Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Chapter 7: Oh, the Conspiracies!

I've been posting (for free!) chapters of Polemical Judo, in hope that at least a few of the ideas may percolate through some of you to where they'll do some good.  (Or start fresh with Chapter 1. Or else... actually buy a copy?)

Last time we offered Chapter Six where we discussed some basics of mature conservatism that would be welcome at the negotiating table... if there were any mature conservatives to talk to. Mostly, I listed a vast and depressing rundown of times and issues when they were wrong, wrong and proved utterly wrong by the course of facts.

 Here in Chapter Seven we offer ways to deal with conspiracy theories!. And yes, I wrote this before the Kremlin anf KGB inflicted the madness of QAnon upon us, in hope of converting a bilious Phase 8 ot the American Civil War into a hot and murderous phase nine.

But first a bit of news!  Ranked Choice Voting is on the ballot in Massachusetts and Alaska this year! We’ve used it in science fiction communities to vote for Hugo and Nebula Awards for decades and while not mathematically perfect, it is a huge, huge leap forward from current plurality-voted politics. Anyone you know in those states should be encouraged to support the move. Especially anyone remotely tempted by third parties, since this would at least give them a chance, while still preventing the worst from winning. (The way Nader and Stein supporters screwed us all in 2000 and 2016.)  

And now... from a posting in June 2019 – if you can believe that.[1]

 ===========

 

Chapter 7 of Polemical Judo

 

Oh, the Conspiracies!

  

 Travel anywhere in the world, visit a bar, pub, barbecue or someone’s house or hut – you’ll find one topic easy to spark: conspiracy. No matter the nation, tribe or ethnicity, folks will quickly rail about some group grudge and how “people like me” are being put upon by conniving adversaries who are simultaneously evil and almost super-naturally clever. The world may be filled with fools who believe the cover story. But my brave and savvy folk see the truth!  

 

Naturally, those foes flatter themselves in exactly the same way, both sides muttering fill-in-the-blanks tales, as if from a giant book of Mad-Libs. Texts from olden times reveal the same pattern. Ah, should humans be known as Homo credens, the credulous ape? 


No wonder the age of science seems threatening to many, whose favorite fantasies might shrivel under the light of evidence. I wrote The Transparent Society about how open and reciprocal accountability often reveals what’s true, rather than what feels so satisfying to believe.

 

Alas, there truly are conspirators in this world, flourishing wherever light doesn’t shine. Moreover, they developed a great technique to distract from their own plots – they help spread a stinging miasma of paranoid ravings that genuine schemes can hide behind! (See it illustrated in this stand-alone scene from Existence.[2]) Indeed, the last thing you will contemplate is that your favorite conspiracy might be part of that distraction fog.

 

(LATE 2020 note: This isn’t just me, waving counter-incantations. Researchers have sifted online links and paths taken by a variety of conspiracy theories. Visual representations of those story frameworks showed them how false conspiracy theory narratives are held together by threads that connect multiple characters, places and things. But they found that if even one of those threads is cut, the other elements often can’t form a coherent story without it.)

 


METHODS TO SIFT WHICH PLOTS SEEM PLAUSIBLE

 

Dip your toe. Any conspiracy theory will suck you into a vortex of evidence and “evidence” along with persuasive rants and incantations. Who has the time? Even for ones that appeal to my ego, my prejudices, or my “side” in contemporary tiffs. Hence, I cope via a set of questions to ask, whenever some folks – especially those who are “like me” – foist their favorite Evil Plot That Only We Can See. Let’s start with an example that may infuriate many of you.

 

Question number one: Have trustworthy experts already worked the case? Are they accountable, transparent, and themselves scrutinized by a variety of interests? Are they answerable to multiple, separate structures? This is, after all, one reason we set up civil service with a diversity of agencies and chains of command – then augmented that setup with a free and diverse press – then augmented that with a wide range of member-supported NGOs, from Greenpeace to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

(And if you aren't a dues paying member of a dozen NGOs, each fighting for a future you believe in, then take another look at the hypocrite in the mirror. That method is a lazy person's cheap route to bragging rights: “I’m at least doing something.” Here's how.[3])

 

Of course, this network of accountability systems is exactly what conspiracy believers claim has failed. Indeed, they hold that such a thing – accountability through competitive openness – is impossible. Certainly Hollywood portrays accountable professionalism to be nonexistent in government. Writers and directors do this often not to promote SoA, but for reasons of lazy plotting that I describe elsewhere.[4] And in so doing, they spread a poison.

 

To be clear, betrayal by governmental powers belongs way up there on our list of things to watch for! Take the way one man – J. Edgar Hoover – for decades dominated the top layers of U.S. federal criminal investigation, often deciding to pursue or quash cases at whim. Still, we have inarguably the least corrupt institutions in the history of humanity. (If you doubt that, do try slipping a fifty to that cop giving you a ticket.) So, while Mr. Transparency, here extols “sousveillance” and looking-back at power, I am also skeptical toward raving paranoia.

 

Which is not entirely a symptom of the mad right! Take the lefty "Loose Change" conspiracy theory, about the 9/11 calamity - that the World Trade Center towers were deliberately demolished by explosives planted over the course of months, to distract from the intended target, WTC building #7. Among dozens of ways that theory is loony, explosives leave chemical residues, and the wreckage was sampled not by one agency, but scores of them plus news organizations, NGOs and private citizens. Moreover, there was no lack of available debris to analyze.[5]

 

Question number one allows you to deal with some, not all, of the most ridiculous purported plots – those presuming there are no competent people in the world. Which brings us to –

 

Test #2: How many conspirators are needed by this scheme? How perfect a plan and execution? Loose Change is an extremum test case for these questions. It would take dozens, even scores of the most skilled experts in building demolition to plant the required explosives, and others skilled at hiding charges behind walls and in stand pipes, plus dozens more providing security.[6] The entire WTC security staff must be suborned or replaced, but there’s no record of such replacements. (Most died in the disaster.) That’s at least a hundred henchmen, performing a task never done before amid vacuum-tight secrecy and executed with perfection never seen in any government project. Oh, plus another several hundred to perform the bizarre other half of this theory, faking the aircraft hijackings!

 

Now, you might answer: “I don't believe in the Loose Change conspiracy! Whereas MY favorite one…” Hm, well, show me even one popular conspiracy theory cult that has analyzed points number one and two? Then of course there’s right wing dizziness such as the mania that swarms over the death of ex-DNC staffer Seth Rich. But we deal with Clinton-Obama tirades in due course.

 

In Chapter 5 we discussed ravings of a “Deep State” conspiracy among civil servants, FBI agents, the entire intelligence community and much of the senior military officer corps, in cahoots with nearly all the scientists, journalists, teachers and so on… another case where tests #1 and #2 are devastating. Which brings us to –

 

#3: Why would the conspirators choose to do it? What would convince each and all of them to betray his or her oaths, profession, conscience and country? I’m not saying it doesn't happen! The Watergate break-ins and cover-ups involved a fair number of moderately (not very) skilled people who did it all for combinations of money, hatred, loyalty-to-a-faction and potential advancement to power. 

 

Let me repeat: I know there are conspiracies! Indeed, it’s laughable to ignore the most blatant one called Fox News, which openly works for a mélange of foreign billionaires, from the Saudis to Russian mafiosi, from Macao casino lords to an Australian deceit mogul. We’ll get to their motives and methods in several chapters. And lest we forget, the left was rife with secret foreign agents and nasty plots, at times in the last century… and may go down that path, yet again.

 

Still test #3 is a potent one. In our extreme example, none of the “Loose Change” zealots offer a plausible reason why even one skilled person would be remotely tempted to devote immense energy and dedication to performing such a heinous act on behalf of some currency speculators, let along several hundred of our most capable public servants or officers. 

 

Money? Please. That you would assume so speaks more about your inherent corruptibility, than theirs. Which brings us to a really big one –

 

#4: Why take the risk? Loose Change offers such a great example of every maniacally stupid conspiracy theory trait. And so, ponder a thought that would go through the mind of every skilled conspirator:

 

These fellows working on this evil plot next to me… any one of them could have recorded our activities and conversations. An hour from now, that fellow over there may spill it all to the FBI and the New York Times. He'll be a hero, get rewards and speaking gigs and be on talk shows forever, while the rest of us get arrested, tried and then parceled out to prisons where both the inmates and guards will make life hell for traitors and attempted mass murderers.

 

At which point he'd think: “Maybe… I better be the guy who blabs first.”

 

Seriously, how do you stop defections? Communists were dedicated, yet we pulled in defectors all the time. ISIS and Al Qaeda are zealous, yet they leaked like sieves. Yes, you can both inspire and terrify your henchmen into mass-uniformity if you run a powerful state like China, Russia, or Saudi Arabia or a narco-kleptocracy, where their families can be crushed at will. But show me how that would work in a Loose Change scenario.

 

Seth Rich? Seriously? Show me a Democrat who can keep his or her damn mouth shut! Now show me the dozens who would have to be complicit, from local law enforcement to the nearby FBI bureau office, to the victim’s family.

 

Again, I’m not saying conspiracies don't happen. But consider, the first thing any conspirator with an IQ above slime-mold does is to establish murder insurance. You do this by setting up delay-drops containing everything you know, to be released in the event anything happens to you. Don’t these people ever watch movies?

 

Question #4 – is the biggie. As a society we should be making it our top transparency priority to reinforce it, by encouraging, not punishing whistle blowers. Elsewhere (Chapter 5) I describe ways to do this that could be entirely consistent with running a healthy and effective civil service. We should do this via both law and via private foundations that offer what I’ve called “Henchman’s Prizes.”[7] 

 

One urgent example? It has long been blatantly clear that several of the manufacturers of voting machines in the U.S. have suspicious connections to both Russia and the Republican Party. Is it coincidence that in most “blue” states, the voting machines are augmented by paper ballots or receipts that can be hand counted and audited, while most red states have refused that simple confidence and security backup? As of this writing, nothing has been revealed that is prosecutable - just a stench of the sort that propels so many conspiracy theories. 

 

But the stink got overwhelming in August 2019, when voting machines in Texas and Mississippi were caught blatantly switching votes before the voter's eyes. (See videos of it happening! [8] But don't worry. They'll remedy the "blatantly" part and hide it from the voter in the booth.)


Dig this about plausible conspiracies and Question #4. One rich dude might possibly fixvoting machine treason, by offering a $5 million whistleblower prize - plus guaranteed protection and hero status - for the employee of any company who brings forth proof of cheating. If proof doesn't appear, you don't pay! (But nevertheless instill fear in those bastards.) If you do wind up paying, you become a hero for saving the nation. How can that not be a win-win?

 

The easier we make it for henchmen to defect, the fewer of them Blofeld, Dr. Evil and their ilk will be able to hire and trust.[9] And so, we come to – 

 

#5: Who benefits? Oliver Stone slandered LBJ as the obvious beneficiary of JFK's murder. It sounds movie-plausible, till you realize how desperately Johnson slaved and strived (and aged), aiming to make all of Kennedy's hopes and plans come true. Alas, that included JFK's horrific-macho ambitions in Vietnam, but also - on the brighter side - civil rights, the vastly-if-still-partially-successful War on Appalachian Poverty, achievements in space and so on. Is that utter loyalty to every goal consistent with spite and conspiracy to murder? (See Bryan Cranston's film, All the Way.)

 

In fact, I’ve never found anyone who palpably benefited from the Kennedy assassination, though revenge is another matter. JFK had haters, ranging from Cuban communists and Cuban anti-communist exiles to the KGB, to the KKK, to the Mafia, to Marilyn Monroe fans… all the way to the armed, dangerously loony, individually motivated and perfectly situated expert marksman Lee Harvey Oswald.[10]

 

On the other hand, other conspiracies have blatant beneficiaries. Fox News has been a money machine for Rupert Murdoch and his partners (who for many years included Saudi royals). Even more important, it helped sustain the Supply Side “Voodoo” Economics (SSVE) cult[11] long after that madness was scientifically refuted, allowing Murdoch's pals to raid the US taxpayer time and again, for trillions. Above all, by fomenting culture war – also known as phase 8 of the U.S. civil war (Chapter 14) – Murdoch's shills have accomplished his top goal: the destruction of U.S. politics as a means for adults to deliberate policy and negotiate solutions across party lines. Gridlock is the goal, along with demolition of any trust between the people and the government that they own. So yes, that conspiracy passes the “who benefits” test.

 

Note that all five of these questions, so far, are simple and straightforward, and make demands upon the conspiracy ranters, not upon you. Which brings us to –

 

#6: Who is strenuously keeping things dark?  We don’t know for sure (yet) that there was direct collusion between Donald Trump and the Kremlin. But Trump’s absolute refusal to allow any look into his finances, or his behaviors in Moscow, or during half a dozen secret debriefings with foreign despots that lacked any credible U.S. witnesses, show someone who is desperate not to allow light onto those topics. 

 

Now add his obstruction of professional investigations and you have behavior that is certainly far more consistent with a conspiracy than most of the fantasies boiling around.

 

#7: Is there a devastating rebuttal/answer to the Conspiracy Theory?  Is there a short, sharp shock that would tear it to shreds?

 

We already illustrated this one with a crushing example – when yarn-pinning ravers persuaded millions that George Soros is diabolical meddler so powerful he toppled Eight Foreign Governments!  In Chapter 5, I posed a simple question that not a single audience member or Beck-critic ever asked: “Say Glenn, how about naming those foreign regimes that George Soros toppled?”


There's a reason Beck never said their names. Because doing so would devastate his entire conspiracy narrative beyond all hope of recovery. Take that example to heart. Ponder whether the next conspiracy offered to you has such an Achilles Heel.

 

#8: Am I doing due diligence by weighing critics of this thing and seeking smart/balanced arbiters?  I can almost guarantee you aren’t. Heck, I'm lazy too. Still, I offered a number of ways that our modern fact-arbitrating systems can be improved, not by ensconcing some elites to rule on Truth, but using the competitive/adversarial process we're already so good at. 

I pitched some of these ideas at Facebook headquarters in 2017, when the company was panicking over its role in 2016 election travesties. Alas, soon they were smugly back to assuring “We can handle this top-down, trust us.” 

 

How's that going for you?

#9: Why should we trust your elites? 
In Chapter 2, I spoke of the central message in most Hollywood films – Suspicion of Authority, or SoA, which has amplified the conspiracy-antennae, especially in most Americans. The basic difference between a decent, rational liberal and a decent, rational conservative is which group they worry is conspiring to become Big Brother. 

 

Of course, given human history, we ought to conclude that all elites are inherently dangerous. All will be tempted to abuse power, while rationalizing that it is for the greater good.  Ideally, we warily guard each other’s backs. Ideally. Our systems were set up by very clever people so that elites will compete with each other! In their rivalry – sometimes called separation of powers – we have found a way to prevent any one of them from becoming an Orwellian monolith.

 

So yes, examine conspiracy theories! I concoct and promulgate some, in both fiction and nonfiction. And if you’ll have a look at mine, I’ll have a gander at yours. It’s how we managed to stay free. So far. 

 

That synergy breaks down when – amid re-ignited civil war – one side has convinced all its partisans that freedom can be harmed only from one direction. I regularly make efforts to prove I do not have such a fused political spine – that I can turn my head. While I declare – based on mountains of proof – that today's American right has gone insane, in service to a rising oligarchy bent on re-starting feudalism…

 

…I often eviscerate shibboleths of a much smaller loony far-left, and urge sane liberals to be wary of those allies.  (See Chapter 12 and this: The miracle and compromise of 1947.[12])

 

THESE TESTS ARE ONLY A START

 

Are there real-life, bona fide conspiracies? Of course! Our civilization is threatened by some as we speak. It is to distract from real ones that so many false imbecilities are spewed. These questions won’t eliminate or parse them all. Again, I show some scary places this can lead in my novel Existence.

 

Over the long run, we must employ experts whose job it is to inspect possible crimes, both investing some trust in the skilled professionalism of our civil servants and striving to increase their diverse accountability, their sense that they live and work under scrutiny and light. Only with this combination of high professionalism and fierce citizen oversight do we stand a chance of navigating a bright but ever foggy era.

===



FOOTNOTES

[1] http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2019/06/oh-conspiracies.html

 

[2] https://www.wattpad.com/5827990-the-smartest-mob-a-chapter-from-existence

 

[3] “The Power of Proxy Activism.” http://www.davidbrin.com/nonfiction/proxyactivism.html

 

[4] “The idiot plot: why films never show competence.” http://www.davidbrin.com/idiotplot.html

 

[5] Don't get me started on the "melting temperature of steel" drivel that's fountained by fools.

 

[6] You'd also need electronic timing and ignition systems similar to those used in nuclear bombs.

 

[7] “Attention Henchmen! Voting Machines and Other Flawed Conspiracies.” http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2012/10/attention-henchmen-voting-machines-and.html

 

[8] Red state voting machines caught switching votes on camera. https://www.newsweek.com/touch-screen-voting-devices-are-automatically-changing-votes-mississippi-1456445

 

[9] http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2012/10/attention-henchmen-voting-machines-and.html

 

[10] “Who benefits” can be extended to plotters who thought they would benefit, but failed. Far more plausible than Oliver Stone’s insipid scenario (based on zero real evidence) that JFK was about to pull out of Vietnam, consider the very opposite, that some U.S. officers saw we were heading into a quagmire and sought to eliminate the uber-macho leader who was plunging us into a devastating mess. Do I believe this? Of course not. But I can concoct paranoid scenarios far better than those going stale on our DVD shelves.

 

[11] The stunningly perfect record of Supply Side always being 100% wrong. http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2010/02/a-primer-on-supply-side-vs-demand-side.html

 

[12] The miracle and compromise of 1947. http://www.davidbrin.com/1947.html

 


Saturday, September 12, 2020

Chapter 6: Credibility? How Often the Right Has Been Wrong

I've been posting (for free!) chapters of Polemical Judo, in hope that at least a few of the ideas may percolate through some of you to where they'll do some good.  (Or start fresh with Chapter 1. Or else... actually buy a copy?)

Last time we offered the second half of Chapter 5: End the War on Facts!  Here we'll offer Chapter Six where I start getting fierce. No more reaching out, with things we have in common and could negotiate. (Well, in fact, I start the chapter with just such an olive branch!)

 But it's time to make very clear how very often the American conservative movement has been on the utterly wrong side of facts, justice, truth and history. Even Barry Goldwater admitted as much, near the end of his life.

Use these lists. (And see several inserted updates from September 2020, including one addendum about GOP Perverts, Abusers And Pedophiles.)


"I’ve gotten tons of messages “I’m losing fans” by expressing my dissatisfaction with our corrupt, incompetent President. While I appreciate people encouraging me to choose fame and money over decency, I’m afraid I’ll never be Donald Trump." -- Jim Gaffigan



=========

 


Polemical Judo - Chapter 6

 

Credibility?

How Often the Right Has Been Wrong



Here I'll offer two lists concerning American conservatism. One recounts grownup and rational "conservative" stances that have always been welcome at the negotiating table. In fact we're poorer not to have such voices speaking up skeptically, even demanding accountability from… well… liberal zealotry. 

The other list - alas - is much longer, presenting case after case in which conservatives wrecked their credibility by screaming against clear science, genuine progress or honesty itself.
 [1] In example after example, time proved them not just wrong, but calamitously and tendentiously wrong. From tobacco and smog to drug wars and gerrymandering, it's a litany our neighbors try desperately to forget.  

And yes, there were liberal errors. Two of them on a par with any single item on the conservative list. I'll cite those also, down at bottom.

 

 

WHAT DEFENSIBLE – EVEN GOOD – IDEAS

MIGHT CONSERVATIVES BRING TO THE TABLE?


In Chapters 3 & 13 & 19 I call for a Big Tent that welcomes saner versions of conservatism[2] – for example those reminding us that market competition is the great generator of wealth, the very wealth that then enables good things, like spending taxes to help poor kids. Indeed, before the movement was suborned by petro-sheiks, coal barons, casino moguls, mafiosi, inheritance brats, Wall Street shysters, tabloid monsters and rebranded KGB/Kremlin conspirators, there were American conservatives who held up core conservative values (CCV), staking reasonable negotiating positions on:


- generating market alternatives to government solutions...

- reducing the overhead burden of excess paperwork...

- reduction in debt burdens passed to our children…

- individualism that transcends dogma or party lines…

- changing one’s mind in the face of strong evidence…

defending free trade between states and between nations…

- encouraging responsible gun ownership...

- encouraging genuine competition in flat-fair-open-creative markets…

- encouraging fiscal responsibility with our tax dollars…

- encouraging voluntary service...

- encouraging startup entrepreneurship...

- encouraging home ownership and a rising middle class... 

- investment in an educated/healthy workforce...

- investment in infrastructure... 

- investment in federal R&D beyond most corporate ROI horizons...

- environmental stewardship... 

- honest, long range thinking in board rooms...

- Resistance to “picking winners and losers” – going there only for a clear, long range need (e.g. sustainable energy)... 

- defending the right of millions to live demure lives without in-your-face shock confrontation.[3]

 

That list surely has our RASR friends nodding: “Okay, he gets it, somewhat.” Moreover, if you liberals could not have compiled that list, while grudgingly admitting there’s some wisdom there, then you’ve made no effort to understand your neighbors. You’re thereby not just narrow-minded, but ill-equipped for today’s struggles. 

 

If that list were truly the essential manifesto of a sane-grownup American conservatism, there’d be room for negotiation! Indeed, we need for all of those imperatives to be presented cogently on the table. Only now the bad news. 


Alas, out of all the goals listed above, only a bilious version of the last one remains in today's mutant conservatism. The rest have been functionally (if not polemically) dropped by the Republican-Confederate madness. And ironically, every item has been adopted by some or most sectors of a liberalism that already had plenty else on its plate. (And yes, Democrats did all the useful de-regulating, paperwork reduction, fiscal responsibility and defense of individualism; offer me wager stakes on that, please. See Chapters 8 & 10.)

 

Later on I will offer our Residually Adult-Sane Republican (RASR) friends a historical parallel for what they might consider trying, in order to recover those core conservative values and our respect… something the Democrats did to save their party, back in the “Miracle of 1947.” That is, if those “sane conservatives” have guts.[4]

    

“A conservatism defined by ideas can hold its own against progressivism, winning converts to its principles and evolving with each generation. A conservatism defined by identity reduces the complex calculus of politics to a simple arithmetic question—and at some point, the numbers no longer add up.”  

 

- from How America Ends, by Yoni Appelbaum

- The Atlantic, November 2019[5]

 

Yoni Appelbaum’s Atlantic essay – one of the most cogent commentaries on the American dilemma, describes how U.S. conservatism has survived and often thrived not by futilely opposing in horizon-expansion and inclusion, but by participating in our unique process of absorption and inclusion.[6]

 

 

GOOD THINGS PROMISED… AND BETRAYED

 

Remember how I opened this book by citing Newt Gingrich’s “Contract With America”? Have you looked again – or ever – at that masterful piece of polemical brilliance? Here are the "good parts" of that Contract the GOP never kept:

 

 - require that laws that apply to the country also apply to Congress; 
 - arrange for regular audits of Congress for waste, fraud or abuse; 
 - limit terms of committee chairs and party leadership posts; 
 - ban the proxy votes in committee and law-writing by lobbyists; 
 - require committee meetings to be open & public; 
 - guarantee honest accounting of our federal budget.

 

Really, who could object to those items? Indeed, what could be a more powerful blow to the GOP than to remind Americans of such broken promises... and then for Democrats to fulfill them at long last? (While mocking the "bad" parts of the Contract that were fulfilled.)

 

Instead of railing at them uniformly, let’s gall old Newt as he now sucks up to Trumpists, by reminding folks that about the quarter of the time he actually tried to get some stuff done, like negotiating some legislation and budget reform with President Bill Clinton. Imagine how that’d irk him.

 

Then bring in how Newt’s the one who upped the savage war on facts, by dismissing the Office of Technology Assessment and other advisory boards that had an inconvenient habit of telling the truth.

 

SO WHAT’S THEIR TRACK RECORD?


Let's be clear. U.S. Conservatives are in no position to lecture us, given what they’ve let happen to their movement. Moreover, while conservative skepticism-toward-excess-bureaucracy is welcome, when it’s sane, we need to recall how often they have been wrong, wrong, wrong, and again wrong... but want us to forget:

 

- Prohibition…

- Break up monopolies? Never! (And curse that class traitor Roosevelt!)
- Aid to farmers? Never! (And curse that other class betraying Roosevelt!)

- Dalliance with fascism, then appeasing Hitler and isolationism…
- Tobacco? No worries... (cough)

- Acid Rain… then ocean acidification…

- Cars don’t cause no smog!

- McCarthyism...

- Burning Rivers...

- Keep the lead in gasoline!

- The insane War on Drugs...

- Who needs seat belts in cars? 

- Vietnam[7]...

- Resisting Civil Rights[8] and hating on MLK[9]... 

- Watergate, defending Nixon long past proof of treason...

- Resisting women’s rights...

- Throw into prison Vets with PTSD who get relief from marijuana…

- Supply Side lies and outright theft of trillions...

- Resisting easy fixes to the ozone layer...

- Resisting mileage efficiency and safety in vehicles…

- Unleashing the surge in gambling, vice, and casino mafiosi...

- Climate change denialism and science hating...
- Claiming moral superiority while Red America scores worse in every category of turpitude, from teen sex/pregnancy/STD/abortions to gambling, domestic violence, divorce, alcoholism etc...

More supply side voodoo so-called “economics”… 

- Divorce was a bad thing, right? Till they realized the rate is far higher for top Republicans., with12 marriages among just Reagan, Hastert, Gingrich, McConnell, Trump… 

- Most traitor spies since 1955 were Republican...

- Most child molester politicians...
- Iraq Wars, based on outright lies...
- Undermining energy independence...
- A proven track record of far worse economic outcomes[10]... 

- Gerrymandering, crooked voting machines, voter suppression and other blatant cheats …

- Moscow-collusion and other blatant treasons...

- Birtherism and other hydrophobic Clinton-Obama jeremiads…
- Open war against all fact-centered professions; science, teaching, journalism, medicine, law and "deep state" public servants...

- Kowtowing to Vladimir Putin, Rupert Murdoch, Saudi princess, Wall Street parasites, inheritance brats & Trumps...

 

You know the list can go on and on. What kills is how blithely they shrug aside this past record, as if it bears no relevance to present credibility. But they know it does. Want proof? In the section on “Name an Exception!” I’ll issue the following challenge. (And it was micro-glimpsed earlier.) But let’s preview it here:


Name one top GOP leader between Eisenhower and Ryan who was even mentioned at the 2016 Republican Convention. Except for Reagan and Newt Gingrich, all were brushed under the rug, including both Presidents Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Dennis (convicted child molester) Hastert, Tom (convicted felon) DeLay, John Boehner and so on. That’s how writhing ashamed Republicans are, of their record at governance. 


(LATE NOTE IN SEPTEMBER 2020: The recent 2020 RNC was even more blatant! Even Newt was left off. There was only a perfuctory mention of the former GOP deity, Ronald Reagan!)

 

Why does no Democrat hammer this point? That if you disavow those past Republican administrations as incompetent, Russia-hating, enterprise-destroying, warmongering liars, then where is your party’s credibility to be trusted with power? 


Credibility? What’s that?

 

 

HOW CAN YOU BE WRONG SO OFTEN?

 

A dozen states have legalized marijuana for recreational use, and a dozen more allow prescription relief from pain, nausea and PTSD. It’s a good time to wonder at the misery and lives lost to the insane “War on Drugs.” Certainly, both parties initially took part in this mania that wracked our cities and sent billions into the pockets of the very worst humans. The issue isn’t ‘do we make mistakes?’ but rather ‘are we willing to let evidence of an obstinate error finally change our minds?’

 

I am reminded of the words of the great futurist, Alvin Toffler: “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.

 

An example that’s so amusing… and biting. NPR recently reported that “John Boehner Was Once 'Unalterably Opposed' To Marijuana. He Now Wants It To Be Legal.”[11] Ah, an example of Republican flexibility? Alas, read on about Boehner’s close ties to a burgeoning cannabis industry. Moreover, the hypocrisy is even greater among our dear libertarian friends, who have long railed against the Drug War, but refuse to budge in their hate-Democrats-more-than-Republicans reflex, even after blue states have led the way against prohibition. (And are fiscally more responsible and have done more deregulating.)

 

How far back does it go? Climate denialism spews from some of the same ad agencies that promoted "tobacco is harmless,” “cars don't cause smog,” and “no seat belts in autos!” While waging open war on science, this cult sabotages research on whether America and our children and world are in danger from planet-changing pollution. (I’ll discuss this in a soon to be released follow-up to this book.)

 

At age 19, I helped run the famous Clean Air Car Race,[12] which was covered every night on Walter Cronkite’s CBS Evening News. Among many innovations, that transcontinental demo-rally featured the world’s first hybrid car and several that disproved all the lies about unleaded gas then spread by SOBs who declared autos would shatter and capitalism collapse if lead were banned. Was our nationally viewed refutation effective? Within months after the race, a bill banning leaded gas emerged from committee, and twenty years after the U.S. banished that poison, crime rates plummeted, as lead-free children reached maturity with healthier brains.[13] Today bald eagles soar again, because we limited DDT. Folks eat fish caught along sweet riverbanks in downtown Pittsburgh, and every species of whale still exists… all because we acted on warnings… and no communist hell descended. 

 

Dare we repeat that? Not a bit of the predicted communist hell descended, not even black UN helicopters. Though there was a plague of amnesia, as our rightist neighbors forget they were wrong about every one of those things.

 

See: “Toxic Sludge Is Good For You, which is a history of public relations.”[14] as well as “How clean air transformed American cities.”[15]

 

Like Supply Side Voodoo Economics… the 100% disproved assertion that giant tax gifts to the rich will get invested in productive new goods and services, rather than asset bubbles and hoard-slowed money velocity. Or that skyrocketing wealth disparities will somehow help generate a fecund, flat-fair-competitive market economy. And if you tire of my repetition, then you don’t get the main lesson of this book… that repetition is key to polemical victory!

 

Do you recall when GOP masters forecast doom to the entire U.S. auto industry, if new efficiency standards were imposed? What were the actual results of the Obama-Pelosi 2009 CAFÉ rules? Across-the-board improvement in our cars, which now have vastly higher quality in every category while actually dropping in year-adjusted price, compared to other costs of living, while saving consumers tens of billions at the pump. A win-win that the Trumpists are reversing… while liberals stupidly point only at the pollution aspects, instead of the big picture.

 

The U.S. military is made up of people who tend toward a crewcut-conservative personality. Yet, the officer corps is also fact-centered. The armed services were the first American institutions to realize that racism, and later sexism, simply wasted talent that skilled defenders could not afford to forego. Likewise, officers know that climate change is a real threat to the republic, and that foreigners meddling in our elections pose real danger, possibly at the level of war. Alas, do Republicans take the advice of soberly sagacious officers? No. The latest catechism spilling from Fox is that these men and women who serve and protect us – along with the intelligence agencies and FBI - are all conniving “deep state” enemies of Real America. [16]

 

I’ve been dancing around the big one. Climate Change. We’ll get there later. But again we see that the special interests, lobbyists and ad agencies are still very much the same, using similar delaying tactics and incantations as for tobacco.

 

It’s sad that RASR conservatives – many of whom I like – can never tabulate how often their side has been flat-out wrong and learn from this that they need to revise – not their best Core Conservative Values, but their reflexes and methodologies. And especially whom they accept as allies. 

 

ADDENDUM ON PERVERTS, ABUSERS AND PEDOPHILES


Another note from September 2020: Among the countless calumnies that the KGB funnels through the QAnon madhouse is the raving that Democrats are baby-eating pedophiles. No MAGA would bet even a dollar that any of it is true - they know it's not, but adore our looks of bollixed frustration and whining demands for proof!


What's especially galling is that the rate of sexual perversion, pedophilia, child porn, domestic abuse and general nastiness seems especially rampant among Republican politicians. We recall Roy Moore and Larry Craig and I often cite Dennis "friend to boys" Hastert, who was head of the whole GOP and made Speaker of the House for 6 years. Look into Rep. Jim Jordan and this Oklahoma Trump campaign chair convicted of child sex trafficking... and another... and another... and another... and... and... and it goes on and on. But let's just leave it as an offer of a $10,000 wager offer that the list of very serious perversions and crimes is far longer among GOP pols than democratic ones.


And that leaves out 700+ Southern Baptist pastors accused... and 200 or so convicted... of various perversions and abuses.  DOn't throw stones, guys.



THE DESPERATE NEED FOR A SANE-ADULT

CENTER-RIGHT PARTY

 

Before you gloat over the apparent intention of the Republican Party to self-destruct at a gibbet of fanaticism, consider a sobering historical correlation and danger sign. The Fox/Putin systematic destruction of moderate conservatism has dangerous implications, as Yoni Appelbaum points out, in the previously cited Atlantic article How America Ends

 

“In his recent study of the emergence of democracy in Western Europe, the political scientist Daniel Ziblatt zeroes in on a decisive factor distinguishing the states that achieved democratic stability from those that fell prey to authoritarian impulses. 

 

“The key variable was not the strength or character of the political left, or of the forces pushing for greater democratization, so much as the viability of the center-right. A strong center-right party could wall off more extreme right-wing movements, shutting out the radicals who attacked the political system itself….  

 

“If groups that traditionally have enjoyed privileged positions see a future for themselves in a more democratic society, Ziblatt finds, they will accede to it. But if “conservative forces believe that electoral politics will permanently exclude them from government, they are more likely to reject democracy outright.””

 

This is just another reason to be ready with an olive branch to offer any and all ‘RASRs’ who are willing to renounce their movement’s fealty to mafia-oligarchy, and who will help re-establish the primacy of facts. All else is negotiable! But without those two things, we are forced to accept a bitter truth. That sane conservatives have turned a blind eye to their duty, to country, civilization and conservatism. At which point, we’ll just have to save all of those things, ourselves. 

 

 

DEMOCRATS AREN’T ALWAYS RIGHT

 

After all of those examples, should the conservative position always be discredited?

 

Nonsense. Criticism makes us better and countless potential errors in liberal programs were detected in advance by constructively critical conservative colleagues… a help that the Republican Party refused during this century, under the “Hastert Rule.” This led to some errors in Obamacare that had to be corrected later, again without GOP help.

 

An earlier point that I’ll reiterate many times, aimed at every dogmatic purist out there: Are you actually asserting that YOU - the reader - are absolutely 100% right, with no margin of error?


Dig it (and this is good news!) Your enemies are likely no more than 99% wrong! Possibly as little as 50%, if you allow for all those shared instincts and reflexes (Chapter 2) and build common ground.

 

Moreover, have you the character strength to sift through your opponents’ maelstrom of “wrongness” for those slivers where they actually had a point? Sure it sounds noxious, but they may be rewards! Not only will that boost your cred, when arguing with them, or convincing third parties that you’re the reasonable one. 

 

You may even discover one of your own errors to correct!  Because – and hold on now – you are likely no more than 99% right! Possibly as little as 90%. And finding those errors isn’t just a matter of honesty. It can help you (ultimately) to win.

 

Indeed, sometimes a conservative assertion proves correct!  Take the greatest mistake of modern American liberalism, which badly hurt the movement, shattered the Greatest Generation’s Rooseveltian coalition, and helped restart the Confederacy across America – an insanity called desegregation by forced school busing. It was an aggressively coercive lefty “innovation” of pyrotechnic stupidity, in which arrogant “reformers” stubbornly ignored every bit of evidence that their position was pigheaded and wrong. And above all, self-destructive. In the process, they handed the Republican Party thirty million or more formerly Democratic voters, an advantage the oligarchy has exploited, ever since. 

 

Let me further avow (though it will cost me!) what anyone knows, who has spent time on a modern American university campus. There are dogmatic leftist bullies who routinely take over swathes of soft-studies departments, wherefrom they issue grand, post-modernist tracts denouncing the “colonialist” concept of objective reality. Suppressing open debate, they crow over campus-level PC victories[17] that have no pertinence or effects in the real world, but that do give Foxzoids plenty of ammo for hysterical finger-pointing: “See? This is what liberals are like!” Thanks… allies. 

 

Universities should be places that encourage diversity, debate, and courage. For example, this article demands affirmative action for conservatives on college faculty.[18] “Liberal colleges are recruiting conservative professors to 'stir up some trouble.'” 

 

While this book is 99% a tactical guide to defeating monstrous, right-wing confederatism, I am fine with inviting back to campus anyone who might talk again about those CCV values we viewed at the start of this chapter. Kewl! I love good debates. I want there to be fact-loving and cogently collegial conservative voices on campus. Alas, that the sub-species is now rare, verging on extinction. All the more reason to offer habitat and breeding grounds, free of rabid Fox disease.

 

Anyway, anecdotes about campus lefty-flakery have zero bearing on the vast majority of moderate-pragmatic, science and fact loving Democrats. 

 

Sadly, “Ostrich Republicans” have one final incantation. Desperate to keep their heads buried in denial they chant: “I know my side has gone insane… but… but… but Democrats are worse! Yeah, that’s the ticket! Democrats are just as crazy… or worse!” 

 

Um… sorry, but not

 

Ronald Reagan used to chant “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party left me!” Then he proceeded to begin dismantling every aspect of the Rooseveltian social contract that the Greatest Generation – including activist young Ronald Reagan – helped to build.

 

You RASRs and ostriches out there, can you lift your head and look around? Blink in dismay and realize that the Republican Party long ago left you. It has left America, honesty and sanity.

===

    

    Next time... Oh! The Conspiracies!

====

 

FOOTNOTES

[1] http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2017/12/the-pattern-from-jim-crow-to-smog.html

 

[2] http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2019/05/crushing-crazy.html

 

[3] Referred to in the previous chapter as ‘nagging.’

 

[4] How mature conservatives might save US conservatism: http://www.davidbrin.com/nonfiction/1947.html

 

[6] “The conservative strands of America’s political heritage—a bias in favor of continuity, a love for traditions and institutions, a healthy skepticism of sharp departures—provide the nation with a requisite ballast. America is at once a land of continual change and a nation of strong continuities. Each new wave of immigration to the United States has altered its culture, but the immigrants themselves have embraced and thus conserved many of its core traditions. To the enormous frustration of their clergy, Jews and Catholics and Muslims arriving on these shores became a little bit congregationalist, shifting power from the pulpits to the pews. Peasants and laborers became more entrepreneurial. Many new arrivals became more egalitarian. And all became more American.

    “By accepting these immigrants, and inviting them to subscribe to the country’s founding ideals, American elites avoided displacement. The country’s dominant culture has continually redefined itself, enlarging its boundaries to retain a majority of a changing population. When the United States came into being, most Americans were white, Protestant, and English. But the ineradicable difference between a Welshman and a Scot soon became all but undetectable. Whiteness itself proved elastic, first excluding Jews and Italians and Irish, and then stretching to encompass them. Established Churches gave way to a variety of Protestant sects, and the proliferation of other faiths made “Christian” a coherent category; that broadened, too, into the Judeo-Christian tradition. If America’s white Christian majority is gone, then some new majority is already emerging to take its place—some new, more capacious way of understanding what it is to belong to the American mainstream.”

[7] Vietnam was a bipartisan catastrophe. LBJ came that close to saving us from JFK’s biggest mistake, then decided to stay. But there’s one difference between parties since Vietnam. Democrats may wage war (See Chapter __), but they hate sending in whole armies. Republicans love it. 

 

[8] Stomp flat every attempt to say Democrats are still the party of George Wallace and Republicans still the party of Lincoln. The flip is so blatant.

 

[9] … till suddenly you always loved him, right.

 

[10] Outcomes comparison: http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2014/06/so-do-outcomes-matter-more-than-rhetoric.html

 

[11] Boehner and pot. https://www.npr.org/2019/03/16/704086782/john-boehner-was-once-unalterably-opposed-to-marijuana-he-now-wants-it-to-be-leg

 

[12] Only decades later did I put together how seminal and important the Clean Air Car Race was. http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2013/01/getting-lead-out-quirky-tale-of-saving.html

 

[13]   See Neil Tyson's Cosmos episode about this. https://www.space.com/25579-cosmos-recap-earth-age-lead-poisoning.html

 

[14] Toxic Sludge Is Good For You, which is a history of public relations. https://www.prwatch.org/tsigfy.html

 

[15] https://www.salon.com/2019/03/17/how-clean-air-transformed-american-cities/

 

[16] Again, never neglect the insipid complicity of liberals, who aren’t leaping to embrace these desperately needed allies.

 

[17] The entire “neocon” movement, which connived to justify both Iraq wars, had its roots in men like Nitze, Perle, Adelman, Wolfowitz etc., former students of a mad, ingrate-mesmerizing imperialist named Leo Strauss. When they were university professors, their views ranged from conservative to – well – unpleasantly right wing, but at least they faced arguments and reality checks by colleagues and students. But when their offices were trashed by jubilant activists, it proved counterproductive to chase them off-campus. Fleeing to faux academes like Heritage Foundation - echo chambers of servile oligarchic rationalization – these bright fools concocted fairy tales of prodigious insanity. We – and peoples of the Middle East – paid a steep price for those gleefully trashed offices. Congratulations on such ‘victories.’

 

[18] “Liberal colleges are recruiting conservative professors… http://induecourse.ca/affirmative-action-for-conservative-academics/