 — “A veteran Republican says the religious right has taken over, and turned his party into anti-intellectual nuts By Mike Lofgren”
- “Revolt of the Rich“, American Conservative, 27 August 2012 — “Our financial elites are the new secessionists.”
- “#GOPFuture: Tempt me back to the old GOP“, op-ed in USA Today, 28 August 2012
(6) For More Information
For all posts about this see the FM Reference Page Politics in America – and the 2012 Campaign
About conservatives and the Republican Party:
- Republicans have found a sure-fire path to victory in the November elections, 5 February 2010
- Whose values do Dick and Liz Cheney share? Those of America? Or those of our enemies, in the past and today?, 14 March 2010
- The evolution of the Republican Party has shaped America during the past fifty years, 8 May 2010
- Two contrasting views of the Republican Party, 23 May 2010
- The Republicans are serious about the budget. The results could be ugly., 24 November 2010
- Why do Rep Ryan and the Republicans want to gut America’s military defenses?, 14 April 2011
- Why Conservatives are winning: they use the WMD of political debate, 28 April 2011
- Mitt Romney and the Empire of Hubris. Setting America on a path to decline., 10 October 2011
- A modern conservative dresses up Mr. Potter to suit our libertarian fashions, 17 November 2011
79 thoughts on “Whatever You Do, Don’t Read This Book!”
I have put the book on my short list. Sound like sad but true. As for the election, when it comes to a choice between the mediocre and the downright horrible, you vote for the mediocre. Sad choice.
You are in error! This legitimises the gangrene and its progenitors. The only honest response is mass, organised refusal to vote, and a demand for a ‘none of the above’ to be placed on the ballot, and registered as such. This would delegitimise the system and throw it into panic and cause a reform. The future hope is an organised movement of REFUSNIKS. Otherwise you are complicitous in all that is done in your name.
We can debate about tactics, and everyone has their own views.
IMO the choice of “none of the above” is not a legitimate option. Someone has to drive the bus. Choosing the driver is our obligation. We are not political consumers, selecting from a menu. Once we accept that role, we’ve given up most claim to self-government.
If Americans find the burden of running our political machinery too great to bear, then we’re reduced to ineffectual whining about the decisions of those who run the nation.
Recapturing our political parties requires work — less time at the TV and video games — but nothing like fighting at Bunker Hill or Vicksburg. The first step: choice. Who will run America. Everything follows from that decision.
Martin, with all due respect, “mass organized refusal to vote” quite simply will not work and will not “delegitimize the system and…cause a reform”. Like so many ideas, it’s great in theory but what works in theory more often than not does not work in practice — and the fatal flaw in this theory of yours is the fact that no matter what you do, a certain percentage of people invariably *will* vote for either the Democrats or the Republicans and those votes will be merely counted as usual. The only thing that “mass organized refusal to vote” will produce is a very low voter turnout and a government which is put in power by an even smaller number of people than it usually is…which not only says a lot, considering how few Americans are even bothering to vote at all these days, but which is actually an extremely dangerous place for us to be. We simply cannot expect this to remain a remotely free or even sane country for long when a very small number of people — and especially if they’re the most gullible ones! — are the only ones deciding who will lead it.
I agree that choosing between the mediocre and the downright horrible is not an effective approach, but a large part of the reason why the only choices we’re being offered are the mediocre and the downright horrible is because the American people aren’t holding the feet of their elected officials to the fire and requiring them to be accountable for their decisions. One of the biggest reasons why politicians lie to the voters and make promises they either can’t keep or have no real intention of keeping is because the American people are no longer asking questions or using critical thinking skills — instead, they’re allowing both the politicians and their collaborators in the media make their decisions for them. Both the politicians and the journalists are lying to us because we have given them plenty of reason to believe they can get away with it.
Legitimacy of the power depends on the silent consent of majority to be ruled. Law or no law – doesn’t matter. If you don’t understand what I’m talking about then review “Gladiator” movie one more time. The scene in coliseum when emperor holds his thumb horizontally and looks around stealthy what people want.
The power needs to be liked; they need that consent even under dictatorship style of governing.
There is always somebody the second in command in any regime who is watching very patiently when to strike.
Withdrawing of the consent is the very serious threat.
Bad news Alex– Gladiator is fiction.
Consent does not consist in what people believe. Or in what they say. It consists in what they do. The ancient maxim reflects this hard reality: silence means assent.
It’s an especially 21st century America dream that we can change things by staying home, on the couch watching TV. It’s a fantasy of sheep.
Change does not happen by people being passive. It takes People working together, choosing leaders, making plans, taking bold actions. Even non-violent tactics require mass action, as in late Colonial India.
Actually, if we were a real democracy – i.e: direct democracy without the “representatives” there to disenfranchise the masses, things would in principle work the same, assuming the masses didn’t act. If the principles of representative democracy are true and actually work, then there could still be pundits and lobbyists and if the representatives now are accurately reflecting the will of the people, then there would be no change at all. If you think about it that way, you’ll have to admit that “representative democracy” is a scam. Especially because it allows the government to be easily configured in a hobson’s choice by 2 parties, as it has.
Since the premise is that people need representatives because they are easily misled/don’t care, then why is it that the “representatives” of those who don’t care are allowed to wield influence on behalf of the “don’t care”s? Because, in a democracy, refraining from voting has no effect one way or another on the decisions being made. In other words, in a “representative” democracy the “representatives” are effectively stealing the votes of the “don’t care”s and the “too disgusted to play the game”s. You can’t blame someone whose vote is stolen for having their vote stolen! Blame the stealer!
Again, this amounts to victim-blaming. One might just as easily steal a car’s stereo system and claim “silence gives consent” if the victim didn’t hear it and didn’t complain.
The US government was initially configured by oligarchs, to create a regime that allowed democracy of sorts for the oligarchs and the middle class, and which disenfranchised everyone else. They didn’t create a government because nobody complained and therefore they gave consent – they bloody well stole it, set it up, ratified it, and it has gone downhill from there.
“One might just as easily steal a car’s stereo system and claim “silence gives consent” if the victim didn’t hear it and didn’t complain.”
I think that’s a category error (Wikipedia), extending the analogy into crazy-land.
The point is manifest in an operational or worldly sense. In a democracy (ie, a Republic as a form of), citizens have the responsibility. If we choose to passively allow others to rule, we are de facto giving consent. God or formal logic systems (ie, philosphers) might disagree, but reality has the final word.
We can even dress it up as principle: I am sitting on my duf, swilling bear and watching TV, as a protest! Which is just fine for our rulers. That’s as good as voting “yes”.
In a democracy, yes. The question I wish I knew how to answer is “how often do ‘our’ elected ‘representatives’ actually throw their votes for what the majority of the population favor?” We’re in agreement regarding a democracy, in which one person has one vote that actually means something. But that’s not what anyone on earth actually lives under. Why not? Because one person, one vote, is not what the powerful and wealthy will allow. In order prevent that, they steal power by creating false democracies, gerrymandering the vote, controlling the dialogue, and placing puppets in line to be “representatives” – puppets that don’t actually represent the will of the people, but represent the will of the powerful and wealthy.
For example, we have a statistic like this:
76% of Americans favor a cut in defense spending
Do you think that we’re actually going to see cuts in defense spending? Of course we aren’t. The topic isn’t even going to come up, in a meaningful way. Because our “representatives” don’t represent us at all. They are part of a systematic theft of power. Indeed, many of us voted for Obama because of some of the things he said he’d do (I voted for him based solely on his promise to close Gitmo) – again, you cannot fairly say I deserve any blame for being lied to, misrepresented, and having my vote rendered meaningless. Yet, you argue that it’s going to be my fault if I don’t “fool me once, shame on me, fool me twice, uh, OK, you get a third try”?? The problem with social failures of representation like we’re looking at is that they eventually go beyond presenting the people with a hobson’s choice and the people have no choice but submit or rebel. Looking at the “choices” we are about to be presented in the upcoming election, I see nobody at all who “represents” me, or even the majority – I see only representatives of the 1%. You know I am speaking the truth. The only place where we appear to disagree is who gets the blame: the criminal or the unwilling victim. Do not try to claim that I am somehow a willing victim, when I have been painted into such a corner that the only meaningful political act left to me is rebellion.
In an environment in which the people’s power has been deliberately stolen or mooted, “silence indicates assent” is simply a justification for further abuse. It’s inappropriate to blame the people for recognizing that they have been disempowered and choosing to perhaps forgo the system entirely until they are so disgusted they revolt. Because that’s how it goes – absolute monarchy eventually winds up putting a string of pinheaded dauphins on the throne and then the economy collapses and the tumbrils roll. Then – and perhaps only then – can you point at “we, the people” and say fairly that our actions are immoral and that we bear shame for them.
“The question I wish I knew how to answer is “how often do ‘our’ elected ‘representatives’ actually throw their votes for what the majority of the population favor?””
Yes, that’s the core of the matter. We’re broken. The question is repair, how to?
You are completely correct when you say the U.S. is not a democracy. This is a plutocracy, or one might even say, a kleptocracy. Democracy on a large scale may be impossible to achieve given mankind’s inherent flaws. As disappointed as I am in the present administration, I am not about to give consent, tacit or otherwise, to being governed by those who would hand even more wealth to the 1%, abolish medicare and social security for future generations and deprive woman of our reproductive choices. The ideations of Romney, Ryan, Paul, Akin et al are too radical and dangerous to allow them to come to power. As I say, sad choice.
With all due respect, Alex, refusal to vote is not really effective as “withdrawal of consent”. If it were, given the typical voter turnout (which is disappointing to say the least), the truth of the matter is that our governmental leaders should and probably would be more responsive to us right now rather than less since the low levels of voter turnout would already have been perceived/interpreted as withdrawal of consent. No…at the end of the day, refusal to vote is more reflective of apathy and passivity and surrender (no matter how reluctant or begrudging) to the seemingly inevitable — or in some cases, complete indifference to it — among the American people.
I would also disagree with your choice of the word “like” when you said that the Powers That Be “need that consent even under [a] dictatorship style of governing.” I think “like” is a poor choice of words because the relationship between “like” and “consent” is actually not as strong as all that — especially when you’re talking about a dictatorship. It’s quite possible to consent to things you don’t like, but nowhere nearly as common to like that to which you do not consent. It’s also perfectly possible to like someone yet not respect them, or respect someone yet not like them — or to fear someone whom you neither like nor respect. All dictators know that if you can make people fear you, they don’t really need you to like them or respect them as long as you’re prepared to obey them. To go back to your illustration, the primary reason why the emperor made an effort to please the crowd (or at least gave the appearance of doing so) is because he knew that people who feel they have nothing left to lose have nothing left to fear…and that is when dictatorships fall. (You’ve also rather conveniently overlooked the fact that the character of Commodus in “Gladiator” was a petulant, volatile, thin-skinned and barking mad narcissist who was obsessed with being “liked” primarily because he had never felt appreciated by his father — you’re confusing the individual, and the pathology particular to that individual, with his position.)
It is a misconception that this is something new. You have to go back to the election of 1900 to see a voter turn-out of more than 70% and the 1968 election to see one above 60% (60.83%).
Historically voter turn-out in the USA has been abysmal compared with other democratic, industrialised nations for more than a century. I am not well enough versed in USA political history to make any guesses as to why before 1900 there were frequent voter turn-out in the 70-80% and then a steep drop. I any case, it’s not a new malady but one that afflicted your ancestors two generations back or more, depending on your age.
It is relevant to keep this in mind, so as not to falsely explain away low voter turn-out as a generational thing or the lazy youth of today.
I did not know this. Thanks for posting!
It’s actually a huge problem that the Republican party seems totally unfit to govern most of the time. It used to be, when I was a kid, that the Republicans just represented a different but still mostly sane part of the political spectrum. I’m not sure who the last representative of that was on the national stage… Bob Dole perhaps? Maybe I’m forgetting someone. (I can’t include McCain, because he put Mrs. Lunatic as his veep, or Romney, since he did something similar with Paul Ryan. I still think McCain and Romney were throwbacks at one time, but they didn’t have the moral courage to stand up to the looneys and so were lost.)
My dear Fabius.
Would not an effective means to get money out of politics be to abolish money altogether? And would not the Republicans’ reported Gold Standard proposal be a big step in that direction? Just a suggestion.
Abolishing money seems a bit drastic a remedy, and will not work. There would still be other ways to bribe politicos: women, booze, drugs, and land (the classics).
You’re right, the GOP does seem to be going in that direction, mad tho it is. Krugman looks at the speech that set the course of Ryan’s life: Krugman, NYT, 23 August 2012:
(1). you know, you are right. As long as a state has a right to force people to use the state currency – the state can rob the people.
(2). Yes, banks, the way it was 200 years ago could emit money a little bit. But even that was deadly (for business) dangerous. In case of “bank run” – the banker has to beg the Governor for Bank Holiday and the banker has 24 hrs to find gold to redeem its obligations otherwise bank goes under.
The reckless bank goes out of business, the losses are localized and the most prudent bank rewarded buy new customers.
Did you hear that guy spoke up his opinion regarding pregnancy as a result of rape?
That’s how much politicians understand anatomy. Or any other issue they are voting on.
Keynesian model of politicians managing economy is may be (may be!!) mathematically right, but it is profoundly flawed on the conceptual level.
(1) These are ancient problems, whereas the State had the ability to “force people to use its currency” only recently.
Currencies are inherently problematic, no matter what kind. If they don’t vary (in quantity or value) as conditions change, they wreck the economy. If they vary inappropriately, they wreck the economy. And the potential for abuse by the issuer (or those who control it) are immense. For example, the gilded age deflationary greatly benefited the Northeastern plutocracy that dominated the federal government, to the detriment of almost everybody else.
We (everybody) use the present currency system because it works well during a period of rapid multidimensional change in technology, domestic and international finance, and geopolitical change. The past twenty years show that, with relative (to past) economic stability despite some of the fastest global growth since the invention of agriculture.
(2) Your description of banks is again wrong, and appears to miss the keys points I made (and found in any basic text).
(3) The bigger picture
We get this sequence every time somebody comes by to tell us about faux economics. Every rebuttal using historical fact is met by a new round of misinformation. We have many times gone thru dozens of cycles like this, and it’s a waste of time. These are matters of historical fact, simple ones — and experience shows they have no effect — zero — on those indoctrinated from long exposure to right-wing lies.
These are usually articulate, educated, intelligent people, but they have been taught an interlocking set of historical falsehoods and bogus theory. From which they cannot be broken, in my experience.
Now we see this going to the next step as they take over the GOP, and put these fictions into the platform of one of our two major parties. It’s a serious problem, perhaps with historical-scale consequences, and I cannot imagine any useful methods to cope. I cannot even see any close historical parallels.
Perhaps the dancing madness in the middle ages, from consumption of fungus-infected rye?
Do any readers have advice how to proceed from here?
MF, do not confuse people.
The “paper money” you are talking about was nothing more than receipt for the gold that was stored in a bank. And these “paper money” were used of course from the beginning of the time.
Such “paper money” could be brought to the bank and the bank had to exchange them on gold by the first request and right on the spot. The bank’s clerk “could you come tomorrow morning, please?” could provoke a “bank run” and put the bank out it out of business.
This way bank could not emit money at will. And this way no bank regulations were required at all.
The paper money we have now backed up by nothing more than trust in politicians who emitting them (with collusion with banks) at will, robbing savers by means of inflation and financing their wars abroad and social engineering at home. And this system started to work in its full swing only from 1971.
You’re probably a nice guy, and well-meaning. But you history is fiction. I’ll give a brief explanation. You can find more on this at the Britannica website or Wikipedia, or any of dozens academic websites. Please don’t reply with more stuff you’ve picked up somewhere or made up. Citations only from reliable sources. We’ve gone down this path before. Comments will be moderated if necessary.
(1) “robbing savers by means of inflation and financing their wars abroad and social engineering at home. And this system started to work in its full swing only from 1971.”
Maintaining a steady currency is difficult as circumstances change. Hence deflation and inflation are problems under most financial systems. The Roman Empire’s coin-based system was repeatedly debased (Wikipedia). “Not worth a continental” described the first US currency (Wikipedia). The French revolutionary government issued Assignat’s, which inflated away (Wikipedia). The US used slow inflation to evaporate aprox 1/3 of the debt from WWII by 1971. The mild post-1972 inflation in the US is nothing unusual, nothing traumatic.
On the other hand, deflationary depressions occurred often in the US in the gold standard years between the Civil War and WWII. They liquidated Jefferson’s dream of an America run by independent farmers, craftsman, and merchants by wrecking those classes.
(2) “This way bank could not emit money at will. And this way no bank regulations were required at all.”
As any reliable history will explain, fractional reserve banking (in some form) has been around for thousands of years (Wikipedia). Banks issued currency, but seldom had 100% backing in terms of hard assets (eg, gold, silver).
So banks could “emit money at will”, and the lack of bank regulations meant that bank failures were common — and devastating to their depositors. Since bank runs are contagious, these often would spread and help ignite depressions. This happened throughout 19th century Britain and America — both then under gold standards. Hence the evolution of the current systems of regulations and guarantees.
Do you have an Amazon affiliate link for that book? I’d love for my purchase to help contribute to the valuable work your site does.
Thank you for asking, but no. WordPress does not provide these.
One other note of interest on “gold-standard” is the hypothecation that banks used. They typically only had about 1/10th the amount of gold on hand that they had issued in paper money (since more than that was very unlikely to be demanded on a given day). Today, hypothecation is STILL being used by banks and finance companies, but in a rather more insidious way. If you store ‘your gold’ at a bank or trust, then you do not have it. You have a piece of paper stating that you stored it there and allowed that entity to use it as collateral for short-term loans. There is no other possibility as there are no entities willing to store gold that do not include the hypothecation requirement in the contract.
This is an interesting subject. Coutinho refers to unallocated gold deposits. The bank has a billion ozs in the vault, and you pay for them to hold ten oz. But its not any specific ten ozs. There have been scandals where the bank collects the fees, but does not actually bother to buy and hold the gold. It’s much more efficient to skip those steps. It’s that no need for regulation theory that Alex refers to earlier in this thread.
“There is no other possibility as there are no entities willing to store gold that do not include the hypothecation requirement in the contract.”
The other way to have a bank hold gold is allocated deposits, where the bank holds (for example) gold bars for you — and you have the serial numbers of the specific gold bars. The bank doesn’t loan the bars. You can inspect them at any time. That’s a more expensive service, of course.
That meme brought to you by the rich, who really really hate inflation since it’s the only “flat tax” they’ll ever face that they can’t legislate away.
Agreed. Also, for the rich deflation brings many benefits — esp a pleasing concentration of wealth and income, as deflation destroys the middle class merchants, small businessmen, and farmers. Which is why the Gilded Age had a strong deflatinoary bias.
It’s a variation on the Dead Parrot routine:
Economists: This economy is dead without serious printing.
Fed: No its not. It’s just resting. How about if I run a fully sterilized duration swap and call it something sexy like…”Operation Twist?”
Economists: Are you daft man? This economy is dead! It has ceased to be. It is no more. You must print!
Fed: I suppose I could threaten to print. I could say I was thinking about threatening to print. Right, that’s the ticket! I’ll say I’m definitely thinking about threatening to announce I’m going to print. Soon.
Economist: And so it goes.
With respect to Marcus Ranum, the question “how often do ‘our’ elected ‘representatives’ actually throw their votes for what the majority of the population favor?” wholly misconstrues the nature of a representative democracy.
In direct democracy, the mobs votes en masse. This assures that we get exactly the policies the majority of Americans want — and we get it good and hard, where the sun don’t shine. Many political thinkers have warned against mob rule, prominent among them John Madison and Benjamin Franklin and George Washington.
So many outbreaks of American mass insanity have tidal-waved across this country during my lifetime that I’m extremely wary of direct democracy. If you want a perfect storm of direct democracy, take a look at the state of California with its initiative system. This state has systematically created so many financial and legal obligations (i.e, requiring that the California state K-12 school budget be funded from general revenues to make up any shortfall from local property taxes), while simultaneously enacting laws which prevent those financial and legal obligations from being met (i.e., Proposition 13, and the initative that until recently required a 60 vote majority to enact any new taxes), that the state is now in a condition of permanent crisis, gridlock, and collapse.
I would commend to you the powerful words of John F. Kennedy
“Others informed me that, in order to be properly responsive to the will of my constituents under our democratic system, it was my duty to place their principles – not mine – above all else. Even if they made mistakes, I was told, that was far better than my arrogating for myself, as representative of the people, the right to say that I know better than they what is good for them.
“These are very strong arguments, and they are very soundly based in our Constitution, in our Federal system and in our representative form of government. But I do not believe that they tell the whole story. Of course, we should not ignore the needs of our area – nor could we easily do so as products of that area – but who would be left to look out for the national interest if every Senator were dominated completely by local interests and pressures? Of course, I am the Junior Senator from Massachusetts; but I am also a United States Senator and a member of the Senate of the United States; and my oath of office was administered by the Vice-President, not by the Governor of Massachusetts.
“I cannot believe that the people of Massachusetts sent me to Washington to serve merely as a seismograph to record the ups and downs of popular opinion. I believe instead that those of us in public office were elected – not because the people believed we would be bound by their every impulse, regardless of the conclusions directed by our own deliberations – but because they had confidence in our judgment, and in our ability to exercise that judgment from a position where we could determine what were the best interests of the voters as a part of the best interests of the nation. If we are to exercise fully that judgment, sometimes we may be required to lead, inform, correct and on occasion even ignore public opinion in our States.”
Source: Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy at Sigma Delta Chi Journalism Fraternity Dinner, Boston, Massachusetts, October 27, 1955
One of the most important functions of a representative democracy involves the election of a thinking human being with a conscience who is able to interject his better judgement between the passions of the mob and the requirements of political reality. This is something the people who wrote the constitution understood very clearly, and approved of deeply. Examples of representatives who ignored or contravened the wishes of the American public to the great benefit of our nation and its people include FDR who went behind the backs of the American people and the congress to engage in the Lend-Lease scheme to help Great Britian in 1940 when the American public vehemently opposed entry into WW II; the actions of Harry Truman in ordering the desegregation of the United States Army when Jim Crow was still the law of the land; Attorney General Robert Kennedy’s decision to order the FBI into the deep south after the murder of voting rights activists James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner in 1964 despite enormous public dislike of federal interference in what was then considered a local crime; JFK’s refusal to order an attack on Cuba despite overwhelming pressure from the entire Joint Chiefs of Staff and the American public (a decision which very likely prevented WW III and avoided a thermonuclear exchange which we now recognize would have ended most life on earth due to nuclear winter); Abraham Lincoln’s decision to sign the Emancipation Proclamation despite his explicit promise during the 1860 presidential campaign “not to interfere” with slavery where it already existed, and despite huge popular resistance to a federal policy of abolition, which at the start of the Civil War was considered a radical fringe political position; LBJ’s determination to ram through the Civil Rights Act in defiance of much of the United States senate and public opinion in 1964; and many other examples.
People who praise direct democracy would do well to recall that America is the land of the satanic cult molestation panic (cults which never existed), of the Palmer red scares of the 1920s (which resulted in the forced deportation of American citizens for communist plots which didn’t exist), of the shameful interment of Japanese-Americans in concentration camps during WW II (despite the fact that not one single Japanese-American ever committed a single documented act of sabotage against the United States); of panic-driven episodes of dementia like the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the appalling adoption of the USA Treason Act (misnamed the Patriot Act, though its provisions violate most of the bill of rights). The mob is a beast with a million heads and no brain. We should respect public opinion, and take it into account, but we should also recognize that, as Charles Mackay wrote in 1841:
“Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one. (…)
“Of all the offspring of Time, Error is the most ancient, and is so old and familiar an acquaintance, that Truth, when discovered, comes upon most of us like an intruder, and meets the intruder’s welcome.”
Source: Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, Charles Mackay, 1841.
I think not. Unless what you mean to say is that “it reveals that representative democracy is never anything more than a committee of elites, who occasionally pretend to do what the electorate has put them in place to do.” But that’s not what I think you’re trying to say…
Allow me to deconstruct your comment further:
Choice of term “mob” instead of “electorate” – using a term that is demeaning reveals that you do not consider yourself part of the electorate; implicit admission that there is a) an electorate (excuse me, “mob”) and then there are those who guide them. Their superiors in wisdom and political savvy, no doubt.
Again, the elitist assumption that the electorate will want policies that “we” (please don’t include me under your umbrella, OK? I am not part of your “we”) want. Implicitly you again side with the elites. Let me ask you: why on earth do you assume the elites make good policy, either? Have you looked around you?
Right now we see (for example) that a majority of americans would rather see dramatic (democrats averaging 30%, republicans averaging 15%) cuts in defense spending. The elites, of course, don’t want that, so that’s not what’s going to happen. But what about something as rational as that, is “mob rule”? It seems to me as if the majority of the people agreeing that something is a good idea, ought to be what our “representatives” would effect. Unless, of course, “our representatives” are actually “representatives of the elite”, i.e.: the political system has been stolen. It seems to me a bad idea to assume “mob rule” could be much worse than what the elites are accomplishing right now; I’m sure it would be possible, somehow, but actually the “mob” probably has more wise and well-educated (certainly more invested) members than the elites.
Simple appeal to authority.
Plato also warned against the problems in democracy, and did it better than any of the political thinkers you list above. Plato’s arguments were skewed a bit by the fact that he thought aristocracy was a better political system. And, as “American aristocrats” so did Madison, Franklin, Washington, and the rest of founding fathers. They lacked the “De-” in front of their names but for all intents and purposes were nobility. Coincidence, that.
Anyone in their right mind would be.
But first: do you hear me suggesting we scrap the constitution? No, you do not. Do you hear me suggesting we scrap the supreme court? No, you do not. So direct democracy does not equate to a situation in which “the mob” would be able to do something like – say – pass Proposition 8 and not have it found unconstitutional and not enforced. What we wouldn’t have is a bunch of political hacks dancing a dance of deception, and doing whatever they want, anyway.
Now you’re arguing my point!
Yes, let us consider California. Let’s consider a state in which the taxpayers realized that the politicians (their “representatives”) were so much not representing them that they bent over backwards to try to take back control of the political process. And, yes, it hasn’t worked very well. For a couple reasons: 1) because California was already heading into a dumpster thanks to the wise “representatives” put in charge of that state by the elites and 2) the gridlock that resulted when the people of California tried to take some control back, resulted because their “representatives” fought tooth and nail to make sure they couldn’t. The “gridlock” that resulted was a conflict between the will of the people, and their “representatives” – does that make a little more sense to you, now? First off it illustrates how disconnected the “representatives” are from The Will Of The People, and how far they are willing to go to foil The Will Of The People. That’s not a fault of direct democracy, that’s a fault of what happens when the people of a state try to tell their “representatives” “we want our tax money to go toward schools and roads instead of subsidies to real estate developers and power companies!” and their “representatives” reply that they know better and, in fact, they’re going to do something completely the opposite of what they were elected to do and sometimes promised to do.
California was a rebellion for democracy. And it was crushed on behalf of the elites by making sure it was a failure. The people of California tried to prevent their “representatives” from running the state further into debt, and to get them to spend tax money where the people wanted their money spent. Instead, the debt and corporate interest trajectory continues.
I think you favor “mob rule” – perhaps the difference between us is that you prefer the rule of the elite “mob” (more like a mafia, really) whereas I think that the populace can determine its own fate better than the “representatives.” Have you read the news lately? Do you think our “representatives” are showing us what great pillars of wisdom they are? Do you think that assholes trying to crater the economy over the debt ceiling are doing this on behalf of “the mob” or on behalf of their own narrow political self-interest? Do you think that a single citizen who hasn’t been propagandized into foolishness actually supports the idea of shutting down the government financially? What of all the nonsense in Washington is both “representing” the will of the people and a good idea? If you think about this, you may realize, as I have, that “the mob” is nowhere near as foolish as its “representatives.”
It would take a deliberate effort to be as foolish, corrupt, and mendacious as Congress. The whole population couldn’t sustain that level of effort and eventually we might wind up, gosh, The Will Of The People being enacted.
Appeal to authority. An authority that, coincidentally was born an oligarch with a platinum spoon in his mouth. It’s easy to see what “justice” is from the high vantage point where he was born, and it’s not hard to be a visionary politician when your father buys you an election and you’ve got a team of speech-writers thinking of pithy quotes for you. If you wish to offer Kennedy as a paragon, excuse me while I choose “the mob.”
“the passions of the mob” – yes, sometimes the people get passionate about not seeing their leaders start wars, or spend the country’s treasure on fripperies while, actually, any of them that pause to think for a few seconds realize that education is nice, medicare makes more sense to spend our money on than dropping it in the form of smart-weapons on people around the world, and that local problems actually are more worth being passionate about than the stuff the leaders come up with.
Basically your argument comes down to: the people are stupid and need to be led. That argument would only carry weight if the leaders were obviously doing a fantastic job with regard to the non-obvious stuff, and that everything was going great. It is completely contradicted by reality. A reality in which the people sensibly wish to see wars stop, money spent on domestic issues, and leaders that rein in the government’s tendency to throw cash at the wealthy. How can you possibly use value-laden terms like “mob rule” to dismiss what most of your fellow citizens want, when it’s actually pretty damn sensible, and our “representatives” are representing Wall Street and Halliburton, not the citizens or even the country?
“We can learn our own power, if in no other manner than in saying at the voting booth and in public, “I do not accept your lies, and though you might take it by force, I will not grant you my consent willingly.”
We can choose not to address our political officials by their titles.
We can work to organize ourselves, and our lives, with those of us who understand that power is something that must be taken, with money, organization, but most of all, with moral courage.
It is not something that politicians have except through our consent, consent we have been giving for decades, to a rotten political class.
This is what they truly fear.
This is why they spend tens of billions on propaganda, on advertising, on symbols and personalities and celebrity.
This is why they hide the workings of our government and banks and institutions of power in the language of boring bureaucrat-ese.
This is ultimately why they are weak.
Because in order for them to do their work quietly, we must go about our day, and believe either the hope and change narrative, or the Kenyan socialist narrative, scoffing at the opposing “team” who thinks what we do not. ”
Get off the sevile couch, America. Today or tomorrow, earlier the better but one day you must.
If this idea of “passive resistance” reaches the ears of the 1% we will soon thereafter see adverts:
Peons are held in subjugation by many tools. Force and religion are effect. But harnessing their peon-fantasies also works. It’s the equivalent of releasing sterile bugs to neutralize an infestation. They never know what hit them.
“American people aren’t holding the feet of their elected officials to the fire and requiring them to be accountable for their decisions.”
Impeachment of elected official is constitutionally only available to other elected officials.
Judicial procedures are very expensive, and, when it comes to really serious matters, blocked soon enough via lack-of-standing rules, State Secret privileges, or other immunities.
Disclosing information (à la Wikileaks) results in unleashing the full wrath of the ruling class — including moral (via the media), economic, legal, and illegal harassment of the whistleblowers.
Laws in most States have made it onerous and complicated to set up a party or propose a candidate to the point that they have choked the emergence of any credible alternative beyond the strictly small town level (I had come across a study of this some time ago, and the rules regarding endorsements, money, etc, state by state were not only quite baffling — they were getting worse as time passes).
So what, exactly, do you suggest? In what time frame?
“Laws in most States have made it onerous and complicated to set up a party or propose a candidate to the point that they have choked the emergence of any credible alternative beyond the strictly small town level (I had come across a study of this some time ago, and the rules regarding endorsements, money, etc, state by state were not only quite baffling — they were getting worse as time passes).”
Evidence? My ballots in the 4 States I’ve lived in all listed quite a few fringe candidates. They managed it, so it cannot be that difficult.
This has been discussed on the FM website dozens of times. This small sample suggests that Americans’ greatest efforts to reform the Republic go to avoiding work and responsibility for reforming the Republic. We apply awesome creativity to these tasks. Imagine what we might accomplish if applied to actually doing things!
There are studies on the evolution of ballot access conditions, and their impact on the presence of third-party candidates. There is evidence of a strong impact of signature petition requirements on the number of candidates, and of a strong impact of the electoral system on the number of votes they receive, especially in elections at the national level — and that both have become generally more restrictive throughout the 20th century.
Anyway, some references that might be of interest:
This being said, an answer, however tentative, to the question “what to do concretely” — in the specific context of “holding the feet of elected officials to the fire and requiring them to be accountable for their decisions” — is still pending.
Thanks for the citations!
I’ve skimmed these papers. None of them provide any support for your theory that “Laws in most States have made it onerous and complicated to set up a party or propose a candidate to the point that they have choked the emergence of any credible alternative”. If anything, they show the opposite; #3 explicitly so.
They do show that there are limitations on ballot access to “third parties”. Whether that is good or bad depends on your opinion of multi-party vs two-party systems. IMO a two-party system is best, with relatively low barriers to entry for third parties. These articles suggest that is the case in most States today, although there are some States where the barriers appear too high. On the other hand, its not clear than governance at State/local level varies proportionate to the degree of barriers.
So IMO none of this provides an excuse for the common view it’s too difficult to reform the Republic, so I’ll sit on my butt. The Founders built the Republic by risking “our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor”. Today we’re not willing to miss an episode of reality TV, except to complain about the difficulty of getting a few thousand signatures on a petition.
Abuse of state police powers are necessary for the maintenance of an imperialistic 2-party system? When Ralph Nader attempted to merely attend a public (remote) viewing nearby the Presidential “debate” in Boston (Gore vs. Bush), the Massachusetts State Police, in a “liberal” state, threatened to arrest Nader and forced Nader to leave the vicinity of the debate site.
At least at the national level, there is little evidence that popular sentiment is reflected in the “system” of how independent ideas are broadcasted and debated. Nader Tries to Crash Debate, 4 October 1999 — excerpt:
Breton remarked: “We can choose not to address our political officials by their titles. We can work to organize ourselves, and our lives, with those of us who understand that power is something that must be taken, with money, organization, but most of all, with moral courage.”
This is essentially the kind of systematic non-violent resistance in which most of the population simply ignores and works around the political-social-economic system which eventually brought down the former Soviet Union.
If America has gotten to this point, we’re in trouble. The good news? This kind of mass subversion takes a long time to collapse the system, but it does work. Soviet workers used to ignore the ruble and instead steal items from the assembly line and barter them with other workers at other factories because the state-run stores were always out of the items they needed…we can imagine something of this sort going on in America.
Perhaps as our health care system continues to collapse, health care workers will play games with the hospital database and collude with increasingly frustrated doctors to treat people on the sly in return for services rendered by the patients. Perhaps as more and more people find themselves permanently unemployed, vast numbers of non-profit collectives will arise and perform the necessities of life like car repair or mending clothing or home repair in return for good and services produced by other non-profit collectives. It would be sad to see, but if it succeeded in undermining the Soviet state, I’m guessing this kind of mass subversion and working around a dying system would eventually succeed in undermining the crony kleptocracy America has developed.
I suspect FM is very much correct about the propaganda counter-thrust from America’s rulers. Perhaps they’ll fast-track the development of soma and feelies. (Shudder.)
I love reading the fantasies of peons. While watching TV, we’ll say nasty things to our rulers. We’ll be even more passive than we are today! We’re organize secret societies and do subversion! Generations of non-violent protests!
What we will not do — because it’s too much work — is simple, basic politics. Organizing, petitions, developing leaders, fund-raising. Real work is so 20th century. Fantasy is much more 21st century.
C S Lewis describe our situation well in letter #6 of The Screwtape Letters:
Clarification: yes, we’re a nation of peons.
That’s how our system has decayed. We were given clear instructions on the work and sacrifices necessary to maintain the Republic, but have decided that’s too much work. Passivity and whines are easier.
It need not be so. Redemption is an inherent potential of the soul. We can change. Any one of you might become the crystal of Ice-9 that changes the structure of America.
Many of us did a great deal of work organizing, petitioning, developing leaders, fundraising, and attending grassroots meetings. The result was…Obama.
Say hello to the new boss: same as the old boss
In baseball players often have to swing more than once to win the game. There’s a name for the kind of people that try, fail, and give up.
“There’s a name for the kind of people that try, fail, and give up.”
I’ve been trying and failing to elect better American politicians since 1976. First we got Reagan, then we devolved to Clinton, then we slid down to Dubya, and finally we got Obama.
I expect that the next American president will be some species of slime mold.
That is all sad but true.
The people we elect are in some way reflections of ourselves.
But I do not believe there is evidence that we are trying, in the sense of working the machinery. The “we tried and failed” excuse is an obvious lie, speaking of us collectively.
Voting is a minimum of civic responsibility , free-riding on others involvement. Which is fine so long as enough “others” are involved. That’s not the case today.
In fact it’s worse than that. Look at the fraction of eligables who bother to vote…
I guess I should elaborate. When I mean “trying to elect..” I mean I’ve been involved in local politics, have gone door-to-door to canvas undecided voters, have worked phone banks for candidates I thought worth electing, for quite a few years, in a number of different elections.
Most of the candidates I would like to work to elect are for one reason or another unelectable. Russ Feingold was basically chased out of politics. I would like to have worked for a campaign for him as president, but even before he was thrown out of the senate, he was unelectable because he was Jewish, and in racist America, Jews simply can’t be considered seriously as presidential candidates.
Likewise I would have liked to have worked to elect Pay Moynihan to some higher office when he was in politics, but for various reasons he always seemed unable to rise higher than the senate. Dennis Kucinich has been so thoroughly marginalized that he’s unelectable to the presidency. Elizabeth Warren would be my current choice of people to work to elect, and I’ve been advising people to write her in this presidential election. But she’s in the process of being marginalized and will probably be expelled from the American political system soon. In any case she’s a woman,which once again marginalizes her and makes her unelectable as president. Then there’s Alan Grayson, who was also chased out of politics by heavy Republican money and a massive campaign to get rid of him, and once again, he’s Jewish, which puts him beyond the pale in America as a presidential candidate.
So there you have it: the people I would like to work to elect have been marginalized and expelled from the political system, or are in some way unelectable (Jewish, female, whatever). The American political system basically allows only such a narrow range of candidates that their policies are largely indistinguishable from one another. I don’t see how in this type of political system, continuing to work for various candidates is going to improve anything.
Einstein said that the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.
Your comment suggests the problem. I. I. I.
Perhaps we went off the rails early, with the love of pulp fiction about cowboys. Lone gunmen fighting evil and cleaning up towns. Then the same theme became comic book superheroes.
Totally off the rails. Organizing and collective action gets things done, anything larger than building paper airplanes.
Look at what Franklin did as his first step fighting slavery. Look at what Sam Adams did as his first step fighting the British for American Independence. Our task is no smaller.
Perhaps we can learn from their example.
Mahatma Gandhi once said “What you do may not be much, but it is very important that you do it.”
This is a great aphorism, well worth some thought!
According to Wikiquote, it’s not from Gandhi, with its first known appearance in the 1980’s.
FM, I looked up Mahatma Gandhi quotes on Thinkexist.com and it was number 21 of 268. “Almost everything you do will seem insignificant, but it is important that you do it.”
The Internet is awash in collections of fake quotes. Many of which appear in high-profile magazines. It’s just another example of our declining national IQ, the collapse of our national institutions in the post-fact era.
If they don’t cite a source, either assume it’s fake or find someone that does give a source.
I looked at Thinkexist.com — it’s just stuff people have posted. The source for the Gandhi quote appears as “coming soon”. I’ll not hold my breath.
This is the essence of the Internet, and how it can as easily hurt us as help up. Collections of unverified information make us dumber. Websites like Wikiquote, with supporting links AND crowd-sourced analysis, are valuable and make us smarter. The Internet becomes useful only to the extent that we know the difference between the two.
MF, you can be a little too cynical. I have no reason to believe that this particular quote, which I have seen attributed to Ghandhi in the past, is bogus. It’s certainly not inconsistant with his philosophy or anything else he might have said.
You’re welcome to believe anything you want. If you set your standards of evidence that low (“I have no reason not to believe”), you’ll believe a great many things that are not so.
As so many posts on the FM website have shown, that’s America today. We’ve become a credulous people, believing what we’re told. Nukes in Iraq, the tyranny of ObamaCare, the hell-holes that are Northern Europe, the wonderfullness of the gold standard, that we’re changing the climate so that we’ll all die soon, the current drought is unusual (“historic”), sea levels are rising at an accelerating rate … the list goes on and on and on.
It makes us easily led. Perfect subjects for a plutocracy.
Let’s look at a bit of history from the America-that-once-was: “Why Is Missouri Called the ‘Show-Me’ State?“
FM- I have often used the expression “i’m from Missouri” when explaining my views on matters of spirituality, religion, astrology, new age “wisdom” etc. I’m a non-believer and a skeptic. I would prefer to discuss politics, history or economics on this site than debate the authenticity of a putative Ghandhi quote. Quotes do tend to be misattributed. I have read that Mark twain never said “The coldest winter I’ve ever spent was one summer in San Francisco,” long attributed to him. But who knows?
As for Wikipedia, it’s a wonderful resource and I have found it invaluable in my research on ancient Rome, but they’re not infallible either. In the same paragraph on Fulvia, the wife of Mark Antony (before he married Octavia or Cleopatra) it says her maternal grandfather was Gaius Gracchus and that her mother was the daughter of Sempronius Tuditanus. How could she have had two maternal grandfathers?
Getting trustworthy and accurate information about anything is a tricky business.
(1) “I would prefer to discuss politics, history or economics on this site than debate the authenticity of a putative Ghandhi quote”
I disagree totally. Epistemology is the foundation of all knowledge. Without higher standards of evidence a discussion of those complex subjects is nothing more than telling stories around a campfire.
(2) “I’m a non-believer and a skeptic”
Everyone defines these things as they choose, esp about one’s self. IMO one who has such a low standard of evidence is not a skeptic.
(2) “As for Wikipedia…”
I cited Wikiquote, which is different from Wikipedia. Wikiquote gives links and references for everything. Wikipedia does so sometimes (IMO the links are its greatest value).
Ok, FM, you win. It’s a disputed quote. Next time I use it I’ll qualifiy it like I do the Mark Twain quote.
The quote is immaterial. It’s about the process. It’s an example of a larger social trend which I (and others) have extensively documented at work in America today. Climate change doomsters on the Left, Birthers on the Right.
It’s a serious problem. Once a people become so credulous — like us — their ability to govern themselves disappears.
Quite a relief to learn that the ice caps aren’t melting, Greenland isn’t turning green, the drought is nothing unusual or serious and that the atmospheric temperature is not increasing. A bit of a disappointment to me though, I was thinking I’d have beachfront property in a few years.
The arctic ice cap is slowly melting. No surprise, since the Earth has been warming for centuries. During the little ice age the polar ice surrounded Iceland and Greenland, almost reaching Scotland. Although the melting is (like everything) “historic”, the satellite records used only go to 1979.
There is quite a bit of evidence that current conditions are not unusual for this era (ie, the past 10,000 years). Re arctic ice, there was an article in Science to that effect this month. I can give the cite if you’re interested.
As to the causes, that’s more difficult to determine. The warming is of course a driver (our emissions of co2 being a partial diver of the warming, the extent to which is under investigation). Deposits of soot are also a factor (eg, China’s massive increase in burning coal, with little pollution treatment), but there is far less study of this.
On the other hand, Greenland is not turning green. There is coastal melting, but measuring changes in the ice caps volume and weight are at the edge of current measuring capacity. There is some data, but remains uncertain (all these studies are grossly underfunded, because we need more and better bombers and fighters, supposedly).
It is not certain if global warming would increase or decrease the ice caps. Warming means more humidity and more snowfall, which might more than offset melting in Greenland –and even more so in Antarctica.
Forgot to mention: here we have standard response #1 to any mention about the debate among climate scientists OR a rebuttal to climate doomsterism — THE WORLD IS WARMING.
This is a classical use of the straw man attack, but on a silly level.
Yes, the world is warming. And has been for two centuries. The debate concerns the magnitude and causes of past climate change (eg, warming and rising seas from natural terrestrial cycles, solar cycles, land use changes, aerosol and CO2 emissions, etc) — and forecasts of future climate change.
“The trouble with quotes on the Internet is that you never know if they are genuine.” — Abraham Lincoln
We have a BEST OF THREAD winner!
I lived in the San Fernando Valley from 1957 to 1970. It was hot there in summer but the temperature never got above 105 F. I visited four years ago in September and the temperature was 115 F. Forty years is a very brief time in geological history. The accumulation of green house gasses seems a very plausible explanation. What will the high temperature be forty years from now? I would be concerned.
Interesting to note that nearly two thirds of the rise in the surface temperature of the earth as a whole occurred in the last thirty-one years of the 109 year period. This means that the trend of warming is accellerating. There is a difference between mean temperature and extreme temperature. My anecdote about extreme temperature does not say that the American Meterological Society data is off by a factor of ten. The mean temperature has increased by o.9 F in the past thirty-one years. That has caused a far greater effect on the extreme temperatures.
No. It means that one hundred years is too short a period to make such judgements. There have been 3 or 4 warming spurts since 1800 (from memory); the current one is roughly similar. Esp as the rate of warming has slowed during the last decade.
There are many natural cycles at work, some of which (eg, ocean, solar) are poorly understood. On top of which are the many forms of human impact (land use changes, aerosols in the atmosphere, soot on the ice, CO2 and other emissions). Which is why scientists still debate these things.
OK, let’s try that again.
Your impression of local data, even if correct (which I doubt) tells us nothing about global trends. That’s why we fund the large and expensive networks of satellites, radiosonde ballons, Argus ocean sensors, and land weather stations. The American Meteorological Society just released a new statement about climate change:
The global temperature increase (the two century long increase) is aprox one degree during the period you mention. And scientists debate how much of that one degree is caused by human activity.
Forecasts of the future are, of course, subject of far more debate.
Climatology is an extremely complex subject, much remains to be determined. Nevertheless, from what we do know, it may be prudent to reduce the emission of greenhouse gasses. Mike Lofgren’s book is indeed well worth reading. His devil’s dictionary is very amusing. How does he define global warming? “A hoax perpetrated by a worldwide conspiracy of biased scientists. Fortunately it is being combated by right-wing foundations, oil companies, televangelists, and other disinterested believers in objective fact.”
Whenever somebody says an action is “prudent” but mentions neither the cost nor effect, it’s usually the start of a mistake or a con.
My guess is that you know neither, as the news media tends to blow past these details with casual waving of hands. There are estimates, which upon review look as realistic as those for new DoD fighters.
Substantial reductions in co2 emissions will cost a lot, and require some large scale economic changes (eg, reduced profits, higher taxes, reductions in spending on current government programs, less private and public investment, etc).
Hence the widespread calls for the kind of reviews used for new drugs: analysis by relevant experts uninvolved in the original work, full disclosure of data and methods, and higher standards of evidence than for purely academic research. ALL of these are fiercely resisted by the climate science establishment (eg, long expensive fights — including illegal actions — against freedom of information requests, destruction of important documents, etc).
This does not boost public confidence in the warnings. If the fate of the earth was at stake, disclosures and reviews should be welcomed — not fought.
I’m certainly not against disclosures and reviews. We need to weigh the cost of reducing greenhouse gas emissions against the cost of not doing it. The human organism( and all other organisms on this planet) is adapted to a certain balance of atmospheric gasses. Do you really think it’s a good idea to alter the atmosphere from one to which biological organisms are adapted, to one to which biological organisms are not adapted? As for cost, how do you think that the cost these measures might compare to the cost of the wars and military biuld-ups we’ve witnessed in the past twelve years, or the cost of lowering the marginal tax rate on the wealthy to 35%. A rational society sets priorities. Our priorities should be infrastructure, education, health care, employment, liberty and the maintenance of the physical environment as one that is habitable for human and non-human life
“The human organism( and all other organisms on this planet) is adapted to a certain balance of atmospheric gasses. ”
You’re just making stuff up. Do you even know the unit of measurement CO2 is measured in? Try citing some actual peer-reviewed sources for this.
Making all this up? I’m a California licensed clinical laboratory scientist and I did study chemistry, albeit in the dark ages. Atmospheric gasses are generally measured in percent per volume. The atmosphere consists of 78.09% nitrogen, 20.95% oxygen, 0.93% argon and 0.039% CO2. Water vapor is usually around 1% and there are a variety of trace elements.
According to an article by Dr. Mae Wan Ho in the Institute of Science in Society report of August 9th, 2009, not only is the level of CO2 rising but the level of O2 is decreasing. Check it out.
(1) Try answering the question. What is the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere? You’ll see the significance once you state it. For bonus credit, what is the history of that during geological time?
(2) Try citing some peer-reviewed research that rising CO2 levels will directly affect our health (“The human organism( and all other organisms on this planet) is adapted to a certain balance of atmospheric gasses.”).
You’re just making stuff up. Stating the facts will show this, as it usually does. This is the pattern of climate alarmism, it exists only when alarmists can get by without stating specific facts or actual research.
CO2 is, as Rominelevin says, 0.039% of the atmosphere (it varies somewhat regionally). That’s 390 parts per million. It’s a trace gas.
How much will CO2 levels have to rise in order to affect us? I think we can trust Wikipedia for a rough answer (the entry gives citations and links for more info):
There are forecasts of CO2 up to 700ppm by 2100. But there many uncertainties in these long-term forecasts (using largely untested models). Here are two.
(1) As so often in climate science, their research runs only loosely connected with that of experts in the relevant fields they draw on. It’s not obvious that there are sufficient fossil fuel commercially exploitable to burn to produce such CO2. I have an file on this for a future article. They take the upper limits of oil and coal estimates, both of which might be far too large (see the Energy Reference Page for links to studies about this).
(2) Such forecasts assume the negative biological feedback on rising CO2 — increased activity by plants — will become saturated and stop. That’s a theory with little supporting evidence. For details see “Increase in observed net carbon dioxide uptake by land and oceans during the past 50 years”, A. P. Ballantyne et al, Nature, 2 August 2012 — ScienceDaily summary; gated Nature article. Their conclusion:
Increasing co2 is a potentially serious driver of climate change, with effects still debated. The warming since the early forecasts has tended to be less than predicted. For example, Hanson’s famous 1988 Science article forecast warming above actually results, although CO2 has increased faster than they forecast (China!).
But it appears that we need not worry about the direct effects of CO2 on us, until Rominelevin provides some citations to support his assertions.
If we as a species are so extremely sensitive to changes in the composition of athmospheric gasses as you imply, then I wonder why the last ice age did not kill off all of our ancestors.
If we were that sensitive to changes in parts per million of oxygen, then humanity would occupy only a narrow range of altitudes. And altitude sickness would occur even with small changes, and become serious far more frequently. Travel bookings and Goggle Maps would automatically display the change in altitude for your trip.
I’ll use this thread in a later post. The self-righteous debunking of the Right’s lies at Tampa are not a love of truth, but more a complaint about the sawdust in your neighbor’s eye while ignoring the same in our own. More specifically, the same myth-making at Tampa is seen on the Left with respect to Climate Change. The same contempt for science — ripping findings out of context, exaggerating their magnitude and certainty, and tribalism (good climate scientists are alarmists, bad climate scientist are skeptics or have alternative theories).
There is a simple reason for this phenomenon: the people on both sides are Americans, with the same easily exploitable weakness. This is vital to understand.
“Revolt of the Rich“, American Conservative, 27 August 2012 — “Our financial elites are the new secessionists.” — Excerpt:
It was 1993, during congressional debate over the North American Free Trade Agreement. I was having lunch with a staffer for one of the rare Republican congressmen who opposed the policy of so-called free trade. To this day, I remember something my colleague said: “The rich elites of this country have far more in common with their counterparts in London, Paris, and Tokyo than with their fellow American citizens.”
That was only the beginning of the period when the realities of outsourced manufacturing, financialization of the economy, and growing income disparity started to seep into the public consciousness, so at the time it seemed like a striking and novel statement.
… The objective of the predatory super-rich and their political handmaidens is to discredit and destroy the traditional nation state and auction its resources to themselves. Those super-rich, in turn, aim to create a “tollbooth” economy, whereby more and more of our highways, bridges, libraries, parks, and beaches are possessed by private oligarchs who will extract a toll from the rest of us. Was this the vision of the Founders? Was this why they believed governments were instituted among men—that the very sinews of the state should be possessed by the wealthy in the same manner that kingdoms of the Old World were the personal property of the monarch?
Since the first ziggurats rose in ancient Babylonia, the so-called forces of order, stability, and tradition have feared a revolt from below. Beginning with Edmund Burke and Joseph de Maistre after the French Revolution, a whole genre of political writings—some classical liberal, some conservative, some reactionary—has propounded this theme. The title of Ortega y Gasset’s most famous work, The Revolt of the Masses, tells us something about the mental atmosphere of this literature.
But in globalized postmodern America, what if this whole vision about where order, stability, and a tolerable framework for governance come from, and who threatens those values, is inverted? What if Christopher Lasch came closer to the truth in The Revolt of the Elites, wherein he wrote, “In our time, the chief threat seems to come from those at the top of the social hierarchy, not the masses”? Lasch held that the elites—by which he meant not just the super-wealthy but also their managerial coat holders and professional apologists—were undermining the country’s promise as a constitutional republic with their prehensile greed, their asocial cultural values, and their absence of civic responsibility.
Lasch wrote that in 1995. Now, almost two decades later, the super-rich have achieved escape velocity from the gravitational pull of the very society they rule over. They have seceded from America.
Transcript and Video of “The Resurrection of Ralph Reed“, Bill Moyers, PBS, 31 August 2012 — Also note the great title! Summary:
While Romney, Ryan, Rubio, and Eastwood got the lion’s share of attention during the Republican Convention this week, three one-time college Republicans who are now the party’s real power-brokers — Karl Rove, Ralph Reed, and Grover Norquist — were busy doing what they do best: leveraging their political, religious, and financial resources to back pro-corporate, anti-government objectives at the core of the conservative agenda.
The true surprise at the Tampa convention was Ralph Reed’s resurrection. When the former head of the Christian Coalition was discovered to have raked in millions of dollars from the super lobbyist — and eventually convicted felon — Jack Abramoff, Reed wound up in political purgatory. But outraged by the election of Barack Obama, and responding to what he describes as God’s call (via Sean Hannity), Reed returned to start the Faith and Freedom Coalition with the aim of toppling Barack Obama from the White House. To succeed, Reed needs to win the allegiance of many of the trusting Christian followers he had duped and double-crossed while working with Abramoff.
This week, Moyers & Company tracks Reed’s rise, fall, and return: does it signal a new revolution, or an old racket?
Later on the show, Bill talks with Mike Lofgren, a long-time Republican who describes modern corruption and dysfunction in both the Republican and Democratic parties. Lofgren’s new book is The Party is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless, and the Middle Class Got Shafted.