We giggle while America burns.

Summary: News in the last years of the Second Republic (founded on the Constitution) is entertainment, as we watch the bolts pop out of our social structure. Best of all, hear the applause by people who believe that the Republic is invincible (even if we wash away its foundations) or that whatever replaces it will be wonderful. We have become a faith-based society, trusting in we-know-not-what.

American Cracked Flag - AdobeStock - 362984216
By bluedesign. AdobeStock – 362984216.

My Twitter and my Facebook feeds provide a stream of news documenting the slow collapse of America. It is a journey, with exciting new developments every day. You will see articles like this.

The Deep State & Democrats ally to attack Trump and spark a Cold War

Journalist Gareth Porter explains how the Pentagon failed to sell Afghan government’s bunk ‘Bountygate’ story to US intelligence agencies. But the story was too politically useful to die: How the Pentagon failed to sell Afghan government’s bunk ‘Bountygate’ story to US intelligence agencies.

“Another New York Times Russiagate bombshell turns out to be a dud, as dodgy stories spun out by Afghan intelligence and exploited by the Pentagon ultimately failed to convince US intelligence agencies.”

After 4 years of fake RussiaGate stories trying to wreck Trump, after decades of lies by “anonymous“ govt officials manipulating us, despite the total lack of evidence, and denials by key participants – still 60% of Americans believe the story: “Most Americans believe Russia targeted U.S. soldiers, want sanctions in response.

“A majority of Americans believe that Russia paid the Taliban to kill U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan last year amid negotiations to end the war, and more than half want to respond with new economic sanctions against Moscow, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Wednesday.”

At some point we must ask if a people so gullible and unwilling to learn from experience are capable of self-government. We can change, if we have to the will to do so. See the Big List of Lies (a very partial list) at Our leaders so often lie, but we still believe them.

Democracy is obsolete.

Another bolt in the structure of the US is removed, this time by our black-robed supreme legislators who reinterpret the words in our laws to meet their values – as often with ideologues, without consideration of the consequences. Their insights let them reinterpret texts that were considered clear for a century. Ancient social dynamics are canceled, new rights invented, the meaning of words changed – by priests trained only in their arcane arts, making a mockery of self-government.

Last month I wrote Our black-robed supreme legislature strikes again. Today the New York Times exults that “Landmark Supreme Court Ruling Affirms Native American Rights in Oklahoma.”

“A 5-4 decision declaring that much of eastern Oklahoma is an Indian reservation could reshape criminal justice in the area by preventing state authorities from prosecuting Native Americans.”

The NY State AG proposes to strip an elected official – the mayor – of control over the NYPD, giving it to an unelected board that can be stacked with activists: “New York State AG’s New Plan Would Strip NYPD Control from Mayor de Blasio.” These people will wreck NYC if they have their way, as they have so many other cities in the Northeast.

Using proven tools to reshape America!

The Media’s War on Words” – The headline (probably not by the author, David Harsanyi), is wrong. These rules the Left creates and enforces of allowed language are intended to shape our thinking. It is Newspeak, exactly as described in Orwell’s 1984. Mock it if you like, but it works.

Money is more powerful than words. So the Mellon Foundation focuses its funding on Leftist activism: “The Mellon Foundation Announces Transformation of its Strategic Direction and New Focus on Social Justice.” As the old Russian adage says, “millionaires’ money will be used to weave the ropes that hang them.” That saying has a long and interesting history, described here by the great Quote Investigator.

Watch America change.

Bio of a rising star in the professional elite class that runs America – pulling strings behind the scenes, well-paid and with no accountability to the public: “Michele Flournoy: Queen Of The Blob” by Kelley Beaucar Vlahos – “This how the elite, Ivy League-educated technocrats profit while the nation’s real interests take a back seat.”

Today’s totalitarian advocacy from an actress who played the role of Eliza in “Hamilton” on Broadway:


Like Saturn, revolutions eat their children.” A good leftist running Kindness Yoga (160 employees) closes after an Instagram campaign accuses it of racism etc. The owner apologizes for his insufficient radicalism. The Colorado Sun is puzzled: “Kindness Yoga called out.” – “Nine studios close after Instagram campaign exposes rift over race. …But some teachers wonder how closing down helps Denver’s yoga community make progress.”

Today’s essential reading: members of Princeton’s faculty demand radical changes – such as distributing power along racial lines, make adherence to leftist dogma mandatory (punishing violations), and ending academic freedom. See the letter! This article has excerpts and a brief analysis.

NBC News boldly makes racism a core hiring policy. Next up: how to report the news along purely Leftist lines! Ben Smith of the NYT reports about a new memo by Cesar Conde, chairman of NBC News. He will make “50% of our News organization employees be women and 50% of our total workforce be people of color.” Tough luck for white and Asian men.

NBC News Memo

No lives matter to activists.

Sexism in Germany.

Let’s look overseas. In Germany Twitter loves hate speech: “Which gloves would you wear to murder your wife?

Also note their version of democracy. You will vote the right way! “Your #ballot is invalid if you choose one person twice or two female applicants.” Since there is only one male applicant and two women, you must pick the man or your vote is invalid.

German ballot

Just kidding! I reversed the genders in those texts. So their sexism is OK.

Tomorrow is another day!

Tomorrow will bring forth a new crop of articles about the decay of America. Perhaps someday these stories will spark fear or anger in Americans, spurring us to action. Then a better future will become possible.


I will send a copy of Rome’s Last Citizen (see below) to those who post the best comments to this series of posts. I have ten copies. Only one book per winner. Decisions are purely subjective by the judges, based on the originality and quality of insights, plus supporting facts and analysis, of the comment.

A copy also goes to whoever suggests a new masthead for this website. “Helping to reignite the spirit of a nation grown cold” shows a hopeful spirit I no longer have.

For More Information

Ideas! See my recommended books and films at Amazon. For something different, see “The Swallow – a story of the WWII Night Witches.”

I highly recommend Martin van Creveld’s new book, Seeing into the Future: A Short History of Prediction. “From the ancients watching the flight of birds to the murky activities of Google and Facebook today, Seeing into the Future provides vital insight into the past, present, and – of course – future of prediction.” Our media overflow with predictions. This will help you sort the useful ones from the chaff, and so better see our futures.

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. For more information about this vital issue see my posts about fear, about the Constitution, and especially these posts …

  1. Our institutions are hollow because we don’t love them.
  2. We have become cowards. We can become brave again.
  3. The Founders’ error dooms our Republic, but not the next.
  4. This post changed everything: A new, dark picture of America’s future.
  5. Asking what caused our decline and how to fix it.
  6. A new beginning for America and this website.
  7. The Boomers see the ruin of their dreams.
  8. Fireworks for the mind on this July 4.

Look to the past to see our future

The Founders looked to the Roman Republic for ideas and inspiration. In this time of peril, we too can do so. See two books about the people who were the poles of the forces that could have saved the Republic, but instead destroyed it.

Caesar – a biography by Christian Meier.,

Rome’s Last Citizen by Rob Goodman and Jimmy Soni – The life and legacy of Cato, the mortal enemy of Caesar.

"Caesar" by Christian Meier
Available at Amazon.
Rome's Last Citizen
Available at Amazon.


35 thoughts on “We giggle while America burns.”

  1. This video has been making the rounds lately:

    What do you think? Do you think the USA is currently experiencing this program running on autopilot?

    1. info,

      The video is total nonsense. I suppose this is better than blaming our social decay on the Jews, as these kind of guys have usually done in the past.

      One thing Americans will never ever do is take responsibility for their own actions. Problems always result from baddies preying upon our innocent even angelic selves. This makes us easy to rule. Now we have various powerful elements in America in conflict – fighting to see who will rule us.

      1. Most people throughout time fail to take responsibility for their actions. Why do you think religion is an enduring feature of the human condition? Why blame yourself for your problems when you can blame God?

        A more careful reading of history might observe that an energetic 3-5% of the population can write the script. A small fraction of the American colonists ousted the British. Just 3% of the German population were members of the Nazi party when Hitler was elected.

        Today we may have in this country as many highly motivated people as one might find at any other important in history. A majority of these highly motivated people are pulling the Republic towards an unworkable, dystopian leftist disaster. A smaller group on the right is fighting them.

      2. RJ,

        Sage observations all!

        I think that today we have several factions seeking to gain control, now that America’s citizens have dropped the burden of self-government.

        The increasingly frequent and larger episodes of moral panics, often exaggerated or even delusional, are training for the new regime. Much as flicks of birds form and practice before beginning their long journeys.

      3. “One thing Americans will never ever do is take responsibility for their own actions. Problems always result from baddies preying upon our innocent even angelic selves. This makes us easy to rule. Now we have various powerful elements in America in conflict – fighting to see who will rule us.”

        Given how the Revolutionary Wars only involved a few % of the American Population. The Majority don’t seem to be good at demonstrating Agency. It has always been determined minorities shaping the direction of the country.

      4. info,

        “Given how the Revolutionary Wars only involved a few % of the American Population. The Majority don’t seem to be good at demonstrating Agency”

        That’s wrong in so many ways. Mass armies were first created in the Napoleonic Wars. States before that were too poor and insufficiently organized to build them. For example, the US was highly mobilized in WWII – with at peak aprox 5% of the population in the military.

        The Revolutionary War army was fought by men for whom time away from home brought their families hardship – and getting crippled or killed were disastrous for them. They were largely unpaid. After the war, Congress made token payments on the owed pay – in their near-worthless dollars.

        And the size of the Continental Army at peak: roughly 5% of the population. A significant fraction of their support was provided for free by loyalist Americans – often at a significant sacrifice. The Americans were able to win because they were able to mobilize their resources to a high degree, done without the vast powerful institutions that fought the Civil War, WWI, and WWII.

        Your mockery of their accomplishments – their work and sacrifice — is typical of modern Americans, ignorant of our history and eager to see that the people of the past were as derelict in their responsibilities as we are. But whatever makes you feel happy…

      5. “Mass armies were first created in the Napoleonic Wars”

        Persia in the 5th Century BC? Rome over centuries?

        BTW it’s very difficult to sustain an army in excess of a few percentage points of the population. Excluding women = 50%; Maybe 10% of the remainder are prime fighting age = 5% of population. France’s levee en masse raised 1.5m soldiers out of approx. 30m population = 5%.

        “And the size of the Continental Army at peak: roughly 5% of the population. A significant fraction of their support was provided for free by loyalist Americans – often at a significant sacrifice. ”

        While the army seldom exceeds a few percentage points of the population, sacrifices are usually imposed across society – typically in the form of higher taxes, rationing, requisitions, etc. So the American Revolution is no different in that respect, either.

        What is different this time is that the economic burden of our Empire’s wars have been achieved by mortgaging the futures of our children.

      6. RJ,

        “Persia in the 5th Century BC? Rome over centuries?”

        Anicent armies lived off the land, which limited their size. The Persian Army invaded Greece in 480 BC with very roughly 100 thousand men, roughly the max size in the ancient world. The Roman army at Canae (216 BC) had roughly 80 thousand men.

        Napoleon’s Grande Armee invaded Russia with 685 thousand men. It required transportation and logistical systems not available in the ancient world. Such as the invention of modern canned food, developed for N’s armies.

        ” So the American Revolution is no different in that respect, either”

        Brutally missing the point. At that level of generalization, nothing is different in history. But magnitudes matter. The sacrifices required for a successful insurgency are immense – far beyond those in most (not all conventional wars). True in 1776 as well in post-WWII 4GWs against the colonial powers.

      7. @Larry Kummer

        “Your mockery of their accomplishments – their work and sacrifice — is typical of modern Americans, ignorant of our history and eager to see that the people of the past were as derelict in their responsibilities as we are. But whatever makes you feel happy…”

        Mockery? I intended no such thing. But if I have spoken in ignorance. Then I would have to agree.

        I underestimated the contributions of people not directly involved in the fighting. And foolishly compared said population with nomadic populations that typically almost had almost their entire able bodied male population mobilized as warriors.

  2. John F Pittman

    LK: Their insights let them reinterpret texts that were considered clear for a century, because law.

    Incomplete sentence.

    Surprised you did not include EEOC. They have taken to making sure that dogma, not just the protection of specified citizens, is being taught in businesses. This means there is a positive connection between dogma taught in our school system; and its importance for an employee to know and agree with. This is an important victory for the left in the USA, since much of our focus has traditionally been business. The yoga incident is the power after the fact. EEOC is a power that is now established in the corner of change, not equal opportunity, and has the power of the government behind it.


  3. I don’t see an energetic and sizable group of people who want to sustain the Republic. I see a lot of energy and mass by people on the left and – to a lesser extent – on the right who would “save” the Republic by destroying it.

    1. RJ,

      That’s a great two sentence summary of the scores of posts I’ve written about this since 2006!

      Interestingly, most comments to these posts have been critical or mocking – until this year. I wonder why?

      1. It’s hard to remain in denial as our political system seizes up in the face of a serious health crisis, a collapsing economy, rioting in the streets, cultural destruction, multiple shifts in international alignments, etc. You can take credit for being early, though!

      2. RH,

        I and the many like me giving warnings get the cold comfort of being early!

        The serious question is what happens next. About which I can’t even make a wild guess. We’ve sailed off the map into the unknown.

        But whatever the new stability that arises, I suspect it will be quite different than today’s America. Taking a bolder guess, I doubt it will be very democratic.

        Hence my frequent recommendations to read and learn about the fall of the Roman Republic.

      3. While the specifics are murky, I think the broad contours of the future are obvious. Either:

        (a) Left or right wing hegemony. Based on the trends in racial demographics and economic inequalities, I think the left is more likely to prevail but a counterrevolution cannot be ruled out.

        (b) Political dissolution if neither left nor right can dominate. At some point people replace a political system that fails to address their needs – even in the USSR. Dissolution ranges from a new federalism to the Republic splitting into 2-4 new countries along cultural/political divides. Over the past 20 years there’s more and more talk of secession so “b” is already in the conversation.

        I assume “a” as the default scenario. The greater the stresses on the political system (e.g., poor economic performance) in the near term, the more likely “b” occurs. If the economy doesn’t recover in a reasonable period of time, “b” becomes more likely than “a.”

        It is important to consider what global business interests want, if only because they wield such power. I think they will bet on “a” so long as their economic rents remain unchallenged. Otherwise they will choose “b” and hope to carve out a low regulation, low tax free trade zone for themselves.

      4. RJ,

        “I think the broad contours of the future are obvious.”

        Do you have a record of such successful large-scale predictions? I mean, seriously – this is Nostrodomous territory. There are countless variables, countless unknowable unknowns. I could spin a score of equally probably outcomes.

        Making the future esp unknown is that so many of our circumstances are without precedent in history, making the usual process of prediction by analogy somewhat useless.

        All I can see is that the Republic seems unlikely to survive, and we seem likely to get some kind of oligarchic rule. Plutocracy, autocracy, theocratic/ideological ruled society, Left, Right, something new? I’ve not a clue.

        More importantly, I don’t understand how such inspired guessing helps. Finding a way to mobilize people if we are to have any chance at steering our society. So far we are mostly a passive audience, believing what we are told. Doing what we are told.

      5. “More importantly, I don’t understand how such inspired guessing helps. Finding a way to mobilize people if we are to have any chance at steering our society. So far we are mostly a passive audience, believing what we are told. Doing what we are told.”

        Inspired guessing = painting a picture of the future. I don’t see how you can hope to mobilize people without painting a compelling picture of what the future could be and a road map for how we get there.

        Right now, the only people painting pictures of the future are the radical right and the woke. Those pictures are highly motivating.

        The radical right is implying that the future for complacent, centrist whites might look like Jewish pogroms, the Christians in Lebanon, Whites in South Africa, Rohinga in Myanmar, etc. That’s fear. Fear is highly motivating – both for whites who are receptive to the message, and for everyone else who opposes white ethnic hegemony.

        The woke are painting a picture of liberty, equality and fraternity. That’s motivating for the oppressed, but is provoking a counterrevolution on the right who fear a future Robespierre.

        In a sense, both sides are in part painting a picture of a tyrant should the other side get too much power. It’s visceral and fear inducing, powerful and motivating.

        I see no picture at all being painted about what the future holds if average Americans take on the burden of self governance (if they ever have in the past). We took on the burden of self government to get rid of George III. So maybe we need a tyrant in order to remember how desirable self-governance can be.

        BTW I do actually have a track record on long-term political predictions and it’s not bad. In 2004 I predicted to several of my friends (including a state level Republican politician who in 2017 admitted I nailed it) that the Republic party eventually would embrace something like Trumpism in the coming years. Unfortunately there is no public record of it so you will have to take my word for it.

  4. That’s not the German version of democracy, it’s the German Green Party version of democracy. From the names on the lists, it’s clear that this was a party-internal election. The German Green Party has a 50/50 quota for men and women on their lists for parliaments and for their leadership.

    1. German,

      You are right of course. But these measures are spreading across Europe. See this excerpt (mire detail follow) from a report by the EU Parliament.


      “Strategies for closing the gender gap.

      The EIGE, the expert committee that advises on gender equality policy at EU level, the European Women’s Lobby (EWL), the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, and research for the European Parliament promote a holistic approach and have identified a number of good practices and steps that legislators, governments, parliaments, political parties and civil society can take to improve gender balance in political representation. These range from ‘hard’ measures such as changing electoral systems and requiring legislated gender quotas, to ‘soft’ measures such as introducing voluntary party quotas and providing training, mentoring, funding and other support for women candidates, particularly young women and women from under-represented minority groups.”

  5. All I can see is that the Republic seems unlikely to survive, and we seem likely to get some kind of oligarchic rule. Plutocracy, autocracy, theocratic/ideological ruled society, Left, Right, something new? I’ve not a clue.

    The impression that the current political and social situation seems unstable in many respects is understandable. But then we get to the next step, predicting that its going to fall and be replaced by something else.

    This is much more problematic if we cannot see the outlines of what is going to replace it. After all the alternative is that it muddles through and makes the necessary adaptations.

    Perhaps the comparison is not to Rome before the fall of the Republic, but to something like Britain in 1820. The electoral process was corrupted by the rotten boroughs, the wholesale buying of elections, the omission of the new population centres in the industrial cities. There was widespread discontent. And yet the system did adapt, first with the Great Reform Bill, and later when confronted with a similar economic challenge, the repeal of the Corn Law.

    I am as puzzled and uncertain about it all as you, maybe more so. I do see waves of moral panic sweeping across the country, a political structure which seems out of touch and unable to manage policy effectively. Or maybe it is managing it effectively but to perverse ends?

    But its not yet clear to me that this means the fall of the Republic. It might be, if I could see plausibly what would replace it. But I can’t.

    I guess you could argue that the same thing was true in 1780 France, the illness was more apparent than the cure, but the Revolution happened. Yes, and maybe there are analogies, in particular the loss of faith of the nomenklatura.

    But the US system is, like the British one, adaptable. The French situation is that adaptation meant the end of absolutism and the arrival of popular control, so in a sense non-revolutionary change on a big enough scale was impossible. the US has a record of having adapted. I think it will change, as it always has. But the fall of the Republic? Not so sure.

    1. “But the fall of the Republic? Not so sure.”

      I tend to agree with Jasun Horsley when he states “If you think a storm is coming you haven’t been paying attention you are already in it.”

      1. Worm Wood,

        Beautiful! Excellent quote! Any Sailor or Airman can vouch for that!

        We are in Civil War 2.0. See the statues fall. Those remnants of the “Lost Cause” of the Confederacy we can do without. Don’t touch the Founders!

        Maybe, possibly, miraculously we, an aroused people STOP! Think. Organize with the myriad tools at our disposal and save, even temper our almost lost Republic. That is my prayer to our Creator at the Altar of Liberty.

        I say this in the names of all Thine Servants, especially Jesus Who gave all.


        Please forgive my tone today. Happily recovering from surgery.😋

      2. Wormwood,

        Please be serious. What’s happened so far is nothing compared to the unrest in 1965 – 1975, and likewise nothing compared to what’s probably coming.

        To think that’s a big deal is the typical delusion of rich people (which almost all Americans are, by historical standards). Their hangnails are the apocalypse – until they get a toothache.

      3. What’s happened so far is nothing compared to the unrest in 1965 – 1975

        Certainly true. The National Guard and in at least one case (Washington) the Regular Army were deployed, with weapons, and the combined deaths from the riots of that period were in the 100s.

        likewise nothing compared to what’s probably coming

        Well, this is the question. You say ‘probably’. I would say ‘possibly’. There is some chance, but I am not sure its very great.

        One big difference from then is that the current disorders appear to be both white and black and at least somewhat middle class. The riots of the sixties were the ghettos exploding. Could this make today’s riots relatively less extreme?

      4. Henrik,

        Please re-read the comments more carefully. Wormwood referred to “storm.” He did not say “violence.” The former is a far broader term than the latter. The changes we have already seen are massive – beginning of defunding police, spikes in homicide, canceling people (businesses and reputations ruined), etc.

        But it is, as you and I noted, so far mild compared to the unrest (and resulting changes) of the 1965 – 1975 period. But we’re only six weeks into this storm.

  6. Too bad Trump is not a Lincoln with Kanye as his Douglas and they bring Black Clergy and Police Leaders to the Rose Garden for prayer. Afterwards, they present a Proclamation of Unity against the Destroyers, Rioters and Looters.

    I’m thinking of the opening chapters of Victoria.

  7. The US of the 1950s had lots of independent bosses. Doctors, car dealerships, banks, department stores etc, all were places where there was a boss who was usually very focused on making sure that the local civic institutions, schools, hospitals, politicians, remained in tune with the local interest. Collectively, I believe US independent workers made up much more than the 3-5% needed to drive change.
    Now, thanks to consolidation and buyouts, those bosses have become employees. Independent agency is prohibited for them.
    How can a republic survive if all the citizens are employees?

    1. etudiant,

      That’s a big insight. Bigger than big. I’ve written about this often, but with inadequate emphasis. In addition to the vital things you mention, in The-America-That-Once-Was there were local leaders. Bruce Waynes of Gotham, Britt Reid (newspaper owner and The Green Hornet), etc. Local leaders, influential and wealthy. These feature as key characters, good and bad, in countless films of the 1930s – 1960s. These people were political leaders, social leaders, funded charities, etc.

      Now centralization of income and power – the growth of giant cartels – has almost exterminated them. Now most cities have VPs and EVPs as key leaders, servants of giant multinational corps. They are transients, lacking ties to the community and real power and wealth.

      I learned this as a VP and Director of a large Boy Scout Council. I spent vast hours networking with key members, both worker bees and Directors. Then I learned all that was wasted time. All the decisions were made behind the scenes by two or three ultra-rich. They were too powerful to come to meetings of the ants (who pretended to be local elites). Their ties were to BSA national (who led the organization thru 50 years of decline to its recent bankruptcy) – which was run by them and their fellow elites. The governing machinery was a sham.

      All this makes democracy at any level – local to national – impossible under current circumstances. Both far Left and Right dream of local power after the Great Day When They Rise Up And Smite Their Foes. They are delusional.

  8. Part of the storm that we are already in can be seen in the increasing capabilities of our present American Surveillance State.

    The particular capability discussed below was an extremely aggressive use of NSA trade-craft against big American companies like Google, especially striking since the NSA under a separate program known as PRISM had already had front door access to Google and Yahoo user accounts through a court approved process.

    It is estimated that 100 million Americans have accounts with Google. Over the past 7 years the NSA, according to Barton Gellman in his new book “Dark Mirror,” has managed to break into Google cloud, gaining access to huge amounts of unencrypted data (NSA discovered where all the plaintext was that Google collected.

    Gellman states “we found fragments of raw collection in NSA files that matched the data structures and formats used among Google data centers. These formats were proprietary and unique.”

    Google decrypted its own traffic as part of normal operations, just as this data left the public internet and arrived at the boundary of the company’s private cloud.

    Gellman states ” The GCHQ and NSA shared access to Google’s conduit at a location identified only as MUSCULAR Whatever it was, a photograph shot inside the premises showed side-by-side racks of communication gear. One side of the photo was labeled “carrier equipment” which made the fiber optic connection to Google’s network. The other side was labeled “multiplexing equipment” which diverted an extra copy of the whole data flow to a NSA processing system called TURMOIL. One copy in, two copies out and Google none the wiser. The scale of the operation was significant. According to a Top Secret accounting dated January 9, 2013 the NSA’s acquisitions directorate sent millions of records every day from internal Google and Yahoo networks to data warehouses at Fort Meade.”

    The implications of this type of data collection for the way our system of governance works are immense. To my mind the power gradient of government to citizen then become too steep.

    The back of the Republic, from a surveillance perspective, had already been broken by 2013.

      1. Good question.

        Both the CIA and NSA, for example, have admitted that intercepted files of Americans as usually useless for genuine intelligence purposes but both agencies retain such files.
        The contents, according to Gellman, often have an intimate or voyeuristic quality and often tell stories of love and heartbreak, illicit sexual liaisons, mental health crises, political and religious conversations, financial anxieties and disappointed hopes and dreams, along with medical records, resumes and academic transcripts etc.

        The potential for misuse of such surveillance data for purely political ends seems immense. Such permanent databases radiate permanent black mail capability regarding any potential candidate for any elected office and once elected such data bases provide one potential means for discreditation and even coup attempts as well as other less explicit means of elected office removal.

        In a more technical sense, for example, the NSA’s XKEYSCORE keyboard interface allows an analyst to enter any selector and it seems to follow that any American citizen could be surveilled for any political reason.

        Gellman mentions that in 2012 Gus Hunt, the CIAs chief technical officer made the following points:

        We don’t know the future value of a dot today.
        2 We cannot connect dots we don’t have.
        3 The old collect, winnow, disseminate model fails spectacularly in the Big Data world.

        Therefore Hunt said the intelligence community had to collect all the dots, as many as data science allows and scale was not an obstacle.

        Hunt went on to say “It is nearly within our grasp to compute on all human generated information” and in the presentation he underlined the word all. Since you cannot connect dots you don’t have, it drives us to collect everything and hang on to it foreever.”

        I would argue that today the U.S, government (in alliance with the Silicon Valley Giants) now has a type of power that has never existed before in the world. Communications have never been so comprehensively open to intelligence agencies.
        Most human interaction, even in the age of the written world, want unmemorialized.

        Gellman quotes Snowden from a text file called READMEFIRST which Snowden composed to accompany the NSA archieve that he released/stole:

        “On the authority of nothing but a self-certification made to a software program I have wiretapped the internet communications of Congress’ current Gang of Eight and the Supreme Court.”

        Even if Snowden was being over dramatic, the political consequences for a well-functioning Republic are significant.

        I believe we are already in the eye of this hurricane.

  9. With respect to Etudiant’s very insightful attribution of a possible cause of our decline in civic engagement.
    I have often reflected on why we appear to be ineffective when contrasted with our parent’s generation who started with so much less and yet appeared to achieve so much more.
    For clarity, my parents grew up in the Great Depression, both served overseas for the duration of the Second World War and returned to build a better society for their children, an accomplishment that Fabius has often observed that we boomers have squandered without any real recognition of the attainments we have so gracelessly inherited.
    I also feel that perhaps an allied factor was the importance of social reputation to that generation, the idea of “ public service” was not a hollow charade, rather an endeavour to be pursued with vigour and enthusiasm.
    In similar vein, I invite you to recall the last time you observed a politician offering their resignation when confronted with evidence of some moral failing. A not uncommon event to my parents generation, analogous to a unicorn sighting to ours. Our political class has quickly learned that there are no consequences for the most egregious behaviours and as has always been true, behaviours that are rewarded increase in frequency.
    This is reinforced by the organisational structures of our political parties, in Australia, a single leagues club, ( an entertainment venue allied to a sports team), can boast more paid up members than the aggregate combined total of paid up members of our political parties.
    The net effect is that candidate selection and subsequent election and re-election is achieved by a surprisingly small number of engaged people.
    That said, this is unlikely to change until an increasing number of us accept our responsibilities as citizens, perhaps the impending financial catastrophe will provide the trigger for the necessary civic engagement and we will rise the challenge as our parents did.
    At the very least we have the example in living memory that it can be done.

    1. Karela,

      “Our political class has quickly learned that there are no consequences for the most egregious behaviours …”

      True, but that’s written in the passive case. More clearly said that “they learned that citizens ignore egregious behaviors…”

      “this is unlikely to change until an increasing number of us accept our responsibilities as citizens”

      True. But such things seldom just happen. How do we work to make that change?

  10. A lot of people in comments section in your recent posts have discussed the various reasons for failures in America today, from the loss of core cultural, social, and societal values to dishonest, power-hungry, self-serving officials with agendas. I may be just generalizing, but I think the root cause (if one really exists) may be much more simple, and can be summed up by one word, hubris – that we know better and are still great, despite our repeated failure. As the saying goes, “pride comes before a fall”. Common examples of this include our nationalism that is disguised under the term ‘American Exceptionalism’ (our supposed superior morals, values, structures, institutions, and political system), our interventions overseas that all too often involve our country trying to foist such systems on other people at gunpoint, and more recently, our response to the coronavirus crisis where Americans casually, callously and blithely disregard even the most basic precautions such as wearing masks, seriously limiting unnecessary activities and social distancing. People going out on holidays, and many states not instituting the basic policy of mask wearing. Even in my own town, Menlo Park, CA (at the center of Silicon Valley, also one of the early hotspots that was managed reasonably well in my opinion), one of the most educated towns (in terms of higher education degrees) in the country, a Stanford doctor with three kids (and whose husband is an advanced surgeon at Stanford as well), started a petition on the local neighborhood blog to reopen schools shortly because of ‘children’s mental well-being’ while a lethal pandemic is killing 1000s and 1000s and potentially permanently injuring countless more. This was just a couple of weeks ago. Today, cases in California, Florida, and Texas are again rapidly on the rise.

    My point is not to be critical for the sake of being critical, or to debate specifics of COVID-19 policy (which I am not an expert by any means on, although I do have a degree in Neurobiology, volunteered and participated in one of the earliest COVID-19 public health testing studies, and am working in a small med-tech company whose products that are being used right now to help treat seizures in COVID-19 patients). My point is two-fold:

    1) As a society, we have not fully recognized (or tried to recognize) the roots of our problems, something this website actively tries to do. Currently, we see the public rapidly coming to terms with who Trump truly is, but on the flip side, also somewhat going along with the narrative that he is the boogey-man who is the sole cause of all these problems exposed during his 3+ years.

    2) We don’t want to make sacrifices to solve the problems that we are a part of, regardless of whose ‘fault’ it is – we want to have our cake and eat it too – in other words, we don’t want to take responsibility for our failures and their consequences like the doctor I mentioned earlier. Maybe this is just life trying to teach us a tragic, sorely-needed lesson. Or just an extreme string of bad luck.

    That said, I still am an optimist about America, and that while we often harshly criticize ourselves like I hypocritically just did, the winner is the one who makes the least mistakes, not necessarily the one who is perfect. In that regard, I would argue that in general, despite our shortcomings, we still are far, far better off than most of the world today, aside from maybe arguably a few advanced Western European nations and a couple of the wealthier Asian ones in certain aspects.

    Hopefully if we are honest, we will have enough humility to appreciate that there are other people and societies in the world that may be doing things better than we are, and that we in fact have something to learn, not just in public health or how to response to the coronavirus, but also in many other fields, from politics to education (something I think FM has briefly discussed before in various posts on specific issues).

    Going forward, it would be interesting if FM took a break from purely examining the increasingly depressing domestic developments and news, and instead specifically looked at other countries and their approaches and policies, including not just what failed, but what succeeded, and compared them to what is currently being done in the US, and whether such models could replicated here at home. Thanks.

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