Saturday, November 01, 2014

Demonization and the deliberate destruction of U.S. politics

survival-richestLet's start with Survival of the Richest: How the recovery left the middle class behind: All right, this is Mother Jones. Still, any conservative American who actually has the guts to look at these graphics will come away realizing that we truly are at 1933 again. And that we must do something about the skyrocketing wealth disparities that threatened every past generation of the American Experiment. And that Supply Side Voodoo Economics assurances have by now proved 100% lies.
Past generations found reasonable, compromise solutions and negotiated pragmatically to both keep a vibrant flat-open-fair-competitive capitalism and maintain social mobility.
Indeed, it is to prevent such negotiations that today’s oligarchs have financed the destruction of politics in the U.S. (e.g. the “Hastert Rule” that no republican may ever negotiate with democrats, over anything, ever. It is an explicit and openly stated rule within the party and the chief reason that Newt Gingrich was fired as a leader of the party, for negotiating with Bill Clinton both the Budget Act and Welfare Reform.)
It is for that reason the right spares no effort to call Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) the same thing as Satan Incarnate… even though our parents in the Greatest Generation adored him more than any other human.
Fact, is, FDR effectively SAVED capitalism and the wealthy, in America. The aristo fools who demonize him and seek to restore feudalism seem too stupid to realize the alternative to a middle class America — such as FDR built — is not feudalism… but tumbrels. They should be the ones seeking a new Roosevelt.
== Can science overcome demonization? ==
reciprocal-demonizationI oft point out the top feature of the re-ignited U.S. Civil War - that normal politics of deliberation/negotiation is dead in America, killed by reciprocal demonization that’s funded by — well — traitors.
But science offers hope! Yes, we tend to think the “other side” is motivated principally by hatred. 

See my earlier posting: Who Benefits from the Politics of Outrage?
“But according to a new study being released by PNAS, it's possible to get people to think more positively about their opponents. All it takes is a small cash payment to get people to step back and think. And with a more positive understanding of the opposition, people become willing to think that compromise is possible.”
Be afraid Rupert! All it will take is $12 per US citizen to get them back into a mood for negotiating with their neighbors! Now, get me the ear of Warren Buffett…
== Selling Cynicism ==
secret-governmentIn sharp contrast to that positive news… now dive into this paean to cynicism in the Boston Globe by Jordan Michael Smith, “Vote all you want. The secret government won’t change.” While surficially satisfying, the essay in fact is flat out dopey food-for-lazy-cynics, pushing the pablum sneer that voting does not matter, because Obama is just the same as Bush.
Alas, all Mr. Smith proves is that there are lefty-fools, as well as righty ones. Want just one devastating example?
In 2013 the Obama Administration supported what the Bushites opposed, the most important civil liberties action in 30 years. A declaration backing court decisions that citizens have an absolute right to record their interactions with police. Had Republicans been in the White House, the cases might have been appealed to the Supreme Court and possibly reversed.
And this is likely to be extensible to other authorities. This precedent empowers citizens to make the inevitable top-down glare at least somewhat two-way. No Republican supported this move, which arms us with a core entitlement to use fast-improving technology to balance power, at least somewhat. At least in principle it does! At the level where it matters most -- on the streeets. It will be up to us to keep extending it, indefinitely. 
Mr. Smith’s whines about NSA spying are the sign of a dismally unimaginative reflex. Nothing will stop surveillance. Drive it out of the NSA and it will dive somewhere else, even harder to supervise, like a game of whack-a-mole. But it can be rendered harmless with sufficient sousveillance!
That is where the fight should be radical, militant and fierce. But we are undermined by fools who sit and cynically glower that "there's no difference." (That is, if Mr. Smith is not already in the pay of Rupert Murdoch.)
No difference? Here's another huge, huge area of dem-gop divergence that would matter, if our punditocracy were 1/10th as smart as they think they are: The diametrically opposite doctrines under which liberals and conservatives wage war.
We are seeing this difference play out, yet again, before our very eyes.
But the final dismissal of such monstrous cynical sneers is simple enough to repeat to yourself, over and over again: "It's the Supreme Court, stupid. It's the Supreme Court, stupid. It's the Supreme Court, stupid. It's the Supreme Court, stupid. It's the Supreme Court, stupid. It's the Supreme Court, stupid. It's the Supreme Court, stupid. It's the Supreme Court, stupid. It's the Supreme Court, stupid. It's the Supreme Court, stupid. It's the Supreme Court, stupid. It's the Supreme Court, stupid. It's the Supreme Court, stupid. It's the Supreme Court, stupid. And... oh yes. It's the Supreme Court, stupid."
== You would actually re-hire these guys? ==  
Name one unambiguous statistical metric of US national economic, social, scientific, fiscal or middle class health that improved across the span of any recent GOP tenure in power.   (In any way that can be reasonably attributed to their governance.) You cannot name more than a couple that did not plummet.  Let's state that clearly. Outcomes from both Bush administrations were almost universally disastrous.  And those include conservative metrics such as near total destruction of US military readiness.
One measure of the delusion dominating America's gone-around-the-bend right wing is the matter of military readiness. At the end of the Clinton Administration, 100% of major US military units were rated fully combat ready. By the time GW Bush left office, not a single major army or marine unit was so rated... half have now regained that status. See: How Republicans and Democrats Wage War.
Do outcomes matter at all to you?  Or only Fox-assertions and anecdotes and incantations to feel good.
Fact, more than half of those statistical metrics improved markedly under Clinton and Obama.  Nothing I said here has anything at all to do with left or right.  It is simple outcomes appraisal.
Adults do it.  Fox-watchers do not. 

In fact, such a perfect record of doing damage to America almost beggars explanation. (And make no mistake, the "brain trusts" of both Romney and McCain were filled almost entirely by Bush appointees.)  

Elsewhere I’ve offered 20% odds… or 1:4… that the almost perfect tally of unalloyedly harmful outcomes from both Bush presidencies might… just might … have been deliberate:  "Indeed, it does parsimoniously fit all Bush Administration outcomes, far better than the standard theories: dogmatism, venality and stupidity. But the truly curious thing is that absolutely no one will discuss a lesser-odds option -- the “manchurian” one -- even just to have it on a corner of the table.

Well, well. I stand corrected. The “Manchurian scenario actually has been broached in a few places. Once by Robert Buzzanco, Professor of History, University of Houston. But even more bitingly by the brilliant cartoonist Tom Tomorrow. Come on.  Do what you can, before the mid-terms. And vote.  


Tacitus2 said...


We have been on this topic before, but you have raised it again:

"Name one unambiguous statistical metric of US national economic, social, scientific, fiscal or middle class health that improved across the span of any recent GOP tenure in power. (In any way that can be reasonably attributed to their governance.)"

We now have a few more data points to compare, and I have a little free time this week. But before I would put my hand to this puzzler I would need some ground rules up front. Otherwise as you serve as referee, line judge and appeals court it would not be worth my while.

If this challenge actually interests you, could you define a few parameters? Ones that cannot be post facto changed?

Define the GOP tenures. We get bogged down so often as to who is really running the show. Last admin's budget, split control of Congress etc. Dates please.

Define the metrics that interest you. Is it vital stats like life expectancy? Is it tonnes of various pollutants put out annually? Is it income growth or work force participation or home ownership rates or educational attainments or numbers of patents issued?

Define unambiguous. And while we are at it, define reasonably attributed. Perhaps instead of yourself as the final arbiter of such questions a few of our long standing commenters could be "the jury"?

Oh, and this iteration seems to omit the necessary isomeric issue of whether any such metrics deteriorate under a Democrat admin. Some reason why this not a fair question as well?

Just some musings. I do have a lot of things on my "to do list" so if you think the challenge is too complicated for a real answer, well it still makes a good rhetorical cudgel I guess.



Lorraine said...

How much sousveillance is sufficient to the task of rendering surveillance largely harmless?

I think "radical, militant and fierce" are necessary but not sufficient conditions for an effective sousveillance network.

I believe that at some point the sousveillance community (actually the general public) will have to have access to huge data sets, and a level of informational sophistication comparable to the NSA, or even Google. "Big Data," only explicitly non-proprietary.

Howard Brazee said...

Any rational person who cares about future generations should figure out what goals for the future are actually possible.

What do the Kochs (or anybody else) wish their family, communities, country, and world to be like at the turn of the century?

It's not at all obvious to me that they have such a long term agenda. Money and power are their drugs of choice which is good enough for now.

Some of the people I disagree with have long term goals that I think hurt. But many don't think about that far of a future.

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't 20% odds be 1:5?

David Brin said...

Lorraine asked: “How much sousveillance is sufficient to the task of rendering surveillance largely harmless?”

Indeed, a $64 question. I propose a dozen such measures. The most important is at the street level, where we live, and within a couple of years all encounters between police and citizens will be sousveilled. Or enough so that it will seriously affect the balance of accountability.

Some sousveillance will be intermediated. We should not be able to spy directly on the FBI and NSA. They have jobs to do. But IGUS would increase levels of trust and I think it should be just the start.



Also, when ad hoc citizen groups start doing much or the work of NSA and FBI, then balances will also change.

Anonymous: “Wouldn't 20% odds be 1:5?”

Nope! 20% is the “1” on the left. 80% is the “4” on the right.

David Brin said...

Tacitus you are a good arguer and fairminded. And I may put some thought to your definitions.

But seriously?

If a trend has spanned decades, like reductions in infant mortality, or if it began gaining major momentum in the previous administration – like plummeting rates of crime – can we take that as given that the bushites cannot claim any credit? Notice that every one of your examples fall into this domain.

Traditionally, things like unemployment and middle class incomes and such things ARE attributed to lengthy administrations. That may be simplistic and even unfair at times. But when such metrics of middle class economic health ALWAYS decline across the span of GOP administrations and almost ALWAYS go up across lengthy democratic ones, my point about Outcomes is made, even if you find a way to quibble your way past my “name one” challenge.

A fair-minded person acknowledges a couple of years of phase-lag time…as Obama certainly must claim. It was only the second derivative of deficit that responded quickly to his moves. The first derivative stayed bush-disastrous for several years.

Please see:

Fact is, I am unconcerned by your counter challenge. I never expected my “name one!” challenge to stand up to scrutiny absolutely. Its purpose has been to show just how incredibly dismal the overall record of governance-outcomes has been, from GOP administrations. AND QUIBBLES DON’T CHANGE THAT.

If you find an exception, all that does is show how stunningly awful the overall has been.

Indeed, the fact that it’s been many years and quibblers have still left me able to cast a “name one exception!” challenge is devastating to any concept that Republicans should ever ever be allowed near power. The fact that you WOULD quibble, instead of admitting “gosh, we do seem to really really suck at governing” is kinda sad.

Tacitus2 said...


Among gentlemen the challenged party is traditionally afforded some latitude in selection of weapons.

I think - and don't take this as criticism - that you are not being serious.

That's OK, none of us are required to be serious at all times.

If the political process has you in a bad mood then continue to wield that rhetorical cudgel.

But I am afraid that an unserious exercise does not warrant my spending additional time on it.


David Brin said...

Tacitus I truly do not think you grasp the "name one" challenge. Let me reiterate. It makes a powerful IMPLICIT point about bad GOP governance by the method of "proof by failure of counter-example."

Yes, it also allows laziness by shifting the burden of proof. I need not cite chapter and verse on a long list of GOP induced calamities -- a list that the republican will just scan emotionally and dismiss as "biased facts." Replying "Yeah? well i could come up with my OWN lists!"

My challenge pre-empts that response by asking for a very very short list of positive outcomes. It would not prove that GOP leaders are good ones, but it would rob me of "proof by failure of counter-example."

In fact, YOU provided one such counter example that made me rephrase my original challenge! Without any doubt, the Bush administration originated a major increase in AIDS related assistance to Africa. The positive outcomes that followed might be fairly attributed (partially!) to that administration. Or at least a strong case could be made for some degree of attributable cause and effect.

You point thus made me switch from ANY positive outcomes to major metrics of US national and middle class health. SO please stop moaning that I never pay any attention to you. You are a very stubborn person, but smart and courteous and I read every word.

Nevertheless, I do deem you to be quibbling. I showed one very very clear example of a metric that conservatives claim to care deeply about, whose second derivative swings appear to be unambiguous and clearly sttributable... and that show devastatingly better outcome performance for ALL democratic administrations than ALL Republican ones.

I thus made extremely clear what I meant by those criteria. Must you demand that I do so, again and again?

If you are frustrated, how about me? You relentlessly focus on process issues and refuse to grapple with the blatant lesson that is taught here, even if you were to force me to stop using my "name one" challenge. That lesson is spectacularly clear...

...that any sane person who would ever again give this version of the GOP the keys to administer anything higher than the city Department of Burnt Matches would have to be a person in utter denial.

LarryHart said...


If I may interject, I believe Dr Brin's serious point is that by overwhelming metrics, Democrats do a better job of governing than Republicans do.

Perhaps "name even one metric" is hyperbole, but the point stands even if you can come up a small number.

Several years ago, there was a discussion here about the phrase "the exception that proves the rule". And most of us agreed that the expression is often misused to mean that finding an exception to a rule actually (somehow) proves that rule to hold. But the way I use the expression, an "exception that proves the rule" is an exception that is so hard to come up with that by the very difficulty the work of discovering it is, it "proves" that (in most cases) the rule holds true*. I think that is what Dr Brin is getting at here.

[* And yes, it was later clarified that the true meaning of the expression is that an explicit exception (such as Caddyshack's "staff may use the pool from 1:00 to 1:15") proves that an unstated rule ("Most of the time, staff is barred from using the pool") is actually in effect.]

Tacitus2 said...


I am certainly not moaning. I am offering to continue a discussion. But my post was just asking for clean parameters.

I have no problem, no problem whatsoever with your opinion that the GOP has a lot of misgovernance to answer for. I am by no means a misty eyed fanboy. Remember that I am not a Republican but a conservative.

If your challenge is as our friend LarryHart indicates, hyperbole, great. That is a flavor of unseriousness but you play with words for a living and it is expected.

When a challenge like this has no rules other than what you decide are necessary to win your point it becomes another flavor of unserious...Calvinball. Also fun but not something I have time for.

If we agree that there is a chance that the GOP is actually evil (you 20%, me 5%) then there is a larger chance (80 to 95% respectively) that they are a flawed Loyal Opposition. Such is necessary, no crucial, in a free state.

"You are a very stubborn person.."

Thank you.


LarryHart said...


If your challenge is as our friend LarryHart indicates...

Thank you.

If we agree that there is a chance that the GOP is actually evil (you 20%, me 5%) then there is a larger chance (80 to 95% respectively) that they are a flawed Loyal Opposition. Such is necessary, no crucial, in a free state.

I am completely down with the idea of the "loyal opposition" keeping the majority party honest.

I wish the Republicans accepted the Democrats in that role as much as they demand acceptance when they (GOP) are the minority party. I accepted the Republican criticism of President Clinton's war in Bosnia (even though I thought Clinton actually did rather well there), only to see my side branded as "traitors" and worse for the "crime" of criticizing a president in wartime a few years later.

Ultimately, isn't the test of a "loyal opposition" role how "loyal" they actually are to the country? Opposing the majority's policy because you are confident that they are making a big mistake is one thing. Opposing the majority to rile up one's own base and gain political points is a different thing. The first, I would call "loyal", while the second seems almost the diametric opposite thereof.

David Brin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Brin said...

Tacitus... please put a smiley face after your "Thank You." because you know darn well the "stubborn" part was followed by words of genuine respect. Indeed, the stubbornness of conservatives, while desperately disturbing in times like this... is also the trait of an excellent neighbor and friend who will not give up on you in hard times.

You want the honest truth? I like most of you guys a whole lot (!) but you are the fellow whom I would choose first to have as a next door neighbor.

I reiterate though. I made a whole LOT of criteria for judging metrics very clear in this posting:

I believe I have satisfied your demands.

Above all should be one outcome that ought to drive genuine small govt conservatives into a fury... that for all their talk, and controlling Congress for 12 years (via cheating)... ANd every branch of govt for 6....

... the ONLY area in which the GOP ever actually De regulated agencies was finance and Wall Street... leading to us all being raped.

All the yowling about Big Govt and when they had a chance? Nothing. DEMOCRATS banished the captured ICC and CAB. Dems broke up AT&T. Dems committed the greatest act of de reg ever, by taking federal hands entirely off the Internet and giving it to the world.

I am libertarian enough to like all those things!

Why don't you?

Douglas Moran said...

I think "the rich", however you want to define and label them--the oligarchs currently pushing policies that will benefit themselves at the expense of the middle class (and every other class, really)--truly believe that "This is America", and so tumbrels could not possibly be in their future. And when you eliminate the peasants-with-pitchforks scenario, their single-minded devotion to policies that only benefit themselves makes sense. After all, if you could rob banks with the assurance that the authorities wouldn't send the posse after you, wouldn't you just keep robbing those banks?

Now in their defense (sort of), they've certainly received plenty of evidence that this is, in fact, the case. For pulling down the economy and nearly throwing the entire world into another recession, they received free money from the peasants and no one, not one, was prosecuted. Their companies pollute rivers, kill peasants in mine explosions, kill more peasants in rail explosions from insufficiently-safe tanker cars (kept unsafe at their insistence), dump millions of gallons of sludge into the Gulf and elsewhere, and on and on, and at most receive a monetary slap on the wrist without jail time. Why wouldn't they believe their looting could continue inviolate? Just because a bunch of long-haired economists think so? Ha ha ha, they must be saying.

People tend to forget the lessons of history even when they slap them in the face. Paul Krugman has pointed out often enough the lessons of the early 30s that the economists of our current era resolutely refuse to pay attention to, following some of the same policies that led to the extension of the Great Depression. That the rich of today are studiously ignoring the lessons of monetary class disparity is really not that big a surprise. A disappointment, sure, but not a surprise.

David Brin said...

DM it may be tragic that the social adaptations of the FDR-Truman-Eisenhower era worked SO well at delivering both vibrantly productive capitalist competition AND bias toward a middle class so strong it felt utterly secure...

...that the very notion of "class" which every single previous generation of humans, in all societies simply took for granted.

Indeed, FDR's greatest legacy may be that delusion. Otherwise, the periodic class struggle would have been renewed maybe in the 80s, when there were still plenty of Greatest Generation folks around who were familiar with the notion that our social contract must be renewed.

The very idea that a third of our neighbors actually believe the crap that endlessly enriching rent-seeking aristocrats will somehow benefit the middle class is a stunning lesson in how much has been forgotten and will be painfully re-learned.

I fear this relearning process NOT just because one outcome might be a return to feudalism, but because another outcome might be some rabid radicalism of a populist Left. In neither case do I see the slightest sign that any of the radicals have ever read or understood Adam Smith. Or have an inkling what is really at stake.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

Tacitus... please put a smiley face after your "Thank You." because you know darn well the "stubborn" part was followed by words of genuine respect

I took Tacitus to mean "Thank you. Being called 'stubborn' by you is a compliment."

Tacitus2 said...

LarryHart is correct.

The thank you was sincere. Our political disagreements aside I do appreciate our (?) relationship.

Oh, and I don't do emoticons.

The prior post you cite contained some excellent discussion on whether outcomes were influenced by the presidency, or by same/mixed/opposite party in control of Congress. As we look towards fixing things in this country this is an important question.

And I did not make demands, merely requests for ground rules if you wanted me to have another swing at your challenge.


David Brin said...

Tacitus I did my best at ground rules. But even if they remain a bit ambiguous, all that does is put a fuzzy boundary around the way "name one!" proves GOP incompetence by "failure of counter example."

If there were an example that CLEARLY was unambiguous and attributable and major, you'd have leaped on it by now. And competent governors would have had something to point at and crow.

Some effects of GOP rule might have been positive, but ambiguous or hard to attribute. Especially in some STATE govts. I am willing to probe those outlines. Certainly Schwarznegger could lay claim to a few of those, here in CA. Maybe Christ and even Jeb in FLA.

But zooming in on that misses the point. Somehow, somewhen, you sane conservatives will get fed up and rebel. We've been praying for that, ever since way before the turn of the century.

Alex Tolley said...

Fact, is, FDR effectively SAVED capitalism and the wealthy, in America. The aristo fools who demonize him and seek to restore feudalism seem too stupid to realize the alternative to a middle class America — such as FDR built — is not feudalism… but tumbrels. They should be the ones seeking a new Roosevelt.

The presumption is that the model is the French Revolution. That is not what was happening during the Great Depression. What was feared was not that the capitalist model had concentrated the wealth per se, but rather that capitalism had failed and that the recent rise of communism in Russia as an alternative political/economic system would be more attractive. Had this happened, the US and European model would have been overturned. Since there was not yet any evidence of the failure of communism as an economic system, this could have been a possible outcome. Today the failure of communism to manage a large national economy is well established, so this is no longer considered a viable alternative model. That communism was considered a viable model at the time accounts for the virulent anti-communism of mid 20th c. America with associated disastrous wars to contain this threat, as well as the Cold War. Anti-communist expressions today are merely knee jerk, as there is only a tiny minority belief in its viability today.

Whether we "need and FDR today" depends on what features of the man and his administration you focus on. Despite the weak state of western economies, we do not have a sense that capitalism has failed, but rather that the fruits of that system have been concentrated as they were in the gilded age. Even under the most generous assessments of unemployment, the US is nowhere near the rates experienced in the Great Depression, nor at rates still experienced in southern European countries, like Spain. Relatively modest redistributive progressive taxation and public works programs would be sufficient to restore the US economy. Reverting to 1970's more labor friendly laws would also make this country a lot more humane. While I'm asking for a pony, universal healthcare should be added to the list.

locumranch said...

The US system operates in accordance with the 'Golden Rule', by which I mean that he who has the gold makes the rules, which is why Thomas Jefferson advocated the deliberate rejection of said rules if & when they are found to perpetuate injustice.

Many have lost patience with the current state of US bipartisan blame-casting, especially when members of both parties are self-serving profiteers who share equal guilt & equal responsibility for the systemic perpetuation of economic & social injustice.

And, no matter how optimistic you choose to be about 'changing the system from within', or how 'empowered' you feel when voting for the lesser of a two-party evil, you have to admit that the system is fundamentally flawed when our elected federal representatives are no longer common but rich millionaires when (in order to be) elected or they become millionaires shortly thereafter.

Samuel Clemens once quipped that 'There is no distinctly American criminal class - except Congress', and what was once true a century ago is only more so now that the financial stakes have gone from 19th Century 'thousands' to 21st Century 'trillions'.

Truly, it is a sad state of affairs when economic, social & scientific progress is no longer the purview of the common man but said to depend on largesse of a few 'Good Billionaires' who have little or no incentive to be 'good' beyond their own conscience.

That is what I call 'optimism': To leave the fate of a fading democratic superpower in the hands of 'Jiminy Cricket'.


Paul451 said...


Venus may form frost made out of heavy metals on highlands.

Radar from the Messenger probe has suggested permanently dark craters on Mercury contain water-ice. (Which are handy for that girl who said "When hell freezes over...") Recently the mission scientists have figured out how to see in the dark...

(Personally, I just see a crater. But apparently the pattern fits what they expected from dust-covered ice...)

And Saturn's "Death Star" moon, Mimas, has been added to the growing list of moons and bodies with sub-surface oceans probably.

Lloyd Flack said...

Why did Bush end the Iraq war prematurely in 1991?

Multiple reasons I think. There was the reaction to the massive number of Iraqis killed in the convoy fleeing Kuwait. There was the fear on the part of some Arab states that the destruction of Iraqi military power would allow Iran to endanger other Arab countries. And there was the expectation that a humiliating defeat would lead to Husseins's removal in a coup.
I suspect that Bush was too influenced by his Arab allies. The mistake in expecting a coup came, I think, from seeing Hussein's dictatorship as similar in its basis to a European or Latin American military dictatorship. I don't think it was.

Anonymous said...

Re: reciprocal demonization. You should read Gregory Bateson - Schizmogenesis. And then understand the power of regeneration through regression narratives in American culture. Then you will have a much clearer understanding of why this is happening and why Americans are so susceptible to it.

LarryHart said...


you have to admit that the system is fundamentally flawed when our elected federal representatives are no longer common but rich millionaires when (in order to be) elected or they become millionaires shortly thereafter.

As I see it, the fundamental flaw is that the news media is now part of the scam. Money flows from wealthy donors to politicians' campaigns, which they spend on expensive advertising. As the news media benefits from that spending, it is not in their interest to alter that system.

In a healthy system, the news media is the "rating agency" for informing the populace about what they are voting for (or against), just as financial ratings agencies are supposed to inform investors as to the true nature of their portfolio. And just as the banking collapse of 2008 was enabled by deliberate corrpution of the ratings agencies, so is democracy imperiled by the deliberate corrpution of the news media.

FOX was the modern-day prototype of this dynamic, but now every other mainstream news outlet wants to be FOX when they grow up.

Laurent Weppe said...

"The aristo fools who demonize him and seek to restore feudalism seem too stupid to realize the alternative to a middle class America — such as FDR built — is not feudalism… but tumbrels."

Western would-be aristocrats know the tumbrels are coming: they also know that it takes a long time and a lot of abuse to push non-sociopathic humans to go against their hard-wired conflict aversion and start slaughtering their inept lords: their folly is to believe that contrary their predecessors, they will be smart enough to liquidate their assets, transfer their wealth toward a more "stable" polities and leave their countries before their behavior leads to the point of non return.

David Brin said...

Lloyd clearly Bush Sr was ordered to leave Saddam in place and not to allow the creation of a South Iraq Shiite state. The stupidity of that decision is now plain. That state would have been VERY grateful and friendly to us and the remnant Sunni Iraq would have been a rump in which Saddam would likely have been toppled by a coup. But he'd have been harmless in any even, except as a visible stop to Iranian ambitions.

Opportunities... all lost. It is why I despise GHW Bush even more than his son.

Bill said...

Robert Reich has done a bit of creative writing.

Don Gisselbeck said...

I don't think the tumbrels will be needed;
That or bee-sized drones and face recognition software, poisons engineered for a specific genotype,etc.

locumranch said...

The purpose of the first US-Iraq 'action' was to intervene in what amounts to domestic violence (a family squabble) after the (good) Sunni royalty of Kuwait was invaded by the (bad) Sunni dictator of Iraq.

Then, once the US chased out & properly chastised the Bad 'Sonny' for acting out-of-turn, the Good Royal Kuwaiti Sonnies ordered their US mercenaries to stand down because to stand down because (1) blood is thicker than water and (2) the Kuwait Sunnis (who fear & despise the Shite minority) wanted their bad brother to act as a buffer zone between all those other Shites & themselves.

As any civil peace offer can tell you, only a moron intervenes in a domestic violence situation without overwhelming force, since both parities -- even the abused party that they are trying to protect -- will turn on their would be saviors in a heart beat, which means that Bush Sr did the right thing by getting the hell out of there after liberating the Kuwaitis.


Duncan Cairncross said...

As far as Bush Senior is concerned he did exactly what the master told him not to do

Never do somebody a small injury,
If you are going to hurt somebody make it terminal,
Regards, Niccolo

David Brin said...

We agree the Bush family obeyed their masters. Where I disagree with locum is re oughtas.

We oughta have safeguarded Basra and the southern Shiite Arabs with a no-fly zone and aid, just like we did for the Kurds. They would be our friends now and not pals with Iran

And we'd have saved a million lives. Locum is way too cynical.

sociotard said...

While we're on Manchurian Theories:

Did US leadership want Kobane to fall?

Summary: The US has a hard time really supporting Kobane, because that means supporting Kurds, and we are allies with Turkey, who hate Kurds. We can't stop being allies with Turkey, because they're useful against Russia and the middle east. Plus, dead Kurds make good propaganda to show our non-Turkish allies. "see how evil IS is?"

daddyoyo said...

David, I wanted to address the point you have made in this blog and others that it seems as if that the Republican catastrophic policies have been deliberate and not accidental. Consider this quote from George W. Bush as recounted by Mickey Herskowitz: ‘My father had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait and he wasted it.’ He said, ‘If I have a chance to invade….if I had that much capital, I’m not going to waste it. I’m going to get everything passed that I want to get passed." It did work for him, just barely, in 2004. What did he intend to use that capital for? A few months into his second term he attempted to gut FDR's social security system with privatization "reform." Can anyone doubt at this point that Republicans in Congress have been trying to sabotage the economy by shutting down the government, defaulting on our debt, and pushing austerity which has only delayed economic recovery? Then, of course, they will blame Obama.

Tacitus2 said...

History does have other examples of wartime decisions made with the best of intentions and the worst of outcomes.

You can make your own list. It will probably include both leaders you respect and those you despise.

Commander in Chief is the biggest burden to be carried.


raito said...

'In a healthy system, the news media is the "rating agency" for informing the populace about what they are voting for '

And in the current system, there's far more coverage of meta-politics than politics. I never have to look far to find coverage of the latest polling, or who is playing calvinball politics by getting the rules changed. What's a lot harder to find is any decent coverage of where the candidates stand on any issue.

I pity the poor, scared politicians, afraid to make any definitive statement at all for fear someone will jump on them. On the other hand, I really don't like electing cowards, either.

daddyoyo said...

@Tacitus. Read the quote again. Do you consider conquering Iraq in order to provide the political capital to destroy Social Security an example of "best of intentions"?

Tacitus2 said...

Um, no. I was referring to the decision by Bush I to not occupy Iraq during the first Gulf war.

To be honest I had never heard of Mr. Herskowitz before this moment. I do not have a frame of reference to judge his veracity.


Susan Watson said...

Re CITOKATE – Criticism is the only known antidote to error

Indeed, course-correcting feedback responses are required in all dynamic systems. It is not possible to anticipate every future challenge to complex structures. This is why we have error handlers in software and immune systems in our bodies. IMHO it was the lack of the concept of “Loyal Opposition” that knackered the Soviet System.

It was this institutional AIDS that left it vulnerable to normal wear-and-tear and eventually brought it down, not any clever planning by specific opponents.

David Brin said...


Anonymous said...

An entertaining exchange. But you're basically shadow boxing. Doing ballet for the blind.

Putting up logical arguments is a completely useless endeavor. Red States don't vote by logic. They go with their feelings. Mostly they feel frustrated, they yearn for simpler times and black and white. They want very much to believe that answers are simple. And they don't connect poor results with flawed ideology. You might as well be arguing in Klingon for all the effect it has on their opinions.

And they'll get the government they deserve. The ship will sink in interesting ways, and they will never truly understand why.

Not that I think Democratic stewardship is brilliant. Hardly the case. They've certainly earned much of the scorn heaped upon them.

But in a country where people largely hate their government, is it a surprise they're going to elect people who also hate their government?