Can the Electoral College system be reformed?

by Richard Dawkins

Donald Trump was surely right when he said, in 2012, “The electoral college is a disaster for a democracy . . . A total sham and a travesty”. And he confirmed his sensible view on November 13th, 2016 (after winning the election by the Electoral College system, but losing the popular vote) “I would rather see it, where you went with simple votes. You know, you get 100 million votes, and somebody else gets 90 million votes, and you win. There’s a reason for doing this. Because it brings all the states into play.”

His argument is illustrated by a revealing map (shown above) on the same website from which I took those quotes. It shows the number of campaign visits to various states during the 2016 campaign.

Trump’s sensible point is reinforced by recollection of the 2000 election when there was a dead-heat in Florida, and the Supreme Court was invited to decide, on what might as well have been the flip of a coin, which candidate should get all 25 of the state’s EC votes and hence the presidency.

Most thinking people agree with Donald Trump that the present Electoral College system needs to go. But it’s widely recognized that it is almost impossible to abolish outright, because a constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds majority in both Houses of Congress (or a constitutional convention called for by two-thirds of state legislatures), and finally needs to be ratified by three-fourths of the state legislatures. Even given widespread goodwill, that’s a dauntingly high hurdle to clear. David Cameron might have done well to emulate it, at least to some degree, in his EU referendum which also, after all, concerned a major constitutional change.

The existing US constitution allows each state to choose its Electoral College delegates in its own way. Maine and Nebraska depart from the “winner take all” principle by allocating their (comparatively few) EC delegates by their own systems which approximate to a pro rata allocation. If all the states simultaneously followed suit it would work. But if only some states did, leaving the rest to persist with “winner take all”, it could be an undemocratic disaster. Imagine if California alone, or Texas alone, joined Nebraska and Maine! What is needed is a formula which doesn’t require all the states to adopt it simultaneously: a “gentle” departure from the status quo, such that things get slightly better (defined as closer to the popular vote) even if only some states adopt it, becoming progressively better as more and more states join in.

There is a formula which does exactly that. A state, any state, could unilaterally decide to allocate all its Electoral College votes to the candidate who wins the popular vote in the country at large. If all the states adopted this formula, the Electoral College would vote unanimously for the winner of the popular vote. If states adopted the system one by one, the EC majority would progressively approach closer and closer to the popular vote. No constitutional amendment would be needed.

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187 COMMENTS

  1. The argument against dropping the Electoral College are twofold; both do not hold water anymore. 1> The EC is there to keep a mad-man populist from running the table. We just witnessed how this failed entirely. Need i say more? 2> That smaller states are unrepresented or under-represented. Dawkins map above shows how candidate VISITS are even more disproportionate under current system. And (main argument) the smaller states are OVER represented in the US Senate !! This would be deplorable if not for the ‘New Jersey’ compromise of federal period, establishing the proportional HOUSE along with the “2 for each” senate. That’s FINE, it actually WORKS. No need to further enfranchise the rural parts of country that are not well populated, do not produce proportional GDP, and lag behind in higher education and many other measures of ‘progress’.

  2. Wouldn’t it be awful if we abolished the electoral college after a Democratic victory in the mid-term elections and Trump (after losing the electoral college, according to analysts) then won the popular vote by a squeaker in 2020?

  3. @bonkers704:

    But that Wikipedia article says:

    “The compact is designed to ensure that the candidate who wins the most popular votes is elected president, and it will come into effect only when it will guarantee that outcome.”

    In other words, it will come into effect once enough states have signed on to account for the majority of electoral votes.

    Richard’s point is that each state could adopt this policy right now, without risk, and get us progressively closer to the desired system. Why wait?

  4. The Electoral model was designed when communication was not instantaneous between millions of voters and there was no way someone from Nebraska could know a nominee for President. Now, there is no such a thing as underrepresented areas because of lack of communication: even in the remotest areas of the US has a smartphone and access to the internet! So now the system is unfair to Urban dwellers and their votes count far less, e.g. 1 to 3 in case of Wyoming versus California. So although there is always a risk a populist fooling all USA and it is not zero, the chance of fooling margin states protected by Electoral college is far more than fooling all US population! And if such a thing happens and a Trump like populist manages to win all US, be it. Human society have been learning from their mistakes and evolving as a whole, as Germany did! There is no way we can prevent every mistake, without making any mistake!

  5. The problem with this proposal is the same as the problem with trying to abolish the Electoral College. Both proposals would require small states to willingly give up their disproportionately high representation. If states were willing to do that, we could get the Constitutional Amendment passed. A better suggestion might be to make a few smaller changes:

    1) Use the nationwide popular vote result to narrow the Electoral College field to the top two candidates.

    2) Replace the “Winner take all” process that most states have with a “Winners take all” – i.e. divide up the state’s electoral votes among the two winners in that state, based on their respective vote percentages (excluding any votes for 3rd party candidates).

    3) In the event of a tie in the Electoral College, the popular vote would be used as the tie-breaker.

    The process preserves the current Electoral College state-by-state weighting (that small states are not likely to give up), but will result in an Electoral College vote that will be far more representative of the Popular Vote.

    Had this process been followed in the 2016 election, Clinton would have garnered 270 votes, vs. 268 for Trump.

  6. Can anyone, please, explain to me (or provide a link) how Americans elect their presidents? I wasn’t fallowing that and I have heard that actually majority of people woted against Trump but for some election rules that are specific in that country Trump won. I am having trouble following this topic hahaha… I don’t understand this “Electoral College”. But some general opinion about it comes to me. It seems that America politicians have done everything to prevent democracy. America likes to represent itself as the best democracy, but how that can be when there is no possibility of referendum? For demos to say what they really want? (perhaps I have misunderstood)

  7. ”David Cameron might have done well to emulate it [a two-thirds
    majority], at least to some degree, in his EU referendum which also,
    after all, concerned a major constitutional change.”

    There is still a slight possibility that a supermajority might, in effect, be applied retrospectively to the EU Referendum…

    The 2015 Conservative manifesto promised a binding referendum on whether the UK should leave the EU. Such measures have to be approved by the British Parliament. But Parliament were asked to approve an advisory referendum (which they did overwhelmingly), though the Government continued to insist that it would be binding. (Perhaps the Government were worried that Parliament would insist on a supermajority if the Referendum had been binding.) It seems that some MPs were under the impression that the Referendum would be binding, but they really ought to have known what they were voting for. The legal status of the Referendum is that it was advisory. To leave the EU would require changes in the law, and that requires parliamentary debate – taking into account a number of factors, including the Referendum result.

    The Referendum turnout on June 23rd was high – 72% of the electorate – although not all adults were franchised. 51.89% of those who voted, voted for the UK to leave the EU. Polls show that if the turnout had been 100%, the most probable result would have been a 50.35% majority in favour of remaining in the EU. Either way, it looks like the collective advice to Parliament was approximately neutral.

    Disasterously, on June 24th, David Cameron announced that the UK would be leaving the EU.

    The Government had to be taken to court to get them to allow Parliament to have a say at all in whether the UK should leave the EU. Throughout the whole process there has been insufficient information about what leaving the EU would entail (and much misinformation). So it is that Parliament have been asked to give the Prime Minister metaphorically almost a ‘blank cheque’ (check) to do what she wants regarding leaving the EU. A majority of MPs in the House of Commons think that leaving the EU would be bad for the UK, but most of them seem to think that, although the Referendum was advisory, the public were given the impression that it was binding and that they have a duty to honour that! (Not only was it not binding, but it was deeply flawed for numerous reasons.) The last hopes are that the House of Lords will see sense and/or that someone with money and brave enough to face death-threats will point out that the process has not been constitutional and so cannot be used to trigger an exit from the EU.

    There are a number of reasons why, had the Referendum been binding, a supermajority would have been appropriate, but we are told that the electorate would see this as bias – as if the electorate are able to understand the complexities of EU membership, but unable to understand the reasons for a supermajority.

    Surely the arguments of Richard Dawkins carry some weight amongst peers of the House of Lords?

  8. TreenonPoet #9
    Feb 10, 2017 at 4:31 pm

    A majority of MPs in the House of Commons think that leaving the EU would be bad for the UK, but most of them seem to think that, although the Referendum was advisory, the public were given the impression that it was binding and that they have a duty to honour that! (Not only was it not binding, but it was deeply flawed for numerous reasons.) The last hopes are that the House of Lords will see sense and/or that someone with money and brave enough to face death-threats will point out that the process has not been constitutional and so cannot be used to trigger an exit from the EU.

    Brexiteers are still spouting misleading crap about “the will of the people” and “patriotism”! – While the grossly reckless, and incompetent Corbyn, disables the opposition with some agenda to to try to win UKIP and brexiteer votes for Labour to enhance his personal leadership position!

    Corbyn is a far-left, small-minded, ideological, mini-Trump clone, who has no understanding of international trade or big issues!

  9. Alan4discussion #10
    Feb 10, 2017 at 4:54 pm:-

    ”the grossly reckless, and incompetent Corbyn, disables the
    opposition”

    Both sides are playing politics on an issue that could ruin the UK! When I argue for Parliament to debate whether the UK should leave the EU, it is not because I have any respect for the way that Parliament does things.

  10. TreenonPoet #11
    Feb 10, 2017 at 5:48 pm

    Both sides are playing politics on an issue that could ruin the UK!

    Absolutely!
    In some ways there is a parallel with the US, in so far as an unsatisfactory government is in power, partly because of an ineffectual leadership of the opposition!

    When I argue for Parliament to debate whether the UK should leave the EU, it is not because I have any respect for the way that Parliament does things.

    Far to many MPs have simply lost the plot and swallowed the tabloid-rag propaganda of government by referenda, when they should be dealing with this, on the basis of REPRESENTATIVE DEMOCRACY seeking expert advice about projected consequences and outcomes!

  11. Alan4discussion #12
    Feb 10, 2017 at 6:00 pm:-

    ”…they should be dealing with this, on the basis of REPRESENTATIVE
    DEMOCRACY seeking expert advice about projected consequences and
    outcomes!”

    Exactly. This is the basis of my remark that the process has not been constitutional and so cannot be used to trigger an exit from the EU. Item 1 of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty states:-

    ”Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance
    with its own constitutional requirements.”

    http://www.lisbon-treaty.org/wcm/the-lisbon-treaty/treaty-on-European-union-and-comments/title-6-final-provisions/137-article-50.html

  12. TreenonPoet #13
    Feb 10, 2017 at 6:24 pm

    Exactly. This is the basis of my remark that the process has not been constitutional and so cannot be used to trigger an exit from the EU. Item 1 of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty states:-

    Unfortunately, unless it is dealt with by the courts, it requires elected representatives (preferably in senior positions), who are bright enough to read constitutions and legal documents, followed by raising questions, – and greater numbers who are prepared to seek or listen to expert advice given in response to those questions!

    There was plenty of good advice and warnings about from specialist professional bodies, but effort and mental capabilty was needed to seek and understand this.
    Much of it disappeared under a media tidal wave of lies and propagandist rhetoric!

    The ideological tabloid reading air-heads, (Gove, Tredinnick, Redwood, Farage, Corbyn etc.), are prepared to do neither – having been elected on propagandist tabloid agendas, by the tabloid reading simple minded clueless!

  13. Thank you Dan very much.

    I have looked it up and some other sites I found. I hope that I got it right. It seems that in America people first vote for persons called electors who are later going to vote for a president candidate. Numbers of this electors are various from republic to a republic and that number is number of persons who represent that republic in Congres. I don’t know why, but it seems unfair…I mean competition is not equal then… I don’t see why would some state have more electors than others. Than those electors are not obligated to vote for a presidential candidate that is prefered by their party. It seems that twenty seven republic are, and twenty four are not obligated. But then how people wishes come to account in all this? It seems to me as they have some sort of ‘corrective‘, hahaha, over people votes. I am very surprised must say. I thought that result of the elections is the result of people vishes, but it isn’t so, isn’t it?

    It is indirect voting, as in this article from Huffington says: “This so-called “indirect election” process…” . Have I understood it well that democracy consist only in enabling the people to vote but that this “democracy” has rules to overcome demos votes by this electorals? I am so surprised by this system of voting (if I understood it correctly) that you can believe it hahaha. I thought that americans go to polls and vote directly for a presidential candidate. But I am not surprised by a political mind that has taken away true wishes of the people. It is always like that. Not one polititian has bothered to change this unfair way of voting. And why would they! right? 😉 Why would anyone from the system changed that system? It is made in favour of them and not the people. People who are able to change it are not part of the system,… always has been that way. People in America are far more braver, and I hope that some party would rise up and try to change that system to more honest one. 🙂

  14. Mr Dawkins – You have assumed your proposition (that a democracy which more perfectly represents the popular vote is a better or fairer one) without actually looking at it carefully. I encourage you to read this piece by The State, which actually defends the electoral college system.

    Also note, presidential elections decided by popular votes, are adopted in the developed world. For example, France uses a system based on popular votes to elect their president. However, this actually stifles any person who challenges the status quo in France, as they are normally defeated by moderate voters uniting on all sides to cast votes against that person. This, on the one hand, stops populists and maniacs from taking power but on the other leaves France paralysed to do anything. The French are on their fifth republic.

    Slight distortions in the EC system actually safeguard against this stagnation. Look carefully, and you see Clinton did represent the status quo and Trump was a card for change. Now, it’s unfortunate, Trump is a demogague and will probably hurt the people he intends to help (it’s hard to create perfect democracies) but it should be considered a healthy part of a democracy for mainstream ideas and belief ssytesms to be challenged.

  15. Will Steinitz,

    FYI, the comments on this site – such as yours – do not necessarily represent the opinions of Richard Dawkins. And there is no ONE established opinion on this site about anything.

    Read the Website info. (Link on bottom of page.)

    I am sure that there are any number of people who frequent this site who are traditionalists and think we should keep the electoral college.

    Here’s my opinion: People who didn’t vote for Clinton to block Trump made a bad mistake. Her positions are much better than Trump’s on every issue I can think of.

    Yes, it is “hard to create perfect democracies.” Easier (for Trump) to create an authoritarian oligarchy.

    The status quo. That’s just rhetoric. What are the fundamental changes that you feel need to be made in this country? Does Trump bring us closer to that or further away? Would a tyrant be good for democracy? Would the “challenge” of dealing with the impact of an asteroid be good for the planet? Is all change good? Democracy, which you seem to care about, is a delicate thing. Trump denigrates all those who oppose him and has displayed an arrogance and contempt for democratic principles that has no parallel in modern American history.

  16. Yes, it is “hard to create perfect democracies.” Easier (for Trump) to
    create an authoritarian oligarchy.

    Concur with your response Dan. And I would like do add that in my point of view it is not so hard to make “perfect democracies”. Anyway, I don’t know what “perfect” means in this sense, haha, but it can be made as good as it gets by letting people decide. And Will Steinitz, I must that I don’t understand how any other voting but direct voting of people can be better for the country that call itself democratic. It seems to me that any other way is designed for malignant purpose of individual politicians who do not want a voice of people. There is perfectly simple way of voting but it has to be diverted with complicated one? Why? Who benefits by this? Why direct voting has to be distracted?

    Also note, presidential elections decided by popular votes, are
    adopted in the developed world.

    I do not know who adopted this kind of voting, for example, “developed world” is a characteristic that doesn’t mean a thing to me. And I sincerely doubt their developed status if they forbid people to have they saying. What is “developed world”? Perhaps it represent countries who have successfully deceived its population in favour of politicians hungry of power. 😉

    For example I consider Switzerland one of the finest countries in the world. Unlike America, they didn’t have wars for centuries. As it seems they have direct voting : “Switzerland’s voting system is unique among modern democratic nations in that Switzerland practices direct democracy in parallel with representative democracy, which is why the Swiss system is known as a semi-direct democracy. Direct democracy allows any citizen to challenge any law approved by the parliament or, at any time, propose a modification of the federal Constitution. Approximately four times a year, voting occurs over various issues; these include both initiatives and referendums, where policies are directly voted on by people, and elections, where the populace votes for officials (from wikipedia)”.

    And I am sorry but I can not see Trump as a card for change (for better). People in America who do, are unfortunately unlearned and deceived by propaganda. That man is a representative of evil, nationalists and narcissistic way of thinking and doing, that has nothing to do with democracy and humanism. 🙂

  17. Modesti

    That man is a representative of evil, nationalists and narcissistic way of thinking and doing, that has nothing to do with democracy and humanism.

    So true.

    (Switzerland sounds like the place to be. A beacon of light.)

  18. Dan (and other pacifists)

    …let’s go to Switzerland haha. I know you like to think aut lout right? So,…You know, sometimes one wants to escape from the terror and abuse from politicians. It is like some sort of natural reflex when one is faced with evil haha (Actualy, I have also read that this is first and normal reaction when an animal, including people, found themselves face to face with evil and destructive others. Apparently this reaction has to do with avoiding contamination of ill persons and rotten things in our evolution). Anyway I do not want to bore with it… but one wants to escape from malignant people so far (to find rest and safeness somewhere else like Switzerland), but than I realise perhaps I am a coward if I do not stand against evil politicians who terorize decent people in their own country. I live in a banana state called Croatia and I am ashamed of that, and also that I can’t do better than go to the rallies.

  19. Switzerland! That image of Christopher Plummer and Julie Andrews and their children (the Von Trapp family), on top of the mountain and facing Switzerland, at the end of The Sound of Music, has remained indelibly etched into my psyche.

  20. “.. a republic, if you can keep it” attributed to B Franklin, and a constitutional one( written at that !), the democractic part describes the selection of representatives, it’s complicated, it’s an experiment, so far so good.
    A nation of laws not men, not a democracy which in its purest form is mob rule( the bigger one rules)

  21. At Modesti:
    There is no need to make fun of the people in the USA for their voting system – they didn’t chose it. There is also no need to make fun of the system itself, either. Remember that it was developed more than 200 years ago, and times were very different. Nobody at that time would have been able to predict something like the internet or smartphones, nor planes, not even cars. The system seemed appropriate at the time, and there is a good reason why it is difficult to change a constitution. May I suggest to you chose your words more carefully? Check out how Richard phrased his original criticism for a better example, or look at some of the seasoned commentators (including some on this page).

    At Avicenne: Yes, the Germans learned – but oh boy, was that the hard way! Also, don’t forget that the German constitution, which may be one of the most modern democratic constitutions in the world today, was written by Germans – but with very strong support behind the scenes by: yes, experts from the USA (and Great Britain)! This way, the problems with the setup in the USA that had appeared over 200 years could be avoided when a new constitution had to be written from scratch. So, the Germans should be thankful to the experts from the USA, and it is ironic that those same experts were not able to apply the same learnings to their own country.

    I am very positive that our friends in the USA will overcome the current crisis, and emerge stronger than before. Even if it means to go through a valley of tears now – keep up your (metaphorical) spririts!

  22. Morpheus:

    You feel offended? If you do, I honestly don’t know how I acheived that. 🙂 I am certain that “ordinary” people in America are the same as everywhere else (unable to have more direct impact on political system which is designed to suit politicians and not people). Perhaps you have seen in my comments that I am making fun of them and the system. How am I responsible for what you see, or want to see,… I was criticizing that unfair system. I wrote what was in my mind at that time and I can not apologize for that. You find yourself personaly ofended? If I knew what I have done to ofend you perhaps I would apologize.

  23. There’s a lot of truth in the old line about democracy being 2 wolves and a sheep voting on what’s for dinner. The problem in America is that the federal government is too powerful. Nobody on the left objected when their guy was calling the shots. Now that the sheep have voted in their guy, the wolves are rebelling.

    With or without the electoral college, people will be at each others throats as long as they embrace government as the solution to all problems. And what’s a government really? It’s simply force! Guns and threats of guns are all it has. The electoral college is about the only thing in the constitution that hasn’t been changed by amendment or the rulers on the supreme court. So if we want to eliminate that, then we’d be better off going back to the Articles of Confederation.

    The best solution now would be to re-legalize secession. Then CA and NY could have all the socialism they desire. People would be free to vote with their feet and move to a better governed state. Of course that revered president of the 1860’s who murdered 750,000 Americans made certain secession was off the table for good. Just look at the list of the “best” presidents, and you’ll likely find they were the ones who got us into wars.

    But hey, the mainstream economics profession preaches that wars are good for the economy. Just look at that Nobel prized economist Krugman, who tells us what we need is an alien invasion to create jobs. And he didn’t mean aliens from the middle east.

  24. rocket888 #26
    Feb 14, 2017 at 2:14 pm

    There’s a lot of truth in the old line about democracy being 2 wolves and a sheep voting on what’s for dinner. The problem in America is that the federal government is too powerful.

    The federal government is supposed to be restrained by two separate elected houses – Congress and the Senate, with specialist committees scrutinising draft legislation. There are also two other balancing wings of central government – the presidency and the courts.

    These are supposed to provide some checks and balances, with each looking over the work of the others.

    Nobody on the left objected when their guy was calling the shots. Now that the sheep have voted in their guy, the wolves are rebelling.

    The basic problem during the Obama administration was the political polarisation which prevented these bodies working constructively.

    The problem now is that the Congress, the Senate and the Presidency, are all republican and there is no effective opposition to restrain partisan government, – apart from the courts.

    A further problem is that Trump is simply dictating to everyone, and not even using the machinery of the Senate, Congress or professional administrators, to iron out design flaws in his ideas.
    He has surrounded himself with propagandists and yes men – most of whom are mavericks who have have no experience of government, administration, or legislation, but unfortunately come from the know-it-all school of simplistic thinking!

    With or without the electoral college, people will be at each others throats as long as they embrace government as the solution to all problems.

    I think they will be “at each other’s throats”, when there is an absence of equitable law enforcement for all citizens.
    Governments should be providing a legal structure and framework, which enables the people to solve their problems – without ignoring any particular groups.

    Lots of expert advisors are needed in a modern technical society, and Trump has only a handful of picked largely unskilled yes-men!

    Worse than that, most of them are not only ignorant and incompetent in the subject specialisms of the departments they have taken over, but are actually malevolent towards these departments and their work!

    With clueless people in charge of major decisions, it is inevitable that under-planned, impulsive decisions, and beginner blunders, will continue to mount up!
    The Congress, Senate, lawyers and Courts, will be continue to be confronted with calamities after the events, where they should have been involved up-front to make corrections, and prevent blunders during the decision making process!

  25. Not sure what these “mistakes” in human history are. A little more complex than that. Germany did not make a mistake; Germany became a fascist state and engaged in torture and genocide on an almost unimaginable scale. Nothing trivial or even comprehendible about that.

    Hitler’s Germany was simply defeated and it then had no choice but to reintegrate itself. There is also no guarantee that democracy and justice will always prevail. There is nothing about Germany at that time or the election of Trump today that warrants fatalism, wishful thinking or complacency.

    Perhaps we will improve. Perhaps we will lapse into barbarism. No guarantees that we shall all “learn” from it.

    It is true that if this hideous turn to the right doesn’t kill us it may make us stronger and smarter. No platitudes can ever mitigate the filth and horror and indecency of bigotry and fascism or authoritarianism. You get liberty and justice and a stronger democracy the way you get everything else, and that is against the grain.
    Fascism is a more natural governmental condition than democracy, as Mailer once said. And it is a hell of a lot easier. I think Trump, whatever his conscious political philosophy – if he has one – might sound like if he were to try to articulate it, understands this.

    And Modesti is a fine and enlightened man.

    Trump lost the popular vote by close to three million votes. The electoral college should be reformed or abandoned.

  26. Hey, Rocket888,

    Nobody on the left objected when their guy was calling the shots.

    A lot of people on the left were highly critical of Obama.

    The problem in America is that the federal government is too powerful.

    Government too powerful. In some ways yes (surveillance, for example) and in some ways no. Are you for financial deregulation and elimination of the EPA, and no safety nets? Are you for eliminating oversight? What about big banks and big corporations becoming too powerful? Do you care about the environment? Does that concern you?

    Socialism. You and others use that word as a way of silencing debate. And many people now cringe when they hear the word. Jack London called that “phrase slavery.” What do you mean when you use that term? Tell me. Billionaires should pay less taxes and we should repeal the ACA and let the Market take care of everything? defund public schools and medicaid? Is that what you want? Should the fire dept. too be private or should it be a public good?

    I don’t mean to sound dismissive or aggressive: I am interested in what you have to say. I think I agree with you about some things. Good to “see” you again.

  27. Alan4discussion #27
    Feb 14, 2017 at 3:11 pm

    With clueless people in charge of major decisions, it is inevitable that under-planned, impulsive decisions, and beginner blunders, will continue to mount up!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-38975615

    The Office of Government Ethics (OGE) found reason to believe Ms Conway had violated ethics rules, five days after she urged people to buy the president’s daughter’s range on Fox News.

    Her comments prompted complaints from both Democrats and Republicans.

    They have now been backed by the OGE, which is an independent body.

    In a letter on Tuesday, it advises the White House to investigate and possibly discipline Ms Conway.

  28. There seems to be a need for a lot more reform than just the electoral college!!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-38974085

    President Donald Trump knew weeks ago there were problems with Michael Flynn’s Russia phone calls, a White House spokesman has said.

    The president was told by the Justice Department at the end of January that Mr Flynn may have misled US officials and the public, said Sean Spicer.

    Republicans have joined congressional calls for an investigation into Mr Flynn’s contacts with Russia.

    Mr Flynn was also reportedly questioned by FBI agents in his first days as national security adviser, according to US media.

    The chairman of the House standards committee wants to know more about security measures at Mr Trump’s Florida retreat after photos were posted on Facebook of the president taking a call about North Korea

    The president has signed an executive order rolling back a regulation that required oil and gas companies to disclose certain foreign payments

    Mr Flynn resigned over allegations he discussed US sanctions with a Russian envoy before Donald Trump took office.

    The retired army lieutenant-general initially denied having discussed sanctions with Ambassador Sergei Kislyak, and Vice-President Mike Pence publicly denied the allegations on his behalf.

    If the allegations are true, it would have been illegal for Mr Flynn to conduct US diplomacy as a private citizen, before he was appointed as Mr Trump’s national security adviser.

    Acting Attorney General Sally Yates had warned the White House about the contacts and that Mr Flynn might be vulnerable to Russian blackmail on 26 January, said Mr Spicer.

    Mr Trump, who was informed the same day, had concluded that his actions did not violate any law, according to Mr Spicer.

    “In the end, it was misleading the vice-president that made the situation unsustainable,” White House Counsellor Kellyanne Conway said on Tuesday.

    Republican John McCain, chairman of the Senate armed services committee, said Mr Flynn’s resignation was a “troubling indication of the dysfunction of the current national security apparatus” and raises questions about Mr Trump’s intentions towards Russia.

    Senator Roy Blunt, a Republican member of the Senate intelligence committee, called for an investigation into any alleged connections between Mr Trump and Russian officials.

    Texas Senator John Cornyn, the second-ranked Senate Republican leader, echoed calls for an investigation into Mr Flynn’s ties to Russia.

    Meanwhile, US House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes told reporters on Tuesday he wants to investigate the leaks that led to Mr Flynn’s resignation.

    Michael Flynn had sat with the Russian President not that long ago at a dinner honouring the pro-government TV network Russia Today. Extraordinary that a former three-star US general would be there.

    Senior Democrat Adam Schiff said Mr Flynn’s departure would not end questions about contacts between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia.

    Congressional democrats John Conyers and Elijah Cummings have demanded a classified briefing to Congress on Michael Flynn by the justice department and FBI.

    “We in Congress need to know who authorised his actions, permitted them, and continued to let him have access to our most sensitive national security information despite knowing these risks,” their statement said.

    Several House Democrats had already called on Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz to launch an investigation into Mr Flynn’s ties to Russia.

  29. The best solution now would be to re-legalize secession…

    “Best solution”, huh?
    I bet that’s what Russia’s and China’s and N. Korea’s and Iran’s leaders dream of too…

  30. Sometimes I think that democracy is some sort of nice word that evil ones hide behind. You know … as some sort of a shield. It is enough just to say that politician honor democracy and everyone think they are non plus ultra,… an excelent person who has all the best wishes for demos. 😉 Unfortunately, I have not seen that any politician has ever made some fundamental changes in the system that were beneficial for the people. People in the system do not change system. I was just thinking who of the “good” presidents had a chance to change this electoral system but they did not. We all guess that as long as that system serves the purpose of pliticians they will not change it. I am sorry I do not know or understand better this electoral colledge so I can only say something in general. I am not sure if some laws can be changed by referendum in a particular republic. For example, here where I live, civil initiatives, small parties, or any group of people (if they are not satisfied with certain law) can collect signatures (700 000) and than government must call referendum with a question that is proposed by that group. I was watching rallies in USA against Trump and his politics,…so many fine and brave people, but I am frustrated they could not do more because political system has tied their hands. It is like that in many, many countries all over the world. I consider politicians more an enemy of the people than someone who wants best for people. 🙁

    Yes govenment is too powerfull. And of course I am socialist, marxist, comunist… all of it haha. I agree, Dan, …people are scared with this “red” colour and terms like socialist or comunist about which they do not know enough, or better to say they were brainwashed with it for decades.

    PS. Dan – ilo haha.. thank you for support. 🙂

  31. Are this politicians from America and Russia are negotiate how to kill us all? (joke) Sometimes I wish they stop having this disorder of grandeur.

  32. Modesti #33 (others)

    “I mean, maybe I’ve left out a case of history, but as I see the history of colonialism, the great mass of cases are cases where a powerful country was working in its perceived material self-interest, and was covering what it was doing, to itself and to the world, with very pleasant phrases about preserving Christian values, or helping the poor benighted natives, or one thing or another… -Chomsky

    Spreading Democracy is often a pretense, but Democracy is a really existing thing.—We mustn’t grow cynical and lose our commitment to Democracy as a result of the vast exploitation associated with this principle. That’ll help pave the way for those who profit from the destruction of democracy. One of the problems we are facing today is that everything is being turned inside out and upside down. Liberalism is equated with tyranny. Tyrants and fundamentalists speak of the free market – which in fact leads to inequality – and of “religious freedom” which is tantamount to discrimination and tyranny of a kind. I have spoken of my horror of libertarianism, which is now very removed from classical liberalism. Although it has a nice ring to it, it is a very wicked political philosophy. Survival of the fittest. Dog eat dog.

    “It is one of the great ironies. You know, the older you get, the more you begin to depend upon irony as the last human element you can rely on. Whatever exists will, sooner or later, be turned inside out.” -Mailer

  33. in #29 Dan said

    Are you for financial deregulation and elimination of the EPA, and no safety nets? Are you for eliminating oversight? What about big banks and big corporations becoming too powerful? Do you care about the environment? Does that concern you?

    Setting up straw men to mock your opponent is not a constructive way to win an argument. Your tactic implies that discussion of the scope of government power is off limits.

  34. skepticj #36
    Feb 16, 2017 at 2:19 am

    in #29 Dan said

    Are you for financial deregulation and elimination of the EPA, and no safety nets? Are you for eliminating oversight?
    What about big banks and big corporations becoming too powerful?
    Do you care about the environment? Does that concern you?

    Setting up straw men to mock your opponent is not a constructive way to win an argument.

    You don’t see a connection between Trump reducing or abolishing the safeguarding regulatory government machinery put in place to prevent a repeat of the sub-prime banking crisis, or prevent pollution, and the topic of: “reducing the size and scope of government regulation” of business?

    Your tactic implies that discussion of the scope of government power is off limits.

    You answer implies you are ducking the question and are offering nothing constructive on the quote you present!

    Dan was asking for comment on the mechanisms of the exercise of power by government! – Hardly a suggestion that the topic is “off limits”!

  35. skepticj #36

    On the contrary. Dan’s reply at #29 was quite clearly an attempt to engage in a discussion of the scope of government power.

    If you are genuinely interested in a discussion on the topic, you could do worse than to start by answering the questions Dan posed. You’ve accused him of strawmanning, which suggests to me you don’t think such areas of government activity were what Rocket had in mind in his statement about “government”. Rocket can speak for him/herself, of course, but what about you?

    Do you approve of the items Dan listed being ultimately government-led activities or not? If you do, why? If you don’t, why not?

    If anyone wishes a constructive discussion on government power, surely it makes sense to start by defining exactly what we’re talking about? And clarification of what you see as acceptable vs unacceptable areas for government activity would seem to be a helpful starting point.

  36. Marco #36:

    Rocket888 said:

    With or without the electoral college, people will be at each others throats as long as they embrace government as the solution to all problems.

    I don’t read this as a call to anarchy. I actually found it the least controversial statement in Rocket888’s post.

  37. skepticj #39
    Feb 16, 2017 at 11:41 am

    rocket888 #26 said:-

    With or without the electoral college, people will be at each others throats as long as they embrace government as the solution to all problems.

    I don’t read this as a call to anarchy. I actually found it the least controversial statement in Rocket888’s post.

    So why pick out the statement of the obvious, (that people have to make some effort for themselves), and ignore the rest of it, which IS ridiculously controversial?

    And what’s a government really? It’s simply force! Guns and threats of guns are all it has.

    I thought competent governments provided legal frameworks to facilitate respect for the interests of various parties, courts to resolve disputes, collective services such as roads, regulated utilities, safe transport systems, along with regulatory bodies and policing, to curtail rogue and antisocial activities! Some also provide health-care for their citizens!

    Actually many countries make minimum use of guns and avoid using brute force as a substitute for competent legal systems and regulation.

  38. skepticj #39

    No one else has mentioned anarchy, so let me check I’ve understood you correctly.

    Are you suggesting there would be anarchy if the government didn’t get involved in the areas Dan listed above?

  39. Marco #41

    I suggest that rocket888’s original statement that there should be limits to government was “Not” a call to anarchy. Replying with a laundry list of areas where government does have interest is trolling. I live in a county that voted 70+ percent for Trump, I didn’t. The main reason I heard was the left’s constant disrespect for their views. Trolling them was the biggest mistake, “basket of deplorables.” It does nothing for discourse to exaggerate your opponents views and then mock them.

    Alan4discussion #41 said:

    So why pick out the statement of the obvious, (that people have to make some effort for themselves), and ignore the rest of it, which IS ridiculously controversial?

    I didn’t pick it out, Dan #29 did. He also rightly didn’t address the crazy parts.

  40. And what’s a government really? It’s simply force! Guns and threats of guns are all it has.

    I find myself agreeing with this statement. Government, The State, whatever else it may do, insists on having a monopoly on violence. It is the back-stop of all enforcement of laws and regulations, the power and the will to use force where it deems necessary, and to kill, incarcerate or deprive of assets (against their will, of course) those they deem to have offended the laws.

    That applies to all States, whether they be left, right or center, dictatorships, democracies, plutocracies, kleptocracies, monarchies or anything else, and is independent of how much or how little they involve themselves with the education, health, safety and economic wellbeing of their population.

  41. Moderator message

    For the avoidance of doubt, it is not our view that Dan was trolling.

    Constructive, courteous discussion only, please. The rules and ethos of the site can be found in the final section of our Terms, Conditions & Privacy Policy, a link to which can be found at the foot of each page.

    The mods

  42. Breaking News: Trump rolling back Obama-era regulation on coal.

    Trump is now babbling about “wasteful regulations that slow down the economy,” with small-government-loving McConnell and Rand Paul standing next to him smiling; a couple of jackasses.

    I am for good and effective government, and concerned about unchecked power within the executive branch of government, and the arbitrary deployment of law, concerned about the waging of unjust wars based purely on self-interest. (The Democrats are as guilty as the Right in that area; but that is not what Trump was voted in.) Regulating big banks and big corporations in order to protect working people from financial abuses and environmental disasters, and providing a safety-net, are not abuses of power, are not problematic, in my view.

    Many (not all) of Trump voters ARE deplorable, are prejudiced, are failures looking for a scapegoat, are ignorant, represent the worst of America. There was a poll taken recently. Most of them think that Obama is a Muslim, that climate change is a hoax, and that Trump should defy the court’s decision re the travel ban. I don’t respect these views. I don’t respect what is loathsome and abhorrent. I rebel, and speak out against it.

    And loser Trump lost the popular vote.

  43. OHooligan #43

    …and is independent of how much or how little they involve
    themselves with the education, health, safety and economic wellbeing
    of their population.

    I see your point up to the quote I’ve posted. An electorate that is firmly aware of threats to its well being, both internal and external, will only tolerate excessive force up to a point.

    I think what we have, though, with this Trump presidency is an electorate that is shadow boxing at its fears without knowing their sources. In steps Trump-the-savior who will deliver them at a minimal cost–on the surface. Our Bill of Rights takes back seat to perceived security, and if pursued, will result in the end of our nation as we know it. We’ll still have a country, but it won’t be America.

    Freedom isn’t free.

  44. skepticj #42
    Feb 16, 2017 at 3:42 pm

    I live in a county that voted 70+ percent for Trump, I didn’t. The main reason I heard was the left’s constant disrespect for their views.

    Respect has to be earned, so science deniers, anti-vaxers, perveyors of “alternative facts”, and cheerleaders for ignorance and stupidity, do not deserve respect.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argumentum_ad_populum

    In argumentation theory, an argumentum ad populum (Latin for “appeal to the people”) is a fallacious argument that concludes that a proposition is true because many or most people believe it: “If many believe so, it is so.”

    This type of argument is known by several names,[1] including appeal to the masses, appeal to belief, appeal to the majority, appeal to democracy, appeal to popularity, argument by consensus, consensus fallacy, authority of the many, bandwagon fallacy, vox populi,[2] and in Latin as argumentum ad numerum (“appeal to the number”), fickle crowd syndrome, and consensus gentium (“agreement of the clans”).

    Trolling them was the biggest mistake, “basket of deplorables.”

    Most of Trump’s cabinet are deplorables, who show no respect for the law of the land, the constitution, the truth, expert professions, properly evidenced information, or codes of ethical conduct!

    @#30 – The Office of Government Ethics (OGE) found reason to believe Ms Conway had violated ethics rules, five days after she urged people to buy the president’s daughter’s range on Fox News.

    Posturing clowns, like Conway making fools of themselves contradicting experts, do not deserve respect!

    The details have been discussed on other discussion threads on this site.

    It does nothing for discourse to exaggerate your opponents views and then mock them.

    Rather than offering rhetoric and assertions, to make a credible case you would need to give details of any supposed exaggerations and explain why they should be considered exaggerated, rather than simply being accurate descriptions of extremely abnormal, incompetent or irrational behaviour.

  45. Our Bill of Rights takes back seat to perceived security, and if pursued, will result in the end of our nation as we know it. We’ll still have a country, but it won’t be America.

    Yes, Vicki. So true. It is so comforting to me to be reminded – I have built-in forgetters – that there are good people like you and Alan and others that share my deep concern about the perishable nature of our delicate democracy and my horror of what is going on. Sorry if I sound maudlin, but I feel better now, was almost despondent earlier today.

    This site is amazing. It provides a platform for solidarity, healthy debate, fellowship, generating ideas, raising awareness of the vital importance of reason and secularism and science.

    And the mods are top-notch. (I wish they could explain the “terms and conditions” to Mr. Trump and ban the sucker if he doesn’t comply! LOL)

    Hi, Skepticj,

    Not trying to present a straw man. I’d be interested in hearing your views on what the responsibilities of government should include and what they shouldn’t include, and in hearing some reasoned arguments and some evidence to support your views.

  46. And what’s a government really? It’s simply force!

    Then something needs fixing.

    At its best a government is expertise at the service of all and paid for by the enfranchised.

    If we lose sight of this, if we don’t fight for this then we shall fall back on selfishness. There is no viable system, no perfect free market that can fight for the Commons. Core expertise is needed for those un-owned/ all-owned things that cannot be traded or traded fairly. Worse, corporations squander expertise with their short and highly mutable lives. Institutions only can preserve and accumulate expertise and sufficient authority to administer the long term investment cycles we increasingly need to see if we are to scrape by the political mayhem of even mild climate change. I say this as a fully paid up capitalist…..

    The libertarian fantasy of the omni-competent individual, unbesmirched by genetic and parental bad luck, where indoctrination hasn’t stunted a young brain, remains the province of the slightly clever but aspie systemetiser and the aspiring slightly stupid.

    And Rand is the trashiest of novelists. Any half decent feminist would be appalled at her sexism.

  47. Dan,

    Even if Trump were impeached the main problem hasn’t gone away. You/we, even now, must be making visible plans to reclaim those lost to despair and anger, because of the US’s third world/developing world GINI.

    Nobody here thinks ahead, it seems.

    This is still no place for me.

  48. Phil,

    Nobody here thinks ahead, it seems.

    I am well aware that impeachment is no panacea. Far from it. I posted this recently. It’s from an article. I think this constitutes “thinking ahead.” (How are you? How’s your work going?)

    “This problem is not going to be solved in the 2018 elections,” warned Akuno, the author of the organizing handbook “Let Your Motto Be Resistance” and the former executive director of the New Orleans-based People’s Hurricane Relief Fund. “That hope is an illusion. The democratic apparatus will be completely gutted by then. We have to look beyond Trump. We have to look at the consolidation on the state level of these reactionary forces. They are near the threshold of being able to call for a constitutional convention because of the number of governorships and state legislatures where they hold both chambers. They can totally reorder the Constitution, if they even continue to abide by it, which they may not. We are facing a serious crisis. I don’t think people grasp the depth of this because they are focused on the president and not the broader strategy of these reactionary forces.” […]

  49. Alan4discussion #27
    Feb 14, 2017 at 3:11 pm

    The federal government is supposed to be restrained by two separate elected houses – Congress and the Senate,

    Ummmm, Congress “is” the Senate, along with the House of Representatives.

  50. @Vicki #46

    Hi Vicki. I was only describing how it is, not how it ought to be. Phil #49 describes more how it ought to be – expertise to run things on behalf of the populace. But the one thing common to all forms of government is their insistence on having the monopoly on violence. I’m not saying this is wrong or right, just that it IS.

  51. Re Dan & Phil:
    I think you are covering a very important point that is frequently lost in the debate about the results and aftermath of the recent election, and the voicing of anger, frustration and disbelief (which are all understandable).

    On the one hand, it might be nice to see Trump impeached and removed from office ASAP. On the other hand, if that happened e.g., in a month from now, what would be the message to the people who voted for him (and there are quite a few of them)? Wouldn’t they read it as “the establishment has managed to expel our hero, so the whole system is broken”? And what then – civil war?

    On the other hand, what if Trump gets some more time to show that he is so incompetent that it can’t be covered by “alternative facts” anymore? Would that tell his voters “this approach doesn’t work”? But then again, he could do a lot of damage until this insight spreads. Would it be worth it, or is that too dangerous?

    This seems to be a major conundrum IMHO. Any thoughts, anyone?

  52. Morpheus #56
    Feb 17, 2017 at 2:34 am

    Any thoughts, anyone?

    The problem as I see it with Trump, his surrogates and his supporters is essentially the same as trying to argue with religious fundamentalists. They only have one worldview and anything that contradicts that is rejected as false information. You can’t use logic and you can’t use facts because neither of these enter into their thinking. However Trump is compounding this even further by lying deliberately about everything. At least the religious tend to think doing that is a sin but Trump has no such qualms.

    I think the only people who will see what is happening for what it really is will be those who already despise Trump and whose views will harden even further and those on the fence who will move away from him and come to regret voting for him. I doubt if his really rabid supporters can be reached in any way.

    As I’ve said in here for years now, since religion got into American politics it is has ceased being logic and fact based politics as practiced in any other western democracy and, at least on the right, is really just religious dogma now. The partisan divide is so enormous there is little or no common ground left and hatred for the other side is the primary emotion as evidenced by the “lock her up” chants and people getting assaulted at Trump rallies for daring to express any contradictory opinion.

    Regardless of how badly Trump does I’m sure the next election will only be decided on narrow margins again as most of them have been in recent years because the polarisation gap is too wide to cross.

  53. Morpheus, Arkrid

    The white working class (out of all working class folk) have been targeted as the most biddable of the aggrieved. Parasitism (the trickle up of real economics) per GINI (CIA figures) peaked in the US at 45 just before 2008 and sits at about 42 now with no further downward trend. Core euro economies sit at 28 to 32, the UK having peaked at 36 is continuing down through 32.5.

    Being played to directly as Trump did, creating a division between the undeserving poor and the deserving poor is what created a new cohort and the shock result we see. The second factor is the astonishing loyalty and high tolerance to disgust shown by the self serving right that meekly kowtowed after a few ruffled feathers acquiescing to alpha male as is their nature.

    The plateaued GINI figure bodes ill. This newly expanded and better defined cohort of “white victims” will remain in play until their victimhood is shed. What I fear most is this reactive and un-analytic group will be predated upon all the more after this success. (I have no doubt Trump will facilitate the further draining of their pockets, whilst commiserating all the way to the bank.) Libertarians will find a clever Trump to get government off these folks’ backs for good.

    The Democrats, watching re-runs of the West Wing are nowhere in this game. They have little visible answer to the issue of victimhood, whilst they keep the comfy company of the parasites.

  54. Morpheus (#56)

    I think your second scenario – although it is riskier, as you said – is to be preferred.

    I think a number of Democrats are very much in the game, have a keen sense of social justice, Phil. A number of them are not so different than their counterparts across the aisle; they vary, as Howard Dean (who I like) observed. You are at times reckless, and too categorical in your pronouncements. That kind of blanket condemnation is what the Trump voters engaged in. No nuance. (Perhaps I had trouble getting you, once again.) By the way, we “meet again” as far as our mutual detestation of Ayn Rand is concerned: one of the most evil figures in modern intellectual history. She did much to legitimize and popularize this political philosophy known as (American-style) Libertarianism, which is pure savagery, in my opinion. Pure savagery. Cannibalism, if you will.

    And wealth and income inequality is not the “root” of the problem; it is simply the problem. The root is something deeper: the forces of systemic greed, corruption, and reaction. My article alluded to that.

    And who in “God’s” name are the “undeserving poor”? Everyone deserves a roof over their heads, a decent place to live, and enough food to eat, and nothing will change my mind.

  55. Phil (others)

    P.S. “Undeserving poor”. You mean illegal immigrants?

    I think the country is the victim, has been hurt by the white working class’s feeling of victimization, and their stubborn unwillingness to educate themselves and to get better jobs or to face the reality of a changing word vis-a-vis technology. They still like coal, still blame their wretchedness on the Other, which is bad for us and for the scapegoated immigrants. They have to know that coal is a dying profession and is harmful. Unless they are completely selfish and living in a bubble.—I believe that many of them are. (I am furious with the intellectually frozen working class right now, see them as a real liability and a threat to the well-being of the nation).

    The angry and stupid white working class who voted for Trump will pay a price eventually as (I think) you suggested. That’s good.

    Please tell me if you disagree and why, as you know more about economics than I do. I think Sanders and Moore are half right and half wrong when they say that the working class and the rural voters have been “abused and victimized.”

  56. P.P.S. My premise is that the working class who supported Trump are not stupid; but they choose to be stupid. (Mailer said that stupidity is a choice.) So, yes, they are disenfranchised, and yes, they deserve to be criticized in so far as they are responsible for their actions and their omissions. They can pick up a book, can’t they? If they can mine for coal then they can read.

  57. There is some truth to this:

    http://www.salon.com/2016/04/30/we_must_shame_dumb_trump_fans_the_white_working_class_are_not_victims/

    One will notice if paying attention that none of the Woody Guthrie poseurs are black. African-Americans seem not to suffer from any confusion over why working-class white people don’t like the Democratic Party. It brings to mind the late Norman Mailer’s observation that there are plenty of uneducated and uninformed black Americans, but there are no stupid ones.

    [“I have met any number of blacks that I couldn’t talk to but I have never met a stupid black man. . . . Stupidity is a choice; and blacks can’t afford to make that choice. . . . I think that the average black knows more about life than the average white in America.”]

    The condition of blackness in America brings with it a political sophistication unwelcoming of soft and sentimental illusions. The truth cuts deep: Most white, working-class voters left the Democratic Party because they did not want to associate with racial minorities, and they did not want to support any candidate who was unwilling to prove – term by term – his contempt for black people.

    If the truth was more complicated, why haven’t black and Latino working-class voters left liberalism?

  58. Dan,

    I didn’t claim wealth was a problem. Inequality is obviously the problem and as detailed this

    GINI is a measure of parasite burden.

    A few can be positively helpful. Too many, though, will kill you.

    deliniates its root.

    But I am in despair at your responses for the rest also.

    Until you and other democrats plan to bring the parasites under better control and return the wealth retained to the poorest, you have lost the bidding war. I care nothing for your accusations of moral dereliction by the disenfranchised white working class. So…What?! Have you a single political bone in your body?

    No. I care very deeply about your accusations. Your moral concerns rather dissolve for me when you very deliberately stop halfway down in the causal chain to enhance blameworthiness of the hated group. So I rate these concerns low in moral efficacy but very high in political risk.

  59. Re the white working class and coal, among other things: Lyrics from a song by Michelle Shocked:

    I used to think my daddy was a black man
    With scrip enough to buy the company store
    But now he goes to town with empty pockets
    And, Lord, his face is white
    As the February snow

  60. Phil

    I am, admittedly, confused, and all over the place. But let me just say this:

    Wealth and income inequality, not wealth itself, is the problem. I never said otherwise. I am all for bringing parasitism under control. I assume you mean corporate greed and collusion between big banks, big, business, and the Republicans –Trump, in particular.

    I think it’s unproductive to see the Trump voters as mere victims and not hold them at least partially responsible for their actions (their votes). In order to come up with solutions, Phil, the nature of the problem must be identified. Sanders’ argument that the neoliberal establishment has failed the working class is only partially true.

    But castigating the Trump supporters isn’t particularly helpful unless solutions are provided. I have provided none.

    Are you still in “despair”?

    I don’t know what GINI is.

    Btw, check this out:

    Donald J. Trump
    [email protected]

    The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews,@ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!

    4:48 PM – 17 Feb 2017

    17,47217,472 Retweets

    52,09952,099 likes

  61. Dan

    I think it’s unproductive to see the Trump voters as mere victims

    Strawman.

    They are our problem to be fixed. Its politics.

    I don’t know what GINI is.

    Why on earth not?

  62. @Phil #66

    They are our problem to be fixed. Its politics.

    I agree. I believe to my core that we share many issues with Trump supporters; we differ only in the methods proposed to solve them.

  63. Vicki

    I really enjoyed that clip. Definitely something of value. I skipped Thanksgiving because I couldn’t take the conversation from the Trump enthusiasts but now think I’m ready to engage again. I like Lakoff’s advice on dealing with disagreement. Very nice. I will add his technique to the one I already have which is finding a baseline statement that we all can agree with and building on that and also holding interlocutors to the rules of debate – I always have to explain the basic rules in the beginning and remind them of these rules the whole way through. Exhausting to keep diverting off the topic with them but there’s no other way to proceed.

    I like his suggestion to appeal to the good of the community and emphasize empathy on various levels. The suggestion of emphasizing what the grandfather has done for others was very nice and must be productive. I’m going to give that one a try as soon as I find the opportunity. I think this is a very good way to begin with someone in conversation. It will set the tone in a positive way – by bringing up memories of kindness and cooperation and the good feelings that surround this. It digs deep and touches on very old altruistic impulses in us that we all share.

    I also see clearly that we need to be reminded of the solidification of worldview and the bias confirmation that comes of that. T. Smiley’s reaction to that was interesting. No one wants to believe that they are cognitively “programmed” in a particular worldview but this is an important piece of information when dealing with people on different points on the political spectrum. Watch how Smiley wants to believe that he has chosen the higher ground intellectually and Lakoff talks him down from that, explaining that we mostly are programmed from an early age with certain worldviews and “frames”.

    I’ve been swinging back and forth quite widely in the current political climate. I agree with Dan when he vents his anger and frustration with the Trump supporters and I also agree with Phil when he brings me back around to focus on the roots of this whole mess. The video on your link does explain this unsettling situation.

    Thanks for posting that.

  64. Elaine Brown, former chair of the Black Panther Party on Al Jazeera just now, “we are glad that Trump has woken us from the years of inaction and confusion of Obama and before. We now know where we stand and has given the right thinking American people motivation to change a bad system that has been going for around thirty years or so”, or words to that effect.

  65. Laurie

    I agree. I am deeply concerned with the direction this administration is going, but Phil is right: we need to engage in order to change course. And in order to do that, we need to understand the source(s) of Trump supporters’ fears and angers.

    Both sides cry they want to “take back our country”, never realizing they want to take it back from fellow citizens.

    I wish he’d had more advice on a national level, but then, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve appeared before a Senate committee and have five fingers left over.

  66. Vicki #71
    Feb 18, 2017 at 8:12 am

    Both sides cry they want to “take back our country”, never realizing they want to take it back from fellow citizens.

    Of course what they mean, is “support the fascists in grabbing the country from the citizens and those providing services and maintaining a legal framework.

    This happened with the brainless brexit voters in the UK, – who voted to “take back our border controls” and give control of them to the right wing fringe brexiteer politicians who supported the cutting of staff in the UK Border Agency, and trying keep out illegal immigrants by patrolling thousands of miles of coastline with 3 navy patrol boats, so as to avoid paying for the 8 more which were needed to do the job properly!

    These failures, were apparently “the fault of the [scapegoat] European Union”, despite the underfunding and under-manning decisions, being taken by the majority Tory Party in the UK government in London!

    They also keep shouting about the “undemocratic decisions of Brussels” – Usually via the barmy UKIP MEPs in the European Parliament, who (probably due to them having the worst attendance record of any party), seem to have failed to notice that THEY were elected, AND that the European Parliament where they have seats, – votes on legislation!

  67. Vicki #68

    Thanks very much, Vicki, that’s a really useful starting point.

    And it has reminded me of an excellent book I read some years ago – Kluge, by Gary Marcus – which also explores the human brain and why it so often works in ways that don’t seem remotely rational. I must hunt it out again, since it has just become seriously topical!

  68. Marco

    I took your advice, and am waiting on the delivery of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. I am determined to engage with Trump supporters in a way that (I hope) is productive.

  69. Thanks for the Lakoff, Vicki.

    I am a fan of Lakoff. For over two decades he has warned about the right wing ability to “frame” political arguments with far greater effectiveness than the left. Simple over-arching metaphors (of parental authority, say) and strong emotive terminology, win when reason, evidence and nuance fail.

    It is important to recognise that the right do not actually engage in moral argument as such, but rather assertions of what is “meant to be” in some way or another. “Meant to be” is …er…trumps. It is the end of the argument.

    Lakeoff notes that as a general principle moral development ceases after parental influence ceases.

    Moral arguments, therefore, made towards the right with its particular style of parenting and inward focus, will be one of the least effective means of mind changing.

    Doing politics is unseemly and distressing at close quarters. But if the end is a moral one then sometimes it must be borne. The “despicables” and their kids need a happier prospect. Fairness and generosity to others, as we have seen (with capuchins and kids!) flourishes with this happier prospect. It is the bourgeoisie that finally facilitate all the moral improvements we have seen in our brief history. That puts the onus on us to make the political changes and forgo the fatuous name calling, however gratifying or however true.

    We need strong clear, pragmatic thinking and a strong clear plan.

    Lakoff on Sanders Feb 2016

    I have been asked how Sanders, as a “socialist,” could be doing as well as he is running for President, at least in a few early states. The answer seems to be that Democratic voters have listened to what he said and did, not the label he carries.

    To them, Sanders embodies the best of idealistic American values — honest, straightforward, courageous and passionate for those values.


    If Sanders somehow makes it to the general election, will socialism-shaming work? It might. But so far, the label hasn’t damaged Sanders — because what he says, for the most part, fits classical American ideals.

  70. He doesn’t need it, but just a word in support of phil rimmer at #66

    There is simply no point whatsoever in putting the problem down to stupidity or evil. Those are lazy analyses (actually, they don’t even merit the term “analysis”) and, even more to the point, they give us nothing whatsoever to work with, no means of solving the problem. They are mere self-indulgence.

    As Phil rightly says: Trump voters are our problem, and the only solution to that problem lies in politics. The USA needs a better politics.

    Dan (#59, 60), you’ve had so many interactions with Phil and he has set out his views so many times, that I am shocked that you could accuse him of believing in any such thing as the “undeserving poor”. How could you have read his many, many contributions on this subject and still not understand that he is talking about the classic American/Republican view, not his own? He has explained this so many times! No wonder he despairs of your response!

    The video Vicki links to at #68 includes a segment that describes the Republican mindset perfectly. There’s a transcript via her link, too, for anyone who, like me, prefers to read than listen. Scroll down to the lengthy section about the “strict father” mentality.

    Too much of America has bought into this mentality – it underlies every social injustice that America suffers. It’s what marks the USA out among all the other developed, Western democracies, and it explains what, to the rest of us, appears to be a baffling degree of hostility and indifference towards the poor and the needy. It explains the otherwise inexplicable resistance to the idea that we’re all in this together and that there should be real safety nets for those who are struggling.

    As Phil has pointed out over and over again, even the very people who suffer the most at a result of this “strict father” mindset have bought into it. There is, in the USA, far too much acceptance – among both rich and poor – of the entirely spurious idea that wealth and success are the result of virtue, and poverty and hardship the result of its lack.

    And this mindset means that the idea of a helping hand, support to get out of poverty and deprivation, any suggestion that steps should be taken to redistribute wealth and rebalance the inequality are too often viewed as immoral and, in any case, doomed to failure. The result: the richest country on earth has the worst poverty, the worst inequality, the worst access to healthcare, the least social security, (and the highest violent crime, highest rate of imprisonment, highest rate of teenage pregnancy, highest illiteracy … I could go on … ) of any developed nation on the planet.

    Trump is going to make all that a hell of a lot worse. So why do his supporters include many of the very voters who will now undoubtedly become his primary victims? Because he promised he would make things better for them. He spun simplistic narratives. He told them everything about the American establishment – and especially Hillary Clinton – was the cause of their troubles and that there was only one solution: him. It was all lies, of course. But when people are sufficiently desperate, sufficiently lacking in hope, they will cling to any straw that’s proffered. More than that: when people are sufficiently desperate, the only thing that gives them any hope is the promise of revolution.

    And revolution was precisely what Trump claimed to be offering them.

    In that context, Hillary came across as the status quo, part of the very establishment that – in Trump-fuelled perceptions – the root of their suffering.

    Stop despairing, stop wailing, stop emoting, and stop panicking. Start focusing: how are progressives going to start harnessing that clamour for real change in American society? What can Democrats (I’m assuming it will have to be Democrats, since they are currently the main alternative force in US politics) do to offer the real change that people are hungering for? There is not the least use Democrats just continuing to offer more of the same. They need root and branch reform, rebrand, re-VISION. They need to offer a revolution of their own, and they need to find ways of winning hearts and minds over to it. They already know that greater equality across society benefits ALL in society – now they need to find ways of convincing “strict father” America of that fact. It’s not going to be easy. But that’s precisely why you don’t have the luxury of time for despairing, wailing, emoting and panicking. There is work to be done. I don’t have the solutions. But this would be as good place as any to start discussing them – no? What should progressives be doing to harness the hunger for real change and to win people over to the benefits of empathy on a national scale?

    As for GINI – Dan, the first time Phil referred to it, I wasn’t familiar with the acronym either. But I googled it. Seriously: why didn’t you?

  71. Vicki

    we need to understand the source(s) of Trump supporters’ fears and angers.

    Yes I do agree with this however this is exactly where I run into a roadblock in conversation with Trump supporters. I come from the position that is communicated by Sanders and this is the prompt for them to start shouting “socialist!!” and not in a good way. But I really do believe that Sanders analysis is correct in explaining what happened to our middle and lower economic classes.They’ve had the rug pulled out from under them and so the solution that seems correct to me is to curb the parasitic financial industry and provide the help and incentives for education and realistic job training that will grow and strengthen the middle class. Universal health care and all of Sanders social programs are a safety net that we need desperately here. The very people who support corporate robbery are the ones who are being robbed every day. This is a huge chasm to bridge between the progressives and the ultraconservative in conversation. I think I do understand their fears but it’s very daunting to try to talk over and beyond the FOX news propaganda that surrounds that bunch like a stinking murky cloud. Still, there’s no choice. It’s got to be done.

    On Phil’s recommendation I read Sander’s book Our Revolution and found it to be a very clear and direct explanation of his plan to move the country forward. Very satisfying. I say it’s a must read for progressives.

  72. Vicki #74

    I’m not sure it was advice as such. I hadn’t read it at that point – I’d just read the blurb about it and wondered if it might be helpful. I’ve read about half of it now and, although I’m finding it very interesting, I’m not absolutely sure it’s directly relevant to the challenge at hand. Its focus is much more on persuading people to buy a product, rather than on persuading them to change their views.

    It does, though, demonstrate very clearly how easily the brain can be manipulated, and that there are certain approaches we can take that will enhance our ability to persuade. It’s not that I approve of manipulating people, but – assuming we have a clear, honest, strong and rational case to make – there are things we can do to, at the very least, avoid inadvertently prejudicing people against listening to it.

  73. Marco,

    I did not know precisely what Phil meant by “undeserving poor”; it could mean any number of things. I asked him to clarify, while never questioning his empathy or broad vision of humanity. Phil rarely clarifies, but leaves it up to me to read his mind. As for the GINI, I did look it up. Numbers. Statistics.

    Vicki

    I believe to my core that we share many issues with Trump supporters; we differ only in the methods proposed to solve them.

    Yes, we share issues. (What issues do you believe we share?) And how do we reach them and get them to stop supporting right wing populist demagogues?

    I would say that 99 percent of Trump voters do not “believe” in climate change” and want a wall built and like the travel ban. No method will ever be agreed on; I don’t support the premise. Nor do they support the premise, based on reason, that climate change is man-made.

    So you can try to hold hands with the scum that voted him in; but life is more active than that.

    Reducing wealth and income inequality is ONE answer. But how do we achieve that? That would require nothing short of a revolution in the minds of the men and women of this country.

    Phil,

    It’s politics.

    How is that constructive? You are saying nothing useful.

    I have every right to lash out in disgust against the deplorable, recalcitrant and vile elements in American life.

  74. But Dan, Phil has been a prolific contributor here for a long time. You’ve had endless interactions with him. Surely you have a concept of his ideas and politics by now? And don’t need everything re-explained each time, but can marry up a comment he makes today with comments he has made over the last few months, and therefore know exactly what he means by them?

    As for the GINI, I did look it up. Numbers. Statistics

    About what? And how might that relate to the point Phil is making?

    And can you have the gall to write “I have every right to lash out in disgust against the deplorable, recalcitrant and vile elements in American life” immediately after saying to Phil, of all people: “How is that constructive? You are saying nothing useful.”

    Be disgusted if you must. Just be aware that you’re not contributing ONE IOTA to finding a solution or even starting a discussion about possible solutions. As for Phil’s views of the challenge facing US politics: well, you just need to re-read the comments he’s been making over and over again for the last year. Why should he have to spell them out all over again in every single post?

  75. Laurie #79

    They’ve had the rug pulled out from under them and so the solution
    that seems correct to me is to curb the parasitic financial industry
    and provide the help and incentives for education and realistic job
    training that will grow and strengthen the middle class.

    Sanders seems to be the most forward-thinking of the lot. I think he has figured out that classical capitalism has run its course, and is no longer effective on a national scale. The changing dynamics of our economy is (IMO) the source of the fears and rage of the Trump supporters. They just don’t know it.

    I liked Lakoff’s distinction between “regulations” and “protections” and the differing connotations they emote.

  76. Mods, many thx.

    Marco, I want to have your babies. OK. Maybe just, thx also.

    And this mindset means that the idea of a helping hand, support to get out of poverty and deprivation, any suggestion that steps should be taken to redistribute wealth and rebalance the inequality are too often viewed as immoral and, in any case, doomed to failure. The result: the richest country on earth has the worst poverty, the worst inequality, the worst access to healthcare, the least social security, (and the highest violent crime, highest rate of imprisonment, highest rate of teenage pregnancy, highest illiteracy … I could go on … ) of any developed nation on the planet.

    Now is the time for the US to come in from its outlier position. The narrative that the nation’s wealth derives essentially from unfettered capitalist machismo, despite the government and other beggars, usefully ignores a greater truth of a virgin continent ready for ravishment. Capitalist machismo is the perfect narrative cover for parasites. You’ve got to want it enough they say, to be like me. Zero sum, gambling wins, are good enough for Trump, for this sad reductive narrative.

    The sadness, too, is it fritzes good folk like the black community, insufficiently prepared to identify the very heritability of poverty in such a selfish nation, as a major contributor to their sustained disadvantage. They will never vote for Sanders with its hand-out smears from the right if they can choose a Clinton, all-you-need-is-pride and ambition candidate and declare the rest of their travails are just prejudice from others (bad as that may be).

    As I never tire of reporting, the US is the only OECD country where reduced IQ is an actual product of poverty rather than a mere correlate of it.

  77. My friends—

    And this mindset means that the idea of a helping hand, support to get out of poverty and deprivation, any suggestion that steps should be taken to redistribute wealth and rebalance the inequality are too often viewed as immoral

    This is pretty basic among progressives. Nothing to get all excited about. Strawman too if you are suggesting, Phil, that this has alluded me.. And I never said that you regard the Trump supporters as victims. But others do. No strawman on my part.

    Marco, I was confused by Phil’s reference to the deserving and undeserving. As far as I can see, the Republicans are not in favor of helping anyone who is poor; do they distinguish between the deserving and undeserving poor?

    Phil, Marco, Sorry if I’ve disappointed you, or caused you vexation, or if I appear obtuse. I am under a great strain. But tell me precisely where I’ve erred. You seem displeased. I am at a loss. Tell me what you think I am not getting! And tell me how we can create greater income and wealth equality. Everyone who has half a brain and half a heart knows that that’s what we need. But HOW do we make this transition? One idea. Just one practical suggestion. Spell it out for me again.

    Sorry Vicki, for my harsh words; but I, like many others, am absolutely horrified by what is taking place. I am filled with a lot of emotion right now. You know when Trump says “Make America Great” he is not speaking to me. That phrase appeals only to the most ignorant and wretched among us. I will not assimilate with these Trump supporters. The only hope – in the short term – is this: La politique du pire (the politics of the worst). Let Trump let them all down. Let them lose their health benefits; that might awaken them.

    Nine thousand people (who “share our values”!) at Trump’s rally in Florida worshipping the führer.

    I hope I haven’t alienated any of you fine people. You’re my support system, as it were.

    Misunderstandings inevitably arise on websites, where you have to rely on posted comments as the sole form of communication. Par for the course.

  78. Vicki

    Regulations versus protections, atheist versus non-theist. No! That is not the answer. Rephrasing is not the solution, won’t work.

  79. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/17/us/politics/trump-program-eliminations-white-house-budget-office.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=a-lede-package-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=1

    Laurie, I guess I’ll read Sanders’ book. Maybe I will find some answers there on how to combat the pestilence that now plagues are country.

    What practical suggestions has Phil made? Do I have Alzheimer’s? Phil is a great commenter, a gifted man (like me), and a great guy; but I don’t recall hearing any practical problem-solving suggestions, or solutions to the problem of poverty and inequality, from him. Did I miss something, as Marco suggested?

    Listening to Trump now in Florida. Filled with despair and horror.

  80. Dan #85/86

    But tell me precisely where I’ve erred. You seem displeased. I am at a
    loss. Tell me what you think I am not getting! And tell me how we can
    create greater income and wealth equality. Everyone who has half a
    brain and half a heart knows that that’s what we need. But HOW do we
    make this transition? One idea. Just one practical suggestion. Spell
    it out for me again.

    No, sorry. Not from me. Phil’s explained his position to you umpteen times already, to no avail, and I’m nowhere near as patient as he is. You could try re-reading his posts with a more open mind; but there’ll not be another single response from me to you while you continue to dismiss every new-to-you idea out of hand:

    Regulations versus protections, atheist versus non-theist. No! That is
    not the answer. Rephrasing is not the solution, won’t work.

    From the video Vicki linked to and that you’ve just dismissed:

    Lakoff: … Those neurocircuits for a world view are fixed. Once
    they’re fixed, they become what you might call a neuro filter. You can
    only understand what your brain allows you to understand. So if you
    have only one world view, you’re stuck to understand things that fit
    that world view. And if information comes in that doesn’t fit it,
    it’ll be either not noticed, ignored, ridiculed or attacked.

    QED – again.

  81. Final thought for the day:

    Trump’s supporters ARE victims, to some extent. They have been manipulated by a master manipulator.

    Can we all agree that Trump and Bannon and Miller (et al) are domestic terrorists? They are engaging in propaganda and are lying to the people, and pushing an outrageous extreme right wing agenda that will, ultimately, destroy our economy and our country. That’s terrorism.

    Okay, Marco, fair enough. I’ll try to dig up some of Phil’s comments on strategy. It won’t be easy.

    Changing phrases won’t work.

  82. Dan,

    When responding its absolutely clear you never go back and check your facts. You write off the top of your head and care nothing to work things out and find things out for yourself. All puzzles are greeted passively, never engaged enthusiastically with the prospect of new understanding.

    I tend to write densely, putting several ideas into a sentence. I try not to do superfluity. I intend every word.

    As far as I can see, the Republicans are not in favor of helping anyone who is poor

    whereas I said

    The white working class (out of all working class folk) have been targeted as the most biddable of the aggrieved. …..

    Being played to directly as Trump did, creating a division between the undeserving poor and the deserving poor is what created a new cohort and the shock result we see.

    Trump, not the Republicans

    Can we all agree that Trump and Bannon and Miller (et al) are domestic terrorists?

    This is old news. Move on. You had nothing to say about Bannon’s involvement and investment in Cambridge Analytica and the use of its hugely effective algorithm’s to target key individuals in swing states. You offered no commentary on the two occasions I posted the Maddow piece on the Republican expertise and long term investment in gerrymandering to its particular advantage.

    The specifics of such terrorism should be the focus of our thoughts now.

  83. Phil,

    As unpleasant as it is to hear, I truly appreciate your honest criticism. You pull no punches. That suggests to me that you care, that you want to bring out the best in others.

    All puzzles are greeted passively, never engaged enthusiastically with the prospect of new understanding.

    A hard pill to swallow. Some truth to that. (“All puzzles” is a huge overstatement; but you are vexed; I understand.) I’ll try to improve in this area. (No sarcasm intended.) My friend Paul, the Wittgenstein guy, has said the same thing. Not likely that you’re both (entirely) wrong.

    I was afraid to read what you posted re the Cambridge Analytica. I forwarded it to a friend. He didn’t reply.

    (My late brother’s name was Phil.)

    Regards,

    Dan

  84. Very interesting article that Vikki linked to at #68. It seems to be saying the same thing as I did in #57 which is that like religious fundamentalists, Trump supporters have a particular worldview and anything that contradicts that is just rejected. What I call a worldview, or brainwashing, Lakoff calls a neural filter, ingrained since childhood, in their case from strict authoritarian parenting.

    I obviously have no idea what parenting is like in general in the USA compared to the UK but what is clear at least is that other western democracies do not have this huge section of the population that espouses very right wing views. The main beef of people in the rust belt and country areas who voted for Trump seems to be that they have suffered financially, or at least in terms of their share of the pie because of the rich, the “establishment” and the political system. What they should then be voting for it seems to me is something akin to the Labour party in the UK whose supposed, or at least historic, mission statement is to support the working man rather than big business. But in the USA socialism is almost as dirty a word as atheism. These people seem to be hoist by a petard of their own making. They want a bigger share of the pie, better healthcare, good modern infrastructure to support industry and jobs but they think that more government spending, handouts, higher taxes to pay for social programs is wrong because “good” people should be successful on their own merits and only bad lazy ones need help. So they still vote for a party whose first move, every damn time, is to give huge tax cuts to the super rich who fund their campaigns which the poor then have to pay for one way or the other.

    You can slice it any way you like, blame it on neural filters, parenting, brainwashing or whatever other terms might apply but at the end of the day these people are, to some extent and varying in degree from person to person, still low information, short attention span, only interested in single syllable word solutions, religious, bigoted, homophobic and stupid. What Trump said to them in monosyllabic terms was “All is bad, you hear me now!, I make all good for you” and they swallowed it. He had no actual solutions, lied about everything he spoke about and ran a campaign of hate and divisiveness and petty childish attacks on everyone who opposed him and they still couldn’t see him for what he really is. I don’t actually give a damn if they had a strict daddy, they’re grownups now and if they can’t think for themselves sufficiently deeply to spot an obvious conman and psychopath then more bloody fool them.

    That of course is a statement of the problem and not a solution and obviously the Dems have to reach out better to people like this if they want to get re-elected but IMO the long term solution is when people like this are gone! The USA is an aberration in world terms. It has a population completely unlike anything in the UK or Europe and at the root of this is religion and poor education, especially in science and critical thinking. As we are already seeing it is those things the Trump administration is attacking hardest with people like Betsy Devos. They want a dumb, pliant, low information electorate to fall for their bullshit again next time round.

  85. Laurie, Phil, Marco, Vicki, Arkrid (others)—

    Let me just reiterate a few things, and express some criticism of my own. (This is what I think now; I might modify my position down the road.)

    They’ve had the rug pulled out from under them and so the solution that seems correct to me is to curb the parasitic financial industry and provide the help and incentives for education and realistic job training that will grow and strengthen the middle class.

    That is analogous to saying that there is a flood so the solution is to stop the flood. But HOW? Laurie has correctly identified the problem and has identified what would constitute a “solution”; but there is still a huge mountain to climb. We are in the throws of a crisis; and we are in the hands of a narcissistic (out of control) autocrat who is deranged and sinister, and is surrounded by right-wing reactionary zealots and religious fanatics (DeVos, Price, Pence, Bannon, etc.) who have the support and well-wishes of the Republican-led House and Senate.

    Our new President has the support of the recalcitrant and the dumb. These people are very different than you and me; they may be said to belong to a different culture; everything Mr. Trump says is alien and abhorrent to me – but not to them; and many of them appear quite incapable of changing, as I’ve said; they are sentimental, vicious, frightened, angry, shame-ridden, “patriots” and loyal at all costs. They may be described as the lumpenproletariat, and are a real impediment to the social and political revolution that Senator Sanders has advocated. We’ve all tried to reason with these people, as Laurie said, and we’ve all given up in despair. In order to bring about the changes that she, Phil, and others, have suggested, a lot more has to be done than just saying: this is what should happen, what needs to happen. (Isn’t that what Phil said the Right does?)

    I still say that we have to hope that more than fifty percent of the electorate remains active, educated, informed, and intelligent. And we cannot afford to engage in wishful thinking and delude ourselves into thinking that we all share the same values; nor can we change the vast majority of these Trump supporters. (Did anyone hear his speech in Florida yesterday; it was covered on all three of the major cable news networks. Positively horrifying and disgusting: “Drill, baby drill! Yay! Let’s go ahead with the pipelines! Yay! Those awful democrats! Boo! That terrible, bad 9th Circuit Court! Boo! That media! Boo!”) The fence-sitters may rebel against the Republicans if they feel betrayed; but Trump and his team probably have some tricks up their sleeves. Smoke and mirrors, as Phil said elsewhere. Jobs (that hurt the environment) will be created, a wall will be built, etc. All stunts (like the Carrier deal), optics. But the majority of his supporters will continue to adore him and will chant “USA, USA, USA…” And if they grow in number, that is, if the “stupid majority” grows and significantly outnumbers the rest of us, then Trump will be a two-term President, regardless of whether the electoral college is abolished or not. By the end of that eight years, this country, as Vicki said, may be unrecognizable to us.

    Now is the time for America to come out from under….

    That is a normative statement.

    I just read Arkrid’s excellent comment above, which got posted as I was editing. I agree with everything he said, except I do not share his enthusiasm for this Lackoff fellow; I was unimpressed with his strict-father-thinking theory. And why don’t we just “activate” empathy? We can work on these right-wingers’ brains! Wholesale, mandatory brain surgery! That’s where that stuff’s heading, if you ask me – in a few decades. There’s a solution. And If we have a right-wing dictatorship thirty years from now, you can bet that criminals will be undergoing surgery along with the rebellious; they both cause too much trouble.—Sound paranoid?—Well, so be it.

  86. Hi Dan

    …we are in the hands of a narcissistic (out of control) autocrat who
    is deranged and sinister, and is surrounded by right-wing reactionary
    zealots and religious fanatics (DeVos, Price, Pence, Bannon, etc.) who
    have the support and well-wishes of the Republican-led House and
    Senate.

    Yes. Yes we are. An extremely frightening prospect. And I, for one, will be vocal in my resistance. Honestly, the only other option I see is curling up in a fetal position and waiting for the end.

    …nor can we change the vast majority of these Trump supporters.

    I think that is where we diverge in our outlooks, you and I. I see the electorate as concentric rings around Trump. The tightest inner rings are the deplorables. The ultra-nationalists with whom he has struck a chord and encouraged to come out from under their rocks. They love Trump and always will, regardless of his actions. The outer rings are the ones who are just as frustrated and worried as you or me, and decided to take a chance with a “non-elite.” Obviously, it was a really bad decision. They are the ones who should be engaged, or they’ll just do it again and again.

  87. Liked very much your comment Arkrid Sandwich #92. The same thoughts are hanging about in my head also. Especially this part:

    The main beef of people in the rust belt and country areas who voted
    for Trump seems to be that they have suffered financially, or at least
    in terms of their share of the pie because of the rich, the
    “establishment” and the political system. What they should then be
    voting for it seems to me is something akin to the Labour party in the
    UK whose supposed, or at least historic, mission statement is to
    support the working man rather than big business. But in the USA
    socialism is almost as dirty a word as atheism. These people seem to
    be hoist by a petard of their own making. … The USA is an aberration in world terms. It has a population completely unlike anything in the UK or Europe and at the root of this is religion and poor education, especially in science and critical thinking

    And Dan, I think excellent understanding:

    They may be described as the lumpenproletariat, and are a real
    impediment to the social and political revolution that Senator Sanders
    has advocated. We’ve all tried to reason with these people, as Laurie
    said, and we’ve all given up in despair. In order to bring about the
    changes that she, Phil, and others, have suggested, a lot more has to
    be done than just saying: this is what should happen, what needs to
    happen. (Isn’t that what Phil said the Right does?)

    This lumpenproleteriat is most frightned and dangerous class of people. As I see it… because of their lack of education they are easily lead by this simplified Trump propaganda talk. Unfortunately this brainwashing from a father figure is at the root of the problems, in my opinion. Interesting how there is no term “mother figure” in psychology (as far as I know), as a psichopatological figure whose goal is to dominate or to oppress anyone. Nationalists, and other deranged people need fathers figures, … and the whole religion system is based upon it. They have produced, and are sustaining hierarchical relationships where is clearly shown who is father and who is a obeying child. No equality and freedom in there. I think this wrong established social system is in the root of every inequality in the societies. It seems as this people who voted for Trump needed father (führer) who will lead them, and he as a “good father” gave them security and reassurance with a few lying words they needed to hear.

    Dan, Vicki and LaurieB I really like your way of thinking because you are trying to find some concrete way out of this horrible situation in America. I agree that education of the “primitive” ones is fundamental (unfortunately hierarchy has established rules to keep many people illiterate – schools and equal access to knowlidge are not free), and further I think that fighting with propaganda of our own is the way. And has to be addressed to a rural areas from where probably most votes for Trump came. But it costs. Posters, advertisments, interviews, etc. cost money. I don’t know, but, are there not rich democrats in there who can do that? Perhaps the rich are not ready to spend money for battle for equality or on people? 😉 I was wondering why all this film stars who earn lots of money and who tend to speak against Trump and bad politics didn’t unite and did something concrete like going into rural areas to speak for democratic values which they defend? I see they prefer sitting in comfortable chairs on TV. I don’t think they grasp the importance of defending those values enough, and they could of done a lot.

    So, in my modest opinion propaganda has to be fought with propaganda. If Goebbels noted that any lie becames a true if repeated enough, and if Trump is following that trail (as well as every nationalist did), perhaps solution is to fight back with propaganda. Tell true trough propaganda, and not lies. Propaganda is a weapon that was made up to convince someone that lie is a true. It takes root by repeating. In my opinion there has to be a huge fighting back with advertisments, posters, news etc. They cost, but I think that there are enough wealthy individuals in America who can pay for it. 😉 (Question is would they do that, or they are capitalists enough and they prefer their money). 😉

  88. Arkrid

    They want a dumb, pliant, low information electorate

    US Education

    is superbly equipped to deliver a smart elite and a dumb mass. Its tertiary education is world class whilst its secondary education lies increasingly neglected and abused. Bright kids are self educating and survive whilst the average and below suffer disproportionately. This is indeed an area to work on BUT…

    They want a needy, dumb, pliant, low information electorate.

    Stupid is helpful, especially for the deceptive, but a needy electorate is an energised electorate and biddable. Needy is key…and must be maintained.

  89. Olgun this documentary seems interesting.
    I was looking to find some videos of that professor Lakoff, and among several found also this about how our mental frames (maps) are difficult to change. : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w2u06oCxfv8

    In that respect, I was thinking that, if people ways of seeing was set up by their parents (and others), and if those parents also believed in some false things brought to them by propaganda, how does he means that weltanschauung can not be changed? It seems that it can be changed. If propaganda has changed views of a parent who has transfered that views onto a child, than surely, today’s propaganda has a chance to change a world for the next generation. Right?

  90. Modesti.

    I think fighting propaganda with propaganda is fatuous. You need to address people’s (self assessed) needs and propose (and initiate and deliver where you can) clearly viable plans to address those needs.

    You need to change the image of the Democrats as well to do folk comfortable in the company of bankers.

    You need a new New Deal.

  91. The New Deal came in for a lot of criticism after it successfully contained the humanitarian crisis in the early thirties. It was claimed (endlessly by bankers and the money) that its legacy was holding the country back. Certainly, with its new checks and balances it took the volatility down usefully.

    But the US with a society in better balance with itself positively thrived in the fifties and sixties. Streets were rather more paved with gold than just the promise of the stuff.

    You can see the return of the kleptocracy here.

    http://www.the-crises.com/income-inequality-in-the-us-1/

    With the return of the kleptocrats (Reagan, Bush) the lynch pin New Deal legislation of Glass Steagall preventing personal savings from being gambled with, came under constant threat, but it was Clinton who presided over its repeal requiring only rather toothless oversights. (As we learned from 2008, no effective oversight existed with even ratings agencies, commercially motivated, complicit in the on-going thefts.)

  92. Mods, another wayward post, this time with one link…

    When its restored I recommend others have a mooch around the website. Shocks, UK Gini was so low! Lowest anywhere until KleptoThatch. The 2007 US income profile was pretty much the same as England in the seventeenth century….

  93. Mods, another wayward post, this time with one link…

    Me too (but without a link).

    It’s Sunday, maybe they’re at church. 🙂

  94. “Do you love me mummy?” asks the six year old boy as he’s being tucked up in bed. He started school recently and got bullied by a bigger boy today so he’s feeling very insecure. “Of course I love you Donald” replies his mother. “You’re the best little boy in the whole wide world and I’ll always love you.”
    “Can I have my blankie please mummy?” His mother fetches little Donald’s blankie and clutching it tightly with one hand while he sucks the thumb of the other hand for comfort the little chap drifts off to sleep.

    How sad it is that less than one month into his presidency little Donald has to reach for his blankie already by holding a rally where he can bask in the love and adoration of the deplorables who chant for him because things are going so badly. His NPD illness keeps trying to tell him he’s the best little boy in the world but he got bullied by a nasty supreme court, his cabinet picks are dropping like flies, his White House leaks like a sieve because so many people there fear and hate him, the press keep telling the truth about his incompetence which he has to counter by stamping his little feet and saying it’s all lies, he’s hopelessly out of his depth on anything but the most simple questions, the rallies being held against him are massively bigger than the little crowd he got at his inauguration, he suffered humiliating reverses when he tried to bully Mexico and China and his popularity polls are the worst of any new incumbent in history.

    Little Donald enjoyed pre school where he was the biggest boy in the class and there was no hard learning, just finger painting and playing with toys. He doesn’t like big school so much. The girls think his hair is funny and they laugh at him and he’s finding out he can’t bully the boys who are bigger than him and have been there for years. Two of them have already taken his lunch money and others are lining up to test his resolve. The teachers ask hard questions which he struggles to answer because he doesn’t read very well and he has a short attention span for new information. He desperately wants to suck his thumb in class but he knows he’ll be laughed at even more. He hates his new school. It’s painted white and gleams in the sun and he only feels comfortable when he gets back home to Mar-a-Lago where he’s the only boy and no one can lecture him and he can clutch his blankie tightly.

    Poor little Donald.

  95. Excellent documentary, Ollie.

    Running from say 9 minutes through the talking heads section on Obama, I thought spot on.

    When my comment returns I think the Bill Clinton / Obama bank issues will be pointed up.

  96. When my comment returns I think the Bill Clinton / Obama bank issues
    will be pointed up.

    I look forward to that link. I think Clinton and Obama have more culpability in our wealth division than we liberals like to admit. Particularly Clinton’s repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1932. And Congress’ current repeal of the Dodd-Frank act is eerily similar.

  97. phil rimmer #99

    I think fighting propaganda with propaganda is fatuous. You need to
    address people’s (self assessed) needs and propose (and initiate and
    deliver where you can) clearly viable plans to address those needs.

    How do you think to accomplish that? How do you think to address the mass of people?

    I think that is self-evident that someone has to have a plan before the start of mass persuasion. The changes you are talking about can be achived by propaganda – comunication techniques to persuade masses. Here is some lovely words from master of propaganda Edward L. Bernays:

    “Communication is the key to engineering consent for social action.But it is not enough to get out leaflets and bulletins on the mimeograph machines,to place releases in the newspapers, or to fill the air waves with radio talks. Words, sounds, and pictures accomplish little unless they are the tools of a soundly thought-out plan and carefully organized methods. If the plans are well formulated and the proper use is made of them, the ideas conveyed by the words will become part and parcel of the people themselves. When the public is convinced of the soundness of an idea, it will proceed to action. But such results do not just happen. In a democracy they can be accomplished principally by the engineering of consent.
    A campaign for the preservation of the teeth seeks to alter people’s habits in the direction of more frequent brushing of teeth. A campaign for better parks seeks to alter people’s opinion in regard to the desirability of taxing themselves for the purchase of park facilities. A campaign against tuberculosis is an attempt to
    convince everybody that tuberculosis can be cured, that persons with certain symptoms should immediately
    go to the doctor, and the like. A campaign to lower the infant mortality rate is an effort to alter the
    habits of mothers in regard to feeding, bathing and caring for their babies. Social service, in fact, is
    identical with propaganda in many cases. Even those aspects of social service which are
    governmental and administrative, rather than charitable and spontaneous,
    depend on wise propaganda for their effectiveness”.

  98. Modesti #105
    Feb 19, 2017 at 9:45 am

    Social service, in fact, is identical with propaganda in many cases.
    Even those aspects of social service which are governmental and administrative, rather than charitable and spontaneous, depend on wise propaganda for their effectiveness”.

    This is talking about advertising, and makes the key point of difference!
    While honest informative campaigns, may use some of the same techniques, or the same media, the difference is between disreputable lying propagandists and persuasive informants, is INTEGRITY.

    Mentally separating such people and campaigns, can be difficult for the uneducated, because swallowing disreputable simplistic propaganda, merely has to “persuade”, and requires much less effort on the part of the recipient, than informative campaigns which require some mental and physical effort to make the advice produce results!

    “Carry on cheering, and the magic Trump fairy will fix everything for you!” is the deceptive message.

    The disreputable campaigns will have no useful outcome, and will be destined to fail, but will be geared to finding scapegoats to deflect attention and blame from the perpetrators!

    This is well illustrated in the airport chaos generated by Trump’s badly targeted and hopelessly unplanned ban, – but according to Trumpists – it is all the fault or the Democrats, the “bureaucrats”, and the judges!

    The deplorables are into cheering for “winning” teams wearing label badges, – not seeking solutions to real problems of which they have no understanding!
    Trump has just named non-Trumpists, “enemies” (of America)!

  99. Modesti

    Propaganda is “information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote a political cause or point of view”

    Propaganda is telling the needy, they are needy because illegal immigrants have stolen their jobs. “Lets get rid of illegal immigrants.” All this without evidence but riffing off latent xenophobia.

    Promoting a viable plan promising retraining for those with lost or poor jobs and implementing public and incentives for private investment is not propaganda.

  100. Modesti

    Propagandists do not reveal their actual plan.

    Trump is not overly exercised by a few million Mexicans. He has much bigger goals.

    And what Alan said.

  101. Rimmer and Allan,

    …perhaps some explanation is necessary from my part here. I do not see propaganda as something negative, I see it as a tool of mass persuasion. It can be used by good people who want a good reforms and bad people for their goals. There are many definitions of propaganda I am sure, but I prefer this one:

    “Modern propaganda is a consistent, enduring effort to create or shape events to influence the
    relations of the public to an enterprise, idea or group”.

    As I see it, your view on it is negative and seen as something reserved only for tyrants. In my opinion you are mistaken. Propaganda is a tool, a technique that can be used for both sides. Trump has used that tool to give false informations (lies). But it can be used to give truth informations.

    “This practice (propaganda) of creating circumstances and of creating pictures in the minds of millions of persons is very common. Virtually no important undertaking is now carried on without it, whether that enterprise be building a cathedral, endowing a university, marketing a moving picture, floating a large bond issue, or electing a president. Sometimes the effect on the public is created by a professional propagandist,
    sometimes by an amateur deputed for the job. The important thing is that it is universal and continuous;
    and in its sum total it is regimenting the public mind every bit as much as an army regiments the bodies of
    its soldiers”. (Propaganda; Bernays)

    The deplorables are into cheering for “winning” teams wearing label
    badges, – not seeking solutions to real problems of which they have no
    understanding!

    I agree with that, but that is another thing. I am sure they will be uniterested to hear anything constructive anyway. But, hey, perhaps with carefuly planed propaganda tools they can be persuaded to cheer for different team.

    The disreputable campaigns will have no useful outcome…

    Again,…You see propaganda as “disreputable campaign”, and it doesn’t have to be. Propaganda techniques are tools. It can be used for promoting good values.

  102. Modesti

    We need this word the way it is.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propaganda

    If it can’t mean this (dishonest thing) clearly we need to find another to do the job. In its modern meaning it is a hundred years old.

    If you view an ngram of propaganda you can see how the word was needed for Soviet communism and German fascism, this latter rather pertinent.

    Not that its original meaning of propagating the faith is at all attractive. There should be no articles of faith in politics. Evidence and reason are the solid basis for persuading any one.

    Rhetorical styles from an understanding of psychology are attributes that exist in their own right. Invoking these is entirely adequate without losing our ability to attack manipulative versions used against us as propaganda, with its current implications of dissimulation. Clear language with singular meanings is a great strength for us. (No polysemous speech.)

  103. I don’t have time right now to read all of the comments that have been posted on this thread since last night. I look forward to reading them later.

    I see that the word propaganda is being discussed.

    Italian, from modern Latin congregatio de propaganda fide ‘congregation for propagation of the faith’ Go figure!

    (Alan4D will like that one.)

    Modesti, nice to “see” you, my friend.

    A neofascist dictatorship is clearly on the rise in the US. The recent tweet about the media, on top of everything else, is all the evidence I need.

    This is a totalitarian regime in an incipient stage of its development. Utterly shocking. It must be stopped. The people, the good people of this country (and the good people abroad), will not allow it to ripen to fruition. Trump /Bannon/ Miller’s mad agenda will implode. More corruption will be exposed, and resistance will overwhelm them.

    But as Phil said, we must then address the underlying conditions that gave rise to this monstrous development – and fix them! GINI, baby!

    But I don’t want to say too much too soon. No guarantee that Trump et al will not succeed, in creating a de facto dictatorship. I am reasonably certain that they won’t.

  104. In the midst of the general panic about “OMG what do we do about Trump?” it strikes me that what gets lost is that Trump is just a symptom of the real problem rather than being the problem itself. All politicians are by definition a mirror of their electorate. The most important thing to a politician is to get into power in the first place and to do that you have to tell the people what they want to hear so they’ll vote for you. You don’t have to mean what you say but you do have to say the right things.

    I’m a great believer in countries having a sort of national personality such as the law abiding Germans, excitable Italians, stoic British and phlegmatic Aussies. Quite how such personalities arise I’m not sure but that’s by the by. What I see in the American national personality, or at least in a significant portion of the population, is something akin to teenage angst. Young, brash, cocky but unsure at the same time, impatient, always in need of instant gratification and a quick fix, not good at taking responsibility for things – it’s always someone or something else’s fault, paranoid that there’s always an enemy lurking to do you harm and finally, the solution to any problem is to point a gun at it and if that doesn’t work point a bigger gun at it.

    That paranoia has existed for as long as any of us can remember. For a long time the enemy was the Russians, during the brief madness of McCarthyism it became the Jews, after the fall of the Berlin wall it became the Chinese and now it’s Muslims, all laced with a dash of North Korea and a soupçon of Mexicans coming there to steal your jobs and vote illegally.

    Bush tapped into that paranoia with his “we have to fight them over there so we don’t end up needing to fight them over here” thing as he tried to justify his illegal invasion of Iraq and Trump has gone the full Hermann Goring with his picture of a dystopian America, riddled by crime, enemies constantly banging on the gates and the only cure being to go into full siege mentality, barricade the gates and point the biggest possible guns, nuclear ones, at anything that moves.

    There are several ironic things about all this. America, by virtue of its geography, is about the safest place on the planet. Wide expanses of ocean on either side and friendly (at least until Trump pisses them off!) neighbours north and south. It’s nigh on impossible for anyone to sneak up on America and even if they try there’s the largest military in existence to drive them off. Apart from 9/11 what terrorism has actually afflicted America has all been home grown anyway rather than imported. Finally, the greatest irony, to me at least, is if you ask a hundred randomly chosen Americans, even Trump supporters if you like, what is the greatest country on earth then 99 of them, without a moments thought, will say the USA. It’s ingrained in you from childhood to believe that even though by most metrics it’s untrue. America has the world’s largest economy and the world’s largest military but that’s about it. On most other measures – education, healthcare, political system, poverty, wealth disparity, racism, bigotry, religious nuttery, gun crime, national happiness index – it sucks donkey bollocks. But if these people think America is so great then why do they also believe Trump’s dystopian picture of it? That strikes me as a cognitive dissonance of a very high order.

    Trump is already whining that he inherited a mess so he has something to fall back on to blame when he screws everything up but he’s actually inherited about the best situation anyone could wish for. Almost record low unemployment, soaring stock market, no recession, no major wars and crime has been dropping steadily for 40 years. Obama would give his eye teeth to have inherited what he’s now passed on to Trump.

    The long term cure for America lies in attending to the things listed above. Better education, fighting religion’s grip on so many of the people, teaching children more about the rest of the world, how America actually compares and why the people in the happiest countries are so happy and why America falls down in so many regards on that measure. Socialism is not a dirty word, higher taxes lead to a fairer distribution of wealth, taking care of the poor, ill and needy is not handouts to scroungers but a social necessity.

    If I had to pick two landmark items that would transform the country it would be these. If just a few prominent politicans would have the guts to admit they’re atheists it would ignite a whole new social order. Secondly, until the USA gets universal free healthcare like every other major nation it will continue to be a failure in social justice.

    If you really look at what Republicans stand for and what Democrats stand for then then Republicans just want to continue with everything that makes America a failure in comparison with other western nations. In the second part of this I’ll look at what has to be done in the short term about Trump but I’ll put that in a separate post so this doesn’t get too unwieldy to plough through.

  105. Arkrid,

    I think Wilkinson and Pickett and “The Spirit Level” neatly gather together all your concerns and using the mathematics of epidemiology causally associate them with inequality. Further they do not find distinction between equality deriving from more rational levels of pay (cultural, with investors demanding better value from their executive officers, say ) or the application of an equalising progressive taxation.

    Because economies inherently trickle up (mathematicians in the eighties showed in any net zero sum environment, which all economies are in greater part, value added being fractional, larger stakeholders do better), progressive taxation (to some level) works well creating strong internal demand and creating a robust economy in the face of global volatility. China by recently rewarding its people with a 5% year on year income improvement and with a new policy of targeting its rural poor with a year on year improvement of 12.5% escapes its former risky dependency on export or die. It will someday soon have its richest market within its own borders, greatly exceeding a US, 350 million strong internal market, with its own, rapidly growing, peasant sector.

    The mechanisms of anxiety are the missing ingredient to the libertarian, free market mind set. In the UK our £3000 /yr/person always available, no exclusions health service for all serious conditions, and always paid for us automatically from our income if we have one or not, buys us an astonishing level of peace of mind. Politically it has repaid in our national stoicism and a reasonable steadiness. I think we are a kinder bunch on average, too.

  106. Further to the issue of national anxiety is, of course, one of its strongest indicators, Religion. This, seemingly, zero cost insurance policy is clearly needed in the US and of course its cost is not immediately apparent. Disproportionately attracting the neediest it provides the political traction for parasites and garners the approval of the well to do right drawn to loyalty, acquiesence to authority and conservation of pure institutions and those who evidence the same. (Per Haidt.)

    Religion responds with ferocious self defence in the US and is not as tractable as it could be. Tackling neediness who be entirely the best way to drain this swamp.

  107. Sorry.

    Tackling neediness will be entirely the best way to drain this swamp.

    By building fairness into the state the Christian Claws of Charity will find less purchase.

  108. Rimmer, Yes you can choose definition that suits you. “We need this word the way it is” Who said so? It was changed before by evil people. Evil people used this tool for their purposes and they have changed (obviously) this perception of this useful tool. It is an instrument only of evil? No. It is an instrument,… full stop. We can discuss for long what is apropriate word, but I can only say that propaganda is an excellent tool that can be used for fighting back…. and what I said before.

    Hello Dan. 🙂 Nice to see you too!

    This is a totalitarian regime in an incipient stage of its
    development.

    Yes, 🙁 …I am sorry but it is so to me also. And it is very worrying. There is one maxim here in my country that goes: while dog barks, caravan moves. Perhaps there is something similar at yours. 😉 You know, and I do not want to discourage you, … I used to think that good people will not allow rise of nazism, nationalism, etc., but I was wrong. It is so easy for good people to become hostages of evil ones, you wouldn’t believe. Evil ones has all the weapon (literally) marketing (I used this word insted of propaganda this time haha) and guns. The way nationalism, nazism and totalitarianism has come to my country was through nazi diaspora that armed previously inserted nazist from their ranks (South America, Canada, USA, Australia, Deutchland). Through falsified elections they gained power and still govern here (with soldiers that call themselves defenders). I thought that good people would unite and fight back, and win this maniacs, but they had guns and media control. I hope American people would not make the same mistake and wait too long for good people to unite on a big scale. Evil people act, they do not think too much. ;).

  109. Evil people used this tool for their purposes and they have changed (obviously) this perception of this useful tool.

    If you look at the ngram, you can see how the obscure term was coined to meet the need of describing the lying behaviours of evil people keen to instil dogma in the masses.

    Recoining the termto something innocuous is folly on stilts. It deprives us of a condemnation and hands a cudgel to our enemies. And to what ends? We can employ rhetorical techniques and psychological insights well enough already

  110. Arkrid Sandwich #116

    It’s ingrained in you from childhood to believe that even though by
    most metrics it’s untrue.

    Yes, it is so visible from Europe and perhaps other countries everithing you wrote. Especially this part how this modus vivendi (and operandi haha) is implemented to Americans in childhood. This phrases as “american dream” (still I do not exactly what that means,…perhaps even most of Americans also), or “american way” or “commies”, “reds”, etc. designed to shape people as politicians intended,… so can be manipulated more easily. I hope that there is someone,… group of people, party, or whoever to start to question publicly this psycology manipulation and help deluded people to come out from this ilusionistic bubble which cost them too much. Tooo much! Thanks to this delusion of grandure people are involved in wars unnecessary, they are starving, they can’t get proper health care, education … . I hope that someone will start breaking this bubble with little help of propaganda 😉 or as someone would say good marketng strategy ;).

  111. Dear Rimmer, it seems to me that You are talking about theory (etymology, semantics), but I am talking about praxis. From what I have read before, I think you do not understand propaganda tool enough, or you have your fixed weltanshauung, or whatever, but I don’t have an urge to convince you of anything. 😉 Or enyone else.

  112. Modesti.

    Truly it is a pragmatic point I’m making. There are no semantics here of any significance. It is the common practice of its usage. We talked of, say, Nazi Propaganda in contra-distinction to our own “whiter than white” newsreels. In the Cold War Communist Propaganda versus our own Governments “open-handed” statements.

    Maybe its an age thing? (Also please excuse any abruptness. I have few social graces.)

    I know we agree entirely about about Lakoff and better configuring our arguments to address primary values and core concerns.

    Also, also, please feel free to call me Phil. “rimmer”, as the urban dictionary explains, tends to leave a nasty taste in the mouth for some.

  113. Dan,  #91

    Whilst I appreciate this,

    …You pull no punches. That suggests to me that you care, that you want to bring out the best in others.

    I might have to refuse the roses. Some of this is aspie me. I need clarity or I have nothing.

    I’ll keep one. And work on it.

    What you think is astonishingly important to me. Yours is the mind (in archetype) that I most want to change, to politically activate, to flip the US, especially the Democrats, out of their self-deceiving narratives, which is what I think they are. I see religious-type thinking and absolutism shot through even the secular community. There is a quickness to conclude guilt and punishment, and moral failure, that comes surely from a handy dogma/heuristic. All agree too readily it is a land fit for heroes and the self made and so long as you don’t look down and see whose backs must be trodden upon. No systemic problems cloud the horizon. Sanders is very far from mainstream.

    The very last thing I think is that there is an undeserving poor. Quite the reverse. Indeed, even with the baduns, we deserve that they be lifted out of poverty for our own more peaceful existence and the eventual impact on the moral health of the nation/planet. Most Democrats even are too exercised by the idea of “deserving” and reward, of Charity as a good, ennobling thing. Rather, investing in all your/our social capital is the cold calculating thing to do.

    P.S. I wrote this a day or two ago and forgot to post. Sorry.

  114. Phil, Laurie, others

    I have been busy. I still haven’t had time to do more than glance at what has been written on this important thread, for the past day or two.

    “I agree with Dan when he vents his anger and frustration with the Trump supporters and I also agree with Phil when he brings me back around to focus on the roots of this whole mess.” —Laurie (69)

    Tell me what you focus on, Laurie, when you are brought back around. I think I have an inkling of what these roots might be, and it is something terrible, something we’ve seen before. We are seeing Trump, through his rhetoric, promising a return of American to its primitive roots; this is what dictators (such as Hitler) do, what they seek to activate.

    He is in the process of delegitimizing the media! This is shocking, but it’s real. He is purposefully creating division. His closest advisers are leaders of the the alt-right. Look at what is happening now. We’ve seen a travel ban that will do nothing at all but act upon (“activate”) the loyalty of his sick and pathetic followers, and a crackdown on “illegal” immigrants which us designed to accomplish the same thing: power. If he could abolish the free press he certainly would. Incipient tyranny. So the question is: what roots do you see, and what can we hope for other than what I said is reasonable to hope for? What I said is that we must hope that corruption will be his undoing (la politique du pire), and that we will outnumber the other side (most of whom are not amenable to reason, are already too sick and too filled with hate) and overwhelm the opposing elements by applying as much pressure as we can – and without resorting to violence, which would be our undoing and would obviously be a gift to Trump, Bannon, Miller, et al – the alt-Right who have seized control.

    So while you may wish to employ a different strategy, some new techniques a là Lackoff when talking to Trump supporter, this, I fear, will not put out the fire that has started.

    Once the fire is out, and all is stable once again, we can get down to the causes behind the cause, and at long last gain an understanding of these primitive roots that Trump has tapped into and is nourishing. This is not just about economic inequality or even education.— What is racism? What is nationalism? fascism? authoritarianism? What is their nature? their appeal? These ancient questions have been addressed; books have been written on these subjects. But we must keep asking them, as we are, apparently, still vulnerable; there was nothing to prevent this, and no one has “learned from history” or has heeded the warnings. We see the similarities now, between Mussolini (and to a lesser extent Hitler) and Trump. Norman Mailer, America’s most important writer, warned us of the danger of totalitarianism, and has pointed out, delineated, the various facets and symptoms associated with the conditions that give rise to it, over and over again, throughout his career; but here we are. (Hannah Arrendt has made a famous contribution in this area too, as have others.)

    Phil (125), I will write more later on, and would like to here more from you about what I and others are missing. I admit that my political understanding is limited, my thinking needs expansion; I seem to be exclusively focused on certain aspects of this complex phenomenon, and at the expense, perhaps, of others. I like others, am trying, trying to make sense out of all of this horror. (At least I see the horror. Many on the left or to the left of center refuse to see it.)

  115. Dan #128

    So while you may wish to employ a different strategy, some new
    techniques a là Lackoff when talking to Trump supporter, this, I fear,
    will not put out the fire that has started. Once the fire is out, and
    all is stable once again, we can get down to the causes behind the
    cause, and at long last gain an understanding of these primitive roots
    that Trump has tapped into and is nourishing

    I think so too. First thing that nacionalists do, when they come to power ,is they take the media. Obviously. There is no time to think,…to ‘understand’ mindset of nacionalists and nazist, and paranoids. Fire has to be estinguished immediately or it will spread and it would be much harder to estinguish it. I dare to say almost impossible. If fire is caught in time and estinguished, than after that a better society can be built.

  116. Dan

    Many on the left or to the left of center refuse to see it.

    I only see those I would call centrists with this blindness. Many Democrats I would see as centre right in Euro terms. Maybe this is some explanation of our misunderstandings here?

    Once the fire is out, and all is stable once again, we can get down to the causes behind the cause

    How can this extinction possibly happen? Apart from drawing folk to a more coherent and populist left position using Lakovian psychology and rhetoric (of which I thoroughly approve), the soonest we can leverage a lasting real change that doesn’t just escalate into tit for tat verbal sniping and point scoring, by winning Trump new cohort voters back to voting for a clarified version of their own self interest the better. Scaring the right with a powerful backswing ahead of the mid terms must be the focus of a re-invented and populist DP that addresses ex-miners and ex-car workers etc..

  117. @OP – Even given widespread goodwill, that’s a dauntingly high hurdle to clear. David Cameron might have done well to emulate it, at least to some degree, in his EU referendum which also, after all, concerned a major constitutional change.

    Indeed so! The present UK situation is where brexiteers say: ” The people voted for something-or-other, which we cunningly hid, and which nobody knew quite what it was, SO that gives us a mandate to make whatever arrangements we like!” –
    while the gutter-press and the loony right, cheer those who want everyone to jump overboard from the “good-ship Europe”!
    The ideologs and gullible stooges continue conspire to elude scrutiny of likely outcomes, and continue to applaud the approach of “leap before you look”!
    Some of them who are blissfully anticipating landing in the warm “Sea of Utopia”, may get a harsh awakening when they hit the icy waters of the North Atlantic with no rescue boat in sight!

    There is a similar situation with Trump, who seems to think he has been elected as an absolute monarch rather than a democratic president!
    (How dare those judges and legal advisors tell him his edicts are subject to the rule of law! 🙂 – Why can’t they just applaud like the clowns he has appointed to his staff!)

  118. Phil (#130), others

    How can this extinction possibly happen?

    Well let me just say that my comment from this morning, written at about 2:30 am, was somewhat lacking in precision. I don’t know if the “left” or the “left of center” has its head in their sand; most people have an inkling, at the very least, that something is amiss. I would rephrase it: they are not sufficiently alarmed. This may have nothing to do with their politics or their values; it is denial, escapism. Being the grandson of an assimilated and affluent German-Jew who escaped Nazi Germany with my mother (then age three) in the mid to late 1930s may have something to do with my own relative clarity. I have kept his story with me, and have always admired his foresight; were it not for him I would never have been born and he, his wife, and my mother, would surely have been rounded up, tortured and annihilated.

    He was taking a walk and noticed a sign: “Dogs And Jews Not Allowed”. That clinched it for him: no place to raise his daughter. He proceeded then to make plans to escape, and because of his wealth, savvy, and connections, succeeded. But they escaped by the “skin of their teeth”, as my mother put it.

    So when I hear about banning people and rounding them up, and delegitimizing the media, I listen very closely. Maybe not the same, but close enough. The travel ban is symbolic only and that is why it is all-the-more dangerous, and is designed to fuel the hatred in the hearts of his loyal followers. That is to add fuel to a fire.

    Hopefully that fire will put itself out; it is not like we have no checks and balances, or that the US is completely devoid of its traditions or without any foundation, or that there is a shortage of just and ingenuous laws or of virtuous and educated leaders and conscientious citizens. The corruption within the Trump administration will be his undoing. More is being revealed each day, and it’s only been a month. Or Trump will continue to exhibit bizarre, embarrassing, indefensible behavior. That’s where Article 25, Section 4 comes in:

    “Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.”

    This might happen. Pence, a mainstream Republican, reactionary and religious like all the rest, will take over – and we will survive.

    Another scenario is that Trump will improve, realize the great difficulties and legal challenges such a radical move to the far right will create and will become a mainstream Republican like Pence, which is bad, but not something we can’t survive.

    The worst case scenario is that we will become a police state, that a exclusive, oppressive, and unacceptable nationalistic society will emerge, one that I myself could never assimilate with. In that case myself and others can either conform and be miserable, move elsewhere, or form into underground cadres and lead the adventurous and highly dangerous lives yet adventurous and noble life of revolutionaries unwilling to abandon their principles.)

    Short of that we must focus on parenting, in my opinion. Parents do not know how to treat their children. That is as important an issue as any other. I do not know how to influence the great masses of incompetent and destructive parents and prevent them from abusing their power and poisoning the minds and souls of their children, but that is what must happen. Children grow up with no sense of their real selves. So they are in turn unable to recognize themselves in the Other. (I have only a very rough idea of what might happen and what should or can be done in these best case and worst case scenarios. Life itself will probably reduce these meanderings to nothing.)

    Three quotes:

    “The condition of alienation, of being asleep, of being unconscious, of being out of one’s mind, is the condition of the normal man. Society highly values its normal man. It educates children to lose themselves and to become absurd, and thus to be normal. Normal men have killed perhaps 100,000,000 of their fellow normal men in the last fifty years.”
    ― R.D. Laing, The Politics of Experience, 1967

    “Long before a thermonuclear war can come about, we have had to lay waste our own sanity. We begin with the children. It is imperative to catch them in time. Without the most thorough and rapid brainwashing their dirty minds would see through our dirty tricks. Children are not yet fools, but we shall turn them into imbeciles like ourselves, with high I.Q.s if possible.

    “From the moment of birth, when the Stone Age baby confronts the twentieth-century mother, the baby is subjected to these forces of violence, called love, as its mother and father, and their parents and their parents before them, have been. These forces are mainly concerned with destroying most of its potentialities, and on the whole this enterprise is successful.”
    —Ibid

    Fascism goes back to our infancy and childhood, where we were always told how to live. We were told, Yes, you may do this; no, you may not do that. So the secret of fascism is that it has this appeal to people whose later lives are not satisfactory.”
    ― Norman Mailer

  119. Correction (#132)

    Wretched sentence:

    The worst case scenario is that we will become a police state, that a exclusive, oppressive, and unacceptable nationalistic society will emerge, one that I myself could never assimilate with. In that case myself and others can either conform and be miserable, move elsewhere, or form into underground cadres and lead the adventurous and highly dangerous lives yet adventurous and noble life of revolutionaries unwilling to abandon their principles.)

    Corrected sentence:

    The worst case scenario is a police state, the emergence of an exclusive, oppressive, and unacceptable nationalistic society, one that I myself could never assimilate with. In that case we can either conform and be miserable, move elsewhere, or form into underground cadres and lead the adventurous, highly dangerous and noble lives of revolutionaries unwilling to abandon their principles.

  120. Phil to me (125):

    What you think is astonishingly important to me. Yours is the mind (in archetype) that I most want to change, to politically activate, to flip the US, especially the Democrats, out of their self-deceiving narratives, which is what I think they are. I see religious-type thinking and absolutism shot through even the secular community. There is a quickness to conclude guilt and punishment, and moral failure, that comes surely from a handy dogma/heuristic. All agree too readily it is a land fit for heroes and the self made and so long as you don’t look down and see whose backs must be trodden upon. No systemic problems cloud the horizon.

    This was unclear. I too need clarity. Are you suggesting that I might be able to play a role in activating these misguided and complicit Democrats? or are you saying that I am one one them and need to be activated along with them – or both? Not sure if this was a compliment or not, my parsimonious friend.

    An archetype or in archetype?

  121. Marco

    Of course they should be more progressive. It’s the idiots on Fox News and other incompetent commentators (including a number of so-called liberal commentators) who have suggested that the Democrats have moved too far to the left. I can’t think of anything more untrue. That’s infuriating!

  122. Of course they should be more progressive.

    Then why the sulky resistance to Sanders? And reading what he has to say ?

    If not economically progressive then how so? Why is Democratic policy not THE primary concern, to restore an increasingly angry, disengaged and exploitable bunch of poor voters?

    Would those so-called liberal voters be Democrats on occasion?

  123. Alan, #131

    Brexit, and especially Trump.

    We are Representative Democracies (allegedly) and these facilitate a state able to accumulate and apply expertise in/from institutions. The Representative Democracy is the single biggest protection against a tyranny of the masses. This latter we have seen actually folded back in to the risk of tyrants. Given a purchasable fourth estate, the personal thinking the public sub-contract to it, is purchasable also. Gaining/claiming a mandate to subvert or bypass institutions and expertise, is a terrible thing.

  124. Marco #135

    Excellent article. Why is there so little of this stuff? Why is it so slow in appearing?

    FYI

    Whoever prevails as chairman must resist the pressure to follow an uninformed and ill-fated quest for winning over conservative white working-class voters in the Midwest. The solution for Democrats is not to chase Trump defectors. The path to victory involves reinspiring those whites who drifted to third-party candidates and then focusing on the ample opportunities in the Southwest and the South.

    I actually think these cohorts are not so distinct. The same approach may work for both.

  125. Marco #135
    Feb 21, 2017 at 7:39 pm

    This sounds as if it may be of interest: “The way Democrats can win back voters is by being more progressive, not less, Steve Phillips writes in The New York Times Opinion Section.”

    I haven’t been able to read it, as I’ve reached my limit for free articles in the NY Times for this month, but here’s the link anyway:

    You should be able to fix that simply by deleting your cookies which is how the site knows how many times you’ve visited it. In the unlikely event it also tracks your IP address then you can generate a new one by switching your router off and back on again.

  126. Part 2 – Dealing with Trump and on to 2020

    Four months after the election the post mortems have more or less concluded. There’s not much more to be gleaned from analysis of the voting although whether they led to the correct answers is another matter. To know what to do about Trump we first need to know why Hillary lost and why Trump won. My take on it is as follows.

    Hillary was just a bad candidate from a number of perspectives. I’m sure in her private life she might be a perfectly nice person but her public persona is woefully deficient. She comes across as cold and robotic. I remarked some months ago about being able to see the gears grinding inside her as she tried to switch from policy wonk mode to answering an audience question in one of the debates. Women and men bring different things to a political campaign. Men bring strength, determination, aggression, leadership. Women bring caring, nurturing, a lower likelihood of getting into a testosterone fueled unnecessary war. Hillary manages to miss nearly all of these. Permanently dressed in pant suits she evokes very little femininity but with a woman’s high pitched voice and small stature she can’t compete on male attributes. She ends up somewhere between angry lesbian and small ineffectual male with the advantages of neither sex and the disadvantages of both. She also ran a terrible campaign. Convinced of victory and trying to turn that into a landslide she didn’t even bother visiting previously blue states she took for granted and wasted valuable time on red states with few votes that didn’t matter. She lost in the end because the turnout for her was markedly less than that for Obama rather than that for Trump being much greater than for Romney. Blacks deserted her for 3rd parties and even though Comey might have played a part at the very end most of why she lost was her own fault for failing to engage with rural voters.

    Trump surprised everybody including his own campaign who showed little sign of thinking they could win. What he tapped into is the main story of the election. How this is generally reported is rural voters and rust belt states being unhappy with their share of the pie but as I surmised above, if that were true they should want to vote for something like the British Labour party and the closest thing to that is the Democrats. The truth is I believe more sinister. The elephant in the room, and on the Republican banner, is racism. Racism is endemic in the USA. Blacks are many times more likely to go to jail for crimes that whites get a slap on the wrist for and account for a massively disproportionate share of the prison population. Trump has been a racist all his life as was his father before him. He’s been repeatedly sued by the government for refusing to rent to non whites. The cabinet he’s choosing is as white as freshly fallen snow apart from Carson. His campaign attacked every segment of non white society. A wall to keep out latinos, a ban to keep out brown skinned muslims and a dystopian picture of crime riddled inner cities roamed by gangs of black criminals that only even stricter policing and harsher sentencing could keep under control. What “Make America Great Again” was very clearly conveying was the real message “Make America White Again”. With a more personable candidate against him he could still never have garnered enough votes to win but he was gifted Hillary.

    His incompetence, intemperance and mental instability are plain to see but he controls the media coverage now. Everything he does and says is newsworthy. There’s only one way the Democrats can compete. By having someone come forward to announce a run in 2020 and taking control of what is currently a rudderless ship. By far the best candidate I can see is Cory Booker of New Jersey. He’s smart, personable, likeable, has no baggage, he’ll energise the black vote again and he’s young. He won’t miss the importance of reaching out to the rural vote next time, I hope, and he’ll take the wind out of Trump’s domination of the media coverage. However so as not to get tarred with the brush of divisiveness he needs attack dogs for the more unpleasant messages. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders could fit in very nicely there. If they go after Trump’s weak points Booker can play the positive inclusive role and stay a little above the fray.

    We’ll see what happens.

  127. Here’s another link that will doubtless be of interest to you, Phil, if you haven’t seen it already:

    https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/inequality-is-killing-the-american-dream/?ex_cid=538fb

    Inequality Is Killing The American Dream

    Decades of rising income inequality and slowing economic growth have eroded a pillar of the American dream: the hope that each generation will do better than the one that came before, according to new research released Thursday. […]

    […] The researchers tested that theory by analyzing what the mobility would have looked like had economic growth remained as high as it was in the middle of the 20th century. Sure enough, mobility would have improved: 62 percent of Americans born in 1980 would have out-earned their parents instead of the 50 percent seen in the real world.

    But inequality was a much bigger driver. The researchers analyzed a scenario in which growth followed its real-world path, but that growth was distributed more equally. In that scenario, the rate of mobility would rise to 80 percent, wiping out more than two-thirds of the 40-year decline.

    Ultimately, Hendren said, restoring mobility will require both. “You need growth, and you need it to be broad-based,” Hendren said.

  128. Arkrid, I have been reading your posts about Trump and the election and I’ve enjoyed and appreciated them very much; but I am not crazy about this last one of yours.

    Hillary Clinton.

    Cold and robotic = sexism

    Not this again! Spare me!

    She was a fine, honest, capable, experienced candidate, and I hope she runs in 2020.

    Progressive? None of the Democrats are that progressive, including Booker. (He’s okay. Nothing special.)

    Trump won because he lied his fat fucking ass off. That’s why he won. And many Democrats can’t distinguish between Democrats and Republicans, but they wanted “change.” For valid reasons, perhaps. And mostly because they don’t know their asses from their elbows, and they think that all politicians are the same. (My barber says that, and the last book he read was forty years ago. A profoundly ignorant man.) That was the opening that Trump saw.

    I guess Hilary should have reached out to the rural voters more. That was her greatest mistake. But how do you combat propaganda or connect with people who listen to bullshit and believe it? Look who they voted for.

    Sanders is fine, Phil. I like his ideas. Campaign finance reform, greater wealth and income equality, a solid EPA, no more of this crap about a “free” (unrestrained) market solving all our problems, saving medicare, medicaid, and social security, free public college, funding for public education, getting our act together in terms of the environment, improving the ACA, Dodd-Frank, higher taxes for the top one percent and the top one-tenth of one percent! . . . . I never said otherwise. It was the stubborn and often deluded “Bernie-only” crowd that had their heads up their asses. Many of them helped get Trump elected, as Sanders later admitted. They owe us all an apology.

  129. Arkrid

    Booker would be a disaster IMHO. He’s fiscally conservative, pretty supportive of Wall Street. Pretty much the essence of the Democratic problem for me.

    I don’t feel its right to say

    Racism is endemic in the USA.

    This under analyses what is going on. It is endemic in certain communities, too often in disadvantaged communities where it is exploited for political ends.

    What is endemic is the US enthusiastic attitude to punishment and its efficacy and its active generation of crime via (Democrat endorsed) zero tolerance policing, magnifying societal fractures.

    “On the Run” Alice Goffman.

  130. Dan

    They owe us all an apology.

    Why wait? Buy them back with Bernie policies. Politics, not moral hand wringing. Move on. Fix it.

    But how do you combat propaganda or connect with people who listen to bullshit and believe it? Look who they voted for.

    Offer new policy, that says clearly you have heard them and think they (or some subset) have a justified grievance and you will fix it in this simple way. Here’s the plan. Here’s the schedule.

  131. Phil

    That’s true. Win them back. But they annoyed me, frankly – so self righteous. Some of those nitwits voted for Johnson who is diametrically opposed to Sanders politically. I hate stupidity, Phil. I guess I need to let go of that anger a bit and adopt a more constructive approach – like you.

    What abut the rural voters? Ho do you win them back? We never had them, and quite a few are steeped in ignorance and all the more susceptible to right wing propaganda. (Is that fair?)

    (This is cheaper than therapy.)

    Booker. I agree. Not the one to run in 2020. I still like Hillary, with all her faults. A gradualist, a pragmatist, decent, and steady. Call me nuts.

  132. Thanks, Marco.

    What the models miss is the second order impact of greater income equality on growth itself. There are suggestions that more robust immediate markets with greater spending power, can accelerate business development.

    Wilkinson and Pickett (The Spirit Level) observed on this issue of mobility that the American Dream was alive and well and living in Denmark.

  133. Dan

    Phil. I guess I need to let go of that anger a bit and adopt a more constructive approach – like you.

    But Brexit. I am still apoplectic about the degrading folly. I still have this need to hurt people. I understand your pain.

    When things are better and we have both proved ourselves right and still fixed the mess others have made, then we can have the sweetest, clearest of rewards, being better, wiser, more moral humans and with glintier smiles….

  134. Phil (150)

    I understand your pain.

    I was very happy to hear that. Empathy is not only morally good, it’s effective. Feeling, expressing and receiving empathy activates our better impulses – or if you prefer, our better…er, angels.

    The idea of an unfettered free market (an arbitrary theory based on greed) needs to be tossed into the “dustbin of history” too, to use Dawkins’ phrase – just like religious fundamentalism. They both have a religious, magical aspect to them.

    The Republican party has now shown its true colors. They have no conscience, are greedy and spineless, have been bribed. They love nothing, are not patriotic, are thoroughly despicable phonies. They deserve no praise. Let one of them call for campaign finance reform and reform of the financial lobby; let one of them advocate for an independent investigation of this administration’s ties to Russia, and maybe then I will soften my position.

    We are facing a capitalist cataclysm. This situation is a result of corruption on the part of the right wing Republicans mostly – and that is what I think. So you can all drive yourselves nuts trying to figure out where the Democrats went wrong, or where Ms. Clinton went wrong; you’ll never come up with an entirely satisfactory answer.

    The problem is capitalism run amuck. And my assumption is that the current crisis is more of a confirmation, a corroboration, than a surprise for a number of people.

    Why, you ask? How? I start with the premise that the people were wrong to vote for Mr. Trump. They were just wrong, period. —Dissatisfaction among the rural and working class (“rust belt”) voters, propaganda, a good sales pitch, and pervasive ignorance. Those, I think, are the primary factors.

    All the Democrats can do now is try to keep their side of the fence as clean as possible, and present the truth to the best of their ability; and the people need to continue to make their voices heard. I agree with Michael Moore that this resistance movement is encouraging and impressive. (Mr. Spicer and others have been trying to minimize and delegitimize it.—Bastards!) And some of the people that voted him in are already showing signs of “buyer’s remorse.”

  135. Dan

    The problem is capitalism run amuck. And my assumption is that the current crisis is more of a confirmation, a corroboration, than a surprise for a number of people.

    It’s no surprise to some people but the people who don’t know the extent of the wall street parasitism are the very people who suffer from it the most. I think that this is unknown to the Trump voters. Trump/FOX & co. have done a superb job of diverting the attention of their base over to fake threats like evil immigrants and Islamic State swarming into our bigly great nation and they’ve obscured the existence of the actual reasons that the middle class is slipping downward and the poor are utterly defeated.

    Even though I have a healthy disdain for the selfish 1% and the super capitalists who gamble with impunity and so blithely send our economy hurtling off a cliff, even I was stunned to read Sanders account of the situation in his book Our Revolution. During the campaign he toured around to places where other candidates never bothered with to explain his analysis of our situation and what concrete measures he proposes that we take. I love his plan. I’m sold on it. This is why the young people are devoted to him. He convinced a lot of people in a very short time and he’s not going away anytime soon. This gives me hope. When they show film footage of the angry crowds at the town hall meetings I see some signs calling for universal health care and many of the crowd are shouting for ACA to remain. More people here are starting to understand what a revolution it would be to have universal health care and they are starting to understand that it’s an ethical issue, a human right issue and that the insurance companies are murderous parasites. We need clear strong communication on what universal healthcare would look like – the fairness and efficiency and that we will not be paying 80% of our income to the gov’mint to get it!

    Try asking a Trump voter if they agree that capitalism here has run amuck. I think they will give you that same expression as when you say that you don’t believe in God – the shocking realization that they are face to face with an evil person. The brainwashed masses believe that capitalism is sacred. Socialism is evil. They imagine these two systems to be at opposite ends of an economic system with nothing in the middle and only communism somewhere out there which is the hell on earth. Don’t even talk about it or you’re inviting the devil to appear.

    Ask your Barber what’s scarier, Capitalism run amuck or Mexicans flooding over the border and ISIS sneaking in through the airports.

  136. Bannon and Priebus are about to hold press conference. I don’t think I’ve heard Bannon speak at all before. This will be interesting and not in a good way. Let the public see what the guy stands for, the psychopath.

    Dan, if there was a train barreling down the track headed toward a crowd of people standing on the tracks and you and Bannon are up on a trestle bridge together and there was one thing you could do to stop the train…

  137. Laurie

    All your points are well taken, and your nuanced perspective is appreciated. I have a new take on this situation every day. Hard to make sense of it all, as it is so complex. So many facets and elements. White supremacy, xenophobia, and bigotry, are also “primary factors”. But last night I was fixated on, and enraged about, the pernicious myth of the free market; so I wrote about that.

    Tomorrow I might go back to blaming the “stupid” Trump voters.

    The truth is that American life and politics is enormously complex. (I like that aspect of America. Endless material there.) No one answer and no one solution.

    My barber would say something complacent like: “we need honest capitalism.” Then he’d repeat the phrase four or five times with great pride as if he had said something earth shattering. Then he would tell me how the Muslims in his gym all stick together and why we need to ban them from coming in. Then he’d ask me if I want it rounded or square in the back.

    I wish you’d read Mailer. Go across the street to that library of yours and take out Cannibals and Christians or The Presidential Papers. (How’s Rand, by the way?)

    I am here writing as Bannon is pontificating about the “Judeo-Christian West” or whatever. Can’t handle it. Fill me in, if you can.

  138. Dan

    I watched Bannon for ten minutes and shut it off. I know I should watch the whole thing to see what we’re up against but I got depressed and switched over to Black Mirror instead. Cyber bees go rogue and attack people and kill them painfully.

    “we need honest capitalism.”

    haha that’s funny. Poor guy. Sounds like my hairdresser, “Everything happens for a reason…” Right. “Is your part on the right or the left?” Problem solved.

    American life and politics is enormously complex.

    Well, that’s true. Never boring, I’ll give it that.

    How’s Rand, by the way?

    I haven’t started Rand yet. I’m on the waiting list for the Kindle version to be sent from the library. I finished The Challenge of Things by Grayling and I’m now 61% through At the Existentialist cafe’: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails Pretty good so far.

    I told my friend that I’m going to breeze through Atlas Shrugged and she said that her mom considers that book a litmus test to judge if a person who has read it is a psychopath or not. 😀

    Neither of those Mailer books are on the shelves at my library (across the street :-)) No kindle versions at all and very few copies in the regional system either. Strange.

    Let’s see what Maddow has to say about the white supremacist Bannon who is running our country and the simpering Priebus at his side at today’s press conference.

  139. Hey, Laurie

    What’s up?

    I think Bannon is the most dangerous man in the country, if not the world, right now. I suspected months ago – and I am sure there were others who suspected this too – that he is sinister, mentally deranged, and that he is controlling Trump (like Svengali) and the agenda. I was right all along. He wants to destroy the government, fancies himself a revolutionary. (A revolutionary conservative!) He spoke of “deconstructing the administrative state.” That means demolishing all of our protections, regulations, the department of education…. Laurie, this is bad, I mean really bad.—The guy’s a fascist; he’s everything we think he is. He still says “we at Breibart.” Breitbart! That’s a propaganda site whose articles have huge reactionary, racist, and sexist undertones. They (at Breitbart and other media outlets like it, deny climate change, because they want to demolish every possible obstacle to the establishment of a corporate state. (And yet fat Bannon decries “corporatism.” He’s a wily, sick, lobster-faced fascist who wants to confuse people.) Believe me, Laurie, that arrogant prick is a fiendish man, and so is that little runt Priebus; and those people…. who are those people whosit with him at that table and smile politely, and who are these freaks that go on TV and defend him? Where’d they come from, Mars? (Sorry, Mars.)…. These are American fascists; they are like nazis. They would have no problem with a dictator. And Pence, with that sanctimonious, blank face of his! My God is he loathsome. “The nightmare of Obamacare must end,” he said. Then he denigrates the town hall protesters, labels them: “liberal activists.” (Applause.) Then he went on to talk about God, receiving thunderous applause at that freak show (CPAC). Why not just say “Here’s to the year 1!”, like a good honest Satanist? (Allusion to Rosemary’s Baby. Ever see it?)

    This is bad, and my pessimism is warranted. I was right all along, as were you and others. We are facing a crisis. We are at a crossroads; and as Mailer said, some years ago: “may be entering a truly nightmarish period in American life.”

    So when Phil talks about economic fairness and eliminating poverty and inequality, I sometimes don’t know how to reply. We are in serious trouble and have to put first things first, address the here and now – although Phil did ask me, a few days ago, how we can put out “the fire.” (My metaphor.) That was the right question. I think he gets it. I am inconsistent, and confused. Who isn’t?—Fascists love to confuse. I said something vague yet hopeful, like “it’ll put itself out.”

    We must prevent a (neo)fascist takeover. Look at what Sessions just did re the trans-gender issue. That is just the beginning: he and all the others were selected, by Bannon, for a reason. DeVos will destroy the department of education and the public school system, Pruitt will dismantle the EPA, etc., and Sessions has already begun to take away our civil liberties. That Southern dyed-in-the-wool racist has opposed civil rights throughout his career. States’ rights is a euphemism for no civil rights.

    My pessimism has come back full force.

    Not surprised that those Mailer books couldn’t be found. You can try Amazon. You can buy a used ones for a few dollars. (I once ordered Melville’s first three novels from Amazon and sent them as a gift. My friend told me the print was so small he’d have to use a magnifying glass.)

    I’ll end on a lighter note. I was in a deli with my niece yesterday afternoon. As we were standing at the counter I noticed that someone was reading the NY Post. The front page article was about these newly discovered seven planets. I said: “Seven planets? That’s fake news.” No one laughed. I thought it was funny.

    By the way, I think young Buttigieg would make a good head of the DNC, but I’m somewhat partial. His father Joe and my father were very close friends and also worked very closely together for many, many years. (Google Peter Buttigieg.) Ellison would be good too.

    Bye for now. Enjoy the week-end.

  140. Laurie

    More people here are starting to understand what a revolution it would
    be to have universal health care and they are starting to understand
    that it’s an ethical issue, a human right issue and that the insurance
    companies are murderous parasites.

    I’ve heard that often, and partially agree. Eliminating insurance companies, IMO, is the most straightforward and cost effective way to proceed. Controlling Big Pharm costs would be next on my list.

    Where it gets a little muddy in my mind is describing health care as a human right. Is it? Is education a human right? Does promoting the welfare of the people, as stated in Article I, mean providing it or prohibiting anything detrimental to the people? Or both?

  141. Laurie,

    Glad you were convinced of Bernie’s plan. It is decent and he has the pragmatism to roll it out. Now about the populist rhetoric and psychology to better promote it…?

    In my ideal scenario, I would not have Michael Moore endorse this but use Sanders supporter, Andy McKay, who intellectually runs rings around Moore, has an ability to convey quite sophisticated ideas through facts and reason and is, what is more, funny.

    I see a remake of Idiocracy, updated and with a “Big Short” faux docudrama urgency, fingering both the inequality story and the crassness of the media. (Anchorman was not as stupid as it looked…). I’ll have my people contact his…

    Dan,

    Call empathy, sympathy or consideration and I’m with you.

    A friend found and bought me

    “Against Empathy” by Professor Paul Bloom. He makes my case almost perfectly it appears so far. Empathy is evolved and shared with animals and serves them well in social settings. It is the very substrate of our rich moral sensibilities. But, in the trolley problem you posed, it is our refined moral intellect and reason that overrides mere immediate empathy and pushes Bannon onto the tracks.

  142. Dan

    He (Bannon) wants to destroy the government, fancies himself a
    revolutionary.

    He is an ultra-nationalist. And I think the problem is more widespread than just here in the States. George Orwell wrote a nice essay on nationalism back in 1945. http://orwell.ru/library/essays/nationalism/english/e_nat The section on Indifference to Reality will sound pretty familiar.

    I said: “Seven planets? That’s fake news.”

    Thanks for that. It made me chuckle.

  143. Vicki

    health care as a human right. Is it? Is education a human right?

    Now? Yes. If we are to exploit the talents of our societies to their fullest. If we are to achieve the political and social stability that we need to justify long term investments to save the planet, then. Yes, yes, yes.

    We have to learn how to make these long term investments. The market place needs to grow up into preserving expertise and long term investment, somehow. As individuals we have no long term security as AI removes much of our need to work and make and grow. This alone breaks the current model. Yet the market still needs wealthy happy consumers of product to drive its problem finding and solving. Institutions in the service of men and women and children must in part substitute the free market model if only for some transitional period. I could go on at length here.

    The US free market healthcare delivers the worst value for money healthcare in the OECD. The model’s fncked here.

  144. Phil

    The need is obvious (at least to those who think it through). But does need equate to an obligation? And along those same lines, does that obligation extend to the consumer? For instance, here in the States, our three most chronic–and costly–health issues are heart disease, obesity and diabetes. All three are preventable by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. At what point does the responsibility shift from the individual to the state?

  145. Vicki

    But does need equate to an obligation?

    Yes if it is a net profitable investment in a thriving society. Before anything the investment in children, education and health is paramount. Parents may not or cannot or simply won’t invest in their kids enough. The state should. On health in later life the state should as a matter of obligation make sure all children are educated in how to take care of themselves. Should the foolish fat be excluded from health schemes? No. The cost of testing culpability is a drain. Better to treat and get to bottom of what went wrong. Education, psychlogy, genes, social pressures? Most fat people are unhappy, and comfort eat, but some, as we are increasingly learning, are genetically vulnerable.

    The Dutch health system is mostly private but the Dutch government completely understands that value for money by implementing simple uniform quality controlled systems and providing the services free to those poor and unemployed who cannot manage it, is a tremendous investment in a happier and more stable society.

  146. Dan #157
    Feb 24, 2017 at 1:50 am

    I think Bannon is the most dangerous man in the country, if not the world, right now. I suspected months ago – and I am sure there were others who suspected this too – that he is sinister, mentally deranged, and that he is controlling Trump (like Svengali) and the agenda.
    I was right all along.
    He wants to destroy the government, fancies himself a revolutionary. (A revolutionary conservative!)
    He spoke of “deconstructing the administrative state.”
    That means demolishing all of our protections, regulations, the department of education….
    Laurie, this is bad, I mean really bad.—The guy’s a fascist; he’s everything we think he is. He still says “we at Breibart.” Breitbart!
    That’s a propaganda site whose articles have huge reactionary, racist, and sexist undertones.
    They (at Breitbart and other media outlets like it, deny climate change, because they want to demolish every possible obstacle to the establishment of a corporate state.
    (And yet fat Bannon decries “corporatism.”
    He’s a wily, sick, lobster-faced fascist who wants to confuse people.)

    I think there is a clear match in agendas here!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-39062663

    Russian military admits significant cyber-war effort – Russia’s military has admitted for the first time the scale of its information warfare effort, saying it was significantly expanded post-Cold War.

    “The aim is to control information in whatever form it takes,” he [Keir Giles] wrote in a Nato report called “The Next Phase of Russian Information Warfare”.

    “Unlike in Soviet times, disinformation from Moscow is primarily not selling Russia as an idea, or the Russian model as one to emulate.

    “In addition, it is often not even seeking to be believed. Instead, it has as one aim undermining the notion of objective truth and reporting being possible at all,” he wrote.

    Russia’s effort in cyberspace is under intense Western scrutiny following high-level US accusations that Russian hackers helped to swing the presidential election in favour of Donald Trump.

    According to Mr Giles, the Russian military decided to prioritise information warfare after the 2008 Russia-Georgia conflict. The country’s security apparatus drew lessons from its “inability to dominate public opinion about the rights and wrongs of the war”, he said.

    Commenting on Mr Shoigu’s remarks, former Russian commander-in-chief Gen Yuri Baluyevsky said a victory in information warfare “can be much more important than victory in a classical military conflict, because it is bloodless, yet the impact is overwhelming and can paralyse all of the enemy state’s power structures”.

    In the context of foreign manipulation of deluded stooges, I have mentioned the term “useful idiots”, before!

  147. Phil

    I see the value. I understand the need. My hurdle is whether it is a legal obligation. I would love to be able to make the argument that health care is a human right, but I am unable to make the leap from its value to a legal requirement.

    For example, the Declaration of Independence said we have the right to the pursuit of happiness. For many decades, certain demographics were denied that right because of systemic roadblocks in our culture. The government correctly determined those rights were being denied, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 brought us, kicking and screaming, into the 20th century. The distinction, though, is those who were denied now have the right to pursue happiness, but that doesn’t mean the government is obligated to provide their happiness.

    I honestly need help reconciling the argument of health care as a human right.

  148. If there was a plan to destroy the United States, the quickest and most effective method, would be to employ powerful financially and status rewarded “useful idiots” as a dominating elite, to destroy the federal government – (along with the expert science and technology base), and then to instigate US-Mexican-Trump-style “diplomacy” between the fragmented individual states – with conflicting laws and isolationist “patriotic statehood”, closing borders – perhaps even with gun-toting, propaganda-fed, know-it-alls, re-starting a civil war! (as has been done elsewhere in the world!)

  149. Vicki,

    I don’t see it as a matter of individual rights or individual happiness at all. We are not discussing a means to make people happy. I know of no such processes.

    For me it is the need of the state to provide the best value for money it can to its paymasters (and not those parasites who dishonestly and dishonourably buy favour). For a state to be maximally resilient, productive, expert, problem solving and investment worthy it must itself invest its tax dollars to best effect. Its people are its primary resource. The simple practical evidence of work like that of Wilkinson and Pickett shows a pragmatic set of productive mechanisms. There is no ideology in this for me.

  150. Thanks, Phil.

    That makes good business sense, and IMO, that should be the argument used by any politician going forward with universal health care.

    I have to go to work now. Good day to you!

  151. Vicki

    My perspective on health and education is directly from ethics (with a glance at history and keeping an eye on Europe and Canada) and if we are to have the most protection for the most people possible then I expect the government needs to administer these programs. Pursuit of happiness seems like a relic of the wild, wild west at this point. I’m on board with the pursuit of the programs that will elevate the society as a whole. Ethics does allow for a certain amount of fallout as long as it’s for the greater good. If protections are not solidified in a legal way then I have no hope that they will endure. Without legal status these protections are feeble. Now, more than ever, we have a clear view of what the executive orders can accomplish.

  152. Am currently halfway through Hypernormalisation, as recommended by Phil (#171).

    It’s utterly mesmerising. Very, very long, but worth every minute of your time.

    I’ve also found the full version on YouTube, for anyone outside the UK who can’t access it on the BBC iPlayer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-fny99f8amM

    This is the way the BBC describes it:

    We live in a time of great uncertainty and confusion. Events keep happening that seem inexplicable and out of control. Donald Trump, Brexit, the War in Syria, the endless migrant crisis, random bomb attacks. And those who are supposed to be in power are paralysed – they have no idea what to do.

    This film is the epic story of how we got to this strange place. It explains not only why these chaotic events are happening – but also why we, and our politicians, cannot understand them.

    It shows that what has happened is that all of us in the West – not just the politicians and the journalists and the experts, but we ourselves – have retreated into a simplified, and often completely fake version of the world. But because it is all around us we accept it as normal.

    But there is another world outside. Forces that politicians tried to forget and bury forty years ago – that then festered and mutated – but which are now turning on us with a vengeful fury. Piercing though the wall of our fake world.

  153. Five of the most significant news outlets have been castigated as fake news.

    CNN and the NY Times now banned from briefings. This is a bona fide crisis.

    Trump’s FCC just got rid of “lifeline”, a federal program put through by Obama that provided internet access to the poor.

  154. Thank you for this encouragement, Marco.

    I judge it as absolutely essential viewing.

    And thanks again for tracking down an even fuller version on youtube. Its something he keeps adding to.

    Here’s a version 6 minutes longer still! 2hrs 46minutes.

    Its clearly a piece that will never be concluded….

  155. Some cogent remarks. (From the Real News Network. “NO ADVERTISING, GOVERNMENT OR CORPORATE FUNDING.”)

    PAUL JAY: I did an interview yesterday with Heiner Flassbeck. He’s a German economist. The basic conclusion of it was that the way capitalist economics are developing with such a massive amount of concentration of wealth in the top one percentile and the corporations themselves sitting on mountains and mountains of cash, which they don’t want to invest into the real economy partly because, or to a large extent, because wages are kind of stagnant, and there’s not enough growth in the economy to justify the investment. So the money sits in corporate coffers. And if you look at the whole cycle, you wind up – and his words were – essentially, capitalism is killing itself. We’re getting to a stage of capitalism where the parasitical finance on Wall Street, even corporate America that’s involved in actual manufacturing not wanting to reinvest the money that they’re making, it’s becoming a system which is really in decay, and then we’re seeing a politics and a culture that reflects that. Trump is a very legitimate representative of all that.

    The other thing I think is interesting is that you’ve always had this division in the elites, and this goes back I mean perhaps as long as there’ve been elites, but a section which sees the more systemic needs of capitalism if you were… same thing with under feudalism, people who saw that, for example, that you needed to have certain limits on what Wall Street can do, you need position limits in terms of speculation and commodities, there has to be a reining-in of big monopolies and trusts because when capitalism is allowed to simply, unfettered, go for the most narrow-minded profit-seeking the system itself is threatened, and there’s always been this division in the elites of those sections of the elites that look at a more systemic class interest, if you will, and the supposedly government and the politicians are supposed to play that role of looking at the interests of the system as a whole if you want the interests of the Empire as a whole. Now you have the section of the elites that’s simply grabbing for themselves, and even not just the system be damned, when it comes to things like climate change the planet be damned, we seem to be in a somewhat new stage of the decay of American politics. I’m not sure how… if they can come back from this.

    HENRY GIROUX: I know. I’m with you. I think that what you see is a financial elite that has no consideration whatsoever, if not, … pathology (?) the very nature of the social contract. The relationship between labor and capital in the age of Trump is dead. And as far as they’re concerned, the only thing that really matters is accruing as much capital as possible and everybody else be damned. I mean, what you have here is no attempt to suggest that there’s a relationship between capitalism and democracy. Under the New Deal, under Johnson, under FDR, there was an attempt in some way to suggest that the social contract mattered because if you blew it up there was the possibility of all kinds of radical movements emerging that would challenge capitalism and suggest the need for a kind of democratic socialism. This particular element of the ruling elite operates in a culture of cruelty and hardness and greediness, given its concentration of wealth and its power that is unparalleled.

    But I think there’s something that you missed, and I think that what we have that’s new – I think is particularly new – is remember that power is global, politics is local. I mean, power floats. It has no allegiances to national states; it has no allegiances to particular localities, to particular communities. I mean, this is a global elite that has transformed in a fundamental way the nature of politics, and as a result of that it has drained enormous… not only drained enormous resources from the states, for instance, and from the federal governments while militarizing them, but at the same time it’s destroying all the public institutions that make possible any notion of civic literacy, any notion of critical analysis. That’s why you have the rise of the punishing state, that’s why it seems to me you have Trump as the ultra-representative of the 1% now claims that the press is the enemy of the American people. When the press becomes the enemy of the American people that means he could be subject to treason. That means it could be punished by virtue of employing the punishing state. So you really have a very different configuration between the punishing state and the social state. The punishing state now is in control by the financial elite. And they could care less about the social contract. And that’s what’s distinctive. . . .

  156. Dan #175
    Feb 24, 2017 at 5:29 pm

    Five of the most significant news outlets have been castigated as fake news.

    CNN and the NY Times now banned from briefings.
    This is a bona fide crisis.

    If I was one of their reporters, I would simply report what other people and other governments had to say about the activities of Trump and co., and report, “The White House declined to comment”!

    Trump may not be able to keep his big mouth shut, but if the quality media stop reporting his blitherings when he refuses to talk to them, and concentrate on serious discussions, this could bypass his propaganda – at least for the educated intellectuals of America!

  157. Note concerning post # 177. They were talking fast. It was transcribed verbatim.

    “When the press becomes the enemy of the American people that means he [the press] could be subject to treason. That means it could be punished by virtue of employing the punishing state.”

  158. Trump the liar calls the media an “enemy of the people” and “fake”. It appears as though someone in that White House has studied Goebbels.

    Fake news, fake news, fake news, fake news……It’s all fake news…..The news is fake. Fake news, an enemy of the people, an enemy of the people, fake news….My fellow Americans, don’t listen to the fake news…..

    A lie told once remains a lie but a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth.
    Joseph Goebbels

  159. The undoubting Trump followers have “religious” minds; and corrupt, authoritarian politicians and religious despots have much in common.

    Let’s not get confused; in this case, the repeated assertion by Trump that the “media is fake news” is a lie or a false claim, is itself fake news. If a story is real and you call it fake then that is a pernicious lie. If a story is false and you know it’s false and you call it true it’s also a lie. This may have have originated with religious propaganda, but what concerns me more is that this kind of covering-up the truth, this presentation of alternate facts is a device employed by corrupt, authoritarian governments – religious and non-religious. That is why all the news outlets that had been reporting on this issue were prevented from entering Spicer’s meeting.

    This obfuscation and suppression, is part of a pattern, and we’ve seen it play out with dictators. History has shown this. It happened is Iraq and other unstable places that have no constitution like we do. They begin by eliminating all accountability; the delegitimizing of the press is the first step always.

    Trump is leaning on the FBI! According to Malcolm Nance, an intelligence expert, we are saying what he considers to be the signs of a cover-up. “When a White House leans on the FBI, they’re in a cover-up mode, ” as John Dean also said. All the news outlets that had been reporting on this issue were singled out and prevented from entering Spicer’s meeting yesterday.

    Nance and another person, a scholar who has studied authoritarian regimes, observed that Trump and his fellow conspirators only care about the small percentage of supporters (about 25 percent of the people). The rest of us be damned. This is also how dictator’s operate.

    Russia engaged in a cyber attack, a full scale attack, and succeeded; it has weakened our already vulnerable institutions. Trump does not care.

    Maddow reported yesterday that members within Trump’s own DHS and within the NSA (led by McMaster and Kelly) issued a REAL report (which was leaked by the AP) indicating that the is zero empirical data to justify this travel ban. It will not save one life; it is nothing but a gesture to solidify and please his small base. But autocrat Trump will pursue it anyway. Prior to that the White House was reportedly “telling these agencies to conclude that the ban was necessary” in spite of the absence of rational, empirically based evidence.

    The waters and streams will be polluted, environmental and financial protections will continue to be removed, the corruption will go unchecked if they have their way, the protesters will be marginalized, the arbitrary deployment of law will continue, the destruction of public institutions will continue, the lies will continue, etc., etc., etc.

    Red lights galore.

    Dark days.

  160. Dan #180
    Feb 24, 2017 at 10:45 pm

    Fake news, fake news, fake news, fake news……It’s all fake news

    Perhaps the reply should be:- “LIES, – DAMNED LIES, – BLATANT DAMMED LIES, – AND TRUMPOID ALTERNATIVE FACTS!”

    Trump’s muppet squad bring him gullible followers, who will swallow and applaud these transparent lies and this propagandist garbage while it is videoed – as while most educated Americans and the rest of the world contemptuously laugh at them!

    He can’t even respond civilly, honestly, competently, or rationally to questions from the reputable sections of the press!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-39088770

    When asked at the gaggle, Mr Spicer denied CNN and the New York Times had been denied access because the White House was unhappy with their coverage.

    But he said: “We are just not going to sit back and let false narratives, false stories, inaccurate facts get out there.”

    CNN anchor Jake Tapper said the exclusion was “not acceptable, in fact it’s petulant. And indicative of a lack of basic understanding of how an adult White House functions”.

    Washington Post executive editor Marty Baron said the White House move was “appalling”.

    In an editorial, the LA Times said: “If the intent was to intimidate reporters into writing fewer things that the administration does not like, and more things that it does, it is doomed to failure.”

    The New York Times editorial said: “That First Amendment can be inconvenient for anyone longing for power without scrutiny. Mr. Trump might want to brush up on what it means, and get used to it.

    Mr Spicer – Trump’s chief comedian who is allegedly “fighting the ‘alternative false facts’ which HE and Trump are putting out”!! 🙂

    Could I suggest that the quantity of false-news could be greatly reduced by the application of some large strongly adhesive Elastoplasts, to some large, loud, White House mouths!! 🙂

  161. Note. I mentioned Iraq in my last comment, and I really don’t know a hell of a lot about Iraq, frankly. Hussein was a fascist dictator, but let’s not forget about our own history of supporting dictators.

    Chomsky: Well, up and from then, ’65 till ’98, the Indonesian leader, Suharto, one of the worst — kind of like Saddam Hussein, one of the worst criminals of the modern age — was lavishly praised and supported as a wonderful person. The Clinton administration called him, “Our kind of guy,” because he was serving U.S. interests, while carrying out huge massacres and compiling one of the worst records of atrocities in the world.

    What happened to that in history? Well, you know, it’s history, but it’s not what you teach people in high school, as you should in a free country. That’s the task of the intellectuals: be careful to be sure that nobody understands what’s going on. That’s a major task.

    Interviewer: You believe that there are two kinds of intellectuals — one, the kinds who serve power and are rewarded, and the others are those who stand outside, who basically call a spade a spade.

    Chomsky: Yes.

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