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Here is my personal posting of the article that Salon Magazine recently featured, on how U.S. citizens might, one at a time and each of us, strike a blow against the worst political criminals since the American Civil War, neutralizing (if not ending) a travesty that has long been banned in most civilized nations, called gerrymandering.  This also lets me follow up with some addenda and remarks.

(Note to Kossacks: Sorry I've been away for a year. But this was too important not to share here as well.  Some of you would also like my previous posting at http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/ where I discuss Lincoln's Gettysburg Address vs. those who want "government by the people" to perish from the Earth.)

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The death spiral of U.S. political life has yet to see bottom. While most factual indicators suggest optimism, our public addiction to dudgeon and fury intensifies daily. Words like “negotiation,” “deliberation,” and “discourse” sink into quaint anachronism alongside “phlogiston.”

The illness has many causes. Tsunamis of money in politics.  Cable “news” networks push one side, denying loyal viewers any hint of refutation. Glancing at the red-state/blue-state map suggests that “deep culture” is reigniting the American Civil War. These factors aren’t easy to solve.

However, one malignant force could be staunched almost overnight, with a simple trick. It requires no legislation, court action, or leadership from our sclerotic political caste.  Mere citizens – one at a time -- could neutralize gerrymandering.

We all know the scam, inflicted on U.S. voters by both parties, often in collusion. Cynical manipulators have made a high art of crafting bizarrely-shaped, convoluted districts for Congress and state legislatures. We’re told it’s meant to advantage the majority party in a state, letting it eke out extra seats by cramming minority party voters into rigged ghettos of Democrats in (say) Texas or Republicans in Maryland.  But that’s not the real purpose.

Proof came in 2010 when California voters rebelled. Via ballot proposition, they handed district-drawing to nonpartisan commissions. California’s Democratic Party begged the mostly-Democratic populace not to, fearing the GOP might benefit. But lo, post- gerrymandering, Democrats surged to win more statehouse seats.

Democratic politicians still fretted, because many of their personal districts were now more evenly balanced. On average, each might see only a 55% or 60% Democratic majority – an advantage, but not safety.

The California experiment –including open primaries and top-two runoffs – was hugely successful. In heavily Democratic districts, the run-off between two Democrats produced a weird epiphany: “Hey, this district consists 1/3 of Republicans who could tip the balance. Let’s reach out to them!” Minority-party voters got leverage. Their calls were answered. No one expected this.

Voter uprisings against gerrymandering have happened in half a dozen blue states, but not once in a red state, like Texas, where Democrats feel herded and disenfranchised, where gerrymandering has its Michaelangelos. Indeed, political handicapper Stuart Rothenberg says 211 of 234 Republican seats in the House are “safe,” leaving only 23 competitive.

In fairness, some Democratic states like Maryland and Illinois have their own gerrymandering daVincis.

Unforeseen Consequences

Now the iron law of unexpected outcomes takes hold, for gerrymandering’s top malignant effect has been radicalization of U.S. politics. Having engineered for themselves safe districts where the minority party has no chance, cynical politicians have rendered each November general election moot, (except for state-wide or national offices). Yet, safety eluded them, as this only shifted tension earlier, to the party primary; Recent Tea Party insurrections show how a district’s most vociferous five percent can use primary challenges to oust established representatives or bully them into cartoonish agendas.

Now consider: Gerrymandering lumps birds-of-a-feather till each district is “owned” by one party or another. Democratic voters in a Republican-owned district - or Republicans in a Democratic-owned district – willnever cast a vote for the legislature in the only election that matters: the majority party’s primary.

Unless…

unless you hold your nose and re-register with whatever party owns your district.

This holds, whether you’re a Democrat in a Republican district, or vice versa.

If your district is gerried to contain mostly Republicans, then it should be represented by a conservative person. But, as someone living in the district, you deserve to have some say in which conservative it will be! A Tea Party radical? Or a genteel negotiator, like Goldwater or Buckley?

Conservative radicals will scream that Democrats who attempt this kind of judo must be aimimg to sabotage the Republican primary! But any large numbers who switch will have one goal: to recover a meaningful say in a district that had disenfranchised them. They want to vote for candidates they disagree with less; this is a reasonable criterion.

Does a label change a voter’s principles? Remember Republicans of yore: Abe Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower -- and sign the card! Then, next spring, you’ll vote when it matters, in the primary between Republican candidates.

The same advice applies to Republicans in Democratic-owned districts! In fact, this tactic has precedence -- generations of Republicans registered as Democrats in the old-time “solid south.” They can hardly complain now.

Reclaim our sovereignty

Picture the majority party primary in each gerrymandered district becoming the de facto general election, with all voters participating. Screaming talking heads would lose their potency overnight. Representatives could no longer pick which citizens to ignore by their party registration. Moreover, their computerized gerrymandering programs would go haywire. That, alone, will be a form of citizen revenge upon a cynical political caste.

Can’t stomach registering as a (pick your poison) Democrat/Republican? Get over it. Partisan labels made this mess. Grin at your friends’ shocked reactions. Then recruit them, rebelling against a political scam.

If fifty million Americans do this, we’ll show the politicians: “you can’t take us for granted, nor fool all the people, all the time.”

--------  Follow-up after the Salon article ------------

First See  my earlier, more extensive appraisal-in-depth of gerrymandering, see: American Democracy: More Fragile Than We Think. 

AFTERWORD NUMBER ONE:

Sam Wang in the New York Times Sunday Review used a seat-discrepancy criterion to find which 10 states are the most “out of whack. Arizona, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin were worst, plus Virginia, Ohio, Florida, Illinois and Texas. Of this ten worst gerrymandered states, Arizona was redistricted by an independent commission, with Republicans the beneficiaries of all distortions. Texas was a combination of Republican and federal court efforts, but with a notoriously pro GOP warp. Illinois was controlled by Democrats, who benefited. Republicans designed the other seven maps.

Nine out of ten were home runs for the Republican Party, helping to explain why, despite winning 1.4 million fewer votes for Congress in 2012, the GOP still controls the House of Representatives by a comfortable margin.  As Mr. Wang put it: “Both sides may do it, but one side does it more often.”

An interesting note: Arizona had supposedly joined the ranks of states that eliminated gerrymandering in favor of design by neutral commission, making it the one Red State to do so. Yet its districts wound up so twisted in the GOP’s favor that it became a laughable embarrassment.  One excuse offered, that large Native American reservations had to be given special treatment and that the Hopi and Navajo wanted to be kept separate.  Um, right.

ADDENDUM NUMBER TWO

After the Supreme Court struck down parts of the Voting Rights Act, certain states are no longer bound by the Act’s requirement that they pass new voting regulations by the federal government. As a result, Republican legislators in these states are moving forward with new voter ID laws.  Attorney General Greg Abbott announced that Texas will proceed with a law requiring photo ID before voting. since it is no longer required to obtain pre-clearance from the Department of Justice.

This is about more than just racism and turning away young people. It gets even better, keeping aware that American women have been swinging ever more strongly toward the Democratic Party Think Progress reports that as of November 5, Texans must show a photo ID with their up-to-date legal name. It sounds like a small detail, but according to the Brennan Center for Justice, only 66% of voting age women have ready access to a photo document that will attest to proof of citizenship. This is largely because young women have not updated their documents with their married names, a circumstance that doesn’t affect male voters in any significant way. Suddenly 34% of women voters are scrambling for an acceptable ID, while 99% of men are home free.

Now let me surprise you! In fact, I would have nothing against gradually rising voter ID requirements, even though almost no Election Day false voter fraud has been reported in 30 years. When you approach it logically, there is no reason why proof of ID should not IN PRINCIPLE be part of the process of exercising a right as valuable as voting.

There is only one test to see if it is a "reform" or if it is blatantly partisan voter suppression:

"Has the state accompanied the new voter ID law with substantial funding to help under-documented but legal US citizens to get the ID they need and to get registered?"  If a state has sincerely done that, then I will admit that the demand might be honest and due to the rationalized declared reasons.

Alas, not one red state that has passed such laws has allocated a penny to help poor citizens of the state, or the elderly or the young, to comply with onerous new restrictions on their franchise. Not even fig-leaf funding.

In other words, they are exposed as lying-hypocritical, outright-cheating election thieves. And the same goes for anyone who defends this foul crime against democracy.  When you make excuses for cheating, well, we all know what you were like on the playground, as a kid.  Character often continues into adulthood, alas.

Discuss

For a version of this that has all the links and illustrations, visit  http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/...

Last year finally saw the end of America's second-longest war. Dragging on a decade, that was the multi-trillion dollar quagmire of attrition and so-called "nation-building" in Iraq. 

Our longest war, the continuing multi-trillion dollar, "nation-building" quagmire in Afghanistan, continues on and on. 

Why is this not a major campaign issue? Together, these vast military adventures account for about a third of the deficit that folks are so vexed about. The rest of the debt crisis can be attributed to the depression/recession, the Bush tax cuts and the never-funded, GOP-created entitlement called Medicare Part D. (Actually, there are eight factors that plunged us from Clintonian surpluses into debt, which I have appraised (Eight Causes of the Deficit "Fiscal Cliff") in better detail than you'll likely find elsewhere. Remove all of those and what's left over would be small and affordable. 

But today's topic is war. Not whether it can still be necessary, from time to time. I will make die-hard leftists furious and concede that we are at least another generation away from abolishing the foul practice, at long last. Until then, wars will happen as today's primitive nations and angry peoples jostle for advantage. Especially as shortages of resources, even water, propel rising tensions. And don't forget those fierce cultural drivers that ignite the worst violence.  

No, let's focus: do the two U.S. political parties differ in how they wage war? What are their distinctions in doctrine, policy, professionalism, style and effectiveness?

Democrats and Republicans each divert attention from this matter. Despite their bellicose rhetoric and flag-waving gusto, Republicans won't speak of Iraq and Afghanistan (the "land where empires go to die")  nor of their promises  a decade ago -- that it would all cost much less, end sooner, accomplish far more and - above all - leave twin oases of perpetual friendship and enlightened democracy in the Middle East. Instead of what we now see those two nations fast-becoming -- satrapies of Iran, of Pakistan and the Pashtun Taliban.  Not the outcome we were promised, for several trillion dollars... but exactly what any realist would have foreseen.  
In contrast, Democrats tend to feel squeamish talking about war -- even though it's now clear that - ever since Vietnam - Democrats are much better at it than Republicans are. 

Well I'm not squeamish. Nor am I a democrat. Moreover, this may be the most important election-related topic of all. In a dangerous world, the differences in doctrine and method we're about to discuss may become crucial and destiny-deciding. So, let's take time to scrutinize how our major parties project American military power. 

 War is changing - though it may be with us for a while

 (Skip to the next section if you just want the meat about republican and democratic differences.)

Again, my premise will offend those at the far left, plus classic libertarians and old-fashioned isolationists on the right. I sympathize with folks who want the stupidly wasteful practice of justified state killing to go away, like phlogiston and witch burnings. In both novels and nonfiction, I write about futures when that transition has finally happened. 

Alas, those idealists fail to note that humanity has been making incremental progress! Since our dark nadir of 1945, every decade has witnessed a decline in average per capita rates of violence on Planet Earth.  Sure, there are horrid episodes -- wars, persecutions, depredations and mini-holocausts. Unlike other generations across 6000 years, we're made aware via television and the Internet, so that ironically this feels like a hyper violent age. But as Professor Steven Pinker shows, the per capita trends are indisputable. Nearly all past generations trembled at the tread of invading armies or the smell burning cities, cowering amid mass rape and pillage. That fraction today is the lowest ever, though such statistics are small comfort in Rwanda, the Congo, Cambodia and other modern horror-spots that merit our revulsion, our resolve! But they grow more rare.  

This trend is manifest in how war is carried out. Thousands died each day of World War II, an apocalyptic, bloody vastness of crushed civilians. Vietnam and Korea featured more hand-wringing over collateral casualties, but the ratios merely improved a bit. Not enough by the evolving standards of the next decade, and the next. Today? As fought by western allies, war is starting to resemble very rough SWAT team police actions, far more than the ruthlessness shown by Caesar and Tamerlane, Cortez, Guderian and Zhukov. There are outrages, but doctrines are more meticulous, training and supervision are closer, munitions are "smarter" and rules of engagement stricter than before.  

I hold out no hope that more than a third of you who are reading this will take the preceding paragraphs in their clear and blatant meaning.  Not as an excuse or rationalization for crime, but instead as encouragement. As evidence that incremental progress is happening. And therefore that more progress can happen! That, gradually, war is transforming. The collateral travesties that we found appalling in Iraq merit  vigorous critique. But they would have been rounding errors in Vietnam. And before that? Normal "peacetime." 

Criticism is how we have improved, so don't let up! But also admit changes are afoot -- an incremental evolution. Squint another few decades down this road, the thing that we called "war" may have evolved almost totally away. If we make good choices. 
Adapting to the lessons of Vietnam

In an earlier article, I described in detail how the United States military officer corps wrought major reforms after the mistakes made in Southeast Asia: ending the draft, pursuing professionalism, reinforcing the tradition of civilian control and using high-tech to enable force multiplication, plus targeted -- even "surgical" -- application of force.  

It's not been error-free.  For example, I've been critical of how this drive for professionalism excludes the U.S. civilian population -- even theoretically -- from involvement in defending their country. Until Vietnam, it was always assumed the general population would have a major role to play. Quiet abandonment of that principle has disturbing implications, duplicating the failure mode that doomed Republican Rome.  

But let's zero in on that "surgical' application of power.  It ranges from use of drones to target enemies on and off the direct battlefield to training regimes at the National Training Base, Fort Irwin in the California desert, where they no longer hold big set-piece battle exercises between whole brigades. Now smaller units train for complex missions like counter-insurgency. The Army that pounded through Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard divisions, both in 1992 and in 2003, does not exist anymore. Oh, today's forces, once they fully recover from the devastating effects of Iraq and Afghanistan, could probably still achieve the same ends.  But in different ways. 

If you talk to modern generals and admirals (and I do) they will tell you what they never want to see.  Quagmire. Draining wars of occupation in which a sneaking enemy conceals himself amid a civilian population and nearly always has the initiative. They are willing to fight! But they want to be efficient, quick, and overwhelming, to build a reputation of American near-omnipotence. Because there is no better way to keep peace. That reputation is the best way not to have to fight. 

Does any of that sound like the Republican-instigated wars of recent years?  Iraq One or Iraq Two or Afghanistan?  Or does it sound more like the conflicts ordered by Democratic Presidents -- in Bosnia, Libya, and the hunt for Osama bin Laden? You can see where I am going with this. But oh, how I wish I could tell you the names of men and women of high rank and renown, who nearly universally consider one of our recent presidents to be the worst -- and most damaging to the US military's might and reputation and very lives -- in living memory. 

 So how do democrats and republicans differ in waging war?

I visited this topic before, way back in 2004, when U.S. voters faced a choice whether to re-elect the man who plunged us into two multi-trillion dollar quagmires.  Eight years have passed and our data set is now stronger. (But do look at that other essay; it covers some points not addressed here.) 

So how do Democrats and Republicans differ in the way that they wage war?  
In Bosnia, Bill Clinton tried diplomacy, then consulted his generals and let them draw up the plan. It combined sanctions and trade strangulation with the precision  air power and very discreet use of special forces to reduce the military capabilities of the Serb militias, with minimal collateral damage and zero loss of American lives. Effects came rapidly, were satisfactory -- giving Europe its first complete peace in several thousand years -- and were negligible upon the U.S. national budget. 

The next major conflict showed the same doctrines at work, though the president giving the go-order was George W. Bush.  In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, something had to be done, and quickly.  But what? Clearly, one of Osama bin Laden's main goals, in sending suicide pilots to destroy the tallest buildings in New York, was to draw us into land conflict in Afghanistan. Remember who this was. A moujehadeen commander whose glory days were spent humbling another Great Power, the USSR, amid the peaks of the Hindu Kush. What worked with one Great Satan ought to work on another, right?  Anyone who thinks that was not bin Laden's main goal is naive.

Indeed, we had to go!  The Taliban-led government of Afghanistan had assisted Osama in an act of war.  We had to go and kick their asses, hard.  But how?

Dig this well.  George Bush had only time to say "go!" to a war plan that was already on the Pentagon's shelf. Thick and detailed contingency scenarios had been prepared during the previous administration.  Special Forces teams already spoke Uzbek and Turkmeni and other Afghan languages and knew tribal leaders in Masoud's Northern Alliance.  They were helicoptering into prepared drop zones within days, while US Navy and Air Force jets sped to pre-arranged staging areas around the periphery.  When the hammer came down, it was under control by the generals and specialists, using their best doctrines, identical to Bosnia... and it worked magnificently.  Within weeks -- at zero U.S. casualties and rather low rates of overall death or destruction, Mullah Omar's Taliban were fleeing for their lives.

 Now the core question: who deserves credit? The man who had no other option than to shout "go!" to an already existing plan, run by professionals without political interference? Because the politicians had no time to interfere?  Or the administration that had earlier studiously worked with generals and allies to draw up the plan, in great and effective detail?

That was AFGHANISTAN PHASE ONE. Full credit belongs to Bill Clinton and his team, who set us up to win, and to win cheap.
 Ah, but then came AFGHANISTAN PART TWO.  Alas.  We'll get to that debacle... diametrically opposite to part one in every possible way... in a moment.

 But first, let me avow that the Democratic approach to war does not always work!  Some of you recall our humiliation in Somalia, early in Bill Clinton's term of office.  He might have laid blame on his predecessors, the way I credit him for Afgh-1. But he did not, nor should he. The intervention in Somalia followed Democratic Party styles, attempting to use surgical force and elite professional action... and it was a dismal failure because those doctrines were taken to an absurd extreme.  Clinton's first Defense Secretary, Les Aspin, denied our troops there the ability to call upon overwhelming backup power. Hence, when they got into trouble, disaster happened.  A very small scale disaster, as such things go.  But a black eye, nonetheless, proving that an extreme version of the democrats' approach can be foolish.

 More Examples of Democratic War-Fighting

Still, we have seen three examples of how democrats wage war.  And now you can easily fit into this pattern the conflicts of Barack Obama, whose quiet use of decisive air power during the Libyan Civil War was so downplayed that it almost seemed we weren't there at all!  Allowing our European allies to take front position, we nevertheless flew half the sorties and handled nearly all of the logistics for an extremely careful, surgical intervention, relying on air power plus discreet use of elite special forces. See: For Obama, Some Vindication of Approach to War, in The New York Times. 

“Without putting a single U.S. service member on the ground, we achieved our objectives, and our NATO mission will soon come to an end,” Mr. Obama said in a Rose Garden address that served as muted victory lap. “We’ve demonstrated what collective action can achieve in the 21st century.”

Then there is the taking out of Osama bin Laden... along with Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen, as well as  Fahd al-Quso (who helped attack the USS Cole) and many dozens of other, mid-level members of al Qaeda and other terror networks, plus at least fifty other top or medium-level members of the network that thought it could intimidate the United States with terror.

  Do not for a minute think that I consider these successes to be un-problematic! In pushing "surgical warfare" they do bring about efficiency and reduce civilian collateral damage.  But they also take us into the territory of targeted assassination...  a deeply worrisome trend. Especially if we want all this to lead toward the behavior of accountable cops, and not ninja killers.  There are, indeed, valid points raised by critics of this approach. 

The budget for Special Ops has quadrupled. Under President Obama, the forces of the Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), which includes the Green Berets, Navy SEALS and Army Rangers, have been granted more latitude and greater autonomy, engaged in counter-terrorism, surveillance and reconnaissance in as many as 120 countries around the world. In America's Rising Shadow Wars, an appraisal published in Mother Jones: “They are displacing conventional forces, becoming the “force of choice” in operations with far less civilian oversight, accountability or control -- i.e. no Congressional approval or consultation necessary, no press coverage, their operating budget a black book...”

 While some aspects invite our future and continuing scrutiny, what we can blatanly conclude is that the last two democratic presidents have been utterly consistent.  Explains NPR's  Corey Flintoff  -- "The latest operation, a hostage rescue in Somalia carried out by Navy SEALs, is part of a pattern established by a commander in chief who has shown a clear preference for limited, small-scale military action.The operation freed two aid workers, 32-year-old American Jessica Buchanan and 60-year-old Dane Poul Thisted. It appears to have been a textbook operation in which two teams of commandos swooped in by helicopter, killed at least eight pirates, and recovered the hostages unharmed."      

 Meanwhile, there is a very low key operation in and around Uganda, in which U.S. special forces coordinate local forces in the hunt for crazed warlord Joseph Kony. The top goal has already been achieved, eliminating the Lord's Resistance Army as a threat to regional peace and development. But U.S, citizens will only take notice if they come up with Kony's head. "It's part of a broader shift in how we engage in war," says Peter Singer, director of the 21st Century Defense Initiative at the Brookings Institution. "The bottom line is 'no more Iraqs, no more Afghanistans,' no more large-scale commitments in terms of troops on the ground or time on the ground."

 Again, what I am saying will not appeal leftists, who will be infuriated by the choice between two unacceptable things -- two styles of war. But I am not talking to leftists, right now.  I am addressing those who believe --wrongly -- that Democratic presidents are somehow "mushy" or weak-willed, when it comes to conflict over U.S. national interests.  

 That is malarkey. Across the last 100 years, democrats were far more ready to confront militarism in 1917 Germany, then Hitler and Imperial Japan, then the USSR, than the isolationist republicans of that era were. And the democrats committed us to full scale combat inVietnam.  A horrific blunder, from which they were willing to learn. 

Democrats fight.  But they wage war in ways that are crucially, even diametrically, different from their Republican counterparts. 

The War Doctrines of the Republican Party

The contrast between Democratic and Republican styles of war could not be more stark. Beginning with the degree that they show deference to the United States Senior Officer Corps.  

Do you know any generals or admirals? Ask them about this. Odds are, you'll get no answer at all, due to their punctilious respect for civilian authority and resolve not to meddle in politics. But you may get hints. Anyway, continue searching and ask retired generals or admirals! And bear in mind these folks constitute the third best-educated clade in American life, after scientists and medical doctors. 
One of these retired flag officers told me: "Democrats admit they don't know anything about military matters. They consult. They ask questions. They listen."

 He added: "Republican presidents all assume they're some mix of John Wayne and Patton. Plans are for nerds. Caution is for wimps."

Let's put aside the spat wars of Ronald Reagan, in Grenada, Panama and Lebanon... a mixed bag a of mixed doctrines, with none of them a fair test of anything.  The point where all things distill is with the arrival of both Bushes, Cheney and Rumsfeld. Look back on George H.W. Bush's response to Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait.  And his son's second invasion of that same country, followed by a decade-long grind of bleeding and attrition and a trillion dollars down the drain. 

 Now add to the ledger AFGHANISTAN PART TWO...  the wholly voluntary commitment of vast ground forces to a devastatingly debilitating and draining counter-insurgency campaign in a place where the culture and terrain guarantee that no one, no matter how competent or well funded or reinforced, can achieve "victory," only a respectable stalemate.  Calling up and nearly destroying the U.S. Army reserves for a war of policy and not urgency. This was a very different thing from Afghanistan Phase One. Phase Two was entirely George W. Bush's choice.  There were alternatives and he chose the loudest, the most costly and the one most clearly destined for frustrating pain.

 In all three of these wars under the two Bushes, amateurs like Cheney and Rumsfeld meddled relentlessly, ignored advice, over-ruled staff, fired generals and issued airy assurances while commanding vast corps of American ground troops into major ground war, followed by quagmire. Look back on those three interventions and the lesson is clear: Republicans go for heavy firepower, tens of thousands of boots and treads on the ground. Toe-to toe battle! Battalions and brigades and divisions churning up dust, represented by pins and flags on big maps under the White House. 

  Excuses, excuses

  Oh, I can hear the justifications for IRAQ PHASE ONE.  No, the invasion of Kuwait could not be allowed to stand. But dig this carefully, Saddam was a dangerous moron -- who chose the very worst year possible, to invade Kuwait, when we had an entire mobile army in place, just a few hundred miles away, facing a Warsaw Pact foe that no longer existed!  Two years earlier or later, and we might have been forced to find other means to eliminate the idiot.

Which is the point.  I remember speaking at the CIA in 2003, just before IRAQ PHASE TWO. As a physicist-scifi author with some scenario-building chops, I was brought in to discuss alternatives. And while I can say no more about that, let me just add that there were plenty of them! Alternatives, I mean.  More than you might imagine.

 (Elsewhere I talk about an entirely separate matter... the worst stain upon American honor since Vietnam, when Bush Senior ordered Gen. Schwarzkopf to stop short of freeing the people of Southern Iraq, who were at that moment (suicidally, it turns out) rebelling against Saddam at our urging. And would have welcomed us then with kisses and flowers.)

 The point is that three such garish campaigns of major battle, followed in two cases by trillion dollar, decade-long quagmires, constitutes a consistent pattern.  One that even now is seriously studied at West Point: "Now at another critical moment in American military history, the faculty here on the commanding bend in the Hudson River is deep in its own existential debate," said Col. Gian P. Gentile, the director of West Point’s military history program and the commander of a combat battalion in Baghdad in 2006, in a recent interview. "Narrowly, the argument is whether the counterinsurgency strategy used in Iraq and Afghanistan — the troop-heavy, time-intensive, expensive doctrine of trying to win over the locals by building roads, schools and government — is dead.  Broadly, the question is what the United States gained after a decade in two wars." Col.Gentile continued: “Not much. Certainly not worth the effort. In my view.” 

Colonel Gentile, who is working on a book titled Wrong Turn: America’s Deadly Embrace With Counterinsurgency, is critical of what he called “a maximalist operational” approach. “Strategy should employ resources of a state to achieve policy aims with the least amount of blood and treasure spent.” 

 That is about as close as you are going to get to a public statement of what most of the senior officer corps would tell you, if they could, without breaking their oaths not to meddle.  That they prefer the way that democrats wage war.

  The condition of our forces

 We could thrash over subsidiary matters.  The lies used by Bush the Younger to justify Iraq 2.  Whether we could keep the Taliban from returning to power in Afghanistan by simpler means, with air and local forces. Whether even that was necessary. And so on.  Many of these matters are discussed in more detail, in that 2004 article of mine. But the core lesson here is clear. Republican administrations like war to look and feel like war! Tank armies and massed divisions... with politicians giving direct orders and over-ruling the professionals. And in the process, they pretty much destroyed the old-fashioned tools that they used.

 When he entered office as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen was asked what he considered to be his most desperate concern.  "The Army," he said. Saving it from what had been done to it.

 Now chew on this fact: When Bill Clinton left office, every U.S. Army and Marine Corps brigade was rated fully combat ready to defend the lives and interests of Americans.  When George W. Bush left office, not one U.S. brigade was so rated. We went from all to none. And the GOP has a reputation for defense?

 The Army that rolled over Saddam's Republican Guard divisions in 92 and 03 does not exist anymore.  What has replaced it is in some ways better, more agile, more professional, if also tired and badly in need of rest. It had to adapt and become agile, having been worn down to the bone. Things are better now, but it will take time.  And meanwhile, we must confront deadly foes across a murky battlefield of terror and sabotage that spans the globe.  So, whose doctrines are appropriate?

  Final comparisons

 I've talked too long.  The few of you who are still reading surely see the patterns by now.  But I'll leave you with a few items for summing-up. First, David Ignatius, writing in the Washington Post (September 2011) called President Obama the covert commander in chief.  "The flag-waving “mission accomplished” speeches of his predecessor aren’t Obama’s thing; even his public reaction to the death of bin Laden was relatively subdued."  "Another sign of Obama’s penchant for the secret world was his decision to hire David Petraeus as CIA director. The president appears to be ratcheting up intelligence and paramilitary operations under the leadership of the nation’s most celebrated military commander, even as he withdraws uniformed troops from Iraq and Afghanistan."

 A year ago, commentator MARK LANDLER wrote: "Mr. Obama’s carefully calibrated response infuriated critics on the right and left, who blamed him either for ceding American leadership in a foreign conflict or for blundering into another Arab land without an exit strategy. "But with Colonel Qaddafi joining the lengthening list of tyrants and terrorists dispatched during the Obama presidency, even critics conceded a success for Mr. Obama’s approach to war — one that relies on collective, rather than unilateral, action; on surgical strikes rather than massive troop deployments."

 Or take this from one of the world’s top technology pundits, Mark Anderson, CEO of the Strategic News Service: 

"For me... the comparison is like two slides, I picture, first: an army of soldiers surrounding bin Laden in the mountains of Tora Bora, and then being ordered by Team Bush to wait until the locals can get there and participate, at which point the enemy has escaped. I compare that slide to the story of this year: after a year in secret investigation and preparation, Team Obama finds a likely target compound in Pakistan, orders in Seal Team Six via stealth choppers, uses overwhelming force, and shoots to kill. DNA samples are taken to confirm ID, and the body is dumped ignominiously in the ocean, with no propaganda pics for the enemy, and no burial process or site to rally round. What a difference.  And yet, which man is called a wimp?”

 You decide between competence and bluster

 What are the merits of both sides in the current election?  Last time I showed that the top six of eight causes of the budget deficit were brought to you by Republicans.  
 Now we also see -- in light of the debate over foreign policy -- that same party is horrendously delusional and incompetent at the realpolitik arts of diplomacy, military readiness and war.  

Again, I am unhappy -- as we all should be -- that the rapid shift toward an end to human violence is not progressing even faster. But if we must still live for a while longer in a barbaric era of state-sanctioned killing, called war, then it is important that the Western Enlightenment be preserved, so that girls can grow up to be empowered women and so that individual freedom remains a touchstone of human civilization.  This progress will at times have to be defended! 

 If so, then an evolutionary process toward calm, skilled, minimalist and surgical professionalism -- and above all success -- is better for our budget, our health and lives, for our future prospects of peace, than a pack of corrupt, blundering fools who treat our economy as their personal piggy bank.. and who treat our military men and women as personal toys.  

Far better for the world and better for America, to go with adults who are willing to use force... but who (as adults) know to consult professionals and act with care.

Discuss

To many U.S. voters, one issue towers foremost -- the Fiscal Cliff of rising public debt. We appear to have come a long way since Vice President Dick Cheney famously said "deficits don't matter." Today, frightened by much-worse debt crises in Greece, Spain etc, Americans fret about floods of red ink that reached more than a trillion dollars a year under George W. Bush, and that have gone down only slightly under Barack Obama.

Wasn't it just a little while ago that we were paying down the debt, under Bill Clinton?  So rapidly that Alan Greenspan even worried that the U.S. treasury might cease issuing bonds, forcing down interest rates to dangerous levels?Even now, with interest rates at an all-time low, the actual cost of borrowing money is very small. For the U.S. that is. Our fundamentals are far better than Europe's, for the time being.  Nevertheless, everyone -- democrats and republicans alike -- admits that fixing the deficit has become urgent.

And something will be done soon! If republicans and democrats cannot end gridlock with a compromise this December, the Bush Tax Cuts will automatically expire, triggering a sudden return to rates we saw during the Clinton era.  

Is that prospect so bad?  Weren't those good times? The resulting take -- calculated at 600 billion dollars -- would more than cut the current deficit in half.  And all we have to do is -- nothing.  Just let the Bush cuts expire.

Alas, having barely veered out of a genuine Depression and into deep recession, this is no time to reduce the velocity of money by hitting the spending power of the Middle Class. Some up-ratchets are needed, not hammering the middle class.

Getting better at last?

Worth noting: according to statistics released this week, the average American has finally paid down most of the excess private debt that he or she built up during the Bush years. This de-leveraging process has been hard and painful, especially during a depression-recession.  But Personal debt levels are now down to Clinton Era ratios.

Combine that with rapidly rising consumer confidence, plus gradually improving employment, plus very fat company cash reserves, and you have a recipe for good things in 2013.  Whoever wins this election will claim credit.  But in truth, we all participated in digging ourselves out of this mess.

So, if citizens and the private sector can climb out of their deep debt hole, what will it take to de-leverage the biggest debtor of all?  The U.S. Federal government?

Eight Major Causes of the U.S. National Deficit =

First, we must (at last) calmly list the reasons why the U.S. went from Clintonian  surpluses to devastating hemorrhages in just a few years.  

Second, where possible, we must assign blame for the things that got us in this mess.  And if our list proves that one party was more responsible? Then it's our duty to give that party less credibility. Less opportunity to repeat the damage.  

So let's go after the reasons for the deficit, in approximate order of importance.

1) Number one on our list is the tanked economy. That plummet both steeply reduced tax revenues and sharply increased the number of Americans needing help to get across lean times.  There's a lot of blame hurled around.  But a few top culprits for the collapse stand out. And the first of these was bipartisan:

An asset bubble popped, tipping the already wavering economy into a ditch. That asset bubble was largely tied to an overheated housing market, the mortgage industry, and Wall Street speculators who overheated both while creating a swamp of toxic derivatives to poison capital markets. We'll set aside the crimes of Wall Street and the CEO caste for #2.  But the housing/mortgage bubble was the work of both parties.

Over-building and lax rules allowed millions of unqualified buyers to leverage themselves beyond their ability to pay. (It is the same thing that shredded the otherwise healthy Spanish economy.) Democrats were fully culpable in this topmost sin, because they saw it as a social program to get poor people into homes. And Republicans claimed to have the same generous motive! The core moment was George W. Bush's "Ownership Society" speech that then led to passage in the Republican-controlled House and Senate -- but with plenty of Democratic votes -- of bills loosening mortgage rules, for example letting FanniMae and Feddie Mac and Countrywide run wild.

The good news?  That failure mode is over. The bubble burst.  Citizens -- even many who had sunk beneath underwater mortgages -- have by now largely dug their way out and housing is recovering toward its approximate real value.  

The bad news? This was a harsh blow and both parties took part. What made the bursting of the housing bubble especially gruesome, however, was the second whammy.

2) Criminal fraud and culpable failure of regulatory supervision over banking, Wall Street and wealth funds, allowing them to use other peoples' money in a casino of fevered gambling that became un-tethered from reality. The central example was conversion of dubious mortgages and other questionable bets into "securities" that became grotesquely toxic, amounting to trillions in losses. It was enough to transform a bad asset bubble into what could fairly be called the Second Depression.

Top culprit: the removal of restraint from Wall Street and Banking gambling with depositors' funds by allowing merger of deposit and investment banking. Plus the crippling of regulatory agencies charged with checking fraud, plus the scandalous conflict of interest built into the bond rating agencies. And the redefining of securities to include phantoms made of hot air.  

As for blame? Some of the first deregulatory steps were taken by the Republican Congress during Bill Clinton's term as president, and Clinton went along, in trade for things he wanted -- a reluctant acceptance that he now says he regrets. But the full dismantling of regulatory oversight of Wall Street took place when the GOP controlled all three branches of government.   Even now, the GOP's top agenda item (other than "making sure Obama fails") is to prevent the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau from becoming fully functional.

Together, items #1 and #2 (assisted by #3 below) dumped us into the Second Depression. That depression (since moderated into a deep-long Recession) devastated the economy and the resulting plummet in tax revenues became the biggest contributor to the deficit.

3) Tax "largesse" gifts to the aristocracy. With tax rates  - especially on the rich - already near a 70 year low, the radical wing of the GOP took advantage of Bill Clinton's departure (he had been paying down the debt) to pass the Bush tax cuts.  In fairness, Clinton had not been doing the responsible thing all by himself.  A consortium of moderates from both parties had negotiated budget plans with Clinton that emphasized paying down debt during "fat years" so that we might be in good shape when, or if, lean years returned.  Radicals of the left and of the right railed against this, but the middle class, according to many polls, favored debt pay-down over grabbing the surplus as a temporary "largesse."

But sensible, bourgeois prudence did not outlive the election of 2000, when the radical right controlled all three branches of government. They soon -- (even amid crisis and war) -- doubled down on the voodoo called "supply side" economics, a mythology proclaiming that -- (take a deep breath and hold on) -- money flowing into the pockets of the rich will immediately be invested in entrepreneurial new enterprises, into research and development and into the capital equipment needed by old businesses to deliver new products and services, resulting in skyrocketing business activity and a burst of prosperity that will then be taxable at the lower rates, erasing the loss to the treasury.

(Okay, you can inhale now. But do compare this prediction to Cause Number 6, listed below.)  

Like most voodoo-cult incantations, there is barely a grain of truth. For one thing, the high marginal tax rates under FDR and Ike blatantly did not repress economic growth.  Indeed, the 1940s and 1950s and 1960s featured the most rapid rise of the middle class and new business startups and proportionate increase in prosperity in the history of our species, alongside the lowest disparities between owners and workers in U.S. memory, all at very high marginal tax rates. In other words there was no tradeoff, there was synergy!

JFK did reduce top rates from 90% to 70% and that was probably called for.  Reagan's initial supply side experiment, though, plunged us into red ink.  Whereupon Reagan did something responsible. Something that would get him drummed out of today's GOP. He raised taxes six times!  In order to adjust and bracket and fine-tune his tax policy, as any pragmatic person would do, when predictions don't jibe with reality.

In fact, there has never been proof that supply side cuts ever correlated causally with bursts in economic activity!  This is because most rich people do not take sudden cash infusions and invest them significantly in entrepreneurial new enterprises, or risky R&D, or the capital equipment needed by old businesses to deliver new products and services. Nor do they rush out to spend the money on purchases, thus adding high velocity transactions to the economy. Not at the spending ratios of a middle class family. Ever since Adam Smith's time, we have known what most members of any aristocracy do with such largesse. They spend it in low velocity ways, on passive securities and land (feeding asset bubbles), on what Smith called "rent-seeking," on gambling speculations, and on being richer.  

All of which explains why #3 -- the giant Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, enacted as soon as Bill Clinton was out of the way, did not erase their own cost to the treasury, as predicted. Instead, they opened up a huge deficit hole and contributed to the asset bubble collapse.

The astonishing thing is that now, amid a near depression, the GOP is doubling and tripling down upon their mantra.  The Bush tax cuts did not improve things from the Clinton Era?  Then do more tax cuts. For the rich. It'll work this time fer sure.

4)  Two multi-Trillion dollar quagmire wars of "nation building." Pouring hundreds and hundreds of billions into far-off deserts where we were hated, are hated and will be hated for generations to come. Republicans have long admitted that our reasons for going to Iraq were at best mistaken, at worst concocted lies. So those reasons got replaced with idealistic ones. Nation building and spreading democracy -- in the rockiest, worst soil that anyone ever tried to plant democratic seeds.

In retrospect, we have to ask,

"why didn't anybody warn us that this was repeating the calamity of Vietnam?"  
Well, in fact, the generals and admirals did exactly that. They complained like hell! Many were fired by Bush and Rumsfeld for daring to foresee us getting stuck in asian quagmires.  

Who benefited? Well, for starters, Halliburton, of course.  Funny, that. Who else benefited?  Guess who.

Iran.  All of Iraq and half of Afghanistan were doomed from the start to become satrapies of Iran. No other outcome was ever possible. All other fantasies were delusional. Was that worth the loss of lives and treasure in both of America's longest wars?

Oh, and the war cost was never put on the books. It was armwaved away.  Till honest accountants took over. And now we must pay the piper.

The scorecard so far

Those are the four biggies. So can we assign blame yet?  

The number one cause of the deficit -- an asset (housing) bubble that plopped us into recession -- was bipartisan, though the biggest steps took place when the GOP held all the reins of power in all three branches of government.  

Cause number 2, which turned a recession into a borderline depression, was almost entirely Republican in origin. As were causes 3 and 4.  GOP-instigated, stage-managed and caused, top to bottom.

But our list is not finished.  So far, we've covered only the worst budget-busting calamities.  But not all of them, by a long shot.

5) Medicare Part D, a wholly GOP-devised program, was never funded through hard choices, but simply slapped into general obligation as an new and unfinanced entitlement. (By contrast, Obamacare is funded by hard-nailed tradeoffs. We'll see if they work, but the CBO says they at least look sincere.)

What's Medicare Part D? A vast expansion of the government's obligation to pay for prescription drugs, which was heavily backed by (surprise) the Pharmaceuticals industry. Abandoning any pretense of negotiating over prices (Obamacare will reinstate some bargaining) Medicare Part D was denounced by the libertarian wing of the GOP as both socialism and a blatantly pandering voter bribe.  In fact, this part of Medicare could be considered a "Tytler largesse." It was a budget buster because no attempt was ever made to shift funds or otherwise pay for it.  Not even a fig leaf!

It passed when all three branches of government were completely controlled by the Republican Party.

6) Failure of creative breakthroughs.  This is my own candidate for a major budget buster -- perhaps the most significant, from my admittedly skewed perspective as a Big Picture Futurist.  But any economist will at least admit that it belongs on the list.

Can we pause while I explain? Across the last 70 years, of Pax Americana, the world has seen a boom in prosperity unlike any other, with 70%+ of the planet's population arguably in some kind of middle class, moving into homes that have electricity and hot water and kids in school.  The biggest driver of economic development has been the American consumer, buying trillions of dollars worth of crap we never needed.  Elsewhere I argue that this trade pattern was established deliberately by George Marshall, by Acheson, Truman and Eisenhower.  It has been the world's hope... though ecologically dangerous, unless we innovate ways for seven billion middle class lives to impact the world far less. Remember that word, innovation.

Closer to the point, how have we Americans been able to afford the endless trade deficits that propel world development? Simple. Science and technology.  Each decade since the 1940s saw new, U.S.-led advances that engendered enough wealth to let us pay for all the stuff pouring out of Asian factories, giving poor workers jobs.  Jet planes, rockets, satellites, electronics & transistors & lasers, telecom, pharmaceuticals... and the Internet. How I'd love to see a second "National Debt Clock" showing where we'd be now, if we (the citizens) had charged just a 5% royalty on the fruits of U.S. federal research. We'd be in the black!

The first decade of the 21st Century -- the Naughty Oughts -- was the first (since the 1940s) that saw no such technological tsunami, making America rich enough to buy from the world.  As the internet boom petered out, we could have made sustainable energy our Next Big Thing. It was proposed, and the rate that China and Germany are getting rich off solar and wind is most impressive!

By coincidence, that was also the decade when the Fox War on Science hit full stride. When science became the right's enemy number one.

If not for that, and Bush cuts on R&D and all the rest, would we have had another renaissance and tech-driven boom by now? I cannot prove might-have-beens.  But it is no accident that this failure of the expected decadal innovation wave happened in the wake of an epochal and telling event. When the GOP banished from Capitol Hill all of the advisory panels on sci and tech that had helped Congresses to legislate wisely for 60 years.

I will never forgive Nancy Pelosi for failing to reverse that scandalous treason, so yes, I can name some democrats who share blame. Still, American scientists are voting with their feet. Only 5% of still call themselves Republican (it used to be about 50%).

The verdict is clear. We know who has torpedoed the one thing that kept us rich.

7) Entitlements and Obamacare.  Everyone knows that entitlements need to be restructured.  In fact, compared to Europe, the U.S. is in pretty good shape.  Social Security is estimated to be almost able to handle the baby boomers. Why? Because past Congresses bit the bullet and passed - in a bipartisan way - graduated increases in the retirement age. (Further tweaking... plus the raising of income limits on FICA, could go the rest of the way.) And we never meddled in the labor market with stifling paternalism, the way European countries have. In this area, the Europeans are in crazy denial and badly need to emulate us.

On the other hand, we have been in denial re Health Care, which is inherently not a fungible commodity subject to market forces.  When we spend three to four times as much per patient and still leave tens of millions of terrified citizens not covered, only truly delusional people can call the US system the "best in the world." And only a lunatic would call the Emergency Room a "health care system." Something different from European-style rationing could have been negotiated...

... and indeed, negotiate was what Obama tried to do!  By abandoning all of the former democratic proposals and plopping onto the table the Republicans' own plan.  

At which point the GOP instantly disavowed its own plan and denounced it as socialism. (Do not cavil over slight differences. Those were on the table too. They could have been negotiated, had anybody tried.)

In any event, the range of predictions about the effects of Obamacare on the deficit is so wide, there is only one reasonable option, since going back to the insane former system is a non-starter.  Let's try it and see what happens... then pragmatically tweak the result.  Especially since those who foresee the worst outcomes have no credibility.  They happen also to believe in never-ever-right supply side economics.

The crux on entitlements? The method that was used to extend Social Security could be applied to other entitlements.  If Americans are living much longer, in better health, they should be asked to delay retirement a bit longer, and in return FICA could be made more progressive by removing income cutoffs.  Big deal.  Make a bipartisan deal and most of us will shrug and accept it. This already happened! The Clinton-Gingrich deal on Welfare Reform is another example that proved democrats and republicans can demand much from their constituencies, if common sense and bipartisan negotiation favor reasonable adjustments.

 Simpson-Bowles and other cross-party commissions have offered the political protection needed, if we ended Culture War and both sides wanted to negotiate a way to fix entitlements.  I believe the collapse of negotiation is rooted primarily in one party and its cosmically-frenzied polemical center (Fox). But in bending over backwards to be fair, I will allow this one to be blamed on both.

8) The discretionary budget. Okay, Slay Big Bird in exchange for zeroing out all the generous tax and subsidy bennies given to coal and oil and other GOP donors?  Sure, I'll go with that.  

But first add them up.  Note how small the benefit to the bottom line.  For the most part, screaming about the discretionary budget is an effort to distract from the long list of disasters in other areas.

Remember, we paid for Big Bird and the other stuff just fine, under Bill Clinton.  If you're serious about looking for the reasons we're in a mess... look at what changed.

So what's the indictment?

Eight causes for the deficit.  Can you think of others?  I'll add them to the list, if they approach the same scale.

As for blame?  Of the top five contributing causes, one was bipartisan (though GOP-led).  The other four were entirely Republican in origin and execution and (especially) in obstinate refusal to learn from the mistakes.

Number 6, I will argue, though not insist, is a huge calamity that I deem to also be largely GOP made.

Then we get to the parts that get the biggest noise, but in fact have the least impact on our plummet from Clintonian pay-down to skyrocketing Bushite debt (that has continued under Obama.)  Numbers 7 and 8 can and should be argued, openly, calmly and sanely by decent, intelligent men and women, compromising and negotiating plans to deliver the functions of government in lean and effective ways.

How I would love to see that conversation!  To assist Goldwater-style Republicans and Tsongas-style Democrats working their (and our) way to fiscal solvency.  

But let's not fool ourselves.  So long as we pay no heed to problems # 1-6, we are slapping on band aids.  And numbers one through six happened because of sickness.  Incompetence. Insanity.  Or something much, much worse.

The lesson from all of this?

The good news? Several of these failure modes are fading away.  Too slowly.  But soon we'll be out of the wars. Personal debt has been de-leveraged and consumer confidence is up. The Consumer Finance Bureau and other professionals are at least starting to watch out for us. Housing is recovering, In order to survive, the GOP will have to tell Grover Norquist to chase himself and reach a compromise over the expiring Bush Tax cuts.  And even science is starting to recover.  Indeed, if trounced, the GOP may take a veer away from Murdochian cliffs of insanity, back toward the traditions of Buckley and Goldwater and the fine art of sane negotiation.

The bad news? Unbelievably, in the present election, the citizenry might actually re-hire the gang that did all this to us. Proving that hypnotism and incantations can trump facts -- fooling some of the people, all of the time. Enough of the people.

The lesson is simple: do not re-hire the dopes who made the mess.  Who committed the first half dozen travesties.  If you do, future generations will have you to blame.

Discuss

Well... it's back.  One of the best examples of a mass-hypnotic pseudo-wisdom that helps to lobotomize politics in American life.

"A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse over loose fiscal policy, (which is) always followed by a dictatorship."

This widely-circulated nostrum is called the "Tytler Calumny" and it is the great example of what has gone wrong with the mental processes of our friends on the right, who used to be represented in sage debate by great minds like Barry Goldwater and Friedrich Hayek and William F. Buckley...  but who are now reduced to slinging around aphorisms and fact-free fox-assertions.

(In fairness, after watching Bill O'Reilly hold his own with Jon Stewart in the great 2012 Rumble in the Air-Conditioned Auditorium, I have to admit, there are still islands of sort-of almost Goldwater-style adult-honesty on that side, though lamentably rare, as this missive will show you.)

First off, although named for a 19th Century Englishman Alexander Tytler, there is no actual evidence that Tytler actually said it! This aphorism is also often attributed falsely to historian Arnold Toynbee or Lord Thomas Macauley, or even Alexis de Tocqueville, although recent scholarship appears to follow a trail leading to a 1943 speech by one Henning Webb Prentis, Jr., President of the Armstrong Cork Company.

It is often accompanied by another feat of cynicism called the Fatal Sequence.

"Great nations rise and fall in a 200 year cycle. The people go from bondage to spiritual truth, to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependence, from dependence back again to bondage."

Now, as one who had the chance to "channel" the great science-fiction psychohistorian Hari Seldon, I admit to sharing the soft spot that many SF fans feel toward the central notion of Isaac Asimov's Foundation Series -- that the arc of history can be somehow easily be tracked, patterns-perceived, predictions made. And indeed, there certainly are some patterns!  Such as the dominance, in 99% of human societies, of small cabals of owner oligarchs, who passed on their property-based power to sons who never did a thing to earn it. The persistent-feudal pattern that Adam Smith and the American Founders strove so hard to break. Yes, I see the pattern-seeking allure.

But I've learned to be wary of glib nostrums that seem just too convenient to be true.

= Stroking the ego, starving the intellect =

Consider how the Tytler Calumny appeals to the vanity of the one repeating it.  The sad cynicism of someone who considers himself above the hoi polloi of the mere "people."  It is a blithe dismissal of even the possibility that a democracy can maintain itself. This despite the fact that -- if you include the vigorous colonial legislatures -- we in the U.S. have three centuries of ever-ripening success, on this continent alone, becoming steadily mightier at the same pace that we've grown more inclusive.

The calumny draws believers, despite the fact that our democracy has accomplished more prodigious feats, more wonders and more improvements to human happiness and knowledge than all of humanity's other nations and cultures combined.  By far.  By orders of magnitude.

The Tytler nostrum (appraised here on Snopes) sounds "logical" in its smug contempt for the masses... except that it runs contrary to actual fact.  For example, when the citizens of Athens voted against distributing the windfall from new silver mines to every citizen, and instead asked Thucydides to invest it in their future.  Would most kings have done that?

All through the 1990s, Bill Clinton allied himself with fiscal moderates of both parties to stave off efforts by the supply-siders to raid the budget surplus and give it all -- not to the People -- but to the rich.  Clinton and Senators Tsongas (D) and Rudman (R) and others in the moderate middle were able to accomplish that because they were backed up by the public! By opinion polls showing that the middle class overwhelmingly wanted the budget surplus spent on paying down debt. And not on tax cuts for themselves.

Should we be surprised? Indeed, who is more likely to have the habit of weighing the consequences of debt? Middle class citizens who must wrestle with tradeoffs, stanching their impulses and appetites every day, in favor of budgeting tightly for the future?  Or aristocrats who are accustomed to indulging whims out of copious coffers, knowing that there are always more coppers, pennies, pfennigs etc to be squeezed from those below them on the pyramid?

Both before and after 2001, those who were demanding that all the surplus be "given back to us, right now" were aristocrats. The same caste that bankrupted most past societies.

= The Fiscal Cliff Is Born =

When Clinton left office, there was no one left to block the raiders -- who swarmed in to vote themselves "largesse" from the public treasury.  Largesse in the form of giga-tax cuts for the uber-oligarchy, declaring that the red ink would be paid back within a year, by supply-side miracles.  Yes, that was what they promised. It is explicitly what they vowed would be the direct result.

Ah. Pity that not one prediction ever made by Supply Siders ever came even remotely close to coming true. And that is ever. The oligarchs did not spend their tax-cut largesse on productive enterprises or risky capital formation.  They spent it on dividend-rent-seeking securities and hedge speculations that withdrew cash from circulation but boosted an asset bubble, leading to staggering deficits and the Second Great Depression.

Dig this well, so that the Tytler Calumny can die its deserved death.  

The middle class demanded debt pay-down.  The aristocracy demanded short-sighted greed.  Exactly as they did in 1789 France, when the First Estate refused to help pay for the nation that benefited them... and thus signed their own fates.

The 1789 lords' rationalization - that they needed all the money to invest in their own duchies and estates and in jobs for their tenants - was precisely the same as the supply siders and "job-creators" use today. Flat out lies for which they later paid their lives.)

= Conservatives Who Can See =

Now, not everyone on today's American right has been lobotomized by Fox. Some of the heirs of Barry Goldwater have taken notice. For example, Mike Lofgren, in The American Conservative  (one of the few journals of the right that today would be considered sane by Goldwater and Buckley) has penned a scathing denunciation of how a worldwide caste of uber-wealthy appears to be seceding from the nations and peoples they increasingly control. In "Revolt of the Rich," Lofgren shows how this process - bringing us toward wealth disparities like those of 1789 France - threaten the very fabric of our western/american social contract.

"It is no coincidence that as the Supreme Court has been removing the last constraints on the legalized corruption of politicians, the American standard of living has been falling at the fastest rate in decades. According to the Federal Reserve Board’s report of June 2012, the median net worth of families plummeted almost 40 percent between 2007 and 2010."

Here is another snippet:

"If a morally acceptable American conservatism is ever to extricate itself from a pseudo-scientific inverted Marxist economic theory, it must grasp that order, tradition, and stability are not coterminous with an uncritical worship of the Almighty Dollar, nor with obeisance to the demands of the super wealthy. Conservatives need to think about the world they want: do they really desire a social Darwinist dystopia?

Look across the last 6000 years, the spendthrift aristocracy that ran nearly every kingdom, empire or feudal region typified Tytler's quotation, far more than the primly puritan democrats of Athens, Florence, Venice, the medieval guilds, or Britain or America. Committing horrors of statecraft, blundering and crushing freedom and repressing markets, the lords were the enemies of liberty in 99% of human cultures... the enemies of market capitalism who were most denounced by Adam Smith.

In sharp contrast -- and reiterating because it bears repeating -- middle class folk understand debt, better than anybody.  They walk its minefields every single day. Unlike the poor, they have skills and have options and practice dealing with those choices. They mostly manage to use debt as a tool... one not to be indulged excessively.  Unlike the rich, they have no illusions that you can manipulate your way out of any jam, privatizing profits and socializing costs.  Railing against government, then suckling at its teat.  The middle class -- the citizens who make democracy work -- don't have that luxury.  That delusion.

= The Paradox of "Deciders and Allocators" =

Hypocrites who adore rule-by-oligarchy violate the fundamental principles of Adam Smith, Friedrich Hayek and the entire conservative wing of mainstream economics, who all maintain that economic decisions are best made when we maximize the number of participants who get to know and participate in a basically flat and fair and open market.  (And the same competitive-accountability principle applies in democracy and science.)

Does it surprise you to learn that I think Hayek and Smith were absolutely right about this?  All humans are delusional, but the greater the number in-the-know and applying reciprocal accountability, the more likely each delusion is to be caught by somebody.

Oh, have you listened to those who decry that top-down decisions should not be made by the "limited number" of say 100,000 accountable and skilled and unbiased civil servants?  Sure, they have a point.

Only these loud critics then - without an eyeblink of irony - swerve and excuse secret, self-interested and conniving "picking winners and losers" when it is done by less than 3,000 elite-oligarch golf buddies in the CEO/billionaire caste. Praising that closed cabal as smart and accountable-enough, they dare to call that "capitalism."

t is not capitalism! It is the age-old enemy of capitalism. Ask Adam Smith.

= What is the crux?  =

What do I aim to accomplish here? I want you all to recognize and be able to name the Tytler Calumny, the next time your favorite ostrich or grouchy uncle starts reciting this poisonously treasonable and noxiously lying nostrum, bemoaning the impossibility that democracy can possibly survive the inherent contradictions of human nature.

In fact, I agree that Human Nature contains the seeds of downfall for our Enlightenment Experiment.  But the pattern we must fight is not some mystical 200 year "cycle" of decadence that has no known examples from history to back it up!

Rather, the truly ubiquitous pattern that has proved ruinous to human civilization is the very one that spoilt 99% of other societies, leading small clades of delusional lords to evade criticism and to rule by owner-right, making endless errors of statecraft that we now call "history." (And no, I don't prefer idiotic socialism! What I'll fight for is our pragmatic, wide-open renaissance.)

Those who keep repeating the Tytler Calumny seem eager to deride our Great Experiment, chopping away at its ankles, at its morale, implying that democracy is inherently doomed, and that we must return to the pattern that ruled other human cultures.  A pattern with a far worse, mostly vapid and stupid track record of misgovernment.

Whose tune are they parroting, when these fools demean democracy and extoll aristocracy? The lyrics come from Fox News, co-owned by billionaire media mogul Rupert Murdoch and a couple of coal baron pals and by the Sa'udi Royal House.

Huh.  Some coincidence. Lords preaching the inevitability of a return to lordship. The biggest reason not to heed them is that they clearly are too dumb to suss out where this leads.

Allons enfants de la Patrie, le jour de gloire est arrivé..

Discuss

= First a quick update about coming online events =

* A limited number of folks can join me in a "book tour" video-conference on Shindig (beta) on June 14 at 3 pm PDT... sign up in advance at Shindig.com

* Or join me for a big, informal Twitter extravaganza on June 20 at 1pm PDT  #TorChat

* Culminating in a Reddit "Ask Me Anything" marathon, scheduled for June 26, starting at 3pm Pacific (6pm Eastern or 2300GMT) and continuing until... whenever!

By the way... anybody who helps the preview trailer of Existenceto go viral will gain points in the Briniverse!   And see below how to sign up for our once-a-year newsletter, going out Tuesday!

= More on the importance of Looking Back at Authority =

On to important matters. One theme that recurs in EXISTENCE... and in daily life ... is the question of how to maintain freedom and hope in the presence of overwhelming power.  Which could be oligarchy, or aliens... or the cop on the corner.

I've long held that the most important civil rights issue of our time is ensuring that citizens maintain their power of "sousveillance" or gazing upward, unafraid, in order to hold authority accountable.  When a private person has any sort of clash with powerful figures, especially the police, he or she has only one refuge, one recourse that should overpower all other considerations.  The Truth.  The U.S. Constitution repeatedly emphasizes a citizen's right to that recourse.  But lately, many police officers have tried to prevent people from recording arrests with their cameras and cell phones.

One can well-understand how human it is, when you have such a difficult and dangerous job, to wish you weren't also under a constant glare of scrutiny.  But welcome to the 21st Century.  Police officers deserve all sorts of allowances and respect when they perform their functions professionally and well - and forgiveness of occasional and understandable lapses.  But we cannot let them win this one.  Not at all, at any level.  Those who resent scrutiny by their employers should seek other lines of work.

And now things seem to be falling into place on our side, for a change.  Not only have several court cases repudiated camera seizures, but now the Obama Justice Department has issued a stinging rebuke to the City of Baltimore for insufficiently protecting a universal right of citizens to record public events in a non-threatening way.  The existence of a right-to-record is laid out explicitly, in no uncertain terms.

Need any further proof that there is a difference?  Despite the fact that police officers have (for very good reasons) been voting democratic far more in the last decade (like all the other professional or knowledge castes), the Democratic administration simply had to issue this statement.  You know that it would not have been issued under Republicans.

And while we’re on the subject, here is a recent law paper: A Due Process Right to Record the Police, lining up the argument for a right to record as a core element of “due process” guarantees in the Constitution. While this article is cogent and persuasive, it includes a puzzling footnote to the effect that it is “worth noting that such a right might also find penumbral support in the Sixth Amendment’s right to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in a defendant’s favor.”

Here I deeply disagree.  It is not “penumbral” at all.  The neglected and seldom discussed Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is, in fact, one of the most important and vital in the defense of liberty and justice. It goes beyond what other clauses provide - by merely limiting the powers of the state - and instead lays out a positive power for the citizen to aggressively seek and compel testimony or other information in his or her own defense.   This is the very same aggressive demand that the citizen is asserting when using a camera or recording device to protect himself, in advance, against abuse of power.  The Sixth is the very heart and soul of our campaign to use transparency to defend both freedom and our civilization’s great experiment.

= Other Cool Items =

In The not-so-fine Line between Privacy and Secrecy, Valkyrie Ice does a pretty fair and eloquent paraphrasing of my “Allegory of the Restaurant” - and the power of reciprocal transparency to let us have some privacy, even in a world filled with light.

And swiveling 190 degrees to the "sprituality front..." Just because I am a big old Science Guy who believes passionately in the Western Enlightenment, that doesn’t mean I am at all trapped by the zero sum game that says you can only be one thing. Be interested in just one thing.  I know for a fact... and from my days in the sixties... that you can dip into “spiritual” matters now and then, without harming at all your ability to think logically.  What “is” can be separated from “what’s cool to ponder.”  And hence, I can dig where my friend and fellow author Matt Pallamary is at, with his novels and nonfiction books about exploring the Amazon and experiencing the altered states that came from using native ... well... spirit-shifting plants.  Watch his one minute video. And some of you can picture scenes in my books where - clearly - I must have talked to Matt too much!

= Science =

Amid the flood of reported planet discoveries, made by the wonderful Kepler spacecraft ( which finds them by measuring “transit” planet passages between us and the parent star), a paper now contends that a third of the claimed finds may be false positives.  “We cannot say anything about smaller planets,” says Alexandre Santerne, a graduate student at the University of Aix-Marseille in France and coauthor of the arXiv.org paper. “It’s just for giant planets close-in.”

This doesn’t surprise me.  I felt it was odd how many huge, close-in planets were turning up.  We are still in an era of fantastic discovery.

= The newsletter... it’s coming! =

Finally, I am about to send out my generally-once-a-year-newsletter.  Many of you are already included in the stack of email addresses. If you suspect you aren’t and want a copy sent to you, go to http://www.davidbrin.com and “subscribe” at the bottom of the central column.  Do it right away because the newsletter goes out Tuesday!

Discuss

Mon May 21, 2012 at 10:16 PM PDT

Are You Ready For Existence?

by David Brin

Here's a pair of links you'll love, and that you'll want to pass along. First, a40 second teaser for my new novel EXISTENCE!

Then go for the real treat - a full, three minute preview trailer of the book, with spectacular visuals and effects by the peerless web artist Patrick Farley. Prepare to be amazed! (It's cinematic, so give the preview time to load properly. )

The book won't be in stores for 3 weeks (June 19). You can sample free chapters on my newly redesigned website! And/or pre-order from Mysterious Galaxy or Amazon.

And yes, there's tons of political stuff, views of how the oligarchy might view science and democracy, forty more years down the line....

nother cool featurette: see my Question & Answer about Existence - also about human destiny and the transformative power of science fiction - at the Orbit Books site. And check out the 3-D cover (a new technology debuts with this book) that will only run with the U.K. first printing.Tell your friends and networks!

= Other Sci Fi-related News =

On the Need to Restore Optimism to Science Fiction: This interview on io9, is more about science fiction, science and the daunting challenges and amazing opportunities in front of us.  Piddling things like... destiny. Join Neal Stephenson and Kim Stanley Robinson, Vernor Vinge and me, in calling for SF that beckons our can-do spirit.

Having mentioned Robinson, be sure to check out his just released novel 2312.  I am getting my copy in a couple of days. Few modern authors so brilliantly blend scientific possibility with a clear-eyed view of human nature and hope for rising wisdom.

And heck, while we're compiling this stuff -- one of my better... if very informal...recent interviews just ran on the brash and fun HorrorZine site. Free-ranging from SETI to fantasy to my advice for new writers.

(* Note: for the longer more detailed version of this blog, with illustrations, see http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/ ...  Good luck adn win.)

Discuss

* NEWS FLASH - see my totally refurbished web site (http://www.davidbrin.com) and especially the cool page on EXISTENCE!

* Get your blue civil war Union "kepi" hat... the symbol for this summer and fall... from the Village Hat Shop, by web-order.  Tell them I sent you.

(For the version of this blog with links, see http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/)

= Ronnie Rising =

Are you a Republican - or do you know one - who is sincerely fretful about the GOP’s ticket for the coming quadrennial?  Well, there's good reason (on many levels.) But it appears there is hope!  Or at least a fun wish fantasy, written and published with stunning speed by a master science fiction author, John Barnes. In a quick-topical (and hilarious) shortie-novel that’s set right now!  In the few weeks before this year’s Republican National Convention.

RAISE THE GIPPER! is more a sudden piece of performance art than anything else. Staged precisely for a given moment in time, it fits into the tradition of such old-time favorites as The Mouse that Roared and Rally Around the Flag, Boys.

And it gives Republicans their utter wish fantasy, especially after wading through a primary season filled with dismal choices.  Picture the scenario -- Ronald Reagan, risen from the dead, tanned-rested-and-ready (hampered only slightly by the lack of a pulse) to lead the GOP to victory!

Think it’s all one-sided? Well, Barnes has some clever fun at the expense of flakey, Gaia worshipping, PC-vegan lefty-liberals, too!  It’s a rollicking good time. Try some free sample chapters! (Or get it on Amazon.) And support performance art.

Is it understandable that some Republicans nurse dream-wish fantasies? One is tempted, indeed, to dream up alternatives to the current presumptive nominee -- whose prep-school pranks included the deliberately traumatic bullying of helpless adolescents. Yes, there is forgiveness.  But character is generally persistent, unless you see major life reversals that indicate a true change of direction. And in that case, would he not have sought out his victims, later, to make amends? Or shown compassion in his business affairs?

Oh one can sympathize. Raise the Gipper, indeed!

= From the Transparency Front =

As you surf the Web, information is being collected about you. Web tracking is not 100% evil -- personal data can make your browsing more efficient; cookies can help your favorite websites stay in business. But, says Gary Kovacs, it's your right to know what data is being collected about you and how it affects your online life. He unveils a Firefox add-on called Collusion to do just that. It is a prime example of where we need to focus our attention in net-age battles over freedom and privacy.  Not in futile efforts to regulate the mighty and police what they can know, but rather in forever-enhancing our power to look back... and thus to hold the mighty accountable.

But shouldn't the light shine both ways? Read a scathing appraisal and denunciation of banking secrecy, of tax havens and the way at least seven trillion dollars vanish from the world’s books. For example: Nothing in offshore havens happens on a small scale. Almost any statistic flunks the red-face test. Consider the British Virgin Islands, home to about 30,000 people and 457,000 companies. In China, it’s said you haven’t made it until you have your own subsidiary in the British Virgin Islands, which holds more assets belonging to Chinese nationals than any foreign location except Hong Kong.

"The secrecy laws in these tax havens are at the root of serious crimes: fraud, money laundering and international terrorism," writes Robert M. Morgenthau in The New York Times.

There’s more money on deposit in the Caymans than in all the banks in New York City combined. Do you hear echoes of The Transparent Society? Or my novel Earth, in which the whole world finally gets fed up and storms the banks to make the records public? No issue is more powerfully important than tracing who uses these infamous dodges.

(Or more germane, when we seek to judge whether a one-time spoiled brat bully has grown up.)

What, then, can be done about all this? Plenty — if we act now. Nobody leaves their money offshore forever. The United States can direct its banks and their foreign subsidiaries not to engage in financial transactions in havens that have no transparency and no disclosure of the true parties of interest in financial transactions.

A bill has been proposed in the United States to prevent the use of shell corporations to hide the true ownership of assets owned here. This legislation would provide a model of openness for other nations to follow. Unfortunately, the legislation is bottled up in our own Congress. This should not be. America needs to set an example of financial accountability and insist that the world follow.

= A Hero of True Market Capitalism Weighs In =

I have long maintained that the left is deeply foolish to make stereotype assumptions about Adam Smith and Capitalism.  Smith was the founder of liberalism and one of the chief founders of the Western Enlightenment.  His call for open and transparent and fair competition in the marketplace was NOT a call for unbridled power and wealth for a narrow aristocracy of wealth!  In fact, Smith despised monopolies and cartels above all, and he called the plutocrat-oligarchs who grabbed power through property the worst enemies of freedom and markets, across 6000 years.

In other words, true capitalism - that is entrepreneurial, open and fair - has been one of the biggest victims of the recent tsunami of banking secrecy and hidden oligarchic influence!  If liberals saw this, actually read Smith, and proclaimed themselves the defenders of free markets, they could end an absurd gift they have given to the other side.

And if you are having trouble pegging me somewhere along the hoary and stupid so-called "left-right axis" then good!

Now see a cogent statement by one of the heroes of ground-level, liberation capitalism. Hernando De Soto is the economist whose reforms in Peru vested deeded ownership of the land into the hands of farmers who had lived on and worked their plots for generations, but never had the solid proof that would let them borrow against it and invest in modern methods and start up the road of success. After this vesting process happened, rural Peru experienced a boom of self propelled development that delighted BOTH liberals and libertarians who - at least in that country - finally realized how much they have in common.  From The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else:

"For the past fifteen years, the records of Western capitalism have been debased, leaving governments without the facts to spot what needs to be fixed and for businesses to know what their risks are. To regain its vitality, Western capitalism must bring under the rule of law and public memory hundreds of trillions of dollars now swirling mindlessly out of control in the obscure world of financial innovation. That task requires major political leadership." –  -- (from The Mystery of Capital)

Yes, you read correctly. Hundreds of trillions. Thom Hartmann has remarked often on the fact that the value (or "value") of derivatives being traded amounts to orders of magnitude higher than the GDP of the planet. But it goes beyond derivatives to de Soto’s area of expertise... ownership of the physical world.  The houses, boats, roads, farms, cattle, oil tankers... much of it with masked property trails.

If I could get ONE law passed worldwide, it would be "avow your ownership in something, or else, on January 1st of next year, you simply do not own it."

Think about it. This is totally not-socialist... though some nations might then decide to do some socialist things about it.  The key point though is that if all property is known, then people will be more responsible.  When an oil tanker runs aground (as one did a decade ago, despoiling the coast of Brittany) you'll be able to find the owners.  Drug lords and criminal gangs would instantly lose access to most of their fortunes. And the tax burden will be spread more widely to include those who now cheat. In theory, taxes should go DOWN for all who currently play by the rules.  Or stay the same while debt is paid down.

There is no single measure that would do more instant good, while having almost nil effect upon the 99% of us who already say it openly: "I own that."

* (One blog commentator chides me for focusing so on deSoto. "while De Soto has contributed enormously to development economics, his work needs to be combined with those of other economists for best effect.In particular, there's Muhammad Yunus (of Grameen Bank fame) and Amartya Sen, the man who ended famine in India." I respond: all are heroes of good capitalism, and for the left to ignore these folks is almost as the right is, to try to crush them.)

= Political Miscellany =

A study of economic mobility in the US by state shows a pattern that will probably be all too familiar to readers of ContraryBrin. All the out-performers except Utah (7 of 8) are blue states. All 9 under-performers are red states. So much for the idea of the liberal elite keeping the masses down and so much for the idea that Republican small government and deregulation creates a culture of opportunity.

Possible link between maternal obesity and low childhood intelligence. Gee wiz... will we ever see a single datum that the denizens of Red America, who proclaim so loudly that they know better how to live and raise kids, are ever right at all, even once?  About anything whatsoever?

Discuss

The brilliance of Rupert Murdoch, Roger Ailes, Prince Waleed and their clade never ceases to impress me.  Twenty years ago, they were subsidizing Rush Limbaugh and the neoconservatives to spread what's become the core notion of today's right. (Though it also crops up on the far-left!) One that is now fundamental dogma to millions of Americans.

The notion that assertions can trump facts.

Ridiculing the “fact based community,” the party line has become completely untethered from any need for consistency or reference to evidence. Leveraging upon a native and healthy American trait - suspicion of authority - it has metastacised into the cancerous nostrum that all experts are automatically wrong because they know a lot.  From scientists to journalists to judges, medical doctors, academics, diplomats, skilled labor... indeed, the list of knowledge castes under attack at Fox is now almost complete.  (Find the exceptions!) Only the Wall Street oligarchy has been left out.  Those "experts" it seems are indispensable.

Not even Marxists ever found so perfect a way to insulate their followers from dogma-dilution.  Is there any way to get past the nostrums recited by Limbaugh listeners and climate denialists and so on?

I found one.  And it works.  It works very well.

Make it a matter of money.  Stone cold hard cash.

I have found that no amount of facts or evidence will shift an “ostrich” republican back to the old ways of Goldwater and Buckley, in pre-Fox days, when conservatism respected knowledge and facts. Back when the average education level of republicans was higher than democrats, when 40% of scientists were in the GOP, instead of less than 5% today.  When knowledge and intellect weren't the openly declared enemy.
Nevertheless, I found a bullet! When faced with absolute denial and perfect assertion-addiction, one thing cracks the turtle shell. Demanding a wager!

“You are absolutely certain about your list of assertions, even those that sound cockeyed and totally over-the-top, or that denounce all of America's knowledge-experts.  So certain are you, of these Ailes-approved assertions, that you're willing to stake our nation’s future on them, even putting back in charge the idiots who ran America off a cliff in the first decade of this century.  So certain that you’ll demonize every opponent, despise all educated people, and trash any talk of negotiation or compromise.

“Fine.  Only then, if you truly are that certain, make a bet!  Take my money! Back it up with cash that we’ll both deposit with some agreed-neutral party.  I’ll even give you odds. If I am the fool, for disagreeing with you, take money from this fool! (And religion is no excuse; the loser could pay the winner's favorite charity.)

“This matters. You are willing to help ignite the latest phase of the American Civil War, convinced that facts back up your side.  Then show some guts. Put money on it!”

= Clearcut, provable wagers =

Here are just a few of the matters I have offered to lay on the table, at various times.  I've made some nice cash. But mostly had the satisfaction of calling the other guy "chicken" when he refused... and seeing him stop using some outrageously false, Roger Ailes talking points.

* You claim we’re in steep moral decline, especially in Blue America. Red America is more moral and knows better how to raise kids up, wholesomely; is that right? Okay, have we shaken on a wager? Then here’s just one clear-fact refutation. Teen pregnancies are highest in states with abstinence-only policies. (In fact, get Crazy Uncle to bet on every point of “immorality” from divorce rates, teen sex, STDs, and domestic violence to almost every type of crime, in Red vs Blue regions.  He’ll lose on all counts.  Take his cash. Or call him a coward.)

* Taxed enough already?  That's the outraged Tea Party mantra.  So make a bet on how high taxes really are in the U.S. today, especially for the rich, compared to any time in the last 80 years.  (Actually, we're at one of the lowest points since 1930.) Or what fraction of the US economy is taken up by the Federal government. Or who is paying more tax and getting less in return. (Hint: Blue America pays more taxes, gets fewer benefits, but... key point... Blue America also whines much much less.)

* The Obama stimulus of the economy in 2009 was a "catastrophe" according to Republicans like Mitt Romney, who wanted the US Auto Industry to go into bankruptcy and receivership, and thereby "learn a lesson." It was claimed that the taxpayer would lose trillions... literally trillions.  So have your uncle bet you whether this is still what he believes... then show him the NET PROFITthat we, the people, are making off the stimulus.

(Then ask him if he thinks we got our money's worth from a decade and two trillion dollars and thousands of lives poured into "nation building" in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Ask him if he knows what fraction of that went to companies co-owned by Dick Cheney.  Finally, ask him why he doesn't know, or care.)

* Obama the socialist? BHO got his  party to pass the republicans’ own health care proposal (circa 1994-2004).  “Obamacare” is essentially the Gingrich Plan, later adopted by Mitt Romney. Don't let them weasel by claiming "We changed our mind!" Sure, they have that right.

But you do not have a right to change your mind AND scream "socialist!" at those who implement YOUR plan. Find a way to parse this as a bet.

*  Here’s one that always works. Offer to bet Crazy Uncle that Rupert Murdoch’s top partner and co-owner at Fox News is a Saudi Prince. He'll deny it in screeching outrage... then he'll refuse to make it a wager.  Nail him with that hypocrisy.

I could go on and on.  Indeed, many of you regulars are tired of hearing these same things recited here.  (Well, you knew it would happen in an election year!)  But that’s not the point, this time.

Sure, I know we won’t change many minds with this tactic.  Negotiation and mind-changing isn't in the cards. Not during outright Civil War. Ailes and co. have succeeded in plunging us down that path and nothing is left but to fight it. With the right symbols.

But at least this’ll arm you to help get the nut-jobs to shut the f$#& up over their favorite ranted assertion-incantations!  Because they care, above all, about their money.

= Hence this OPEN CALL! =

Come to the comments section (below) and offer your own favorite crazy uncle bets, parsed to go to the heart of a right wing "frame" and easily disprove it.  Offer it up as a clear wager... and provide citations for devastating proof/evidence.  Keep them short n' punchy and focused on crystal clear FALSIFIABLE STATEMENTS or wagers subject to potent proof. I'll publish the best ones here.

Oh, and just for fairness sake... you contrarians or republicans are welcome to offer up ways to bait your dogmatic-leftist crazy aunt, too!

They may not be as numerous or dangerous as the Murdochite loons, right now, but I consider them-there-lefties to be fair game.  Only dig this... try to stick to actual unbiased assertions that real liberals (and not a few campus lefty flakes) actually say, not things Glen Beck claims they say.

I’ll post the top ones on CONTRARY BRIN.

Even better, I hope someone will become convinced to run with this concept and create a web site devoted to Big Political Bets.  As contributions to sanity go, you could do much worse.

Discuss

Increasingly, scientific consensus is failing to influence public policy. Facts, statistics and data appear insufficient to change highly politicized minds... and science has started scrutinizing why.

Alas now, this topic inevitably devolves down to our screwy American politics. And while (as I avow repeatedly) every political wing has its anti-science flakes, growing mountains of evidence suggest that one wing has gone especially frenzied in an anti-scientific snit. Or else (as that wing contends) science itself has become corrupted, top to bottom, rendering "evidence" suspect or moot. Let's examine both possibilities.

(**A side note to Kossians: As many of you know, I am a different breed than most of you. I am an unapologetic Blue Dog, whose volcanic fury against Rupert Murdoch and Fox and the madness in the GOP has little to do with classic matters and "left-versus-right" in economic policy. I support Obama and the Democrats for one reason above all others... because they are still sane. And because only by delivering the GOP a huge shellacking will there be any hope that adults might take over conservatism and bring it back to the bargaining table. That makes you and me allies. But do NOT expect me to suddenly stop knowing and saying that there are also loons on the left.  There are.  Much less dangerous, right now.  But boy, there are.**)

Chris Mooney, author of Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens our Future, has a new book, The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Don't Believe in Science, in which he describes how firmly some of our neighbors - even moderately well-educated ones - now cling to aphorisms, assertions and just-so stories in order to
clutch a politically motivated view - or mis-view - of scientific data.  Misinformation persists – and propagates – about the dangers of vaccinations, the hazards of nuclear energy, the credibility of creation vs. evolution, and the preponderance of data supporting global warming. In case after politically-redolent case, we find that evidence has a limited power to persuade on hot button issues where deep emotions are involved.

I agree with Mooney that this delusion-conviction effect has done grievous harm to our once-scientific and rational nation. And anyone would have to be deaf, blind, and in hysterical denial not to see these trends operating, in tsunami proportions, among our Republican neighbors.

Still, let’s be fair. There are cases of conviction-delusion on the left, as well. Just look at some fantastically illogical purist stances over the nature-vs-nurture argument, in which leftists hew to absolutist positions based entirely on what is politically correct and dogmatically convenient, never bothering to notice that they claim human behaviors are completely uncontrolled by biology... except when they are completely controlled by biology.  No amount of evidence can alter the way fervent believers want the world to be. Another example, the tense alliance between liberals and leftists  crumbles over issues like the careful restart of nuclear energy, something the liberals are now willing to cautiously resume.

The key difference is not whether such delusionally subjective-selective perception occurs on both political extremes - it does. No, what should matter to us all is how thoroughly the reflexive-denialists on one side control an entire movement, political party and power complex.... and ran the entire country... off a cliff. Meanwhile, the subjectivity junkies on the other side are marginalized (if loud.)

Mooney describes in detail how bad it is - that millions of our neighbors deem facts to be malleably ignorable. Though soundly refuted by scientific studies, angry parents continue to believe their children acquired autism through vaccinations: "Where do they get their 'science' from? From the Internet, celebrities, other frantic-angry parents, and a few non-mainstream researchers and doctors who continue to challenge the scientific consensus, all of which forms a self-reinforcing echo chamber of misinformation," writes Mooney, noting that for every five hours of cable news, just one minute is devoted to science. In 2009, 15 year old U.S. students ranked 17th out of 34 developed countries in science. A firm foundation in science is fundamental to modern citizenship as well as our ability to innovate and
 succeed in a global economy.



In fact, the “war on science” has ballooned long past any mere attack upon the credibility of researchers and professors.  It now manifests as a general “war on all knowledge castes”  -- including teachers, economists, journalists, civil servants, medical
 doctors, skilled labor, judges, diplomats... everyone (in other words) who actually knows a lot. All are routinely attacked on you-know-which-murdochian-"news"-network.

Science itself is turning attention to this problem and things are not looking good.  According to one study (via Mooney): “The result was stunning and alarming. The standard view that knowing more science, or being better at mathematical reasoning, ought to make you more accepting of mainstream climate science simply crashed and burned.” It was found that conservatives who knew more tended to dig in their heels against new facts or budging their views, using what they already knew as bulwarks against changing their minds. But this did not hold for the other side. Educated liberals who were pre-disposed to be suspicious toward nuclear power nevertheless were adaptable when shown clear scientific data assuaging their fears. (I would love to see this experiment done on liberals re: nature-vs-nurture issues!)

Mooney concludes that even education fails to serve as “antidote to politically biased reasoning.”

Take a look at this excerpt of Mooney's latest book, The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science—and Reality  (due out in April). It shows that our current Culture War is not about left vs right at all.  It is about two very different sets of personalities and worldviews.

= It’s not all bad news =

Oh, heck, want a positive note? It may be possible to overcome this sickness, enflamed deliberately by Roger Ailes and his crew. Stanford Prof. James Fishkin and his colleagues ran an experiment in which a full spectrum of Californians were brought together and asked to soberly deliberate on state problems, negotiating a range of solutions. With their minds focused by sober responsibility, rabid partisans suddenly displayed flexibility, curiosity, willingness to learn and … (yes even the Republicans)… a readiness to negotiate with their opposing neighbors, without calling them satanic.
Fishkin and his colleague, Bruce Ackerman, call for a new holiday, Deliberation Day, when “people throughout the country will meet in public spaces and engage in structured debates about issues…”

= But the bad is still plenty bad =

All too often politicians use bad science to justify their political agenda. Both right and left have favorite conspiracy theories about Global Climate Change (which I’ve discussed in Climate Skeptics and Climate Deniers). On global warming, Rick Santorum said, “I for one never bought the hoax.”  But consider…which is more likely: A massive conspiracy involving 90% of scientists worldwide — or oil companies spending vast sums to sway opinion, and influence public policy to protect their profits? Decide for yourself.
In any case, most of the methods for reducing greenhouse gas emissions involve increasing our energy efficiency and stimulating development of new forms of energy — things we ought to be doing anyway to remain competitive and current in an ever-changing global economy.
Oh, please… you Brits over there… nail those guys who have done so much harm to America. Whose family name reminds one of the underground-dwelling cannibals of Wells’s novel The Time Machine.

=Campaign Finance: Follow the Money=

Compare numbers of campaign donations under $200 and those over $200 between Obama, Paul and Romney. Who has a broad range of support? Who is the populist candidate?  A fascinating comparison… especially when you add in super-pacs, whose average contributors (for Romney) have been in the $100,000 range.  Citizens United, anyone?
Do you think we’ve been exaggerating the degree that the super-uber-rich are buying influence in politics?  Just one small group of immensely wealthy GOP donors…almost all of whom attend twice-yearly secret meetings hosted by the billionaire Koch Brothers — have already sent gushers of cash to Super-Pacs supporting Romney, Gingrich and even Ron Paul. We’re talking upwards of One Hundred Million Dollars... and it is only March.  Tell me… is there any red line that even your fox-crazy uncle must decide is intolerable?  Can we stop this?

WhoWhatWhy reports that that Saudi prince Walid bin Talal – Rupert Murdoch’s top partner at Fox – has invested heavily in Twitter.  An event coinciding with Twitter’s recent announcement that it would cooperate with censorship of any content deemed “illegal” in any country, whatsoever.  WhoWhatWhy can get a bit “over-eager” but these facts speak for themselves.
Iceland shows the way. If the European (and American) debt crises seem endless, with Big Banks the only relentless winners, then read up about Iceland, given up for dead after their foolish bankers (who called themselves “geniuses”) leveraged the country into tsunamis of red ink.  What this article doesn’t talk about is the “gender aspect”.  In effect,, the women of Iceland simply took over.  Grabbed the reins of politics and finance out of the hands of their “genius” husbands and sent them back to the fishing boats, where they belonged.

Following those rumors of a brokered GOP convention?  A lot of simmering talk about drafting… Jeb Bush.  This survey of Bush Family “coincidences” may be a little biased… but the facts do speak.

Discuss

Okay, we’ve had a brief survey of our generation’s would-be Nehemiah Scudder. Just last week’s short list  of recent “Santor-isms” was enough to give any modern or compassionate or sane person the creepy heebie-jeebies. Do you doubt that I could go on and on?

Scary?  Sure. Can one envision the outcome, if a guy like this who wants “fire in the sky” and an end to the United States (all of it implicit in his prayed-for Book of Revelation End Times) ever gets his hands on nukes? Does he distill the terrified, future-shocked rage of those imbibing Culture War, making clear that this truly is Phase Three of the American Civil War?

(See  a much more detailed, though somewhat more partisan, litany of Rick Santorum’s astonishing views: Agenda for the Dark Ages. I say “more partisan” because my complaints about Rick have very little to do with old-fashioned “left-vs-right.)

“Oh, don’t worry,” our sincere “moderate Republican” friends tell us.  “Romney will get the nomination. And Mitt doesn’t mean all the extremist, red-meat, never compromise, worship the rich crap he has to shout, in order to appease the base and get nominated.  As soon as he clinches it – the very second that he has the nomination locked-up – Mitt will charge for the center as quick as a cat!”

Yep, that is what they are saying. And it’s a measure of how deep the moderate GOP “ostriches” have to stick their heads into a pit of rationalizations, that all that sounds like a goooood thing to them.  In my last installment, I explained how they are right about this, because it fits the nominating pattern that the GOP follows perfectly. And it is still depressing as all get out.

But for the moment, let’s ponder a different path. What might be some unforeseen consequences if the True Conservative were to come out on top with the GOP nomination, handing it to Honest Rick Santorum.

= There would be silver linings! =

Well, it could offer hope to guys like me  – (moderates with a strong Adam-Smithian streak, who dream of a return to Yankee-style pragmatic politics) – that a Santorum nomination might be the long awaited Last Straw.

Oh, what if! Suppose those millions of good, decent “ostrich” conservatives are capable – at long last – of recognizing and admitting how thoroughly their once-noble movement has been hijacked by cynical oligarchs and outright crazy-people. If anything could ever achieve that miraculous psychological breakthrough, then putting Santorum at the GOP helm ought to do it. At long last.

Some are calling it the GOP’s “McGovern Moment,”   but I look even farther back in time, to 1947, the year that democrats and liberals gathered the courage to separate from their own, in-house crazies. (And the left DOES contain those! In far smaller numbers now, than today’s right, but  lefty-loons do exist.) I call it the Miracle of ’47.
You should look it up.

Oh, but will personality trump common sense yet again?  So far a single mantra has worked for conservative ostriches to keep them allied with monsters — “Yes, my side has gone nuts, but Democrats are just as bad or worse!”  Will that crazy, fact-free chant finally fall apart? Indeed, maybe those millions will start to remember adults like Buckley and Goldwater and finally decide — after November’s trouncing — to stand up and retake their movement. Reforging an adult conservatism that America needs, for balance.

From hard experience, I won’t hold my breath.

= The real winners in a Santorum nomination? Libertarians! =

Oh, oh, but the GOP tent holds yet another group that’s exercising utter denial. I must now must turn and speak to my poor libertarian friends.

All right, your infatuation with Ron Paul has been fun.  And yes, I find him both admirable in some ways and spot-on when it comes to certain issues. But he has not been good for your movement.

Honestly. Do you expect Paul to change the GOP from within?  Or to affect at all the ongoing oligarchic putsch, combined with bedroom policing “social” hysteria?

The Paul Phenomenon only feeds a loony delusion that the GOP is somehow your “hold the nose” second-best choice. That somehow, in some twilight zone universe, the democrats are… worse?  A crazy idea if you actually list policies that might get negotiated with one major party or the other.

But here’s another thing that Libertarians ought to be pondering, right now: If, by some amazing twist, Rick Santorum actually gets the Republican nomination, then this will be the year that the Libertarian Party finally gets more than 1% of the national vote!

In fact, there will be a flood of liberty-minded refugees fleeing to the LP. A tsunami the likes of which you’ve never seen before. Who knows? If that surge waxed high enough in the polls, the LP candidate might even get in on a debate or two! Hey, it happened for Ross Perot in 92!

Am I off base here?  Just look at how many of Ron Paul’s supporters find they cannot stomach anyone else on the GOP side. “While other GOP presidential candidates have seen their fortunes wax and wane with voters, Ron Paul has enjoyed steadfast, if relatively low level, support from an obsessively loyal base of backers. But if his long-shot bid falls short, his supporters may balk at throwing their votes to a rival.” 

For that reason, ironically, it seems logical that libertarians in Michigan and Arizona should right now ponder voting Santorum! Forget nostalgia for Ron Paul. That love affair was sweet but it’s not gonna change anything if it leads to Romney and another 1% year for the LP. On the other hand, a GOP that finally ends the hypocrisy and confesses what it has become? A GOP that finally drives out freedom lovers?

That could transform everything. I salivate for the day when the Libertarian Party rises to replace the GOP as the main one opposing the democrats, arguing fairly and openly and sagaciously about market solutions as legitimate alternatives to state solutions. 

The resulting discussions and arguments will finally contain substance!  They’ll be honest. And they won’t be about helping return us to feudal dark ages.

Think nationally. Think about the future of liberty-oriented politics.  Ron Paul has had his shot.  Now clear a path for Gary Johnson to actually get somewhere, in the fall.  Hold your nose one last time and vote… (heaven help us)… for Scudder.

= Late Addendum =

I know this will crush some of my libertarian-romantic friends.  But have you noticed how – in the debates – Ron Paul never takes a swipe at Mitt Romney?  Always, always, he comes out swinging hard at whomever happens to be Romney’s top rival of the moment!  This is too consistent for it simply to be explained by “Mitt and Ron are friends.”

Now see this analyzed in a very very disturbing article.

Or google “Paul-Mitt Alliance”. It seems, my friends, that you may have been sold out.

Discuss

Well, he survived the debate and we're all breathlessly awaiting the results from Michigan and Arizona, to see if this marvelous theater will go on.  My own fascination with Rick Santorum is partly rooted in the fell prediction that Papa Robert Heinlein made, in his future history, way back in the 1950s... that a fundamentalist preacher would win the presidency on a court decision, without a plurality (sound like 2000?) and thereupon clamp down a theocracy as "Prophet of the Lord." That character was named Nehemia Scudder and it all happens in 2012.

But in fact, I do not expect Rick to win the nomination, this time around. That is because Republicans always follow a very precise pattern in their nominations.

(1) if there is a recent or sitting Vice President available and running, they always choose him. (In fairness, the dems do that too, almost as consistently.)

(2) If there is no available veep, they then nominate the guy whose "turn it is." The fellow who came in second for the nomination last time.  Reagan in 1980, Dole in '96, McCain in 2008, etc.  Hence, following that rule, it will be Romney in 2012…

...only dig it... that means Santorum in 2016.  Was Heinlein off by only a little bit? I'll conclude this series with a comment on that. Including a prediction for how the GOP base will deal with it when -- the very second after he is nominated -- Mitt Romney instantly charges for the Center as fast as he can.

But first, let's get back to Rick Santorum, the gift that keeps on giving.

= Rick's Roll Goes On and On... =

What's he been saying lately?

State and federal governments should not have a role in operating schools.

No abortion even in cases of rape or incest. Women should "make the best out of a bad situation."

Birth control is "harmful to women."

The government should ban or refuse to pay even for pre-natal testing.

When Santorum's press secretary, Alice Stewart, called Obama a "radical islamist" to an open mike, was that just an innocent slip of the tongue?  Or an inadvertent, but Freudian-honest rolling-out of what she - and many Santorum supporters - commonly say and believe in private?

And it goes on. Did Rick call Obama Hitler? See how he denies it... then weaves a draw-your-own-conclusions tapestry that inescapably says exactly that.

= "Fairness" is When YOU Want More... =

"Just like we have certifying organizations that accredit a college, we'll have certifying organizations that will accredit conservative professors. If you are to be eligible for federal funds, you'll have to provide an equal number of conservative professors as liberal professors." See this interview with Santorum.

So, governments should not operate public schools, and big federal interference is bad... but it should hammer down on colleges to force them to hire 50% conservatives?  Wow.  What's the principle here, Rick?  Fairness and equal time?

Hm... then why do the GOP and Fox scream bloody murder over any mention of restoring the old equal time rule in broadcast news?  The notion that the viewers deserve to see and hear rebuttals to outrageously partisan declamations on partisan cable "news" channels?

Why no opposing opinions or rebuttals... at all?  That's the policy on Beck, Limbaugh, Fox&Friends, Hannity and so on.  Only the resident "adult" at Fox, Bill O'Reilly, has the guts to bring on some guests with challenging viewpoints. Rarely. You say it's the same on the Left?  Not.  Jon Stewart has more opposition guests on his one show than the entire Fox network. He treats them courteously and hawks their books. They come back often and eagerly! There's a word for what Stewart does. It is Courage.

And thus, those who do the opposite are cowards.

Heck, I'd settle for a 10% rule, because having tough, smart opposition voices just that often on Fox would demolish their hypnotic trance.  Rupert and Roger desperately fear the day their captive audience might hear alternative viewpoints. Or even -- (shudder) -- facts.

It seems that "equal time" is right and proper, depending entirely on who is getting "equalized."

Oh but I saved the best for last. It is by far the most important aspect to all of this, even though it will strike many of you as troglodytic and obscure.  Because it shows where millions of our neighbors have been wandering, in their minds and in their increasingly fury-drenched attitude towards the rest of us.

= The role of religion: Rallying the faithful... vs the majority =

Here's the part that Rick Santorum considers paramount. And so we should take his word on that and spare the time to  pay close attention, because the moral and logical essence is astonishing.

Santorum proclaimed that mainstream Protestantism is "gone from the world of Christianity" -- thereby dismissing all of the communions who are members of the National Council of Churches  as heretical, and thus classifying - by inclusion - all Americans who abide by mainstream Protestant sects such as Lutherans, Episcopalians and Methodists. By all means. link to hear his speech laying out how Satan personally seeks to destroy America, and has so far succeeded in corrupting our colleges and our mainstream Protestant churches:

"And so what we saw was this domino effect, once the colleges fell and those who were being educated in our institutions, the next was the church. Now you’d say, ‘wait, the Catholic Church’? No. We all know that this country was founded on a Judeo-Christian ethic but the Judeo-Christian ethic was a Protestant Judeo-Christian ethic. Sure the Catholics had some influence, but this was a Protestant country and the Protestant ethic, mainstream, mainline Protestantism, and of course we look at the shape of mainline Protestantism in this country and it is in shambles, it is gone from the world of Christianity as I see it."

What a guy!  I'd be delighted... at one purely political level... if I weren't also terrified.  This, after all, being the year that Papa Heinlein forecast the election of a radical fundamentalist "prophet of the lord" named Nehemiah Scudder.

Woof.  How do you answer stuff like that? Is the intention of all this to make half of Americans view the other half as purely satanic enemies?  For it is no less than that.  Can the United States of America govern itself when we're no longer arguing over negotiated policy solutions, but over pure and essential damnation?

Before you shrug, consider what this means. These folks try not to say it before an open mike, but their pastors (e.g. of Sarah Palin's church in Wassila) make plain that they both pray for and expect all of the events described in the Book of Revelation (BoR) to befall us in the very near future, and that those who do not hold to their exact doctrines are inherently in for grotesque torment and eternal damnation. (Do, by all means, read Revelation and see what they pray for, including "fire from the sky," lavish agony for the vast majority of us, and an end to all democracy and to the United States of America.)

Many of us were already used to being consigned to that category by the BoR-fetishists. Only now Rick makes it clear -- it includes a majority of his fellow citizens.

But let's return to that bit about Satan personally having it in for the good old USA.  Consider it logically.

Let's suppose that someone, say Satan -- (or else an immensely rich foreign royal family with its eye on ending and replacing Pax Americana) -- did conspire and plot to see the U.S. ruined.  Would the devil -- or those princes -- not want exactly this volcanic fury vented by Rick Santorum and his allies?

Raging, hate-propelled civil war? Demonizing our neighbors over any disagreement? An end to all chance for Americans to negotiate with one another as free minds, willing to learn and adapt in the face of evidence? To make us incapable of negotiating with our neighbors as calm adults.

Wasn't that our strength, the eager optimism of our song?

And who'll be laughing with delight the day that music dies?

Discuss

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum is truly on a roll.  Feeling his oats, he has been laying down a hardcore line. And if this one week is any sample, we are in for one heckuva ride.

He started by impugning President Ombama's religious faith as "phony theology." This is red meat, so central to the party faithful that a surrogate let slip what it really means, into an open microphone -- the "radical muslim" fantasy that they share privately on the bus and plane.

But more on that in another post.

Is Santorum the new "teflon candidate" to whom nothing bad will stick? Let's start with the Phony Theology of environmentalism.

=  Elevating the Earth above People? =

Now, completing 48 hours of grand assertions, Santorum proclaims that President Barack Obama is beholden to “radical environmentalists” and has a "world view that elevates the earth above man.”

Again and again, we see broad-brush assertions that are immune to testing by facts or experiment of falsification, because by their very essence they are about rhetoric, polemic, the world of subjective rage.

There IS an answer for this latest Santorum salvo.  Alas, it must be in terms that are rhetorical, polemical and subjective.  Yet, the pure truth.

So is it even remotely true that - as Santorum claims - both Obama and the hated/satanic blue half of America elevate the Earth above people?

Wrong.  We elevate our great-grandchildren... and their great-grandchildren... above both short-term ripoff artists and dopes who pray for Armageddon.

Tens and hundreds of billions of people... future people... our descendants.  We want to save a viable planet -- and a viable, vibrantly creative economy and a vigorously scientific civilization -- for them.

When you strip away all the dross and distractions -- like the insipid notion that any of this involves old-fashioned "left-vs-right -- and when you also strip away all the self-hypnosis incantations like "muslim" and "socialism" -- what is left?  What's the essential. core matter before us?

= The divide is not left/right... it is forward vs backward =

Picture the big-money oligarchs who are stage managing this hysteria, hijacking the once-noble movement of Barry Goldwater...what do they have in common with the ground troops of the GOP, in their steepening spiral of frothing religious hysteria? Very little, except...

...the future.  Neither of them think about it, want it, care about it or believe in it. The populists in America's latest Great Revival think the days of the Late Great Planet Earth are numbered, and they despise those who would tend it with careful attention to distant tomorrows. The oligarchs? If they had horizons extending beyond ten years, they would get rich the way Gates and Buffet do, with goods and services, and with some thought to the long range, as well. In both cases, the agenda is nostalgia.

Oh, I will concede that Newt wants a moon base.  But where else is the extended future - the Long Now - to be found, contemplated anywhere at all on the right?  Barry Goldwater used to think long term. But in those days, 40% of scientists called themselves Republican, instead of 5% today. A migration and exile that says it all.

Read more about how well Rick Santorum channels to the "future shocked" side of America -- our neighbors who want no part of it.

Yes, there are also lefties, who "avatar" tomorrow with gloom.  I have always avowed that there are nut-jobs in that direction, too.  But those flakes are relatively rare and they do not own or operate an entire political party.  They don't have the calamitous misrule of the 2000s decade to atone for. Those lefty flakes are not the same thing as Blue America.

The America that still thinks about posterity -- and yes the posterity of our beloved fellow (red) citizens, as well. All of our descendants who will need a living Earth.

Discuss
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