Brett's Blog

Brett's bookshelf: currently-reading

Brett's bookshelf: favorites

The Closing of the American Mind
5 of 5 stars
Perhaps the most important non-fiction ever written in English. A revealing, penetrating, inspiring text on the state of education and the modern American mind. It was Bloom's life work - his profession at the University Of Chicago - to ...
tagged: favorites
The Disenchantment of the World: A Political History of Religion
5 of 5 stars
New and captivating ideas about our past. French thought, killed by Foucault, Derrida, Lacan and the Postmodern gang, appears resurrected by the likes of Gauchet. In physics the most deeply piercing ideas are the simplest, and in the for...
tagged: favorites
The Enlightenment: The Rise of Modern Paganism
5 of 5 stars
Great ZOT, this man can write! At age 90 - and still with us - we hope Peter Gay remains another sixty to seventy years so we might garner another half dozen books from him. While "The Enlightenment" was written in 1966, the ancients of...
tagged: favorites
The Power of Myth
5 of 5 stars
tagged: favorites
Sex and the Origins of Death
5 of 5 stars
Why we die and how to beat it From the outset what UCLA's Wm. Clark reports is staggering; Death is "not an obligatory attribute of life" and did not appear with the advent of it. Cellular aging resulting in death may not have occurred...
tagged: favorites

Brett's books

The Lonely Man of Faith
really liked it
Remarkable impressions Rabbi Soloveitchik, known as the Rav, presents interesting ideas concerning the dual nature of humans and the status of this nature in modernity. That status, says the Rav, is bleak because the practical self, rec...
On Being: A Scientist's Exploration of the Great Questions of Existence
liked it
Reason at a cost Author Peter Atkins wrote perhaps the most amazing science text ever written, a thriller from start to finish: Physical Chemistry 8th Ed. (Which, by that electrified version of the Pony Express, I received pristine from...
Hypermodern Times
really liked it
Lipovetsky's mixed bag of modernity Lipovetsky is one of those French philosophers who've rebuilt their intellectual tradition after the wreckage of Foucault, Derrida, and the postmodernist gang. This slim book packs a punch, dis...
On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century
liked it
Comparisons between historical tyrannies and America's brewing I found this very short book mildly informative (about 14,000 words, 30 pages of regular text, stretched to 126 pages in its pocket format). The author draws parallels betwe...

2023 Reading Challenge

2023 Reading Challenge
Brett has read 1 book toward his goal of 21 books.

2022 Reading Challenge

2022 Reading Challenge
Brett has read 6 books toward his goal of 21 books.

2021 Reading Challenge

2021 Reading Challenge
Brett has read 0 books toward his goal of 20 books.

2020 Reading Challenge

2020 Reading Challenge
Brett has read 0 books toward his goal of 34 books.

2019 Reading Challenge

2019 Reading Challenge
Brett has read 1 book toward his goal of 33 books.

2018 Reading Challenge

2018 Reading Challenge
Brett has read 0 books toward his goal of 25 books.

2017 Reading Challenge

2017 Reading Challenge
Brett has read 5 books toward his goal of 25 books.

2015 Reading Challenge

2015 Reading Challenge
Brett has read 4 books toward his goal of 24 books.

2014 Reading Challenge

2014 Reading Challenge
Brett has read 0 books toward his goal of 24 books.
Q & A with Brett Alan Williams's bookshelf: read
Q & A with Brett Alan Williams 1 member
Any questions about "The Father" are welcomed, except how it ends. :)

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my read shelf:
Brett Williams's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)

Brett's bookshelf: read

The Road to Serfdom
Second Treatise of Government
The Basic Political Writings
Rights of Man
A Letter Concerning Toleration: Humbly Submitted
The Anti-Federalist Papers and the Constitutional Convention Debates
The Federalist Papers
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
A Brief History of Time
Love and Friendship
Giants and Dwarfs: Essays, 1960-1990
Shakespeare's Politics
The Science of Freedom
The Killing of History: How Literary Critics and Social Theorists Are Murdering Our Past

Brett Williams's favorite books »

Brett's Quotes

Goodreads Quotes

June 28, 2024: After Biden's humiliation, what America, Europe, and the world must do RIGHT NOW

In last night's presidential debate, Joe Biden solidified fears of his senility for the Left, Reaganites, and old-school GOP Republicans, while satisfying hopes of the Alt-Right, Christian Nationalist apostates, and Grand Old Putin Party (GOPP) Republicans. Biden was barely audible regarding Trump's 34 guilty convictions for hosing a porn star while his wife was pregnant, then covering it up to influence the 2016 election; his bank, tax, and insurance frauds; his conviction for rape. While Biden proved he is cognitively impaired, Trump proved he's again unfit thanks to the unchecked lie factory in his mouth, his debt to Putin, and his endorsement of traitors he inspired to execute his attempted overthrow of the Constitution after six other illegal conspiracies failed. But lies no longer matter in America, much less the Constitution. What matters is appearance, swagger, bombast. Intellect (Biden didn't show that either), character, morality, honesty, and vision are boring to Americans and utterly irrelevant in a president, Congress, Supreme Court justice, reality TV star, minister, priest, or any hero of our age.

Given that a majority of Americans don't know the difference between a Constitutional Republic and an autocratic kleptocracy, the latter is just fine, so long as inflation is low. With Biden's humiliation - a result of his own ego's inability to see the exit and his Party's inability to show him the door - an autocratic kleptocracy is what we'll have on January 20, 2025, but this time in spades. Trump learned late in his administration how to fleece the government when, among many examples, he filled his hotels and resorts with troops bussed to fill them. Other nations will be fleeced in a variety of ways, like Trump's designating Qatar a terrorist state - home to America's largest military base - until they paid $1.4B in bribes for son-in-law Kushner's bankrupt 666 Manhattan tower. Trump's next fleece will rival his idol Putin's. But that's okay with Americans, so long as inflation is low.

But the new autocracy won't simply mark the end of the Founder's experiment in self-governance with commencement of a mafia state; it means much more for the rest of the world. Europe, Canada, Australia, and any of the remaining democracies in retreat must prepare. You'll be called "bed wetters" and "hang wringers," and when Trump said he was going to be a dictator, "Oh, he was only joking," but do not wait until these matters are realized to compensate:

Ukraine, you will be betrayed by the U.S. While Reagan would have given you all, don't think for a second Reaganism lives anywhere in the GOPP; they are Reagan haters. Trump will hand you over to Putin just as he said, "Russia can do whatever the hell it wants with Ukraine."

Europe, you must finally get it through your heads that America is not your ally. America will violate NATO's Article 5, even though you supported it and us in Afghanistan and our Iraq boondoggle, costing European lives. Trump will leave NATO to empower Putin as he empowered China by withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and as he greenlighted Iran's nukes by leaving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Trust no treaties or agreements with America. Share no Classified, Secret, or Top-Secret documents with Trump as he's already stolen hundreds, with a likely handful in Putin's top drawer as demonstration of loyalty. Slide your economy toward a war footing or risk Putin's Red Army - with the possible assistance from America's Red States - rolling over your borders from Poland to the English Channel in ten to fifteen years. Trump's Putin-loving America will become your enemy.

As the most debt-ridden executive in U.S. history ($8,400,000,000,000 in his first four years) Trump's populist spend fest will race our economy skyward, heal it over the way Hugo Chavez did Venezuela, and auger it into the ground so hard it will make the Yucatan asteroid impact 66 million years ago seem like a fart. Europe, Canada, Australia, don't be left in the wake of another U.S.-generated Great Recession or Depression. Expand ties with China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Global Development Initiative (GDI), and Global Security Initiative (GSI) for protection. Ease away from the dollar to the yuan, as the dollar will eventually be worthless. Leverage your economic trade with China against Putin to peal China away from Putin's two-cent GDP. China is more interested in trade with you, exporting their unemployment to your countries and ours, than Putin shirtless on his pony. However, they do want his oil. So, Norway, Royal Dutch Shell, and BP, you must accelerate your pollution of the planet to supply China in order for them to retreat from Putin's oil, all the while as China develops green tech the way they did with - and now own - solar, wind, EV batteries, cars, and the future of electric aircraft after Boeing goes bust. With China on your side, your biggest threats will be Russia, America, and man-made global warming in the form of killer heat waves, droughts, floods, and mass extinctions from all those extra fossil fuels. Just hope that extinction doesn't include you. Fortunately, you don't have the tornadoes and hurricanes our unUnited States do; we'll be savaged by them as atmospheric and ocean heat energy skyrockets, but that's not your problem. Science deniers like Trump and his Liar's Party will still be claiming man-made global warming - like COVID-19 - a hoax as we race inland from rising seas and dig underground for relief.

Canada, you're in the worst position. End your asylum allowance, or we'll run you over in the panic to escape America. Build a wall to keep us out and defend it. (Mexico should complete the one we made, as Trump can't finish off anything except democracy and every business he ever touched.) That means greatly expanding your defense budget because you've got a lunatic nation on your border, and we've got nukes. You thought a nuclear Pakistan was scary? You just wait.

As for Americans, religious "Nones" - a record 30% as American Christianity collapses - will be forced into hiding, lawless gun violence will visit every street, militia Bubbas who want to play army will play in your neighborhood, like Nazi Germany, any slight of the dictator will land you in Stephen Miller's Auschwitz alongside journalists, Democrats, and intellectuals as the government hunts down climate scientists the way Trump did when he first entered office. Join an evangelical church in the revival and stand a lot while you're there. Wave your hands, sway, speak in tongues, and praise Donald J. Christ. Young people, reject the 60s sexual revolution and STOP fucking. While your church wants girls to become baby mills ("God, Guns, Bibles, and Babies!"), the last thing you'll need in the midst of civilization's collapse is a screaming, puking, shitting infant, and the last thing the planet needs is more humans. Forget abortion as the 1960s-style birth control it is because getting one will land you in prison. Get your minds right. Keep your heads down. Walk in lockstep to the Heritage Foundation's Project 2025 dogma, and don't draw attention to yourself (like this blog).

Most of all, the human race must accommodate the idea that the 1945 post-WWII order created by the U.S. which allowed the longest period of prosperity and relative peace the world has ever known is over. Get on the right side of great power politics as slaughterhouse wars become the norm again. As it turns out, we primates never really could get away from our own nature. Evolution did not create a higher life form, only one with a greater capacity to screw things up.

It's the Chinese Century now. Learn Chinese.

June 17, 2024: Why House Speaker Mike Johnson must end justice to save his Savior

As displayed by Trump's lifelong criminal enterprise and cons, from his international money laundering to his fraudulent university to his tax, bank, and insurance frauds, Trump has always been a criminal anarchist opposed to law and order. Though only as that law and order applies to him. But for rewards of the same exception to his operatives, Trump still needs others to conform to legal norms in order to prey upon them. To insulate Trump from the visceral condemnation of moral judgment against a double standard, his followers must undermine the legal system that judges Trump in violation of its norms. This is why America's once "very Christian" House Speaker Mike Johnson rejects Apostle Paul's admonition of Ephesian 4:25 and instead lies, claiming Trump's 34 guilty convictions are the result of a "weaponized" legal system that Biden rigged against Trump. All while the same system just convicted President Biden's son. The system of justice must be delegitimized in order to legitimize Trump's lawlessness and to legitimize the immorality associated with lawlessness to protect Trump at the expense of civilization. So it was for Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, and their followers, so it is for Trump and his. A bit of psychological jujitsu emergent from apostates, amplified by our own FOX RT, asocial media, and talk radio: believe what you're told (over and over and over again), not your own eyes. It worked for Trump's 20th-century idols. It works for him.

May 31, 2024: Donald J. Christ Convicted Guilty of Crimes 34 times. Bootlickers in Chaos. FOX RT Shits a Brick as Putin Runs for Dacha.

Despite death threats from Trump's "Christians," despite Trump's Red Tie Brigade circumventing gag orders to intimidate witnesses and jury, despite asocial media support of Trump by the entire nation of Russia, somehow, Comatose Joe Biden's Deep State proved its control of New York state in convicting Don on all 34 counts. Except Biden's not in control of NY state courts or the 12 citizen jurors. Juror #2 gets his news from Truth Social.

Trump said his guilt is "rigged!" And Trump said the Emmies were rigged because his gameshow didn't win one. Trump said, "it's a disgrace," the way his father excoriated him as a disgrace when Donald didn't measure up to brother Freddie, the alcoholic. "I'm fighting for our Constitution," Trump said. But in 2022 and '23, he said the Constitution should be abandoned.

After a lifetime of mafia crime, how was sTupid finally held accountable? We thought America was well on its way to a fascist, autocratic kleptocracy - a "tyranny from sea to shining sea." We thought we were a nation of liars. Now we find there are twelve people left who dare tell the truth? What is wrong with these people? If Trump doesn't win the election, Vlad loses Ukraine.

The "Law and Order" party now supports an outlaw.

Meanwhile, on FOX: Hew Hewitt: "A travesty!" Trump attorney Will Scharf: "This is one of the darkest days in the American Republic!" Newt Gingrich: "The most corrupt system going after Trump. We've never seen anything like this!" Laura Ingraham: "We've reached the subbasement of US history... The judge ran his courtroom like any Kremlin crony would run one in Moscow... Soviet-style justice." What? From the Grand Old Putin Party's FOX RT, where Tucker Carlson said, "Why wouldn't I be for Russia, which I am." Tulsi Gabbard: "The Democrat elite are undermining the rule of law... we must rise up!" Jesse Watters: "Trump's not safe in NYC! They're willing to destroy the rule of law to take power."

FOX's $787 million fine for lying about a stolen election that wasn't stolen didn't change much. In fact, things are worse. Gabbard and Watters phoned in their angertainment performance, struggling to call up that authentic rage that good actors impersonate credibly.

To Joe and Jill Sixpack: get out there! Join the tsunami of crook-lovers in the streets of New York City. All 53 of them. The Passion of Donald J. Christ has begun. The next station of the cross is in Florida for stealing hundreds of Top Secrets for Vlad. Say your prayers. Grab your box of Bibles and ammo. Paul in Ephesians said, "We no longer lie to one another. We only tell the truth." But don't start now! We Reaganites are counting on you to implode the GOPP.

February 23, 2024: Why the U.S. Government Must Regulate Lies, Liscence Liars, and Protect America's Lie Consumers from Molesters

Just two years ago, pundits asked "Has America become a nation of liars?" Since then, America has blazed from unranked to third place among industrialized liars in the world. Economists estimate that U.S. lies are worth $1.3 trillion annually. This puts liars and their lies in 5th place behind Great Recession bankers ($1.36T), Hospitals ($1.34T), toiletries ($1.33T), and insurance ($1.32T). Notice there's no manufacturing here because we gave that to the Chinese Communist Party at a whopping $6T annual loss. But lies are so much easier to fabricate than solar panels (90% from China), EV batteries (80% from China), and windmills (70% from China). All lies need is a mouth and the guts to grift in public to millions of lie consumers. The market for lies is so bright one expert said, "There's quite literally no end to the gullibility market. Lie factories are even talking about export markets now, ready to compete with Russia and China."

Lies are a critical component of our GDP and a flag-waving pillar of our family values. We need lies, we want lies, we gotta have lies for a strong U…S…A! It's not only the American way; it's the Christian Nationalist way. With God Almighty as our witness, a God who directed Moses in Exodus 4:21 to "Tell Pharoah to let my people go, but he won't because I'm going to make him stubborn," then killed all first-born toddlers of Egypt as punishment, this is the Liar we live up to. Forget chips and science factories. Lies and liars are our greatest asset and could be America First in less time than you think.

All over our great nation, liars are removing norms and innovating new asocial media to monetize lies. With just a touch more immorality, America could jump to second place behind Russian internet trolls who so far own our gullibility market—a massive bazaar waiting right here at home.

Just look at our gullibility leaders in Congress. This week, we found House GOPP star witness Alexander Smirnov - who said "Joe Biden got $5 million from Ukraine in a bribe" - is a Russian agent directed by Vladamir Putin. Says who? The Deep State FBI? Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Jordan said, "The most corroborated evidence we have is the FBI 1023 form from this highly credible human Smirnov!" Who to believe? The FBI or the FBI? They arrested Smirnov, let him go, then arrested him again, like impeaching Our Dear Leader twice, just because he tried to overthrow the Constitution after he tried to bribe Ukraine.

In a nation of liars, what's the big deal? One man's lies are another's Kellyanne-Conway-alternative-facts. Facts are facts, right? Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, "Everybody has a right to their own facts." So Putin's directing the GOPP. That's why it's called The Grand Old Putin Party. Reagan was a big fan of Russia, and Trump's so fond of the KGB he does volunteer work.

Honestly, what our Lib media hyperventilates about is astonishing. Lib lawyers are even claiming the Chairman of this Smirnov gig, Kentucky GOPP Rep. James Comer, and the very child-friendly Jim Jordan could go to prison as operatives for Russia.


Isn't Biden directing the Libs? Does this mean Maryland Lib Rep. Jamie Raskin is going to jail for telling what people used to call "the truth"? Postmodern critical theorists have taught our kids for decades that "The truth is there is no truth, and that's the truth." They say Libs are trapped by their social constructs of truth the way Cons are trapped by their social construct of gender. Cons think there are two genders when there are countless genders and everybody's gender fluid. Like the very queer Rudy Guiliani said, "Truth isn't true!"

Clearly, lie consumers need protection from fondling molesters. There are perverts among us who coddle reason, morality, and science. You can't eyeball a pervert just by looking at them. There's no pervert flag on their house, no black star morality rating in their window, and no one would admit to being a scientist. Rush Limbaugh said, "Science and scientists are one of the four corners of evil and deceit!" We need forceful regulation against perverts who would upend this great nation of lies.

But liars need protection, too. One of America's most imaginative liars, our own Tokyo Rose, Tucker Carlson, was the fall guy at FOX RT just because FOX paid $787 million for lying about the 2020 election that wasn't stolen. While Hannity admitted under oath that he lies for a living and got to keep his job. Jesus said, "Seek the lie to coddle the people," and that's just what Hannity did before he went off air at Christmas 2022 "to find God," he said. Why are our most patriotic Christians being persecuted willy-nilly? Because there's no federal protection for liars and without a license, we can't tell a real liar from a fake. So Tucker, Hannity and FOX lied about an election that spawned an insurrection to overthrow the Constitution and make the U.S. a client state of Putin. Isn't that what we want? How else can we take the top spot among industrial liars if we don't get in bed with the best of them? Liars need protection so we can attract our best young liars to fossil fuels and banking and Joseph Goebbels media, or we'll keep getting inept ones like Georgia GOPP Rep. Barry Loudermilk who ran reconnaissance for Jan 6 jihadists and still couldn't get ‘er done.

How can you, plain old Joe and Jill Sixpack, make a difference? VOTE! On November 5 of this year, vote for America, vote for lies, do your Christian duty and put the number one liar in North America in the Oval Office. Vote sTupid!

February 7, 2024: Trump's Furious: DC Court Rules Biden Can't Command Seal Team 6 to Assassinate Trump. Supreme Court Could Overrule

Trump and his lawyers have been rightly arguing in a DC Court that every President of the United States has absolute immunity to do whatever he wants. As Trump's lawyer said, if a president commands Seal Team 6 to assassinate a political opponent, that is protected under presidential immunity.

How can a president do their job if, like Nero, they don't have the power to do what's best for the American people? In the Federalist, James Madison said that if a government is to have authority, that government must have the power to enforce it. There's only one person who serves as Pharaoh at a time. Obviously, the Founders intended that one American be above the law. Otherwise, why not make every citizen president? That could never work. Primates need a hierarchy.

But there remain two hopes to correct this outrage. First: Trump's rallying the troops on Truth Social. With a Coke in one hand and Big Mac in the other, The Donald poked out screeds at 3 AM to mobilize America's patriotic jihadists. (An example of Trump's tireless work ethic and love for our GREAT Country.) "A Nation-destroying ruling like this cannot be allowed to stand," he wrote with no misspellings. Absolute immunity is "for the good of our Country"; otherwise, "A President will be afraid to act." Why is such tell-it-like-it-is reasoning not obvious to everybody, especially three women judges up to their ears in college degrees?

Second: American patriots, Trump-supporting Christians, Joe Six Pack at the tavern, DO YOUR DUTY! Call and write your congressmen; dress up in your best pretend army gear, march your AK-47s through your state capitals, and STOP letting the elites piss on your boots! Demand the Supreme Court jettison deliberation, analysis, science, and of all the dumb things, shitcan that ridiculous U.S. Constitution. Trump commanded you to dump it, twice already. What more do you need?

Demand that Joe Biden exercise his presidential immunity and command Seal Team 6 to assassinate Trump. It's a God-given right of all presidents and has been since God made Trump and wrote this commandment in Genesis on the morning of October 22, 4004 BC, when He created the universe. But fear not. God will protect Trump from Team 6, and with this precedent, Trump will fleece America and foreign nations for 2, 3, 20 more terms. Who knows what God intends for Our Dear Leader?

If ever there was proof that the FBI, CIA, PTA Deep State is conspiring with space aliens to exterminate only GOPP Grand Old Putin Party Christian Nationalists walking pious in the footsteps of their disciple Judas, this is it. Marjorie Taylor Green's Jewish space laser hidden behind the moon is about to plug into 5G cell towers to spread Bill Gates' new virus and trigger all those microchips injected into fools who got the COVID vax. Don't stand for this. Before it's too late, STOP THE STEAL!

October 7, 2023: An Already Headless House is Decapitated: No Wonder Al Qaeda Loves These Guys. Even Putin Gets an Early Gift!

Pausing from my Great North American Quest to explore its every pristine wilderness with pups and a backpack, I returned to civilization and switched on my TV to see what I missed. The news was packed with plot twists, sabotage, hilarious antics, and delicious backstabbing as I watched "Republicans" eat each other.

First, I discovered that spineless ass-kissers like Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy have trouble keeping their head on their shoulders without the support of vertebrae beneath it. Especially when having to stoop so low as to press his nose up the dirtier crevasse of one of the world's dirtiest cracks. And I don't mean Trump alone. McCarthy pressed hard against an alleged child sex trafficker and pulled back an old lesson stuck to his nose: there's no honor among thieves. Apparently, that's when he lost his head. This decapitation of the U.S. House is the kind of beheading that Al Qaeda cheers for. The way they did from Afghanistan when Trump's jihadists stormed the Capitol on 1/6, just as Al Qaeda cheered their planes on 9/11, the fourth one intended for the Capitol.

Second, it looks like Putin gets an even more devout asset in the Speaker's chair. A kind of Heinrich Himmler from Ohio, taking orders from Our Dear Leader in exile. Consequently, and by one of those strange circles in history, the New Right—with no relation to the Russian-defeating Reagan-right—gives Putin a gift early. The deal was, once sTupid was back in office, U.S. aid for Ukraine would stop and Ukraine would be given to Vladimir "in 24 hours," Trump said. But knowing Trump's bumbling incompetence - which the KGB groomed since the late 80s by pandering to Trump's inferiority complex - Vlad was afraid Trump couldn't keep himself out of prison and in as America's first dictator. As it is, Himmler gets the Speaker's spot, Trump whispers in his ear, problem solved!

They don't call it the GOPP, Grand Old Putin Party, for nothing.

This gives Putin the break he and Russian Orthodox Christian Archpriest Ivan Garmisch have been praying for. Little different from Trump's anti-Christ Christian Nationalists, Garmisch is so faithful he kisses Putin's missiles before launch on maternity wards, elementary schools, and Ukrainian Orthodox Christian churches where elderly civilians were hiding. The GOPP sure doesn't want to stop that.

As cover, Ohio's Himmler tells us this whole stink over Ukraine is really about the budget. But in 2019, New Right Director Rush Limbaugh declared, "This concern for the deficit and budget has been bogus for as long as it's been around." Trump thought so too because he saddled the U.S. with debt faster than any executive in history: $8 trillion in just four years. (It took Obama twice as long to do that. Way to go, Don!) America spent $15 billion per month on a boondoggle in Iraq; we taxpayers gave AIG $182 billion in a single night and shoveled over $700 billion to Wall Streeters, who then gave themselves a $21 billion bonus the following year for driving the world into the Great Recession. So, what's this budget talk? With a comparative pittance, Ukraine has crippled Russia's military with zero American lives lost. Bargain priced.

After these top stories, I watched the National Loser, perpetually oval-mouthed. (Why is his mouth stuck like that? Maybe Vlad knows.) Full of teeth, he was snarling at cameras in one court after another after another after another. I saw him waddle to courts for bank fraud, insurance fraud, tax fraud, defamation, theft of top secrets, and treason. Boy, that guy gets around, and yet he still lost all his New York con games and mafia operations. This clown can't stop bankrupting everything he touches—from the Trump Shuttle Airline to the New Jersey Generals, the entire USFL, Trump Taj Mahal Casino, Plaza Casino, Castle Casino, America... How can anyone lose money on a casino? People go to casinos to exchange massive amounts of money to play games they know they can't win. Trump's Taj lost over $4 billion. And that's when sTupid was laundering hundreds of billions in stolen Russian money through it—after he lost every penny of the $400 million his father gave him. America's Business Bumbler, who I hear looked so smart on his gameshow. Guess not, suckers.

Now I know why people watch reality TV. But it's not a spectacle to binge on, the way the GOPP gives it on the angertainment of FOX RT and Goebbels radio with their performance politics, incapable of analysis, solutions, or those boring policies that actually fix real problems. After eight years in the House, the alleged sex trafficker - like so many in the Arson Conference - has submitted zero legislation because improvement in the lives of his constituents or the country is not his job. Instead, his job is bomb-thrower and fund raiser. And what a surprise. Hire pedophiles, child molesters, QAnon kooks, and traitors who try to overthrow the Constitution and it's no surprise at all.

Time for me to get back to the wilderness.

Good luck out there. You're gonna need it. Hopefully, I'm on the Canadian side when it all comes down.

I wonder if the Romans felt this way around 476 A.D.

July 5, 2023: Why Are Sooo Many Americans, Left and Right, So, So Very Daft? Is it Terminal?

Today I heard a story on the radio about election workers being harassed - still - with stalking, guns, death threats, even poisoning their dogs. Why? For counting votes by elementary addition, not Big Lie doctrine that's cocksure 1 + 1 = 11,780. After thirty-three months of nothing but assertions of assertions, still, legions of Americans are so pissed about a stolen election that never happened they shadow poll workers, many of whom voted for sTupid. And lest we seek to escape the Cons for the Libs with some respect for reason, we find from the same network that it's just been discovered nature is "queer." According to a "queer ecologist," suppression of queerness in plants and fungi (revealed 200 years ago) is "a function of power, who gets to make determinations in science and who gets to publish their data." By anthropomorphizing fungus, the ecologist states, "In fungal biology, I saw reflected the same ambiguities, disruptive paradigms and mischaracterizations that marked both my race and orientation." Straight from the postmodernist power-oppression-identity Hymnbook - jargon that grants entry to the Ivory Tower.

Is it too late to ask, why are so many Americans so daft? It's an answer with four lessons for our future. It's because we Americans are:

1) Humans. That humans are not "rational agents maximizing utility" but highly irrational, dangerously emotional, and lousy at critical thinking has replaced the old economics tenet. In his book Thinking Fast and Slow, Nobel laureate (in economics) Daniel Kahneman illuminates just how daft we are. Subdividing our minds into System 1 and 2, System 1 is basic, ridiculously speculative, jumps to the wildest deductions, and saved our weak species from those superior in sight, smell, and muscle. But System 1 is not built for a modern world jammed with tech and asocial media. In this world, System 1 is stupid. It believes lies if heard enough times, it creates coherence from gibberish, and readily embraces nonsense in the face of facts that threaten our tribe. Per Kahneman, "The measure of success for System 1 is the coherence of the story it manages to create. The amount and quality of the data on which the story is based are largely irrelevant. When information is scarce, which is a common occurrence, System 1 operates a machine for jumping to conclusions." System 2, on the other hand, is ponderously analytical, takes lots of work, and our brains don't like it. Add this to the fact that Americans are dreadfully...

2) Undereducated. America educates its people just enough to get a job. While high schools are pressured to teach Creationism by the Right and identity politics by the Left, America's k-12 educational system has ranked poorly in the industrialized world for years. Our universities joined the trend. Long threatened with trade school status without education in what is human, what remains of the humanities has become as politicized as a Trump rally in reverse. University humanities now brim with anti-humanist spin-offs of postmodernist Critical Theory. Universities have removed standardized test scores in admissions to satisfy their charter, which is not so much to educate as to service "diversity." In America, we call this Affirmative Action (damaged but not killed by the Supreme Court), known by its detractors as "racism as racism's cure." It invites/forces universities to try to fix real discrimination upstream before students arrive at university unprepared for their higher rates of failure. All the while, administrators congratulate themselves for their pious "inclusivity" and righteous devotion to surface features while hiding the consequences of fundamentalist dogma. As Montesquieu said, "Democracies are corrupted in two ways: by 'the spirit of inequality' and 'the spirit of extreme equality.'" Per Thomas Jefferson, "An enlightened citizenry is indispensable for the proper functioning of a republic. Self-government is not possible unless the citizens are educated sufficiently... It is imperative the nation see to it that a suitable education be provided for all." So much for that. With such fondness for ignorance, Americans are thus remarkably...

3) Gullible. We Americans believe almost anything. From 5G radio waves able to carry the Covid-19 virus, to rejection of Covid's vaccine in favor of a horse pill (Ivermectin) to combat "a hoax," to claims born of illiteracy in science that denies the science of manmade global warming but not the same science of planes, trains, and automobiles. From satisfying the Klan with the segregation of identity politics,  to politicizing gender as a social construct with zero influence from biology, to proclamations born of illiteracy in science that it's a "'racist,' 'patriarchal,' 'colonial,' tool of oppression" as the claimants embrace the same science of planes, trains, and automobiles. Gullible, undereducated humans make us easily...

4) Immoral. The Left embraces racism against peak-achieving Asian-Americans in university admissions; they vilify "colorblindness" in support of race division; they pour their venom on just one nationality, race, and gender: Eurocentric white males. Are such people not immoral bigots? Eighty-two percent of the Right claim to be Christian in support of its moral teachings: "We no longer lie to one another, we only tell the truth," "What good is it to win the whole world and lose your soul?" Instead, they seek to win what is Caesar's by any means, from intimidating pole workers to jihadist insurrections of domestic terrorists trying to overthrow the Constitution. Simultaneously, lies have been normalized in the image of their DOD-secrets-stealing Savior, Donald J. Christ. Are such people not immoral apostates?

Saddled with brains evolved for the stone age, the death of communities and collapse of social capital, none of this bodes well.

Happy 247th birthday, America. Learn Chinese.

June 20, 2023: Finally, the Left has Joined the Right in the War on Science

Many people know that the Old Right championed science after Russia's 1957 launch of Sputnik. After that, the Old Right saw science as the means to a strong national defense. With the new gadgetry of the 1950s and 60s, the Old Right realized science was the foundation of entrepreneurial capitalism that created wealth from ideas made real by the scientific method. Apollo Eleven's landing men on the moon was seen as a crowning achievement. Not only for its technological and economic output - for every $1 spent on NASA, $7 of economic output resulted in everything from engine tech to Velcro - but also for the political power of prestige, symbolic of democracy's superiority over communism.

But it's a new day. The New Right occupies a sizable share of its angertainment assaulting science as "liberal" because the facts of science threaten political creeds, conspiracy theories, and financial gain. As the late talk radio host Rush Limbaugh used to shout, "Science is one of the four corners of deceit!" And he did this over radio waves discovered by science, on electronics built by science. Today, elements of the New Right deny Apollo ever happened and, along with FOX's furloughed Tucker Carlson, they favor an ex-KGB small man, Vladimir Putin, as their model leader.

How things have changed. Today, people believe the New Right is anti-science while the Left is pro-science.

Not so. The New Left and New Right are now on the same anti-science team.

Some scientists like Paul Gross and Norman Levitt have warned about the coming tsunami since 1997. Few listened. Practicing scientists prefer to let others busy themselves with fashionable thinking while science marches on, uninterested in nonsense today that's replaced by nonsense tomorrow. In science, nature is the final judge. Only devices built in conformance to its laws will work. Science proves its validity through the success of its predictions. However, in the postmodernist social "sciences" of our university humanities - which are, in fact, social studies - any claim can be asserted without the need of validation in reality. The only requirement is obedience to the current fashion; today, that's identity politics. In the hard sciences, nothing could be less relevant than this kind of political correctness (or Trump's "scientific genius").

Until now.

According to scientists and engineers from around the globe, "Identity-based ideologies seek to replace core liberal principles, essential for scientific and technological advances, with principles derived from postmodernism and Critical Social Justice (CSJ), which assert that modern science is 'racist,' 'patriarchal,' and 'colonial,' and a tool of oppression rather than a tool to promote human flourishing and global common good... Core principles of science, which have served us well for centuries, are under attack by [these] ideologies [which] view science as a tool of power, are hostile to the central liberal principle of free inquiry and open discussion, and are closed to calls to justify their claims on scientific grounds."

What had been a cerebral contagion among the social studies, media, and pop culture, has finally breached the walls of science. Steven Pinker's 2018 Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress; Johnathan Rauch's 2021 The Constitution of Knowledge, and the Journal of Controversial Ideas' 2023 bombshell, In Defense of Merit in Science, have all broken the glass to pull the alarm because Western civilization is in an emergency. As Creationists infiltrated high schools to teach religion in science class, so too, leftist warriors for the faith are converting university science departments into a single, harmonizing, Critical Social Justice church.

"Decolonization" is now underway worldwide. Like teaching "Intelligent Design" in America, in New Zealand "decolonization of the sciences [is enforced] by adding the mythological content from [pre-European Māori perspectives] to the science curriculum... actively pursued throughout schools and universities with the support of the government, and any criticism to this is termed racist." Channeling Limbaugh, one supporter notes, "Decolonization is a movement to eliminate... the disproportionate legacy of white European thought and culture in education... dismantling the hegemony of European values, making way for the local philosophy and traditions that colonists had cast aside." A proclamation of scientific illiteracy. And this from the apex scientific journal, Nature. This plague is now loose "in every domain of science, including publishing, hiring, and research funding."

While the New Right institutionalized lie factories with demise of the Fairness Doctrine in the 1980s, New Left lie factories have been institutionalized in university humanities departments commandeered by postmodernists since the 1990s. While both are about power and money, the New Left couches their embrace of irrationality in terms of "social justice." They sound like the Old Left concerned about equality, but the public persona is a veil for post-Marx, postmodern pogroms that seek to destroy the West and what they see as its foundation of power: science. After all, to the New Left, science is a "Eurocentric white male patriarchy of colonialization and oppression." Science, the study of nature as it is, is to become "feminist science," "queer science," "African American science" - none of which have been defined, nor have they produced a single discovery, invention, or device - in the same way Stalin made "proletariat science" and Hitler created "Nazi science free of Jews." Since science is built on Enlightenment reason, and reason is the source of Western governance, economics, and social structure, beneath the assault on science is an assault on reason. Reason, what that Eurocentric, white male patriarch of New Left dogma, Michel Foucault, designated as "a regime of oppression."

Science is losing in academia, and as the home of fundamental science, if it loses there, it loses everywhere else. Except China. While no Chinese are Eurocentric white-males, even the PRC knows the difference between science and propaganda. China took the world's top spot in science in 2022.

June 12, 2023: Just One More Time: Hey Trump Supporters, Now Do you Feel "sTupid"?

Last time here, we pondered what a bad month it'd been for liars after Donald Trump incurred a $5M fine for sexually assaulting E. Jean Carroll  -  which other sTupid people will pay for. On the very next day, Trump accumulated another $10M lawsuit for the same thing to the same person, adding to the sTupid bill. Then, Trump's must-see Crime of the Century flopped with a yawn after Special Investigator John Durham's $7M production costs ended up as trivial as its contribution to our $32 trillion national debt. (For which Trump is the record-setting single-term debtor at $8T.) Way to go, John! At least you didn't waste a lot of money. We found from court records in Dominion v. FOX RT that even the apparent Trump sycophant and Putin-favorite Tucker Carlson loathes Trump, despite his dreamy-eyed fawning of the fat man. As the fall guy, Tucker was shown the way to a job offer in Moscow after FOX paid almost a billion dollars for lying to its viewers about a stolen election that wasn't stolen. To top it off, we discovered the Christians on FOX admitted under oath or in texts behind the camera that they make their living as liars who reject Apostle Paul's "We no longer lie to one another. We only tell the truth." In other words, paid apostates. A new career category. How long till we get university majors in the field, or at least a Minor in Apostasy.

Well, after all that, it just got stratospherically worse for liars. Piled atop Trump's 34 state felony charges in Manhattan, he hoarded another 37 federal charges in Miami. Boy, this guy gets around more than a serial adulterer... Oh, wait... He is a serial adulterer, and serial draft dodger, serial money launderer, serial bank frauder. He's got 71 charges so far, and we're not even to his insurrection or his attempt to steal the Georgia vote. For an old guy at 77, we've got to give Trump credit for his criminal fitness. The Walking Crime Wave is, in fact, a sprinter.

Conning his supporters, Trump made $12M off the Manhattan indictment. He should con multiples of that this time. What an achiever!

I had a change of heart. Three cheers for Don! Where's the next rally?

As an inspiration for my pending dotage, I was so thrilled to hear of Trump's record  -  and after a record two impeachments, no less  -  that I read the indictment.

Then it happened. After such a short affair, I began to doubt Our Dear Leader.

I had a secret clearance at the world's largest defense contractor at the time. I was also involved in "black programs" with Special Access Required (SAR) clearance in which not even a gum wrapper escapes uninspected from the vault those documents live in. Vaults where workspaces are filled with locked files, locked cabinets, and locked disk drives all under surveillance that no one has access to outside those cleared by DOD and read on to the program, which can never be named or spoken outside the vault. And yet somehow, Trump had classified documents  -  hundreds of them  -  in his shower, his bathrooms, on his home stage, in closets, a garage, and spilled out among the partygoers, golfers, minimum wage work staff, and infiltrators at Mar-a-Largo. Had Trump already given Putin Top Secret documents on U.S. nuclear capabilities and weaknesses? Or had Russian and Chinese spies known or unknown on Trump's payroll taken whatever they wanted while Trump was flashing secrets to his PAC funders and pals on the course? Were it not that Trump-shill Judge Aileen Cannon has been assigned to the case, Trump would be headed for decades in prison. It was Cannon who was bench-slapped by the conservative 11th Circuit Court of Appeals for her partisan attempt to thwart this investigation last year. Special Counsel Jack Smith said no one is above the law, but it's not true. The National Archives would have never asked me for the return of classified documents  -  for 15 months; never would DOJ have asked even once; never would they wait for me to comply with a subpoena. I'd been in prison in a heartbeat.

It's not hyperbole to note that for influence, money, or little-boy bragging rights, Trump's compromise of America's most sensitive military secrets jeopardizes every man, woman, and child in the U.S. In what intel experts label Mar-a-Largo's "hotbed for spies," Trump made available our strengths  -  showing hostiles how to defeat them, and weaknesses  -  inviting hostiles to exploit them. From U.S. intelligence agents in the field to troops in harm's way, Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine, their greatest threat is Trump.

What a surprise from a man who called our soldiers "losers and suckers." The same man who stood with General Kelly over Kelly's dead son in Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day and said, "I don't get it. What's in it for them?"

And what are Trump's disciples saying? Louisiana House Rep. Clay Higgins and Arizona House Rep. Andy Biggs  -  who looked to be escorting Trump jihadists for reconnaissance before their January 6 coup  -  called for war, while Mike Pence promotes the QAnon "Deep State" witch hunt. They, Jim Jordan, Marjorie Taylor Green, and others in the New Right defend this espionage. No wonder they're called the GOPP, the Grand Old Putin party.

May 25, 2023: Hey Trump Supporters, Now Do You Feel Stupid?

It's been a bad month for liars. Trump was found guilty of sexual assault that will cost his supporters $5M. Next day, The Mouth hadn't learned his lesson so incurred another $10M defamation lawsuit. He was indicted on 34 counts of felony in his old hometown, and FBI Special Investigator John Durham just released his conclusions on what Trump said is the "crime of the century." And what did Durham find after three and a half years of sightseeing Italy and spending $7 million in taxpayer dollars? After 306 pages of diversion, fluff, and boredom, after finding evidence that Trump committed fraud, after losing the only two court cases he brought, tucked in at the end of it all Durham admits that Trump should have been scrutinized by rules of an FBI preliminary investigation rather than a full investigation. A distinction without a difference. Bottom line: Trump provided ample evidence he might be engaged in treason. And that was all before his seven secret meetings with Putin, his attempt to dismantle NATO for Putin, his siding with Putin over the CIA in Helsinki. It was, however, after his second fine by the U.S. Treasury for money laundering for Putin. So, thanks John, we already knew he should be investigated.

And just before Durham's flop? It's finally public and on the record that FOX lies to its viewers and censors the truth as part of its business model. In keeping with the old adage that there's a sucker born every minute, FOX and talk radio have proven there are millions of dollars in hoodwinking the gullible. There's also a massive worldwide market for, and money in, upending democracies. FOX has been a best-in-class leader for years. But the FOX business model just cost them $787 million. It turns out that in a nation of so many liars, there's still a limit to immorality that only the courts recognize.

In this instance, FOX had been incessantly claiming that Dominion voting machines were rigged to cheat Trump. So, after 3600 warnings, Dominion sued FOX. In Conspiracy Land, without evidence or even common sense, the election was said to be rigged by Democrats, then Venezuela, then Cuba, China, and the Devil. Meanwhile, Dominion's lawsuit allowed them to file pre-trial depositions revealing scenes behind the FOX camera that would garner Dominion almost a billion dollars. Each deposition was another bombshell, except on FOX, where reality is censored. Behind the scenes, we heard Sean Hannity admit he'd lied to his viewers about a stolen election that wasn't. "I didn't believe it, not for one second," he said under oath, then told the public nightly that he did. Off air, Laura Ingraham said that the lie promoters of Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani were "Crazy" and "Stupid" while hosting them on her show. Star opinionator Tucker Carlson said in text messages that "[Trump] is a demonic force, a destroyer... I hate him passionately," then defended Trump on every broadcast.

Isn't it funny that Sean Hannity claims to be a Christian? Before Christmas 2022, he said on his show that he was taking a vacation to "find God." Did you notice that Laura Ingraham wears a Latin cross on her necklace? Tucker Carlson claims to be Episcopalian. While Apostle Paul said, "We no longer lie to one another, we only tell the truth," and Jesus said, "Seek the truth to set you free," Hannity, Ingraham, Carlson, and the rest at FOX admitted they lie for a living. Are these people criminals, or apostates, or both?

But the killer evidence for Dominion came when the chief profiteer in democracy's demise, FOX CEO and founder Rupert Murdoch, admitted he knew the Big Lie was a big lie: "Yes, I could have [silenced Hannity, Ingraham, Carlson, Pirro, Bartiromo]. But I didn't." Because lying is not about red states, it's not about blue states, "it's about green [money]," he said under oath.

As always, it wasn't the Head Ted who took the fall; it was the little guy. Poor Tucker, who pleaded - after he was canned, "Where can you still find Americans saying true things?"


And to think it was Tucker who got FOX the FOX RT (Russian Television) moniker. Such injustice. It was Carlson who said, "Why shouldn't I root for Russia? Which I am." Tucker's been carrying Putin's water for so long that he was just offered a job on Moscow TV. He should take it - now that he's on the dole. Since Tucker's been on Moscow television for years, welcomed by the Kremlin, Tucker could immerse himself in Lenin, Stalin, and Mao to feel like he was back home in Trumpland. Maybe he could generate another attempt to overthrow the U.S. Constitution and another opportunity for Al Qaeda to cheer from Afghanistan for Trump's jihadists.

But I confess, as an old Reaganite, the sack of Carlson has made me giddy with anticipation for more just deserts. Smartmatic's pending litigation against FOX is for $2.7 billion. Newsmax, OAN, Sidney Powell, Rudy Giuliani are all lined up for a whopping $10 billion in lawsuits. Trump's on deck for stealing Department of Defense Top Secrets, conspiring an insurrection, and trying to steal Georgia's votes. Will America's lie factories survive? I haven't been this happy since Newt Gingrich resigned in disgrace from the House of Representatives in 1999. While the GOP is now the GOPP - the Grand Old Putin Party - perhaps billions of lost dollars will crush what morality, Christianity, and truth haven't been able to tame.

Oh, and yes, Trump supporters can feel stupid now. But they shouldn't. Now that Tucker is gone, FOX ratings have dropped 50 percent, validating that old truism that suckers want to be lied to. It's an intentional choice, not an accidental flaw.

March 20, 2023: Where Do Ghosts, Gods, and Devils Come From?

Physical evidence for supernatural belief appears to have begun before 11,500 B.C. This is the date of that enigmatic and mesmerizing temple at Gebekli Tepe in southeastern Turkey with its massive, T-shaped stone pillars weighing 7 to 10 tons that punctuate circles of stacked stone walls. More than twice as old as Stonehenge and the Great Pyramid at Giza, this puts Tepe between 500 to 1500 years before any signs of agriculture. This implies it was built by wandering hunter-gatherers, who nonetheless came together for the massive labor effort required at a fixed location with no metal tools, no writing, no domesticated animals to pull heavy loads. It also implies a common system of belief was spreading among them.

But long before even Gebekli Tepe, artifacts in the archeological record indicate supernatural convictions. Among them are cave paintings in France, Spain, and Indonesia, some dating back 44,000 years. Interaction with hunter-gatherers of the Americas from the 1600s, from Australia by Lieutenant James Cook's encounter with aboriginal people in 1770, and the few remaining foragers left today show that supernatural beliefs were prevalent among early peoples. As archeologist Henri Frankfort wrote in his classic text Before Philosophy, "The world appears to primitive man neither inanimate nor empty but redundant with life; and life has individuality, in man and beast and plant, and in every phenomenon which confronts man; the thunderclap, the sudden shadow, the eerie and unknown clearing in the wood, the stone which suddenly hurts him when he stumbles while on a hunting trip. Any phenomenon may at any time face him, not as an 'It,' but as a 'Thou.'"

What would make humans naturally prone to consider inanimate things as individuals with personalities? It turns out it's a matter of deep biological evolution responding to the realities of life, the structure of our brains, and the consequences of both.

Consider the psychology of mind-body dualism. We look out onto a world separate from us. Even our body parts seem to have a kind of separateness. While my body is a part of me, it's not "me." My mind, which some call the soul, is very much apart from my body. If I lose a finger or a leg, I'm still me. Rene Descartes got this going in 1641 with the idea that the body is made of material stuff and the mind is made of spiritual stuff, but today the mind-stuff is seen as an emergent property of the material. That there is no independence is evident in the findings of experimental science. As neuroscientists, David Eagleman and Johnathan Downar put it, "Cut off the supply of oxygenated blood to certain brain areas for more than a few seconds, and the faculty of speech disappears, only to return if the blood flow is quickly restored. Stimulate [electrically] a pathway near the subthalamic nucleus of the brain [at the center of your head], and a bout of overwhelming and inexplicable sadness [as stated by the patient] drives the patient to tears within seconds. Stop the stimulation, and the sadness resolves again within seconds. Block a single type of calcium channel in a single population of neurons... of the midbrain, and its firing pattern changes from [continuous] to [pulsed], collapsing the entire house of cards of consciousness itself."

Next, ponder "mind-reading," also known as mentalizing or theory of mind. This skill helps us sense the unseen intentions of other individuals with minds of their own. This takes place among a cacophony of signals from others, from surroundings, current actions, and memories of past experience, all processed to gauge threats, prospects for resources, and reproductive opportunities.

And then there's our tendency for teleology, "the sense that natural objects and events exist for a purpose." A version of this is heard as "All things happen for a reason." Per evolutionary cultural psychologist Ara Norenzayan, "As early as five years of age, children have the intuition that lions exist so that we can visit them at the zoo, clouds are for raining, and mountains are for climbing. Adults hold [these views] too..."

Put these psychological propensities together, and that world out there that appears as separate from our mind as our finger can also have a mind of its own with intentions in the thunderclap, the sudden shadow, the stone which suddenly hurts us when we fall. By "mind-reading" those other objects and events, that stone must have chosen to hurt me for reasons I can speculate on as I depart, rubbing my bruise. Maybe I kicked it from the path on my last walk here. Perhaps it was related to that stone I chipped to release its cutting magic as a spear, ax, or butcher knife as the purpose for rocks like that. The stone could just as easily have chosen not to hurt me, so there must be a reason it did. And as a next step in the supernatural process, "if all things were designed for a purpose, doesn't it make sense that there is a creator who designed them?" Just as I created the ax? A creator separated from the world with a mind of its own that I can read, console, and pray to for favors, speculating on why it sent that storm to blow down my hut. Eventually, all these propensities would come to be codified as tales, myths, then religions incorporating both. Per Norenzayan, "Religious beliefs and rituals arose as an evolutionary by-product of ordinary cognitive functions that preceded religion... 'Perceiving' gods, therefore, is an act that is fundamentally tied to our ability to perceive other minds."

Evolutionary psychologist David M. Buss labels this capacity as hyperactive agency detection, "which leads us to infer that unseen forces are human agents... We mistake a shadow for a burglar but never mistake a burglar for a shadow; an error management mechanism that helps us to avoid costly errors such as being robbed or mugged." As psychologists Baumeister, Bratslavsky, Finkenaur, and Vohs report in Bad Is Stronger Than Good, "Bad emotions, bad parents, and bad feedback have more impact than good ones, and bad information is processed more thoroughly than good. The self is more motivated to avoid bad self-definitions than to pursue good ones. Bad impressions and bad stereotypes are quicker to form and more resistant to disconfirmation than good ones." Hyperactive agency detection is about our obsession to find, correct, and defeat threats to our survival. We're always on the lookout for bad news, be that from network newscasts, conspiracy theories, or angertainment. Good news needs no attention, no effort to fix. "This adaptation leads to misapplied anthropomorphism..." in everything from that storm to that sound outside my door in the night to flying objects that are simply unidentified yet suddenly become alien spacecraft full of little green men. That an uncategorized thing in the sky would lead us to leap over a host of rational explanations to "UFO" is no different from jumping to the conclusion that God makes everything happen for a reason.

Per Eagleman and Downar, "The brain is an evolved biological organ. As such, its products like our thoughts, actions, emotions, moods, fears, etc. are shaped by evolutionary pressures... all constructions of a long, undirected evolutionary process." Beneath the word "evolution" is another: "kludge." Evolution works with what's already there. New systems are kludged onto old ones in very unintelligent designs. The traffic layout in circles around the city center was typical of old Europe. In the U.S., traffic management evolved from circular routes into rectilinear arrangements where the interface between the two is a traffic jam, as anyone in the American northeast can attest. So too, for the evolution of human brains. An emergent property of joining concentric circles of traffic to rectangular layouts is congestion. An emergent property of growing new structures of the brain onto old ones is mathematics, art, and science, as well as gullibility, irrational beliefs, and wild actions.

Biologist E. O. Wilson wrote, "the brain exists because it promotes the survival and multiplication of the genes that direct its assembly. The human mind is a device for survival and reproduction, and reason is just one of its tools." Presumably, so are superstition, myths, and religion.

Beliefs in, and the magical capabilities of, supernatural beings like spirits, ghosts, gods, and devils appear as a cultural innovation piggybacked on the kludged evolutionary wiring of that noodle on our shoulders, not a discovery. We then spent millennia elaborating these notions with philosophy, ethics, dogma, and orthodoxy woven into historical events as they unfolded or were re-spun to suit our psychological needs.

We humans are built to be superstitious. It's little wonder that today we witness the irony of conspiracy theories amplified on the high-tech software and electronics of asocial media. Far from being aberrant, superstitions, stereotypes, and biases are human norms with broad implications for governance, civilizations, and the planet these institutions reside on. Institutions filled with sometimes brilliant, sometimes nutty humans. Nutty because of the way we're kludged.


Paragraph 2: "a 'Thou.'", Before Philosophy, p. 14

Paragraph 4: "Cut off the supply...", Brain and Behavior: A Cognitive Neuroscience Perspective, p. 262

Paragraph 6: "the sense...", Big Gods, p. 16. Ibid., p. 16

Paragraph 7: "if all things...", Ibid.,, p. 16. "Religious beliefs...", Ibid., pp. 8, 17

Paragraph 8: "which leads us...", David M. Buss, Evolutionary Psychology: The New Science of the Mind, Routledge, 2019, pp. 395–396. Roy F. Baumeister, et. al., Bad Is Stronger Than Good, Review of General Psychology, 2001, Vol. 5, N. 4, 323–370. Evolutionary Psychology, pp. 395–396

Paragraph 9: "The brain is...", Brain and Behavior, p. 8

Paragraph 10: "the brain exists...", E.O. Wilson, On Human Nature, 1978

March 7, 2023: Using People with Disabilities for Political Gain: The Radical Left's Ultimate Malevolence

In the past, we looked at the early evolution of postmodernist philosophy and the birth of subdisciplines made from it in our university humanities departments. A central feature of these subdisciplines is "a call to identity politics, which requires adopting an identity as part of some marginalized group or being assigned to a relatively privileged one." Like a call to prayer, this feature is both carrot and stick. Embrace your status as a particular victimized group or risk the oppressor label.

We looked at various subdisciplines of the movement, including African American studies inclusion of Critical Race Theory (CRT), which like the Klan, seeks segregation from whites who are said to be always racist, all the time. Queer Theory (QT) in gender studies, with its "peculiar fascination [with sexual and gender identities], while 'normal' identities are problematized" and its surprisingly Trumpian goal of destroying all norms; and Feminist Theory (FT) in women's studies, where aside from the expulsion of men from science, the "intersectionality" of victim identities creates multi-victim hybrids that invite dissertations till the end of time. All these postmodern subdisciplines of the radical academic left seek to fragment Enlightenment notions of the universal (universal human nature, universal human rights, universal laws of physics) and of the individual (individual rights, individual talent, individual achievement) for the primacy of oppressed groups, real or invented.

The notoriously unsubstantiated, chronically self-contradictory, and conspicuously defensive disciples of this pious movement have nonetheless been potent soldiers in their battle against the West with no bottom so far found to how low they will go to debase it. Now, with the birth of disability studies and fat studies, we see postmoderns manipulating the physically and mentally disabled for political gain. The same tools used by CRT, QT, and FT are employed here: disabilities, even disease, are said to be mere "social constructs," pproducts of our imagination, no more the result of biology than gender and sexuality. Among many of our new scholastics, disabilities aren't real, but their victim identity is. Somehow, able-bodied people assign disabilities to victims of their assignment with no correlation to anything other than a "privileged" desire for oppression. How able-bodied people know they are able-bodied and how they know who to label "disabled" when there is no such thing as a disability is part of the magic of identity politics. If no one is disabled, then all are able-bodied.

Referring to "ableists," that is, those who discriminate in favor of able-bodied people, University of Sheffield Professor of Disability Studies Dan Goodley claims that diagnosing, treating, and curing disabilities are "cynical practices, dependent upon corrupt ableist assumptions and upheld by a 'neoliberal system,' in which people are forced to be fully autonomous, high-functioning individuals so they can contribute their labor to capitalist markets." (The Marxist gripe is intentional as a tribal identifier.) Consider the self-contradictions in this statement: aid for the disabled is bigotry based on false assumptions about problems that aren't problems, and yet, there are those who are "autonomous" and "high-functioning," thus there are those who are not. Imitating Foucault's evaluation of the mentally insane, aid for the disabled out of a sense of universal empathy is "reframed as wishing disabled people (rather than their disabilities) did not exist..." Only a postmodern academic could make autonomy, independence, and compassion a matter of cruelty.

Cross-breeding disability studies with Queer Theory's rejection of norms, Goodley goes on to say, a disability is "an identity that might be celebrated as it disrupts norms and subverts values of society." Hence, revealing the motive behind his pseudo-intellectualizing. As Pluckrose and Lindsay put it in their Cynical Theories, "This idea that disabled people have a responsibility to use their disabilities to subvert social norms, and even to refuse any attempts at treatment or cure, in the service of the postmodern disruption of categories is yet another alarming feature of disability studies..." To postmodern leftists, disabilities and disease are to be celebrated for their value in disrupting norms that upend Western society, like Putin, Xi, Trump, and asocial media.

Even more inexplicable, for many postmoderns, disabled people deserve blame for playing along with imposed labels. Mimicking Berkeley's queer theorist, Judith Butler, instructor of Disability Studies at Griffith University, Australia, and (get this) on the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka, Professor Fiona Kumari Campbell says disabilities are, like gender, mere performance with no basis in biological reality. Shaming the disabled for their performance, Kumari Campbell writes, "By unwittingly performing ableism, disabled people become complicit in their own demise, reinforcing impairment as an undesirable state." Reading this line again, it's not clear if disabled people are disabled or actors.

Like CRT's indictment of whites, able-bodied people are all and always bigots against the disabled. According to NPR correspondent Joseph P. Shapiro, if an able-bodied person doesn't notice a disabled person's disability, treating them as they would anyone else, this is "as if someone had tried to compliment a black man by saying 'You're the least black person I ever met,' as false as telling a Jew, 'I never think of you as Jewish,' as clumsy as seeking to flatter a woman with 'You don't act like a woman.'" Imagine stating the converse. "You act just like a black/Jewish/woman." Sounds like a winning line.

So, who are the bigots here, people who treat others the same in keeping with Enlightenment's universal humanism or those who focus on victim identity and its demands for segregated politics and consequent polarization?

Now, disability studies have entered an even more bizarre phase, where suicidal thought can be championed as one's identity and where obesity with its consequences of heart disease, diabetes, and some forms of cancer are lauded for their currency in the victimology trade. In keeping with postmodernism's self-contradictory nature, obesity is to be celebrated and simultaneously denied as imposed on fat people by the physically fit. Charlotte Cooper's Fat Activism encourages "fat activists to resist the pull of access and assimilation [and to] consider queer strategies to reinvigorate the movement... Obesity discourse is totalitarian...." Cooper says "fat hatred" is fueled by capitalism because it profits from products "making fat people skinny." Apparently, portly people notice their condition and wish to change it with such products. But what about the capitalist sugar/corn-syrup/hyper-processed foods industrial complex expanding the world's most lethally obese population? (That would be the U.S.) Do they fuel "fat love"?

In the Fat Studies Reader, Kathleen LeBesco equates "obesity to homosexuality... as a naturally occurring phenomenon that does not need a cure, so too must obesity be similarly recognized. Despite the ample evidence that obesity increases the risk of serious diseases and early death, while homosexuality in itself does not..." Notice that 78-percent of all U.S. covid-19 victims were also overweight or obese. LeBesco writes, "That fat and queer people would heartily embrace science and medicine as a solution to their socially constructed problems is redolent of Stockholm syndrome..."

"That they would embrace science and medicine..."


Medical treatment of obesity is now called healthism, like racism and sexism, a great evil.

Sounding like the New Right's opposition to truth and science, from their denials of manmade global warming to Trump aide Kellyanne Conway's "alternative facts" and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani's "truth isn't true," the postmodernist undergraduate text, Critical Dietetics, chimes in. "Although we do not wholly reject the scientific method as a means of creating knowledge... a critical orientation rejects the notion that it is even possible to produce knowledge that is objective, value-free, and untouched by human bias. [Including in Critical Dietetics?] A critical orientation similarly rejects the idea that any one way of creating knowledge about the world is superior to another or is even sufficient.... As such, [Critical Dietetics] draws on poststructuralism and feminist 'science' that hold that there is not one truth that can be generated about any single thing, that multiple truths are possible depending on who is asking and for what purpose, and that knowledge is not apolitical even if it is considered positivist (i.e., value neutral or unbiased)." Even dietitians (and some quacks) are jumping on the gravy train. More than influence, there's money to be made. And what, by the way, is "feminist science"? Forty years after feminist theorist Sandra Harding dreamed up the idea, still it has no practitioners, no theories of nature, no explanations of any phenomena, no discoveries, no technology built from it.

So, who's victimizing who here? Who are the bigots? Who are the liars? Our postmodern academic left has stooped so low as to make people with disabilities and disease cannon fodder for their culture war against the West. And their violence is preached from the humanities pulpit, sanctioned under the protection of academic freedom at taxpayer expense.


Paragraph 1: "a call to identity..." Pluckrose & Lindsay, Cynical Theories, p. 159

Paragraph 2: "peculiar fascination..." Ibid., p. 159

Paragraph 4: "cynical practices..." Dan Goodley, Dis/ability Studies: Theorising Disablism and Ableism, Routledge, 2014, p. 3, italics added. "reframed as..." Pluckrose & Lindsay, p. 166

Paragraph 5" "an identity..." Goodley, 2014, p. 8. "This idea...", Pluckrose & Lindsay, p. 165

Paragraph 6: "By unwittingly...", Pluckrose & Lindsay, p. 167

Paragraph 7, "as if someone..." Joseph P. Shapiro, No Pity: People with Disabilities Forging a New Civil Rights Movement, Times Books, 1994, p. 3

Paragraph 9: suicidal thoughts: Andrew Sullivan, The Hard Questions About Young People and Gender Transitions, New York Magazine, November 1, 2019, "It became part of my identity to be suicidal... even though I knew I wasn't going to kill myself." "fat activists to...", Charlotte Cooper, Fat Activism: A Radical Social Movement, HammerOn Press, 2016, pp. 4, 24. "making fat..." Cooper, pp. 175

Paragraph 10: "obesity to...", Pluckrose & Lindsay, p. 176. "That fat..." Esther D. Rothblum and Sondra Solovay Ed., The Fat Studies Reader, New York University Press, 2009, p.70

Paragraph 14: "Although we...", John Coveney and Sue Booth, Critical Dietetics and Critical Nutrition Studies, Springer, 2019, p. 18, italics added, inner quotes added.

January 17, 2023: Are Nation-States an Attempt to Replace Lost Meaning?

In Humanity's First Colossal Blunder, we looked at the invention of agriculture 10,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent of the Near East and the dramatic shift in lifeway it imposed. Until then, for tens of thousands of years, humans lived their entire lives, generation after generation, in close-knit, thick communities of - according to anthropologist Richard Leakey - a few dozen people. Despite driving prey species into extinction one after another, compared to modernity, humans were in balance with nature. As population geneticist Spencer Wells tells it in Pandora's Seed: The Unforeseen Cost of Civilization, ten millennia ago, "we made a conscious decision to change our relationship with nature." We went from finding our food to creating it. If not the first, that act was one of the first disenchantments of the world, the first step to becoming the factory floor of an agri-planet. As anthropologist James Suzman puts it, "[With farming] all work becomes future-focused. That means you have to focus on accumulating surpluses. So, you had these early agricultural religions where hard work becomes a virtue, idleness and sloth a sin. Our obsession with wanting to do more comes from the risks of farming, and they've been baked into us ever since 10,000 years ago when people started experimenting with agriculture."

With communal ties of hunter-gathers transformed by the sedentary life of farming and its assets as an invitation to theft and warfare, people became naturally detached on an increasingly overpopulated landscape. Per historian Yuval Noah Harari, "These plants domesticated Homo sapiens..." Close quarters with more people and domesticated animals about the same time favored pathogens, jumping from four-legged animals to those with two. Disease exploded, people got shorter, they died sooner, and the single dominant food source from farming made supplies vulnerable to drought, flood, and insect infestation. "This is the essence of the Agricultural Revolution," writes Harari, "the ability to keep more people alive under worse conditions."

This new lifeway "transformed everything that humans had held against themselves to maintain permanent identity with the past into a reversal of unrestrained action against everything around them," writes historian and philosopher Marcel Gauchet. "The old way submerged human order in nature's order, feeling at one with nature, a co-belonging so strong any damage done required ritual compensation restoring the balance. Nature became opposed and possessed in a renunciation of this world in the name of the other." Divinity was exiled from nature. Nature became de-sanctified and external to man. For people, the planet, and its non-human inhabitants, the Agricultural Revolution was the Agricultural Catastrophe. The stage was set. The nation-state was just around the corner with its massive numbers of detached strangers. Humans had put themselves on a path to massification, eventually massified by mass production, mass traffic, mass communication, mass waistlines, mass murders, and who wouldn't want to be massified by asocial media turning their democracies upside down?

But to handle all that mass required a new way to control it - chiefs, kings, pharaohs, gods. "What is much harder to ascertain," writes Egyptologist Barry J. Kemp, "is how or why the process began in the first place, given the long period in which human groups remained small and marked by practices which ensured that dominant leadership did not develop... Why should an equilibrium which allowed humans to maintain themselves as a viable species gradually break down and give way to something more complex and prone to turmoil?" Was it because they couldn't see that each new fix, each social innovation would have unintended consequences?

"Permanent occupation and working of the same tract of land triggered, through a powerful psychological process, a sense of territorial rights," says Kemp, "which came to be expressed in transcendental, symbolic terms which in turn created a peculiar sense of self-confidence within the communities concerned." That transcendental and symbolic innovation appears to be the first glimmer of a state religion. Was it compensation for the meaning once garnered by close-knit hunter-gatherer groups? And once the worship of nature turned to worship for the goddess, then later for gods, was that too a replacement for those who knew everything about us and us about them in the natural human condition of community?

According to sociologist and historian Robert Bellah, hunter-gatherers appear to have had no gods. They had spirits of the dead, of animals, natural phenomena like the thunder, and power held by the great mountain or sea as "a sacred order of things," but they had no need for gods. Community was all. Life of the community after one's own death was the promise. Individuals per se didn't exist to fret about their ultimate doom. The community was everlasting.

However, as populations grew with ever more strangers, the gods took on a new flavor. "Religion's early roots did not have a wide moral scope," writes psychologist and historian Ara Norenzayan. And the early spirits had none or were concerned only with a family or clan. They were "certainly not omnipotent or omniscient - they could even be injured or killed." But, in increments, the gods did become concerned with moral behavior. Eventually, the idea of an all-powerful god evolved as the lord of lords. Finally, the innovative evolution of gods led to just one "true" God. First, with a false start ca. 1350 B.C. by the so-called heretic king, Pharaoh Akhenaten, with his short-lived monotheism, but in the same place from which Israelites claimed to have emerged a century later. (Hmm...)

Why did these late god-of-gods take an interest in human morality? Per Norenzayan, as a replacement for the watchful eye of hunter-gatherer community. In intimate "transparent groups, encountering kin is common, and reputations can be monitored and social transgressions hard to hide." Not so in states made of mass aliens. Individuals lost in the crowd need to be watched. On their own, humans need compensation. And if all those other loners out there are just like me, whatever that compensation is had better be bigger than laws, regulations, and flimsy norms made by mere mortals. How about the ultimate? Why not something superior to humans, something supernatural? So it was said, God is all-knowing, always watching. God not only gives meaning through belonging as the community once did, God sees all as the tribe once saw. God maintains order over strangers.

According to Norenzayan, like a kind of unnatural selection, societies with Big Gods survived to reproduce and got bigger. "Some early mutant [ideas] in this template were watchful Big Gods with interventionist inclinations," writes Norenzayan. "Believers who feared these gods cooperated, trusted, and sacrificed for the group much more than believers in morally indifferent gods or gods lacking omniscience. Displays of devotion and hard-to-fake commitments such as fasts, food taboos, and extravagant rituals further transmitted believer's sincere faith in these gods to others... Through these and other solidarity-promoting mechanisms, religions of the Big Gods forged anonymous strangers into large, cohesive moral communities tied together with the sacred bonds of a common supernatural jurisdiction." Like fads, beliefs are transmitted as a kind of mental virus. Communicated from one to the next, they can and do in time, colonize entire populations. However, this is a fad that fills an actual human need: order that allows for daily purpose through social stability and meaning attendant to belonging. Belonging and the meaning it provides evaporated with the increasing temperatures of civilization as more strangers were confined to tighter spaces in the city, state, empire.

"With the imagined community - the nation," writes Kemp, "people feel that they share bonds of common interest and inherited values with others, most of whom they will never see. It is a vision of people. By contrast, the state is a vision of power, a mixture of myth and procedure that twines itself amidst the sense of community, giving it political structure." Compared to hunter-gathers, by the time of the state's arrival some 6000 years after agriculture, "community" becomes an ever more abstract concept. No longer defined by those few we know for a lifetime, community is defined by location, boundaries, and most notably by myth, eventually with a god at its head to give it legitimacy greater than mere human rules of order. Myth as bonding agent: the attraction of our imagination to an intellectual innovation. With death ineluctable, our god-centered myths match emotional yearning to our calculating intellect, convoluted as that intellect can sometimes be.

Was all this history an unconscious struggle to recover lost meaning? The city-state, the gods, the nation-state, the God, the wars of us against them; all the band-aids, the trials, the social experiments from Rousseau's "common will" to Hitler's "Fatherland" to saluting the flag - one long labor to fix what we broke with the Agricultural Catastrophe?


Paragraph 1: "we made...", Wells, p. 16. "[With farming]...", Daniel Susskind, The Compass, BBC podcast, June 2021.

Paragraph 2: Harari, p. 90. "This is the...", Ibid., p. 94

Paragraph 3: "The old way...", Gauchet, The Disenchantment of the World: A Political History of Religion, Princeton University Press, 1999.

Paragraph 4: "What is much harder...", Kemp, p. 70

Paragraph 5: "Permanent occupation...", Ibid., pg. 70

Paragraph 6: "a sacred order...", Bellah, p. 95

Paragraph 7: "Religion's early roots...", Norenzayan, p. 7. "certainly not...", Bellah, p. 95

Paragraph 8: "transparent groups...", Norenzayan, p. 7

Paragraph 9: "Some early mutant...", Norenzayan, pp. 8,9

Paragraph 10: Kemp, p. 57

January 9, 2023: Feminism Becomes Gender Theory and Hope Comes to Planet Earth

Has feminism's quest for equality become a quest for vengeance? Enlightenment liberal feminism began "in accordance with modernist ideals of secular, liberal democracy, individual agency within a framework of universal human rights, and an Enlightenment focus on reason and science," writes Pluckrose and Lindsay in their Cynical Theories. Among those members of the Enlightenment liberal world, likely all of them think women should have the same rights as men. That women are still not at parity with men in corporate boardrooms, or politics, as examples, remains clear from the numbers. In 1920 there were 0 women in both the U.S. House and Senate, in 1970 there were 1 and 16, today there are 122 females in the House of now 435 members and 24 in the Senate of a fixed 100. If society were perfectly equal in politics, including desires to engage in it, then by gender ratio, we would expect 219 males and 216 females in the House. However, there are some opportunities that will never be equal: men will never have the opportunity to give birth, women will never have an opportunity for prostate cancer. Biology matters.

To think humans are unaffected by the very biology we carry about is more than a little odd, but it's a concept the academic left promotes for political reasons noted below. A concept as odd as to think that human rights would not apply to all humans. The Taliban's recent ruling that girls may not be educated past grade 6 shows that medieval regimes still exist in the 21st century. However, the Taliban aren't adherents to Enlightenment liberalism, but then, neither are the Western world's radical leftists in our university humanities.

In the Western world, liberal feminism "made tremendous progress toward the legal, professional, and social equality of the sexes... Before the postmodern turn... feminist theories saw power as an intentional, top-down strategy by powerful men in patriarchal and capitalist societies, but [with liberal feminism's success] it became increasingly untenable to view Western society as genuinely patriarchal or to see most men as actively colluding against the success of women." Enter privilege. Privilege became vogue - rising in the ranks of superfluous overuse, like "community" and "diversity" - thanks to Wellesley Centers for Women professor Peggy McIntosh, in her 1989 essay, "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack." Instead of low-, middle-, and upper-class distinctions, privilege allows the creation of many more dimensions of victimization. Using privilege and the relative absence of discrimination of whites, males, heterosexuals, and able-bodied people an attempt was made to "flip the script by strategically redefining the absence of discrimination and disenfranchisement as unjust."

Hmm... Advocates for discrimination.

Didn't we used to call such people bigots? Today we can call them inspiration for the radical right.

At about this same time, U.C. Santa Cruz sociologist, Candace West, and U.C. Santa Barbara's, Don H. Zimmerman wrote, "Doing gender means creating differences between girls and boys and women and men, differences that are not natural, essential, or biological. Once the differences have been constructed, they are used to reinforce the 'essentialness' of gender." Recall, as University of Michigan gender theorist Gayle Rubin said, if gender is biologically based, it's harder to politicize. For postmodernists of the academic New Left, biology became just another social construct people invent - the way animals, fish, and insects don't - for the purposes of dominance. With privilege and "doing gender," a change in feminism was taking place in the late 1980s.

While previous forms of feminism treated women as "a class and sought to create positive change for that class," by the 2000s, class was passe. It was then City University New York gender studies professor, Judith Lorber, summarized a new direction for feminism: 1) Affirm that gender is an opinion, not a matter of biology; 2) Claim gender and sexuality are social inventions; 3) Assert these are inventions of the powerful to oppress those categorized by sex and gender; 4) Focus on "victim standpoint theory" conferring a victim's special access to truth while defining that identity as "situated" by emotional experience to make hurt feelings the coin of the realm and grounds for authority, not fact-based evidence.

By around 2010, early liberal feminism and later radical feminist theorists like UCLA's Sandra Harding had been replaced by postmodernist "intersectional feminism." Intersectionality was borrowed from Critical Race Theory as the notion that multiple victims can intersect in one identity, e.g., black, female, lesbian, allowing for different types of discrimination. Intersectionalism allowed for an unending creation of victim-junctures, "new accusations to make," and new problems that postmodernists painted as "intractably complicated." Like Intelligent Design, such problems couldn't be solved, only revealed by theorists. Many scholars traded their feminist pedigree for the more nebulous gender studies. With liberal feminism's success, intersectional feminism abandoned it to board a gravy train running from "their failing theoretical models into something more diffuse and less falsifiable." A kind of certainty was creeping into the relativism of postmodern scholarship, eventually crafted into a full blown, unassailable dogma.

Social psychologists Leon Festinger, Henry Riecken, and Stanley Schachter wrote about this kind of thinking in their 1956 book, When Prophecy Fails. They infiltrated a doomsday cult who believed the Western world would be destroyed by a great flood before dawn on December 21, 1954 in order to study the believer's response when it didn't happen. The cult was led by Dorothy Martin who practiced "automatic writing" - also called psychography or self-delusion - a "psychic ability" producing words unconsciously. With postmodernism unavailable in '54, Martin plugged into the planet Clarion instead. Coining the words cognitive dissonance, Festinger et. al. found that when the end didn't come, true believers resolved this contradiction by claiming the event had occurred, but in some unfalsifiable way. In this case, God spared us thanks to Martin's faith. Likewise, Trump's election loss was followed by assertions of assertions of election theft, and as sexism receded, the academic left discovered it everywhere in ways that can't be falsified - opinions of slight, insult or assault as anything the claimant says they are. According to Linda Ledray's Recovering From Rape, "undress you looks" and "catcalls" are forms of rape.

"As intersectionality developed and became dominant in both mainstream political activism and scholarship, it became increasingly common to hear that 'straight, white, cisgendered men' were the problem." Which conveniently ignores the findings of economists like Anne Case and Angus Deaton in their Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism: the evisceration of America's pathologized males, over 100,000 per year dead to drug overdoses. Not every white male resides on a corporate board. But for the New Left - as with the New Right - reality is an obstacle to winning political arguments.

Meet Northeastern University's director of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Professor Suzanna Danuta Walters. In her Washington Post op-ed she asks, Why can't we hate men? Per Walters, " seems logical to hate men. I can't lie, I've always had a soft spot for the radical feminist smackdown, for naming the problem in no uncertain terms... here in the land of legislatively legitimated toxic masculinity, is it really so illogical to hate men?... But we're not supposed to hate them because... #NotAllMen. I love Michelle Obama as much as the next woman, but when they have gone low for all of human history, maybe it's time for us to go all Thelma and Louise and Foxy Brown on their collective butts... [Recall, this is a university professor.] So men, if you really are #WithUs and would like us to not hate you for all the millennia of woe you have produced and benefited from, start with this: Lean out so we can actually just stand up without being beaten down. Pledge to vote for feminist women only. Don't run for office. Don't be in charge of anything. Step away from the power. We got this. And please know that your crocodile tears won't be wiped away by us anymore. We have every right to hate you. You have done us wrong. #BecausePatriarchy. It is long past time to play hard for Team Feminism. And win." According to her website, Walters "contributes regularly to more public venues and has written for The Nation, The Chronicle of Higher Education, the LA Times, and the Baltimore Sun, among others."

While I've not been alive for millennia, if I and other men could only genuflect low enough - never again to make reasoned choices about who I vote for, never to participate in democracy in the face of tyranny like Walter's or Trump's, and never to be in charge of anything. Including my participation in wildlife restoration seeking to save those threatened with extinction, and my position on a University Honors Board in which 70% of students are female as males disappear from universities across America. Kudos for Walters. (Imagine a boy in her class. As Christina Hoff Summers documents in The War Against Boys, no wonder boys avoid university.) Though I wonder if there are other men taking charge in positive ways, or would they rather swear loyalty to Walters and the new creed, the way Trump's sycophants swear to him - bootlickers inspired by the likes of Walters. The rage-doctrine and simplistic absolutism are equivalent between these two and they think they're different. Which begs the question: Has New Left feminism been inverted from a quest for equality to a quest for vengeance, the way our New Right inverted conservatism into fascism?

Instead of understanding and cooperation, Walters and her new postmodernist feminism - like all the postmodern subdisciplines we've pondered these last six posts - inspires contempt. Polarization is not a byproduct of this kind of thinking, says Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, Johnathan Rauch, "polarization is the product [as] cravings for shared outrage against a common adversary."

There is, however, one potentially very positive outcome from all this malice. Planet Earth doesn't need more humans. If Walter's brand has its way, men and women will stay miles apart.


Paragraph 1: Pluckrose and Lindsay, p. 148

Paragraph 2: "made tremendous..." Ibid., pp. 145, 146. "flip the script..." Ibid., p. 153

Paragraph 6: Candace West and Don H. Zimmerman, "Doing Gender," Gender and Society 1, no. 2 (1987), p. 137

Paragraph 7: "a class..." Pluckrose and Lindsay, p. 138. Paraphrased from Judith Lorber, "Shifting Paradigms and Challenging Categories," Social Problems 53, no. 4 (2006): p. 448

Paragraph 8: "new accusations..." Pluckrose and Lindsay, p. 139. "intractably..." Ibid., p. 145. "their failing..." Ibid., p. 145

Paragraph 10: "As intersectionality..." Ibid., p. 154

January 2, 2023: Do Queer Theorists from the Academic Left Promote Trumpism?

In Patrick J. Deneen's Why Liberalism Failed he offers a cause for Western civilization's descent and our experience of disconnectedness fueled by a strange concept Deneen calls borderlessness: "the arbitrariness of almost every border [where] any differentiation, distinction, boundary, and delineation...come under suspicion as arbitrarily limiting individual freedom of choice." Be they barriers to spending, barriers imposed by nature, or national borders, they "must increasingly be erased under the logic of liberalism." Which happens to be the terrain of Queer Theory, another postmodernist spinoff taught in university humanities departments throughout the Western world. "Queer Theory," writes Pluckrose and Lindsay in Cynical Theories, "is about liberation from the 'normal,' especially [but not only] where it comes to norms of gender and sexuality. This is because it regards the very existence of categories of sex, gender, and sexuality to be oppressive." On the surface, central to Queer Theory is the explicit annihilation of norms. Just beneath that surface is their post-Marxist, postmodernist heritage with its explicit goal of dismantling the West through postmodernism's assault on rational thought the West is built on.

Queer Theory engages a touchy subject, not least because of Trump's sanction, weaponization, and employment of nationalist white supremacy, which has increased harassment of LGBT people, including murders. Queer Theory (QT), which has been around far longer than Trumpism, rightly opposes this. But far from QT scholars opposing Trumpian intolerance, norm-breaking, and the normalization of nationwide discord, such scholars and Trump prove themselves to enter different sides of the same bed. "Pre-Theory liberal activism and thought focused on changing prejudiced attitudes towards people of a certain sex, gender, or sexuality by appealing to our many commonalities and shared humanity, and to universal liberal principles," writes Pluckrose and Lindsay. QT changed all that. Like Critical Race Theory we considered last time, QT can "sound" like it accords with Enlightenment goals of freedom and equality, but its postmodernist heritage demands the eradication of Enlightenment thinking. While QT seeks to destroy all categories as oppressive, three of them - Eurocentric, white, and male - could not be more firm, and thus, in a convenient reversal, targets for oppression by QT scholars. The QT project, like the rest of postmodernism, is not about principle; it's about politics as vendetta. A vendetta against the West for crimes it did indeed commit - like every other people and civilization - but with rejection of Enlightenment's capacity for self-assessment and correction.

"Queering is about unmaking any sense of the normal in order to liberate people from the expectations that norms carry. According to queer Theory, these expectations - whether explicit or implicit - generate a cultural and political power... referred to as normativity, and which constrains and oppresses people who fail to identify with it. This phenomenon may not have anything to do with gender or sexuality, and has even expanded to include time and space... Queer Theory, then, is essentially about the belief that to categorize gender and sexuality (or anything else) is to legitimize one discourse - the normative one - as knowledge and use it to constrain individuals." University of Michigan's professor of sexuality, David Halperin, extols queering as "whatever is at odds with the normal, the legitimate, the dominant. There is nothing in particular to which it necessarily refers. It is an identity without an essence." An all-purpose tool to debase any system of norms, morals, ethics, laws, tradition, or any remaining remnant of communitarian meaning.

According to QT, sex, gender, and sexuality are purely social constructs, "binaries of power," with zero contribution from biology. "Because Queer Theory derives directly from postmodernism, it is radically skeptical that these categories are based in any biological reality." But if so, were we to socialize children to believe they can fly, could they? No? But why? Perhaps, because biology is real? However, if QT is right and these are purely social constructs, then what about the animal world? Fish? Insects? Do they invent these categories from nothing as well? And if biology has no role in sexual determinism, aren't these matters of individual free choice? If so, are churches that pressure gay men and women in their Conversion Therapy courses wrong to do so? But if sex, gender, and sexuality are biologically determined - as in human biology, which by default confers human rights - then conversion would be a kind of socially approved torture. Imagine the reverse: heterosexuals forced to be gay. "Unfortunately, [Queer Theorists] seem to have missed the point that biologically legitimizing sex, gender, and sexuality [tends] to lead people to become more accepting, rather than less..."

That the vast majority of humanity - and every other species on earth unencumbered by cultural norms - are bimodally correlated to sex must be "problematized" and "suppressed by Queer Theory." Hence, QT is, like all postmodernism, profoundly anti-science because biology shows there are "normal" categories dominant in the animal world of which humans are a part. This animal norm does not, however, also mean an absolutist universal. There are examples in nature, though still by the numbers notoriously rare, of gender swapping: female whiptail lizards imitating intercourse with other females; clown fish that begin life as male then change to female; sex-like acts imposed upon primate beta males by alpha males. The first two are pure biology. The very biochemistry of these animals changes. The last example might be interpreted as a social construct, but even that is an affirmation of masculine dominance, not a tribal announcement that alpha Frank decided he was Francis. Biologist E. O. Wilson said, "No serious scholar would think that human behavior is controlled the way animal instinct is, without the intervention of culture." What he did not say is that human behavior is solely under the control of culture with no instinct or biological imperatives. It's that Rush Limbaugh-like absolutism that keeps putting QT scholars in a corner their forced to try to...wait for it...reason their way out of, despite postmodernism's rejection of reason.

That politics is paramount and biology is kryptonite is made clear enough by University of Michigan gender theorist Gayle Rubin. "It is impossible to think with any clarity about the politics of race or gender as long as these are thought of as biological entities rather than as social constructs," writes Rubin. "Similarly, sexuality is impervious to political analysis as long as it is primarily conceived as a biological phenomenon or an aspect of individual psychology." That is, we are to believe sex, gender, and sexuality are categories uniquely concocted by societies rather than facts of biology, not because it's true, but because it's easier to politicize them if we do. No wonder these people are anti-science. Like Trump's New Right, the truth of science is an obstacle to their lies. As QT academics play right into the hands of Republican state legislatures in their nationwide defunding of universities "where liberals are made." "It undermines public trust in the academy, which is generally considered a guardian of what is, by making it more like a church, [conveying what] people ought to think and believe." Religion in the Ivory Tower. Imagine that.

Per City University New York professor and QT pioneer the late Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, we should resist Enlightenment temptation to resolve contradictions as we should instead accept many perspectives at once even when mutually contradictory and incoherent, "not attempting to make rational sense of anything." For Sedgwick, contradictions are politically valuable, the way Big Oil adopted Big Tobacco's claim that "doubt is our product." "Sedgwick finds it useful to generalize from [the] understanding of binaries that apply to sexuality to other binaries in society, as a way to destabilize hierarchies of superiority and inferiority." Like morality versus immorality, the environment versus corporate profits or democracy versus tyranny. Congratulations. Mission accomplished.

Reading history from the QT perspective, Hitler queered (as a verb) the norms of 1930s Germany. Germans resistant to Hitler were resistant because he violated Germany's norms. Those resistors were the first to visit and never leave the concentration camps. How can people oppose and create laws against discrimination, murder, genocide if there are no norms? Is Putin a war criminal, or is this label an exercise in binaries and oppressive power? If science is not an accurate description of nature, QT scholars need to abandon all that tech they use - cars, smartphones, televisions - working just as science designed them to work. Such is the chronic self-contradictory nature of postmodern disciplines unhindered by testing their "theories" in the real world. QT's attempt to free groups instead borders them from others in a common humanity, nursing victim "identities." Their attempt to explode oppression through evisceration of norms mimics Trump's destruction of norms, replaced by his standardization of lies, normalization of violence, and regularization of racism that lit the torches of marching boys shouting, "Jews will not replace us!" And where was that? In Charlottesville, on the University of Virginia campus, trooping between buildings that house the New Humanities where postmoderns roam. Did that mob intend to face down one of postmodernism's many strongholds, or were they just lucky?


Paragraph 1: "the arbitrariness..." Patrick J. Deneen, Why Liberalism Failed, Yale University Press, 2018, p. xviii. "Queer Theory...", Pluckrose and Lindsay, p. 89

Paragraph 2: "Pre-Theory...", Ibid., p. 109

Paragraph 3: "Queering...", Ibid., pp. 94, 95. "time and space", Judith Halberstam, In a Queer Time and Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives, New York University Press, 2005. "whatever is...", David M. Halperin, Saint Foucault: Towards a Gay Hagiography, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 62

Paragraph 4: "Because Queer...", Pluckrose and Lindsay, p. 89. "Unfortunately...", Ibid., p. 93

Paragraph 5: "suppressed...", Ibid., p. 96. "The last...", Alphas keep reproducing with females and otherwise have almost zero interaction with other males. "No serious...", E. O. Wilson, "From Sociobiology to Sociology," in Evolution, Literature, and Film: A Reader, ed. Brian, Joseph Carroll, and Jonathan Gottschall, Columbia University Press, 2010, p. 98

Paragraph 6: "It is impossible...", Gayle Rubin, "Thinking Sex: Notes for a Radical Theory of the Politics of Sexuality," in The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader, ed. Henry Abelove, Michèle Aina Barale, and David M. Halperin, Taylor & Francis, 1993, p. 7. "It undermines...", Pluckrose and Lindsay, pp. 99, 100

Paragraph 7: "not attempting...", Ibid., p. 104. "Sedgwick finds...," Ibid., p. 107

December 26, 2022: Is Critical Race Theory the Bomb Our Academic Left Hoped For?

In previous posts, we introduced the explicitly stated crusade against the West launched by French postmodernists of the 1960s, surveyed a sliver of the movement's historical development as it found "safe spaces" in university humanities departments, and sampled the search for a coherent social virus that would leap "from academics to activists to everyday people" We found that vital to the movement's success is the dismantling of science and its provable truth claims - with the same motive as rival creationists and Trumpian conspiracy theorists - as a threat to doctrine. Perhaps more bizarre, we gauged this New Left's hostility to reason, its demise as a passport to anything-goes. For all the condemnation of Eurocentric white male patriarchs, the academic left nonetheless promotes their French white male patriarch, Michel Foucault, and his notion that rationality is a coercive regime of oppression. Having massaged the creed - it took some 30 years - they found viral options. But what are they, and how would the academic left inject these into the social body?

Their routes to the public are obvious enough, but the vehicles employed to carry their cargo are stealthier. Their avenues include academic papers, books, media reference, interviews, and as expert authorities consulted by corporations and congressional policymakers. Academic publishing gets virtually zero public view, not only because of its sequestration within the Ivory Tower but because a hallmark of postmodernist writings is intentional obfuscation, steeped in buzzword vocabulary more impenetrable than the driest legal terms and conditions. There's lots of "oppression": anything they say it is; "problematics": a hyper-vigilant crusade to invent offenses and new victims of power; "deessentializing": essentialism is a notion that there is such a thing as human nature; and, of course, "dominance" in everything by everyone always except those defined as victims - some real, some not. What gets the most press are the interviews on PBS, NPR, MSNBC. What has the most impact is the steering of Congress with the latest "discoveries" from university postmodernists, all of which we'll consider later.

One of the academic left's delivery vehicles is the much-maligned and defended Critical Race Theory or CRT. As associate editor of Education Week, Stephen Sawchuk notes, "The core idea is that race is a social construct and that racism is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice, but also something embedded in legal systems and policies... Critical race theory emerged out of postmodernist thought, which tends to be skeptical of the idea of universal values, objective knowledge, individual merit, Enlightenment rationalism, and liberalism - tenets that conservatives tend to hold dear."

That prejudice can be institutionalized is reasonable enough, as exemplified by America's old Jim Crow laws or the myriad of such laws in Israel against Palestinians today. That CRT emerged from postmodernism is also true. But didn't liberals once hold universal values (for equality), objective knowledge (racism is real), individual merit (Susan B. Anthony, MLK), rationalism (the Holocaust really did happen, it's not fake news), and - of all things - liberalism in high regard? How ironic that liberals would accuse conservatives of respecting liberalism.

As CRT proponents, Seattle University School of Law professor Richard Delgado and University of Alabama Law School professor Jean Stefancic claim in dismissing liberalism in their book Critical Race Theory, "Many liberals believe in color-blindness and neutral principles of constitutional law. They believe in equality, especially equal treatment for all persons, regardless of their different histories or current situations."

Imagine that.

That classical liberal reason and its correctives are impotent is central to CRT. With the perfect certainty of Rush Limbaugh's absolutism, CRT's pioneer, the late Derrick Bell of Harvard Law School, said, "[P]rogress in American race relations is largely a mirage obscuring the fact that whites continue, consciously or unconsciously, to do all in their power to ensure their domination and maintain their control... Black people will never gain full equality in this country... This is a hard to accept fact that all history verifies." For Bell, white people "introduced desegregation, not as a solution to black people's problems, but to further their own interests..." That "critical race theorists frequently advocate Black Nationalism and segregation over universal human rights" shouldn't be too shocking.

While Bell's approach was steeped in the detrimental effects of power, he was more concerned with material systems like economic, legal, and political structures as "inherently racist." But with postmodernism in the Tower, linguistic discourses and social interactions from which offenses could be found, real or imagined, rose to prominence with the uncovering of implicit bias (later debunked), micro-aggressions (as we await nano: 10e-9; pico: 10e-12; and femto: 10e-15 aggressions), hate speech, safe spaces, cultural appropriation, "whiteness," and "situating experience as a source of knowledge." Which means that perceptions become irrefutable facts, evidence for the grievance machine.

Given that postmodernism rejects shared meaning, knowledge, and universals, it might seem the certainties of shared experience within identity groups would be an odd orthodoxy. But as noted last time, postmodern thinking "should not be accorded predictive value in relation to reality, but [have] strategic value." Enter professor Kimberle Crenshaw of both UCLA School of Law and Columbia Law School in her explicit linking of postmodernist practice to politics in her 1991 paper, "Mapping the Margins." Crenshaw is an advocate for "identity politics over liberal universalism, which had sought to remove the social significance of identity categories and treat people equally regardless of identity. Identity politics restores the social significance of identity categories in order to valorize them as sources of empowerment..." Her paper gave birth to a more complex expansion of bigotry through her concept of "intersectionality," which means a single identity (not individual) can house multiple targets for bigots. E.g., a black female lesbian could suffer bias cubed. Not rocket science, as New Right radio has long made jokes about the "powers of diversity" garnered by just this example. Although, the likes of Alex Jones would add physically handicapped to the description in keeping with the disabled as favorite foils for Trump at his rallies. But Crenshaw opens the terrain to so many more victims and the leverage conferred by authoritarian political correctness in its seeking of contrition, resignations, and remuneration. Imagine all the combinations of victimhood when "race, sex, class, sexuality, gender identity, religion, immigration status, physical ability, mental health, and body size... exact skin tone, body shape, and abstruse gender identities and sexualities, which number in the hundreds" are employed. Even the permutations of 100 categories produce 9.3e157 intersections. That's 9.3, followed by 157 zeros. Crenshaw's on to something. Intersectionality could produce victim categories for PhD dissertations until the Age of Stars expires in 100 trillion years.

But more than inventing victims is staking their ground. As Crenshaw writes, "We can all recognize the distinction between the claims 'I am Black' and the claim 'I am a person who happens to be Black.' 'I am Black' takes the socially imposed identity and empowers it as an anchor of subjectivity. 'I am Black' becomes not simply a statement of resistance but also a positive discourse of self-identification, intimately linked to celebratory statements like the Black nationalist 'Black is beautiful.' 'I am a person who happens to be Black,' on the other hand, achieves self-identification by straining for a certain universality (in effect, 'I am first a person') and for a concomitant dismissal of the imposed category ('Black') as contingent, circumstantial, nondeterminate."

Crenshaw takes us from postmodernism's embrace of the subjective in order to make everything relative, uncharacterizable, and unknowable to heroic and concrete subjectivity as a new "objectivity" that provides liberating certainty of identity with its thirst for segregation in opposition to others. And how dare any black would dismiss an imposed category by whites. Blacks should not see themselves as human beings first as Enlightenment liberalism does, but prioritize the very thing the Klan prioritized when they hanged blacks from trees for... For what? For being black, brown, or having just slightly more melanin in their skin due to an African ancestor generations ago. Like celebrations of Christian Nationalists from Trump's apostates on the New Right, Crenshaw lauds Black Nationalists on the left. Do we hear the "blood and soil" songs of 1930s Germany? So much for Martin Luther King Jr's 1968 Lincoln Memorial I Have a Dream speech. Where he said, "little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers." Where the "new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom." Crenshaw, Bell, Delgado, and Stefancic were not moved.

CRT is a stealthy vehicle because it advertises itself as anti-racist. Far from seeking to resolve racism, theorists seek to inflame it with divisive, destructive tribalism that our New Right adopted from the left with updated Great Replacement Theory. (Sound familiar?) Thus, proving that bad ideas can belong to anybody. Postmodernism's goal of dismantling the West is enhanced through increased racial strife thanks to CRT scholars pushing racist propaganda under the protection of academic freedom.

But is radical CRT sufficient? Are there other theories more likely to satisfy postmodern academics?

Next time.


Paragraph 1: "from academics...", Pluckrose and Lindsay. p.46

Paragraph 3: italics added

Paragraph 5: Delgado and Stefancic, p. 26

Paragraph 7: "[P]rogress...", Derrick A. Bell, And We Are Not Saved, p. 159, italics added. "Black people will never...", Bell, "Racial Realism," Connecticut Law Review 24, no. 2 (1992), italics added. "introduced desegregation...", Pluckrose and Lindsay, p. 116. That "critical race...", Ibid., p. 116, in reference to Mark Stern and Khuram Hussain, "On the Charter Question: Black Marxism and Black Nationalism," Race and Ethnicity in Education 18, no, 1 (2014).

Paragraph 8: "situating experience...", Pluckrose and Lindsay, p. 117

Paragraph 9: "should not be...", Ibid., p.39. Kimberle Crenshaw, "Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politcs, and Violence against Women of Color," Stanford Law Review 43, no. 6 (1991): p. 1224n9. "identity politics over...", Pluckrose and Lindsay, p. 124. "race, sex...", Ibid., p. 128

Paragraph 10: "We can...", Crenshaw, p. 1297

December 19, 2022: What is the Academic Left's Battle Plan Against Science and the West?

In previous posts we encountered the radical academic left's war on the West. A war that targets science, reason, knowledge, objectivity, and concepts of reality as pillars of the West since the Enlightenment. As we'll see, this return to superstition is not merely a rhetorical goal, but an actionable one based on a dogma of self-contradictory irrationality; one explicitly stated and long underway in our university humanities. To this fraction of the left, progress in freedom, equality, civil rights, or technology that can save lives or the planet are aspects of Eurocentric, white male patriarchal colonization. Exposing their overt bigotry, the likes of Galileo, Newton, and Einstein - notably their way of thinking - are to be deconstructed, which means dismantled, while non-Eurocentric, non-white "ways of knowing" are to be valorized. This validation is accorded to "victims of Western thought" by academics who maintain there is no such thing as values, truth or judgment - except their own. With a flair for condescension, those "other ways of knowing" by other peoples are branded as myth, magic, and faith - categorized as such by Western scholars, a no-no among Western scholars. To heap further contempt on those defined as casualties, the wounded are considered intellectually incapable of grasping concepts like science or human rights because they are - as all of us universally are - "culture bound," cerebrally subjugated by their own inviolable beliefs. So defined by those who deny the existence of universals. Notice that Galileo, Newton, and Einstein were also culture bound, but somehow imagined the unimaginable, violating their boundedness. The three-century-long project of liberalism - that is, classical Enlightenment liberalism - which seeks to expand, balance, and tame freedom, equality, and the rest is considered naive and far too moderate by this faction of the anti-West left now so prominent in the humanities.

As declared by University of Arizona and University of Alabama editors of Decolonizing Research in Cross-Cultural Contexts, essays therein "stand at the center of the 'beginning of the presencing' of a disharmonious, restive, unharnessable (hence unessentializable) knowledge that is produced at the ex-centric site of neo/post/colonial resistance, 'which can never allow the national (read: colonial/western) history to look itself narcissistically in the eye.'"

First, don't be afraid. Translating postmodern performance is an art. Recall Ferry and Renaut's remark, "that incomprehensibility is a sign of greatness...not proof of weakness but the indication of endurance in the presence of the Unsayable." Decoded, Decolonizing Research announced, "We are the beginning of a culture war."

As UCLA feminist theorist Sandra Harding wrote, criticism has "evolved from a reformist to a revolutionary position...[with] calls for a transformation in the very foundations both of science and the cultures [i.e., the West] that accord it value." This holy cause seeks to convert all of Western society with splendid exactness to Fredrich Hayek's steps to tyranny in his Road To Serfdom: rally the troops emotionally; provide stirring but vague slogans allowing for a wide latitude of solutions; create an enemy upon which to focus the rebellion; recast old paradigms in a new light "we always sensed but could never articulate." Someday, someone must carry out by force the Final Solution for this movement, however ugly, if it is to succeed. As Harding writes, the movement raises the possibility of "a painful world-shattering confrontation with moral and political values."

Since the colonization of university humanities in the 1960s by French postmodernist philosophers Michel Foucault (1926-1984), Jacques Derrida (1930-2004), Jacques Lacan (1901-1981) and a host of others, the twisted thinking continued to coil as mutations in the movement metastasized. These early postmodernists set out the crumbs from which more recent scholars were able to create slices, then whole loaves, of bread as communion for the Ivory Tower faithful, feed for the ignorant, or, hollow as they are beneath a thin crust of dogma, packed with explosives to lob on the West from the safety of the Academy. And conferred academic freedom by the very civilization they target. Postmodern crumbs of the 1960s and 70s were word games and obfuscations. Like the tobacco and fossil fuel industries lying about the lethal consequences of their commodities, their most profitable product was doubt. Likewise, postmodernists seek to deconstruct certainty in knowledge of any kind, so long as it was valued by the West. But skepticism wasn't new to postmoderns. The Scientific Revolution was built on a healthy skepticism to preserve open-minded examination in the interest of truth, as was the Enlightenment. What the postmoderns did was to radicalize skepticism to proportions beyond ridiculous, but early on, no one was listening.

Despite the excess, despite all the awards that like-minded academics showered on each other for "breakthroughs in victimology," "shredding the dominance of biology" or "genderfucking gender," postmodernists found early on that all that lobbing, all those published papers, all the fury really didn't do much. The post-Vietnam shift to prioritizing emotion over analysis once common to the humanities didn't help. The conviction for postmodern myths - what Pluckrose and Lindsay termed a "religious adherence" - didn't convert many outside the Tower. Still, those in the hard sciences sauntered by the social "sciences" on campus with so little regard they didn't even sneer. And of all the insults, even within their own walls, the likes of historical scholarship, political philosophy, and law still chugged along in their quest for evidence-based understanding. Worst of all, the public wasn't buying it. In part because the public face of postmodernism wasn't new. "Postmodernism did not invent ethical opposition to oppressive power systems and hierarchies - in fact, much of the most significant social and ethical progress occurred during the preceding periods that it rejects."

The problem with early postmodernism was that it incriminated itself. If the truth is that there is no truth and that's the truth, then all that French deconstruction of the West was just as flimsy as any Western truth claim. Recognizing this, the professorate changed from commitment to tactics beginning in the 1990s. Deconstruction became "a call to reconstruction." As Jean François Lyotard wrote in 1991, postmodern thinking "should not be accorded predictive value in relation to reality, but [have] strategic value," that is, like Trump's 2020 election gospel, it needn't be true, only useful as subterfuge. By the blurring of accepted boundaries between everything; by promoting language as a dangerous tool only of the powerful, targeting all that is written or spoken for deconstruction to reveal "hidden instruments of control"; by the doctrine of cultural relativism and the relativism of everything else; and by the dismissal of the individual and the concept of universals in favor of group identities, the new applied postmodernists could deny any categories their "objective validity and disrupt the systems of power..." In other words, the academic left could dismantle what they most loathed as power politics with power politics by redefining boundaries as they wished with "dangerous" language of their choosing, armed with cultural "certainty" from the university pulpit. Their tactics coalesced but they still had no actions to execute. All they could do was prattle.

By the latter 1990s the academic left claimed they had moved on from postmodernism. Many sought to insulate themselves from the rationalist drubbing postmodernism took by critics. But this was belied by their every utterance laced with quotes from the French white male patriarchs, genuflecting to the canon, like exclaiming "Stop the Seal!" - as tribal I.D. Their new title: Social Justice scholars within the "theoretical humanities." But changing their title was like calling creationism "Intelligent Design," expecting the detachment of creationism's failure. An especially weak ploy for both camps when constantly referring to the founding. But just as creationists try to "sound scientific" in their effort to destroy science, radical academic liberals could sound academic - sort of. More than that, they could sound like they shared Enlightenment's quest for freedom and equality. It was an important fulcrum. Instead of attacking "the West" - nation-states, political systems, capitalism as Marx had and failed - they were supporting the oppressed. The theme of oppression had been there from the beginning starting with Foucault, but even Foucault dealt with real victims, those defined as mentally insane, for example. (Whether inmates at the asylum suffered punishment or compassion is another matter.) It dawned on postmoderns that victims could be invented. In time, victims dropped from the dark thunderheads of power-hierarchies like rain. By pretending to be champions for the oppressed, not their university salaries, postmodernists might insert a self-destructive dogma that would invite the West to destroy itself. Like Facebook and Twitter before there was Facebook and Twitter. Of course, this would also dissolve those cushy university chairs, but if it's not already apparent, postmodernism is anything but consistent. Like herding cats, none of this plan was coordinated, but rather a wildly synthetic kludging together of buzzwords, social justice papers, lectures, and like the professorial gathering for Decolonizing Research above, a quest for the most subversive deconstruction that could reach beyond the Ivory Tower.

The goal was to evolve a social virus that would "spread, leaping the 'species' gap from academics to activists to everyday people, as it became increasingly graspable and actionable and therefore more contagious," writes Pluckrose and Lindsay.

And finally, postmoderns did it. They had the pseudo-intellectual sound, they held the emotional high ground, they had the faith, their moral pose was for the little gals and the little guys - so long as the little guys weren't "hetero-normative" - and victims were suddenly everywhere.

So, what did this virus look like how did they inject it?

Next time.


Paragraph 2: "stand at..." In Helen Pluckrose, James Lindsay, Cynical Theories, Pitchstone Publishing, 2020, p. 83, italics in original.

Paragraph 3: "that incomprehensibility..." Ferry and Renaut, p. 14

Paragraph 4: "evolved from..." Harding, p. 9. "a painful..." Ibid., p. 39

Paragraph 6: "religious...", Pluckrose, Lindsay, p. 18. "Postmodernism...", Ibid., p. 38

Paragraph 7: "a call...", Ibid., p. 72. "should...", Ibid., p.39. "objective...", Ibid., p. 39

Paragraph 8: "theoretical..." Ibid., pp. 50.51

Paragraph 9: "spread...", Ibid., p.46

December 12, 2022: How Did the Academic Left Become Anti-Science?

In 1986, University of Delaware (now UCLA) philosopher Sandra Harding wrote The Science Question in Feminism, a pioneering work of feminist theory still taught today in Women's Studies courses across America. There, Harding asks what value science has to women when it "serves primarily regressive social tendencies [that are] not only sexist but also racist, classist, and culturally coercive..." For scientists, says Harding, "the best scientific activity and philosophic thinking about science are to be modeled on men's most misogynistic relationships to women - rape, torture, [and] 'choosing 'mistresses...'" According to Harding, Newton's Principia is "a rape manual." She wants to replace it with a "unified field theory...that can account for both gender differences and dichotomized Africanist/Eurocentrist world to chart 'laws of tendency of patriarchy,' [and] 'laws of tendency of racism.'" For Harding, science is social work. It should have nothing to do with the study of nature, what it does or how it does it. Notice the strong resemblance of feminist theory on the left to creationism on the right, where for creationists, Darwin is responsible for every "ism": Socialism, Communism, Stalinism. Harding is just one soldier in an army of anti-science, anti-humanist, and anti-Western civilization academics that now crowd American universities.

Not long ago, on this blog, we asked if the academic left were anti-science, anti-reason, anti-rational. A position now held by the radical right, it was surprising to find University of Virginia biologist Paul R. Gross and Rutgers University mathematician Norman Levitt's book show us that the answer is an emphatic yes, for a sizable fraction of that demographic. Their early work stimulated a chain of other examinations and publications about the Academy - within and without - that continues to this day. All the while, the anti-science left expands its reach and power from academia to the wider public and government policy. We found a powerful element of resentment among the academic left (which fuels the New Left), the consequence of a felt devaluation in the humanities compared to the towering achievements of science, not unlike the way religion felt threatened since the time of Galileo.

For the academic left, the goal is to "demystify" science as just another opinion. Since the humanities are based on opinions - some remarkably well founded on historical, archeological, and written evidence - they are nonetheless opinions forever to be debated. Only the hard sciences provide irrefutable truth claims that can be proven, remembering that the social 'sciences' within the humanities are not science; they are 'studies.' By demoting science to an opinion, the humanities - based on opinions - can narrow the gap from high to low. But this anti-science posture is new to the humanities. The humanities of old generated philosophers and historians of world renown: from the ancients of Plato, Aristotle, and Herodotus to the more modern Rousseau, Voltaire, and Peter Gay. Though the ancients made no distinction between the humanities and science, all was philosophy, and there was no modern science of experimentation until Galileo in the 1600s.

So, what happened to the humanities that made a dominant fraction of them irrational? Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay's Cynical Theories and Luc Ferry and Alain Renaut's French Philosophy of the Sixties, teamed with Gross and Levitt's historical account, help trace the evolution. Gross and Levitt see this faction as having links to the emergence of explicit socialist activities of the 1880s and 1890s and, ironically, with labor struggles of the populist movement championed by William Jennings Bryan of later Scopes "Monkey Trial" fame. Unlike today's fascist populism in the U.S. and Europe, late 19th-century populism was an agrarian and labor populism responding to abuse of the banks and industrial Robber Barons. Demands for radical social change competed with historic shocks supported by some and rejected by others in the splintering movement. Shocks like WWI, expectations for the Bolshevik Revolution, disillusionment by the Hitler-Stalin Pack, and Stalin's purge all discouraged the program's advance. Remaining radical hopes were then dashed by FDR's welfare initiatives of Social Security and the 40-hour work week followed by a postwar expansion of the middle-class thanks in part to the GI Bill. Despite these setbacks, there was a lingering sense among some that Western thought was responsible for or could not stop the barbarisms of the 20th century. A replacement was needed.

Along came Vietnam. "It was the Vietnam War...that truly revivified the American left and gave it the sense that a mass constituency receptive to its views was about to coalesce," says Gross and Levitt. A sense most pronounced on college campuses, "particularly elite schools where a tradition of intellectual independence had always been encouraged." In a few short years, weak sectlets rallied a new generation of recruits, like SDS, Students for a Democratic Society, who went from cautious reformers to "full-blown Maoism." Vietnam, civil rights, the riots, Kent State shootings, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy assassinations, and the counter-culture movements of drugs, the sexual revolution, and rock and roll as expressions against authority coupled outrage to promises of "liberation from the machine." Elements within the academic left felt history was on their side; radical social change was in the offing.

With corruption, lies, and monumental mismanagement of the Vietnam War ending in 1975, the left's assumptions of moral high ground in Third World revolutions from China to Cuba, Cambodia, and North Vietnam itself revealed themselves for what they were: monstrous atrocities. With that, "American radicalism became an ideological orphan... the surviving squad of theatricians of a nonexistent mass movement." But not without having achieved some gains in civil rights, feminism, and labor. "Nonetheless, the radical style of the sixties left traces that persist," write Gross and Levitt. "The campus constitutes the only environment in which recent radicalism became naturalized. Even as leftist rhetoric denounced higher education as the breeding ground for unquestioning servants of the bourgeoisie... The scholarly community was the inevitable refuge to which activism retreated as its concrete political possibilities melted away."

Then a shift in focus occurred on the left. Without substantial and readily apparent causes to rally around, causes made apparent by actions like war and lynchings, beliefs were elevated, a new orthodoxy was born. A "sort of firm conviction associated with religious adherence," writes Pluckrose and Lindsay. Like any religion, claims can be made for the cause of events or conditions with passion and commitment. Such claims are, however, vacant in their need for measurable, quantifiable proof upon which all practitioners of reason are compelled to agree by their observation of reality. While the old humanities required a semi-scientific method of investigation, evidence, and tacit conclusions based on that evidence, the New Left discarded this paradigm. Powered by their insecurities, disgust with consumerist society, and witness to what they saw as products of Enlightenment thought - WWI, the Great Depression, WWII - extremist liberals in the humanities prioritized feelings over analysis. They launched impassioned political polemics clothed in obscuration from the university pulpit. With the carnage of Marxism ever more apparent and its eventual collapse in the USSR, they needed a philosophic ally. But radical liberal academics rejected everything Western, including Western thinking. They didn't want a philosophic retread. As nutty as it sounds, they wanted a kind of thinking in opposition to rational thought. Hence, the birth of postmodernism, which fit this need nicely. Infecting American universities from France in the 1960s, postmodernist aficionados accustomed "their readers and listeners to the belief that incomprehensibility is a sign of greatness and that the thinker's silence before the incongruous demand for meaning was not proof of weakness but the indication of endurance in the presence of the Unsayable," write Ferry and Renaut. Postmodernist pioneer Jacques Derrida called it a philosophical practice "which means nothing," while Louis Althusser said it was "a non-philosophical theory of philosophy."


You can already see a problem here. Postmodernism was going to be a new way of thinking that violated the most fundamental aspect of human cognition: reason. This capacity, combined with speculation leading to innovations, all based on accurate assessments of reality outside our skull, is why such a weak-bodied, slow species with lousy eyesight, hearing, and sense of smell survived among superior predators. In the hominid line, reasoning first showed itself by the creation of Oldowan tools 2.6 million years ago in Ethiopia, perhaps as early as 3.4 mya by Australopithecus afarensis, the so-called Lucy. Postmodernism had a strong current to swim against. But it did, thanks to scientific illiteracy outside the sciences but still within the Academy, some linguistic jujitsu, and a public embrace of one of its creations as a moral pose: what became authoritarian political correctness.

Postmodernism's hostility to Western Enlightenment modernity is wholesale, targeting not science and reason alone but all knowledge, objectivity, language, and reality itself as a mere construct of culture and power hierarchies that set the rules for what's true. Of course, postmodernism's project is executed via "reasoned" arguments communicated via language as "objectively" true and seen as the basis of "knowledge" in their respective "cultures" from within the university. In order to defeat reason with "reason," postmodernism had to establish itself as self-contradictory by nature. Hence the need for obfuscation and the Unsayable. One suspects such a project would be harmless but for the sandbox of obscure departments on campus. This turned out not to be true. This makes postmodernism an urgent matter because "it radically rejects the foundations upon which today's advanced civilizations are built and consequently has the potential to undermine them."

So, has the postmodern academic left been able to do this, and if so, how?

Next time.


Paragraph 1: "serves primarily..." Sandra Harding, The Science Question in Feminism, Cornell University Press, 1986, p. 9. "the best..." Ibid. p. 112. "a rape manual." Ibid. p. 113. "unified field..." Ibid. p. 186

Paragraph 5: "It was..." Gross & Levitt, p. 30. "full-blown..." Ibid. p. 31

Paragraph 6: "American..." Ibid. p. 32. "Nonetheless..." Ibid. pp. 32,33

Paragraph 7: "sort..." Pluckrose, Lindsay, p. 18. "their readers..." Ferry and Renaut, p. 14. "which means..." Pluckrose, Lindsay, pp. 5, 4

Paragraph 10: "it radically..." Pluckrose, Lindsay, p. 23

December 6, 2022: Is the Academic Left at War with Science and Reason?

Why do so many university sociologists of the New Left claim science is in fact "bourgeois science"? Is there a communist science, a socialist science? Is science a social product, "a mere set of conventions generated by social practice" and prevailing social prejudice as postmodernist academics assert? How do all those equations describing the laws of nature and the devices built from them work if that were true? What do the postmodernists know that scientists and engineers don't? Are the Cultural Studies professors correct in declaring that science is racist because imprinted on its demography is society's failure to educate inner-city minorities? It is true that few inner-city minorities are found in the sciences. Why do feminist theorists see science - and, yes, even those mathematical equations - as corrupted with masculinity, gender, and sexuality bias? Do those mathematical descriptions of nature and the laws of physics not function in the Women's Studies classroom? Is there a feminist science, a queer science? Is science bigoted because of its Eurocentric, white male origins, incapable of perceiving a full range of cultural perspectives as though there might be an Asian science, an African science? Perhaps there's a science for every ethnicity and gender - a White science, a Black science, an L-science, G-science, B-science, T-science. For full equity, inclusion, and due diversity, should everyone have a science of their own? Free Choice Science, perhaps.

To those in the sciences and engineering these sound like products of the conspiracy theory industrial complex. "There is something medieval about it," writes professors Gross and Levitt, "in spite of the hypermodern language in which it is nowadays couched... irrationality is courted and proclaimed with pride. All the more shocking is the fact that this challenge comes from a quarter that views itself as fearlessly progressive."

But really? Are there members of the academic left who are anti-rational? Anti-science?

University of Virginia biologist Paul R. Gross and Rutgers University mathematician and self-described liberal Norman Levitt's Higher Superstition delineates how the New Left - led by the academic left - is no less hostile to science than the New Right. While the New Left chooses different aspects of science to oppose, it has nonetheless created a church dogma, engaging in propaganda to attack science that threatens the New Creed. While the New Right has FOX, talk radio, and QAnon on the Internet, the New Left has the university humanities departments which publish to spread the virus of postmodernism, get interviewed and quoted by media, and still garner respect by their proximity to the hard sciences, engineering, and medical departments on campus.

While reason was intentionally untethered from creed during the Enlightenment in its search for truth and as a response to dogmatism of the scholastics who forced a narrow conformity to the Bible and Aristotle, creed has returned to half of the Academy. It took a century for the development of Enlightenment reason and its attempt to apply the scientific method to human affairs before scholasticism was dethroned. Not by force or politics, but by the success of Enlightenment's great ideas. Ideas in the arena of human freedom of conscience, freedom from institutionalized abuse, with ideas in trade and commerce that enriched growing numbers of people. Now, politics is being used to attack Enlightenment and it's not coming only from the right.

Like the New Right, the New Left desires to unify all in like-minded accordance with their tribe under politically correct authoritarianism, but the target of their retribution is different. For the New Right, science is an accomplice to truth and thus a threat to dogma and conspiracy theories that garner power over the credulous. For the New Left, science is an accomplice of Western civilization. They have a gullible audience too: teenagers away from home, fresh in the college classroom, and a national populous, including many with non-technical college degrees who know as much about science as its New Left assailants. The New Left reviles science "as an ideological prop of the present order, which many of them despise and hope to abolish," writes Gross and Levitt. The time is past "to get even with the West" for the ills it committed through its march to capitalistic, militaristic (the two are a matched set), and cultural imperialism that other cultures want to emulate simply by the glitz of its success. It's little wonder that so much of the academic left's attack uses Marxist tropes. The New Left's hope is "to demystify science, to undermine its epistemic authority, and to valorize 'ways of knowing' incompatible with it." The way Berkely professor Paul Feyerabend elevated voodoo, witchcraft, and astrology as equal or superior to science. Anyone who attacks science with a "view to vindicating the oppressed, no matter how quixotic the method, is seen to be fighting the good fight."

Reporting from within the Ivory Tower, Gross and Levitt show that never in all the assault journals, books, and university courses in postmodernist humanities do we find critiques with a working knowledge of science. The academic left feels justified in bypassing the grimy prerequisites of discovering how science seeks what it seeks, knows what it knows, and validates itself through the success of its predictions and technologies built by it. It is the academic left's self-pronounced moral authority that makes their critiques valid - to them. "Thus we encounter books that pontificate about the intellectual crisis of contemporary physics, whose authors have never troubled themselves with a simple problem in statistics; essays that make knowing reference to chaos theory, from writers who could not recognize, much less solve, a first-order linear differential equation; tirades about the semiotic tyranny of DNA and molecular biology, from scholars who have never been inside a real laboratory, or asked how the drug they take lowers their blood pressure." All manifestations, Gross and Levitt note, of an intellectual debility afflicting the modern university. One that attempts to conceal not only ignorance of science through diversion but an abject weakness of fact and logic. Surrender of the intellectual high ground for nurtured ignorance is not only a professional pursuit of Trump's inner circle of favored constitutional lawyers and advisors, proven liars by the House January 6 Committee. Science has no such defender on campus where postmodernist professors assert any wild notion, teach any conspiracy, support any bigotry or bias under protection of absolutist academic freedom, much as the New Right wants absolutist free speech to spread lies unhindered.

Beside the polemics are scores to be settled by a longstanding incentive as potent as the demotion of religion since Newton: jealousy. The colossal success of science has made those in the postmodernist humanities seethe in their irrelevance, as bitter as any young earth creationist. The "hard sciences produce reliable knowledge, assembled into coherent theories," writes Gross and Levitt. "The more theoretical the social 'sciences' are, the less respect they get...subjective beyond hope of redemption, thus outside of the running for the epistemological sweepstakes." Sad. While the hard sciences, engineering, and medicine chug along with headline grabbing discoveries, seizing annual grants in the collective billions of dollars. Such advances in knowledge spill over into lifesaving cures for COVID-19 or Webb's imagery plucked from the edge of our universe, while New Left academics huddle in their towers depleted of ivory with catchpenny titles declaring their status.

Which is not to say postmodernist academics have no impact. While the expansion of knowledge is no longer their thing, politics is. The academic left at university are headquarters for influence and correct thinking every bit as much as Breitbart is for the New Right. "In terms of their relations with this country's formal institutions of higher education...left-wing thinkers have never enjoyed anything remotely close to the current hospitality," say Gross and Levitt. "Prestige-laden departments in the humanities and the social 'sciences' are thickly populated - in some well-known cases, we might say 'dominated' - by radical thinkers. Despite all protestations to the contrary, entire programs - women's studies, African studies, cultural studies - demand, de facto, at least a rough allegiance to a leftist perspective as a qualification for membership in the faculty." But for those remaining holdouts of the old school, the humanities are no longer inhabited by humanists. As Luc Ferry and Alain Renaut make clear in their French Philosophy of the Sixties, the university humanities are now home to extremists and their "antihumanist position." But it's not only the departments that have been debased. "Administrators who are also prominent left-wing figures are no longer anomalous," write Gross and Levitt. "Often, when administrators take official positions on social issues - particularly those involving race, ethnicity, and gender questions - the tone, and the jargon as well, is indistinguishable from the militant left." Naturally, valid academic disciplines are now being pressured to conform to the diversity of surface features, not substance, in hiring and student admissions. While the postmodernist humanities dismiss the pursuit of knowable things in other valid departments (after all, "all knowledge is relative," including that produced by those who make this claim?), the administrators, however, are less vociferous in this regard because they know where the money comes from, and they very much adore those million-dollar chairs.

Gross and Levitt won't make any friends in the humanities because they are humanists. They wish for the elevation of all by what all have the power to participate in: reason. Their inclusion does not exclude everyone but select victims. They oppose militant segregation of feminist theorists, identity politics, the polite sounding bigotry of multiculturalism in their application to the debasing of science. In short, they are for truth, not tribe, which of course makes them a threat to both left and right.


Paragraph 1: "a mere set..." Paul R. Gros, Norman Levitt, Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and its Quarrels with Science, John Hopkins University Press, 1998, p. 11

Paragraph 2: "There is something..." Ibid. p. 3

Paragraph 6: "as an ideological..." Ibid. p. 3. "to demystify..." Ibid. p. 11, italics in the original. "view to..." Ibid. p. 11

Paragraph 7: "Thus we..." Ibid. p. 6

Paragraph 9: "In terms..." Ibid. p. 34, inner quotes added. Luc Ferry and Alain Renaut, French Philosophy of the Sixties, University of Massachusetts Press, 1990, p. xxiii. "Often, when..." Gross and Levitt, p. 34

November 29, 2022: Descent of the West? Part 3, Michael J. Sandel: How Concepts of Freedom Came Poised to End Freedom

In Professor of Government Michael J. Sandel's book, Democracy's Discontent, he declares two anxieties at the heart of democracy's restless present: "we are losing control of the forces that govern our lives [and that] from family to neighborhood to nation, the moral fabric of community is unraveling around us." Sounding like Patrick J. Deneen's assessment 22 years later, Sandel claims what we now perceive as liberty "cannot secure the liberty it promises."

America lives a theory, says Sandel. "Our practices and institutions are embodiments of theory of rights and obligations, citizenship and freedom, democracy and law. Political institutions are not simply instruments that implement ideas independently conceived; they are themselves embodiments of ideas." This theory manifests itself by what Sandel calls public philosophy: "the political theory implicit in our practice, the assumptions about citizenship and freedom that inform our public life." But that practice and those assumptions - until about 70 years ago - had a very different cast of mind.

Sandel decerns seeds of our demise in contradictions of the West's foundational fabric, specifically its concepts of classical liberal freedom vs. republican (not Republican) freedom. For classical liberalism, which mutated into modern liberalism, "government should be neutral toward the moral and religious views its citizens espouse," writes Sandel. "[Government] should provide a framework of rights that respects persons as free and independent selves, capable of choosing their own values and ends. Since this liberalism asserts the priority of fair procedures over particular ends, the public life it informs might be called the procedural republic." This version of liberalism sees people as free and independent islands, "unencumbered by moral or civic ties they have not chosen." Not only does this put the social contract in question but also the idea of a nation-state, where members belong to an extended abstraction of community. If each person is genuinely independent of a larger body, there is no state as conceived, only a common space occupied by sovereigns. As Sandel has it, this view of liberalism withdraws the civic resources necessary to sustain self-governance. (See Robert Putnam's Bowling Alone.)

Government moral neutrality is agnostic on the question of the good life, an inversion of the ancients who thought the purpose of politics and the state was to foster virtuous members of society. Otherwise, by Aristotle's assessment, we sink into a mere alliance, different from others only in their physical separation from each other. "Law becomes a mere covenant...'a guarantor of men's rights against one another,'" says Aristotle. "The end and purpose of a polis is the good life, and the institutions of social life are means to that end...our highest ends." Like Puritans, who saw their work in this world as unified with salvation in the next, Aristotle appears to seek unification of purpose and meaning. The purpose of cultivating virtuous individuals for society is in service to the meaning society provides for individuals. But James Madison and the Greeks agreed: governments can't make everybody virtuous. For Madison, why bother? Accept their lower nature; use other means to tame them - moral neutrality in practice.

Yet leaning toward the ancient perspective, the republican view was not neutral toward values and ends. "The republican concept of freedom, unlike the liberal conception, requires a formative politics, a politics that cultivates in citizens the qualities self-government requires." Contrary to classical liberal notions, "republican theory is the idea that liberty depends on sharing in self-government," claims Sandel. "It means deliberating with fellow citizens about the common good and helping to shape the destiny of the political community. But to deliberate well about the common good requires more than the capacity to choose one's ends and respect other's rights to do the same. It requires a knowledge of public affairs and a sense of belonging, a concern for the whole, a moral bond with the community whose fate is at stake."

Beyond the clickbait of conspiracy theories, talk radio outrage, and government representatives who lie as they breathe, what do most Americans know of public affairs? Politics is now entertainment - reality TV: people in compromising situations or compromising themselves as we watch the wild peculiarities of primate behavior under stress. And thanks to identity politics compounded by the segregation of multiculturalism under the guise of respecting one's separate heritage, the melting pot is dead. Beyond today's mass murder "community," what belonging do Americans feel?

Unlike republican theory, "liberal political theory does not see political life as concerned with the highest ends or with the moral excellence of its citizens," Sandel writes. "Liberal political theory insists on toleration, fair procedures, and respect for individual rights - values that respect people's freedom to choose their own values. [However,] if liberal ideals cannot be defended in the name of the highest human good, then in what does their moral basis consist?" Instead, the capacity for morality is questioned by moral neutrality and defended with moral relativism. "Relativism usually appears less as a claim than a question," writes Sandel, "Who is to judge?" But "toleration and freedom and fairness are values too, and they can hardly be defended by the claim that no values can be defended... How is it possible to affirm certain liberties and rights as fundamental without embracing some vision of the good life, without endorsing some ends over others?"

The answer comes in what good the ancients and moderns endorsed. Moderns reallocated the subject of the good to the individual. The community was demoted to inferior status or seen as hostile to the person. The good of the community no longer trickles down because there is no community. Morality becomes a matter of choice. When states don't define the good life, each to his own, the death of community is sealed, but the peaceful coexistence of differing values, customs, and religions is facilitated. Social islands are spun off at a distance from one another in order to attenuate waves between them - waves that can become earthquakes on land. Outside family ties antecedent to choice, fleeting associations are as meaningful as our connections can get, eschewing coercion endemic to communities in favor of unencumbered selves.

Modern liberalism acknowledges that there are moral and religious matters that demand our obligation, but they should be set aside as relative matters in the public arena, fenced off for political peace. A "distinction between our personal and political identities...public selves, independent of any particular loyalties or conceptions of the good." But Sandel asks, "Why should our political identities not express [those] moral and religious convictions?" And how are we able to do this, if not by another form of obligation when obligations are seen as a violation of the sanctity of free choice? Can morality and politics really be separated? And wasn't politics about the philosophy of moral matters - freedom, justice, equality under law - practically applied?

Sandel provides two examples of moral bracketing: the Lincoln-Douglas Debates and abortion. "Since people were bound to disagree about the morality of slavery, [Stephen Douglas argued] national policy should be neutral on the question," left to the territories to decide. Since people disagree about when the viability of human life begins, moral bracketing of abortion makes it permissible. The state should be neutral. Women should decide as a matter of individual rights, exempting the fetus as an individual. The central problem expressed is that it's impossible for a procedural republic to exclude moral questions generated by the radical social dynamics of democracies - impossible by the psychology of human brains. The acrobatics of logic and reason become exhausted; the gap between theory and reality grows until the issue is swallowed in strife. Democracies either exclude morality or include it. Either way, democracy can be risked as a result. As Marcel Gauchet says of states, so too democracies: they hurl themselves apart as they struggle to hold themselves together.

Barring moral judgment from moral questions as though they could be ignored on the basis of neutrality and the expediency of political peace creates its own detachment, says Sandel. A detachment of the people from their creation of a society no longer their own. People won't forget that slavery is a moral question any more than they will forget abortion is merely because current fashion says otherwise. This process "creates a moral void that opens the way for narrow, intolerant moralisms." Like retribution for an election that wasn't stolen; campus micro-aggressions invented for the purposes of supremacy over others; untrammeled free speech for the benefit of broadcasting disinformation; campus speech codes to muzzle "hate speech" so defined by self-defined victims of it.

Liberal freedom serves well a purpose-centered universe. Republican freedom joins others on a terrain of belonging and belonging means meaning. Both have benefits and penalties. The individual is paramount in a liberal world, while the individual is important but secondary to community in the republican, which happens to be where self-governance resides. Representing interconnected but opposing forces, this yin and yang of political philosophy is based on the same fundamental conundrum we're faced with by the biological facts of life. We possess independent bodies. Bodies that were dependent on and built by somebody else, assembled cell-by-cell by our mother. But unlike cyanobacterial colonies or Star Trek's Borg, as maturing beings, we are not a physically interconnected collective. As prewired social animals, heightened by the connections our mother enhanced, our attachments become not physical but psychological. Psychological connection and belonging are fundamental to the human definition. The liberal idea of individualism runs counter to that but satisfies the physical reality we experience every day: that we are alone in our own bodies, while simultaneously demoting the connections we feel but can't see, especially when we lose them as modernity requires.


Paragraph 1: "we are losing..." Sandel, p. 3. "cannot secure..." Ibid., p. 6

Paragraph 2: "Our practices..." Ibid., p. ix

Paragraph 3: "government should..." Ibid., p. 4, italics added. "unencumbered by... Ibid., p. 6

Paragraph 4: "Law becomes..." Ibid., pg.7. "The end..." Ibid., p. 7

Paragraph 5: "The republican..." Ibid., p. 6. "It means..." Ibid., p. 5

Paragraph 7: "liberal political..." Ibid., pp. 7,8. "Relativism usually..." Ibid., p. 8. ""toleration and freedom..." Ibid., pp. 8,10

Paragraph 9: "distinction between..." Ibid., p. 18. "Why should..." Ibid., p. 18

Paragraph 10: "Since people..." Ibid., p. 21. "creates a..." Ibid., p. 24

November 22, 2022: "People of color and the poor." "Stop the Steal!" What do these really mean?

How many times per day in America do we hear this or that "disproportionately affects people of color and the poor"? Air and water pollution, Covid-19, manmade global warming all disproportionately affect people of color and the poor. How can a worldwide calamity that's wrecking planetwide ecosystems affect this demographic more than others? Obviously, some "people of color and the poor" are disproportionately affected by any calamity. But if this phrase is condensed into what it really means, this has been the case since the beginning of time, which is not to discount its importance. So, what's it really mean? And is there a connection between "people of color and the poor" and "Stop the Steal!"? Implications of the former seem minor compared to those of the latter, but maybe not.

Does pollution or Covid or global warming affect Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jordan or the Obamas disproportionately? These people of color are doing well. Could that be because they're rich? Aren't rich people of color less affected by disaster than poor people of color? Maybe "people of color" really means "poor people of color."

What about "the poor"? If "people of color" really means "poor people of color," does "the poor" mean "poor people not of color"? More directly, "poor white people"? Surely poor white people are harmed by calamity more than rich white people.

It looks like "people of color and the poor" really means "poor people of color and poor white people." So, why do we never hear this?

Perhaps there are a number of reasons. Why enunciate "poor white people" as victims when political correctness prefers the emphasis of "people of color"? After all, much of the victimization of people of color comes from white people, so to include white people as victims dilutes the norms of political correctness. Who wants to share sympathy with perpetrators? As mathematician Bertrand Russel noted of "the superior virtue of the oppressed," there are special considerations that come with being a victim, real or imagined. Real victims get the attention they deserve, so correctives can be implemented. For imaginary victims, there's a gravy train to run.

Or maybe it's just a little clumsy to say those extra words - three of them - in a sound-bite society that cannot tolerate being forced to process extra syllables.

Then why not truncate "people of color and the poor" to what it really means: "poor people."

From six words to two. Why don't PBS, NPR, MSNBC, and liberals everywhere say this? Could the reason be more nefarious? Could it be that liberals are as racist as conservatives but in reverse?

Broad-brush questions like this beg for broad-brush answers that don't apply to every member of either tribe, but they apply to some. Compare the attitudes of two groups that couldn't appear more different: white supremacists and university administrators. In California, Proposition 209 banned race quotas in 1996, yet California university admissions continue to violate the law despite repeated proof that admittance of underqualified students makes those students less likely to succeed, failing board certifications, failing the bar, unqualified for their careers once administrators satisfied their self-serving bigotry to appear inclusive. A solution Allan Bloom termed in his Closing of the American Mind, "the corner that white impresarios painted themselves into." Within their respective tribes, are white supremacists and university administrators of admission racist? In spades. Bigots? For sure.

But the left engages in a softer form of racism and bigotry than what we see on the New Right - for now, and this is substantiated by the Department of Justice. It's been a while since the leftist Symbionese Liberation Army murdered civilians and police in 1970s America. Although student assaults against professors are rising, as exemplified by Middlebury College students who provided one a concussion for allowing a conservative speaker on college grounds in 2017. Meanwhile, on the New Right, we watched hundreds of white boys march with torches shouting, "Jews will not replace us!" We saw white men chase down a black man to shoot him with a shotgun for jogging." We witnessed the casual suffocation of a black man using no more than the very blase placement of a white man's knee. Liberal bigotry isn't so lethal. It, too, is systemic, but it's institutionalized in the open. As with quotas like university admissions and Affirmative Action that seek correctives after real racism has already done its work, say, at inner-city schools. Instead of fixing inner-city schools - a massive undertaking - Affirmative Action seeks to make corrections after the damage is done. As the law says, to "remedy the results of prior discrimination." Racism on the left is more like racism as racism's cure.

These blatant self-contradictions force societies to live a lie. I witnessed this confluence at a "Diversity Training" session in the corporation I worked for. The diversity instructor projected two documents on the wall, Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity Employment (EOE). The correctness of each was lauded. Then I said the unsayable. "On one side, you show EOE, stating that in the workplace, no one can be discriminated against for any reason whatsoever. Not race, gender, sexuality, religion, national origin - nothing. On the other side, you show Affirmative Action, which in practice favors three races over all others: Black, Hispanic, and that portion of my heritage, Native American. How are we to square this contradictory practice?" I'd just put the trainer in that corner Bloom noted. All fifty heads turned, laser-focused on the instructor: black, white, Hispanic, East Asian, Indian, and a Pakistani; all engineers, scientists, mathematicians - people not to be bullshitted. The verbal acrobatics to follow fascinated the audience. We all knew what we were supposed to say.

Likewise, to say "the poor" instead of "people of color and the poor" would damage the sanctity of our new segregation, once reviled, now embraced. The American melting pot is dead. Identity politics is the rule under multiculturalism's guise of respecting heritage, so long as that heritage is not that of the majority. Under minority preference, majorities are oppressive.

What about "Stop the Steal!" - a claim still made by Republicans who gained seats in the House. Do the authoritarian anti-Constitutionalists of the New Right really believe that the 2020 election in which Biden defeated Trump by 7-million votes was stolen by Venezuela, China, Democrats, liberals, or space aliens gun-slinging QAnon's "Jewish space laser" in the sky? Is there really that much abject stupidity in these unUnited States?


Apparently so.

Deniers of the election, manmade global warming, and the Covid vaccine won Republican primaries across our fruity plains. Mark Finchem won Arizona's Republican Secretary of State primary by claiming the Devil stole the 2020 election from Trump. Venezuela, China, Democrats, liberals, and space aliens could breathe a sigh of relief to hear they were off the hook. Many of these cranks lost in 2022, and many won. Many of Trump's January 6 jihadists - with reinforcement from FOX - still claim it was Antifa who tried to stop the vote for Biden that day - the man Antifa supported.


But aside from the gullible, what about those other tens of millions of New Right conservatives? Do they believe this stuff? After 63 court rulings against and zero for Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell (sued billions for their lies), including two 9 to 0 rulings against Trump by his Supreme Court; after Dominion and Smartmatic voting systems showed their paper ballot copies of each vote cast matched exactly the software count; after the Cyber Ninjas (yes, Cyber Ninjas - at least our nutters have a sense of humor) bumbled their way through an Arizona recount only to find Biden won by 360 more votes than the original tally; after the January 6 Committee showed Trump and his "Team Clown" conspired to overthrow the Constitution they all so love, and still tens of millions of Republicans believe the election was stolen?v


OK, hopefully, there aren't that many dolts on the planet. So why keep repeating this election fraud line? What does "Stop the Steal!" really mean? First, it's not that Republicans believe it - as the media repeats - it's that they say it. Salted with adolescent defiance, it means, "This is our tribal identifier. This is how we talk. Say this; you're in the club. We belong. Belonging equals meaning. Fuck everybody else. They're Libs. We're Cons."

Not a great sound-bite, but the New Right has become remarkably verbose.

Aside from tribal I.D., "Stop the Steal!" provides practical utility. Trump taught the once-Christian Right just how easy lying really is. If you lie and stick to it, never admit truth, break every social norm, every moral ethic, not only does God not strike you down, but you can take massive advantage of those who adhere to truth, social norms, and moral ethics. And as we saw here in Seven Truths Trump Taught the World, the Collapse of American Christianity, and the Collapse of Christianity Worldwide, political power is much more important than Christ. Hiding behind lies like "Stop the Steal!" the New Right changed voting laws across the U.S. and attempted to install cranks like Mark Finchem as Secretary of State to "Take back America!" by pseudo-legal means as though they were patriots, not traitors to the Founders they pretend to admire.

Like the left that can't say "the poor," the right can't say the election was fair; Trump lost. What links "people of color and the poor" on the left to "Stop the Steal!" on the right is also what motivates both. To strike these formulaic poses are part of church doctrine, not only as unifier of the tribe but "in your face" to the other. A provocation and a litmus test that True Believers dare not challenge lest they be labeled members of the other cult.

But tests and provocations aren't always obvious. Given all the talk of diversity and inclusivity among our liberal faithful, mantras about people of color drip with exclusion of whites, just as Affirmative Action and university admissions do. And for all their ignorance, Trump's party of largely white real victims of social "scientists" called economists - who embraced China's export of unemployment to America - can see this much. Trumpers can practice liberal inclusivity as well as any campus snowflake. Better: they have guns. And they're not so smart they won't use them, while the rest have learned the firepower of lies, long after the left taught them how. Kellyanne Conway's "alternative facts" and Rudy Giuliani's "truth isn't true" are restatements of the left's postmodern relativism first infecting our universities in the 1960s. As Kurt Anderson clarifies in his Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire, social radicalism on the left stimulated political radicalism on the right.


Paragraph 9: Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today's Students, Simon and Schuster, 1987, pg. 95.

November 11, 2022: Confronting the Constitution, Part 8: America's Not Completely Forgotten Stalker: Karl Marx

Marx believed that the U.S. - what he termed "the bourgeois republic" - was the final form of state, one to so eviscerate the human soul that its citizens would rebound off the bottom of existence like a collapsing supernova off its iron core. A luminous new beginning would commence with a revolution that would be the simultaneous birth of a utopian social life. In W. R. Newell's spellbinding contribution to Confronting the Constitution we witness the broad scope of Marxist thought with its predictions of capitalism's outcome and the state its married to. From the pen of Marx (1818-1883) we find him simultaneously dazzling, inane, alluring, and self-contradictory. His motive force was a passionate fear of the disenchantment of Man, from which, ironically, he created a social-political theory to ensure it.

"The core of Marxism's appeal is the yearning for wholeness," writes Newell, "for an existence that unites the personal and collective satisfaction. The breakdowns [of capitalism] are inevitable [to Marx] because capitalism must function by robbing man of a wholeness whose lack is, in the long run, unbearable to our species." The New Deal, social welfare programs, and Keynesian economics are not patches to capitalism that would have swayed Marx, according to Newell. Such ameliorations would not conceal even bigger problems in America: "[It's] not so much capitalism's success as American's apparent unawareness of this unbearable schism in their lives... They seem content with fragmentation, with parceling themselves out among their private, economic, and public pursuits... in family or love life, in religion, or even hobbies and leisure, [viewing] the political system as a means to these private satisfactions." Born and raised in that system, this doesn't sound so bad to me, but to Marx, we are reduced "to the service of biological existence alone." And yet, I pursue the 3-Rs and painting between hikes with my dogs in the wilderness, free from the grind. Though it wasn't always this way. I traded my youth for it. To Marx, this is tyranny on a small scale, where "America frustrates tyranny of the large-scale terrible kind by routinizing it into a universal, endless series of minor victories over others in commerce." Precisely what America's Framers considered a great achievement because it channels the most quarrelsome aspects of bipeds into relatively benign commercial interests.

In agreement with Rousseau, Marx found liberal individualism, for which capitalism is the servant, "to have truncated the human spirit," with a "longing for a restored polis the Framers wished to dampen." And that's really the point. Marx, like Rousseau, had serious concerns about the evolution of individualism. In Germanic fashion, Marx wants the passion of the Volk, the clan, the tribe, on nation-state scales of mass populations that defy the very possibility of tribe, other than the disconnected, faceless, political tribes we have today. These are not the thick communities Marx ached for.

Of course, all of us under capitalism have been able to relate to Marx at one time or another. When each day's commute to a place we don't want to be, doing something we don't want to do, with people we don't want to be with feels like another lesson in submission. Nine years without a weekend off, and on rare occasions up to 98-hours per week could make me yearn for a little "wholeness." But this was my own doing. As part of the so called "creative tech class," my work provided high interest, often riveting. Marx didn't see much of that in the 1800's. What he saw is what I did before university, on road crews and in factories (when America had factories). Plenty still live that way - most of earth's 8-billion humans - and from that perspective, Marx might look like he's on to something.

But ideologies have an overriding tendency to see one side of an argument. This is borne out by Marx's perspective on rights and power. "Whereas feudalism conflated personal wealth with political authority," says Newell, for Marx "the modern state claims to represent impersonally a community of free and equal individuals. But the formal equality of rights guaranteed by the impersonality of the liberal state masks the lived reality of liberal society, a 'war of all against all,' [said Marx, quoting Hobbes] where the inequality of result expands without limit. The possession of rights - the occasion of so much reverence for the American Revolution - Marx believed to be nothing grandeur than the pursuit of wealth, in which the greediest and boldest triumph." Marx makes a good point about feudalism's conflation of property with power, and one that irritates any modern. He also sounds the alarm we've seen on this blog before from political philosopher Patrick J. Deneen on the impersonality of modern community, which isn't community. To Marx, "Liberty as a right of man is not founded on the relations between man and man, but rather upon the separation of man from man... The liberty of man is regarded as an isolated monad, withdrawn into himself." On that, we need only look around at disconnected America. According to the World Economic Forum, one of the loneliest places on earth. As Louis Dumont put it in his Essays on Individualism, things became more important than people. But Marx was wrong about the pretensions of the modern state (he meant the U.S.), it never sought equal individuals, but rather political equality for individuals. As Hamilton said, inequality will inevitably result from the very liberty that individuals have, free to pursue their talents, some better than others, not equalized by the state. Yes, material inequality can expand "without limit," practically speaking, for corporations and scarce individuals like Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett, but it's the abuse of that wealth that matters. Abuse is why laws and regulations are in place as counterbalance, though not a threat to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation so long as it's not exploited. And as the middle class demonstrated, at least until recently, so much for a war of all against all. As Montesquieu held, "If more people were devoting their energies to commerce, fewer people were absorbed in religious hatreds or the feudal pursuit of martial honor." Marx's absolutist assertion and his "nothing but" claims prefigure modern day talk radio, authoritarians, and fanatics on the Right and Left: good ratings, short on truth - which is not to say they can't breed revolutions anyway.

But Marx wasn't for killing off what capitalism built. "After the socialist revolution," writes Newell, "the productive apparatus of the capitalist epoch would be retained to provide for everyone's material needs. To dismantle this technological apparatus would only rekindle the centuries-long competition for economic survival and domination in the natural environment of scarcity that had culminated in the miseries of capitalism." It's after this stage in the march for socialism that Marx turns dogmatic. "Whereas that other great exploration of communism in the history of political philosophy, Plato's Republic, concluded that self-interest and bodily desire made communism virtually impossible," says Newell, "Marx believed that communism will be brought about precisely by the fullest development of self-interest and bodily desire. Socialism, the least competitive epoch, is brought about by capitalism, the most competitive." The whole subject of "politics will disappear." Yes, humans will suddenly transcend politics, greed, hormones, and live happy ever after under socialism. Trying to force mass overpopulations of individualist humans back into a grotesque approximation of our original mold is begging for slaughter, as seen with the Rousseau-inspired French Revolution, or Marx-inspired Stalin and Mao's murder of millions. Either Marx was magnificently naive, more likely he simply denied reality, or he ignored human nature to protect his ideology. As Newell points out, "naturally, one wonders why avarice, vanity, and competitiveness will not start all over again under socialism. For Marx... it is axiomatic that, once history has liberated people from the system that functions on alienation and exploitation, people will shed every motive for aggressive behavior."




Was Marxism not so historically consequential, it'd be laughable. Imagine, we socialists, filled to the brim with altruism, never again to harbor - by any member or by any generation to come - our habits of ravenousness, rapacious, voracity. "This shows the very limited sense in which Marx's is an empirical theory," writes Newell. Like Cultural Studies and its related social studies compatriots at university, there's a long history of failing to check one's social theory with the real world.

While Marx couldn't know what we know about primate hierarchy, plenty of other philosophers, including America's Founders weren't so sanguine about human nature. Hence, their system - which Marx knew well - which was, in effect, to pit primate trait against primate trait, all to stymie our primate traits. The result would still be an oscillation because humans are inherently unstable, but dampened, less likely to swing wildly out of control.

It's not that Marx was so wrong about the potential ills of individualism and its handmaiden, capitalism (with not a great deal to say about their positives), it's that his cure was so lethal. Enlightenment and the Founder's use of that philosophy were closer to right under our current circumstances of overpopulated, post-Ag-Revolution, nation states. In short, the latter group more closely approximated the human definition under its current circumstance. Marx was so far off target; his first great experiment lasted a pathetic seven decades as that tiny historical fart called the USSR. Capitalism, democracy, freedom, and equality are a mess because humans are a mess. Socialism, communism, and authoritarian tyrannies are a mess too, but in ways opposed to the messy nature of humans as we now exist.

How so many could champion a notion so contrary to human nature, from Lenin to postmodernist academics still pining for Marx after its predestined failure speaks volumes on the human capacity for analysis and honesty. Like the lunacy we saw last time with the libertarian oracle, Murry Rothbard, it's a wonder people can manage an ice cream social, never mind a civilization. And what a surprise (not) that every one of them fails.


Paragraph 2: "The core of Marxism's appeal..." W.R. Newell, "Reflections on Marxism and America," in Allan Bloom Ed., Confronting the Constitution, AEI Press, 1990., pg. 335. "[It's] not so much...", Ibid. pg. 335. "to the service of biological...", Ibid. pg. 337. "America frustrates tyranny...", Ibid. pg. 346.

Paragraph 3: "to have truncated...", Ibid. pg. 347.

Paragraph 5: "Whereas feudalism conflated...", Ibid. pg. 341. "Liberty as a right...", Ibid. pg. 341. "If more people were...", Ibid. pg. 343.

Paragraph 6: "After the socialist...", Ibid. pg. 337. "Whereas that other...", Ibid. pg. 338-339. "politics will disappear," Ibid. pg. 338. "naturally, one wonders...", Ibid. pg. 339.

October 17, 2022: Why Populism Wins and What Trump's Second Term Will Look Like

Democratic forms of governance continue their global backslide in a retreat not seen since the ancient Greeks lost it to commence 2000 years of self-governing blackout. While modern populism's heartthrob, Vladimir Putin - a "Genius," "Some peacekeeper," says Trump, has proven himself a fellow bumbler and war criminal to boot, populism's march has faltered but stumbles on all the same. For 16 years, democracy has been in global decline. Today, in Italy, as head of the Brothers of Italy party, Giorgia Meloni is poised to become Prime Minister after praising Mussolini and winning the September 2022 election. In India, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia, authoritarian governments solidify control while Mexico and Brazil embraced it, but now, like America, they grapple with whether to keep it or not. In the U.S., New Right state legislatures rig elections with pseudo-laws, gerrymandering, and installation of loyalists as they continue their worship of the new Savior, Donald J. Christ.

In Moises Naím's scorching account of populism in his Foreign Affairs condensation of The Revenge of Power: How Autocrats Are Reinventing Politics for the 21st Century, we see how populism wins. Through this chaos-creating political art form, we also see what the second term of Trump in the White House will look like. "Unlike their totalitarian counterparts," writes Naím, "these populists entered office through elections, but they show decidedly undemocratic proclivities." Media no longer need be commandeered by dictators as asocial media like Facebook and Twitter offer immediate outlets for lies, disinformation, and propaganda. Others are willing accomplices, like talk radio and so-called FOX RT - there is a market for and money in dismantling democracies. Combining this with post-Cold War incompetence in government, "Declining trust in the traditional institutions that once served as gatekeepers to the public sphere has vastly lowered the reputational cost of bald-faced lying." The gates to the city are wide open. There are no norms that cannot be violated and flaunted as a proud tribal identifier.

The new autocrats portray themselves as messianic fighters for the people against a corrupt elite. All controversies get recast as "us against them," the "noble masses" versus the "venal select." This is the heart of populism's lure: emotional manipulation - and it's not hard. All one needs to promote it is an inner vacuum of ethics and morality. An absence, not the acquisition of a long-studied skill for statesmanship or the development of knowledge, understanding, and talent. Trump, Putin, Bolsonaro were tailor-made for this. Couple populism's lure with its reception by hairless primates on which our higher brain functions rest on a lizard lump of neurons capping our spine - a lump tuned for the emotional immediacy of fight-or-flight; sexual urgency; gag; vomit; defecation - and this combination of reptilian immediacy with human immorality is a home run. Who needs deliberation, reason, and the testing of solutions when populist leaders "tell it like it is," "get 'er done," and "take no prisoners"? Through the miracle of populist mentality, common at every tavern on earth, the weakest of men - men of monumental ignorance, physically flaccid, hyper-charged with insecurities - are converted to "strong men" in the imagination seated on every barstool. "It is a common mistake to treat populism as an ideology," writes Naím. "It is better understood as a technique for seeking power that is compatible with a nearly limitless range of specific ideologies." And it works anywhere because "in the hands of the power-hungry, resentment against the elite can be mobilized everywhere."

Per Naím, "Polarization follows naturally from populism. Once the basic opposition between the noble people and the corrupt elite has been put at the center of political life, the priority becomes to sharpen the opposition between them. Marxists call this 'heightening the contradictions.' Polarization strategies aim to sweep away the possibility of a middle ground between political rivals, depicting compromise as betrayal, seeking to amplify and exploit any opening for discord. Polarization warps the relationship between followers and their leaders."

Those whose careers require the practice of reason, those educated broadly enough in history and philosophy, those who can think on their feet enough to challenge dogma have been flabbergasted by how easily demagogues have duped the faithful. But this is common for any kind of mass movement. "Mass movements," wrote Eric Hoffer, "interpose a fact-proof screen between the faithful and realities of the world... [The true believer] cannot be frightened by danger nor baffled by contradictions because he denies their existence." And Naím agrees: "The truth of an utterance is therefore independent from its correspondence with reality and derives instead from the identity of the person saying it... Such absurdities become accepted by autocrats' followers because their psychological relationship to the leader is distorted by the prism of identity." Identity politics isn't just for the left. This melding of identities is an emotional attachment at the center of what disciples see themselves to be. "The melding of an individual's identity with the identity of the leader explains why it is often hopeless to try to reason with the followers... When one's identity is built on identification with a leader, any criticism of that leader feels like a personal attack on oneself."

"We are that our reasoning [supports] in-group solidarity," writes Brookings Institution senior fellow in Governance Studies, Jonathan Rauch. "Presenting people with facts that challenge group-defining opinions does not work. Instead of changing their minds, they [reject] facts to double down on false beliefs...regardless of educational and cognitive firepower." In other words, the educated can be duped, too, as Hitler proved with his minions of scientists, engineers, and economists. Polarization is not a byproduct, says Rauch, "polarization is the product [as] cravings for shared outrage against a common adversary." Extreme partisanship may even be addictive, says social psychologist Jonathan Haidt. Justifying lies gives partisans a hit of dopamine. "Like rats that cannot stop pressing a button, partisans may be simply unable to stop believing weird things."

But for all the trouble, energy, and hassle, can it be only devotion that needy attention addicts like Trump seek?

"The ultimate goal is to turn the state into a profit center for a new criminalized coterie," writes Naím. "Criminalized states put the usual repertoire of a mob boss, such as demands for protection money, overt intimidation, and back-street beatings, to political ends: silencing opponents, cowing critics, enforcing complicity, enriching allies, and buying political support internally and externally. A criminalized state combines traditional statecraft with the strategies and methods of transnational criminal cartels..." Like Putin's Russian mafia state, Maduro's illegal gold mining in cahoots with Columbian guerrillas and Turkey to launder it, or Trump's claiming Qatar a terrorist state until fleecing them of $1.4B to pay off son-in-law Jared Kushner's bankrupt 666 Tower. "This is organized crime, yes, but it is much more than that; it is organized crime as statecraft, coordinated by the governments of...nation-states."

And that is Trump's second term. A continuation, expansion, and refinement of what he finally got started in the last two years of his first term. Once responsible adults were expunged, once Vladimir had time in their secret meetings to school Trump on how both could profit, Trump was able to leverage his decades of money laundering for Russia (fined by the U.S. Treasury from 1992 to 2015) into a wildly profitable swindling of America. Military personnel were transported out of their way to fill his resorts. Autocratic diplomats filled his hotels for influence. Government events filled his properties. Trump's second term will be a massive windfall for the Trump Corporation and brownnosed cronies who laud him with sufficient bootlicking if he and they aren't yet in prison. The New Right will fleece the country as the center of gravity for Banana Republics moves north. The U.S. as just another money machine for the Cosa Nostra, conning the little guys at the tavern as the little guys sing the praises of being conned.


Paragraph 2: "these populists..." Moises Naím, The Dictator's New Playbook: Why Democracy Is Losing the Fight, Foreign Affairs, March/April 2022, p. 144. "Declining trust...", Ibid., p. 145

Paragraph 3: "It is better...", Ibid., p. 145. "in the hands...", Ibid., p. 146

Paragraph 4: "Polarization follows...", Ibid., p. 146

Paragraph 5: "Mass movements..." Eric Hoffer, The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements, Perennial, 1989. "The truth of...", Naím p. 146-147. "The melding...", Ibid, p. 147

Paragraph 6: Jonathan Rauch, Rethinking Polarization, National Affairs, Fall 2019. "Like rats..." Ibid

Paragraph 8: "This is organized...", Naím p. 151

Paragraph 10: "At that..." Ibid. pg. 105.

Paragraph 11: "Scientific research..." Ibid. pg. 27,28.

Paragraph 12: "Self-deception..." Ibid. pg. 196, 197.

October 10, 2022: You're a Liar. I'm a Liar. We're All Liars! Why? It's Evolution, Man

Deceit is "not, as popular opinion would have it, reducible to mental illness or moral failure. Human society is a network of lies and deceptions that would collapse under too much honesty." On the other hand, "self-deception is the handmaiden of deceit; in hiding the truth from ourselves, we are able to hide it more fully from others. Therefore, like deceit, self-deception lies at the core of our humanity. Far from being a sign of emotional is probably vital for psychological equilibrium." So says director of the Institute for Cognitive Science and Evolutionary Psychology at the University of New England, David Livingstone Smith, in his Why We Lie: The Evolutionary Roots of Deception and the Unconscious Mind. According to Smith and contrary to Freud, self-deception did not arise to inwardly protect ourselves from stressful experiences or thoughts but for the outward application of social manipulation. While lying all the time would get us labeled as liars, "Self-deception helps us ensnare others more effectively. It enables us to lie sincerely, to lie without knowing we are lying...cleverly weaving useful illusions out of biased perceptions, tendentious memories, and fallacious logic."

It's a bipolar arrangement in our head. Deception runs in two different directions. "A savvy social operator," says Smith, "needs to have an excellent grasp of human self-interests because it's impossible to beguile others unless you understand what makes them tick. However, self-deception, which is also essential for competent social manipulation, pulls us in the opposite direction, leading us to disavow knowledge about human self-interest, encouraging a rather naive conception of human nature." Excluding professional liars, most of the time, we don't actually know we're doing this. To block our manipulations from ourselves is the task of the unconscious, completely at home with the idea that we are the only thing that matters. Something David Hume tried to capture when he said, "Tis not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger." Unlike professional liars - those people for whom their very livelihoods depend on lies - for the rest of us, this equilibrium by self-deception implies a major evolutionary development of the human brain: "In order to hide the truth about ourselves from ourselves, we needed to evolve an unconscious mind... There is a side of ourselves that we were evolved not to know."

"Our minds, no less than our bodies," writes Smith, "are products of the forces of nature operating on time frames of millions of years." But when that mind evolved, humans lived in a very different world. With our present brain size fixed by about 150,000 years ago, we emerged from that environment "equipped with an array of passions, skills, and mental abilities specifically adapted to life in that primeval habitat." That hasn't changed in fifteen hundred centuries. "The mind you and I possess is, in its essentials, a Stone Age mind." No wonder humans are such a mess; stuck in traffic, gagging on smog, crammed into crowded cities built for cars and buildings that just happen to be occupied by humans, and all with a Stone Age noodle.

But lies go further back than this. Smith provides an astounding case for the notion that lies underpin all life on the planet. From deceiving host immune systems by a virus - something we can't even say for sure is alive or not - to mirror orchids that "produce insect pornography" with their flowers that look like fertile female wasps, to the Portia spider that knows the species-specific vibration codes of other prey spiders on their particular webs. Given the portia has excellent eyesight, while other spiders are almost blind, the portia taps out the proper code on the silk of target spiders and they come running, thinking it's a meal. But the portia is small, its prey often large. If the portia sees it picked the wrong dude, it taps out the message for "leaf in the wind - never mind." At the top of this animal deception pyramid are humans. We are more like Homo fallax (deceptive man) than Home sapiens (wise man), says Smith. "The biosphere teams with mendacity... With this lineage behind us, it is hardly surprising that human society is in large measure a densely woven fabric of trickery and dissimulation."

This may make human knowledge a special case of the larger category of biological knowledge. For social animals, from ants and bees to primates and people, be they predator or prey, the outcome of decisions followed by actions depend on the internal motivations and pending behavior of other animals. "In other words," says Smith, "animals must be able to predict the behavior of others." This kind of "mind reading" facilitates deception, exploitation, manipulation. And the more individuals there are to deal with, the more complex this mind reading and manipulation gets. There's a direct correlation between primate brain size and their particular group size, implying that intellectual horsepower evolved from demands of social life.

Usually, lying is spontaneous and unconscious. Aside from blatant self-serving lies like "Stop the Steal!" concocted by our right-wing lie factories or "micro-aggressions" fabricated by our college campus victim industry, the lion's share of lying for amateurs is dominated by unconscious alliance forming, attitude testing, simple manipulations to get our way or "be right" about something. These all link back to the animal world and what we came from. Lying is a survival strategy that advances our opportunities for survival and reproduction. And while, as Smith notes, "There seems to be something inherently paradoxical about a person simultaneously deceiving himself and being a victim of his or her deception," it turns out that we do it all the time.

That we fundamentally know this about ourselves can be seen in the stories that dominate scripture, literature, and today's news. "The serpent deceived me, and I ate," Eve tells God. King Lear, Little Red Riding Hood, Trump's secret meetings with Putin, our obsession with lies and liars is everywhere. "Deception is a crucial dimension of all human associations," Smith writes, "lurking in the background of relationships between parents and children, husbands and wives, employers and employees, professionals and their patients, governments and their citizens... We are natural born liars." And although we tout truth as a great value, we also know that too much honesty is antisocial behavior.

All lies, no matter the type, share commonalities. These deceptions must be "concealed behind a shroud of secrecy in order to work... Lying is obliged by its very nature to cover its traces, for in order to lie effectively, we must lie about lying." Pause for a moment to consider all the cerebral complexities, the back-and-forth gamesmanship, and behavioral predictions going on in Trump's head as he tries to divert, dismiss, and re-spin his theft of Top Secret intel. Intel which I know from personal experience is allowed only in its designated vault. Not even gum wrappers come out of those places without security inspection. As Trump tests one lie after another, he's able to call Rupert Murdoch to heal as FOX is back in line defending Trump to his disciples who tune in, lifting ratings, raising ad revenues. At the same time, Murdoch's new culture war darling, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, swings in the wind, forced to defend Trump to his base as Trump seals his 2024 bid and DeSantis is forgotten. And as all this unfolded, Trump sat for a deposition in New York concerning his bank/insurance/wire fraud, claiming 5th Amendment protection against self-incrimination 450 times, 75-times an hour for 6 hours - something he once said is for liars and cowards (he was right). All as his "back to blue" "law and order" party demands defunding of the FBI.

It's no wonder humans are the most dangerous creatures on earth. So far as we know, the most dangerous creatures in the universe.

As Smith claims, more than chess, this is poker, where conscious and unconscious feints and tells dominate the game more than rules of how to play it. "At that fateful moment when our species became its own main predator, these well-practiced cognitive routines swung into action in the social arena."

The saddest part of this evolutionary stratagem is that it looks like the most honest people are the most miserable. Honest people who truthfully assess the world around them, especially themselves, are more often depressives, says Smith. For decades, health professionals assumed that such people were self-deceived and irrationally out of touch with reality. "Scientific research leads to the opposite conclusion that depressives seem to have a better grasp of reality than the 'normal' psychiatrists treating them...." Why? Because depressives "suffer a deficit in self-deception."

But it gets worse. "Self-deception," Smith writes, "was a splendid adaptation in a world populated by nomadic bands armed with sticks and stones. It's no longer such a good option in a world stocked with nuclear and biological weapons. The problem is, we're stuck with it... The most dangerous forms of self-deception are the collective ones. Patriotism, moral crusades, and religious fervor sweep across nations like plagues...."

So we've seen.


Paragraph 1: David Livingstone Smith, Why We Lie: The Evolutionary Roots of Deception and the Unconscious Mind, St. Martin's Griffin, 2004, pg. 2. "self-deception is..." Ibid. pg. 3. "Self-deception..." Ibid. pg. 76-77.

Paragraph 2: "A savvy..." Ibid. pg. 106. "this equilibrium..." Ibid. pg. 3-4.

Paragraph 3: "Our minds..." Ibid. pg. 11. "equipped with..." Ibid. pg. 11. "The mind..." Ibid. pg. 11.

Paragraph 4: "produce insect..." Ibid. pg. 33. "The biosphere..." pg. 29.

Paragraph 6: "There seems..." Ibid. pg. 22.

Paragraph 7: "Deception is..." Ibid. pg. 12-13.

Paragraph 8: "concealed behind..." Ibid. pg. 6,12.

Paragraph 10: "At that..." Ibid. pg. 105.

Paragraph 11: "Scientific research..." Ibid. pg. 27,28.

Paragraph 12: "Self-deception..." Ibid. pg. 196, 197.

September 5, 2022: If You Think "The People" Want Freedom and Democracy, Think Again

That demagogic cranks emerge, even in healthy societies, is no secret. America's had scores of them, from Henry Ford and Father Coughlin to Huey Long, Joseph McCarthy, and George Wallace. But in How Democracies Die, political scientists Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt write, "An essential test for democracies is not whether such figures emerge but whether political leaders, and especially political parties, work to prevent them from gaining power in the first place... political parties are democracy's gatekeepers." In some democracies, "political leaders heed the warning signs and ensure that authoritarians remain on the fringes, far from centers of power." Today in Austria and France, this means teaming with the opposing party, just as Reagan-conservatives George Will and Max Boot urge Republicans to vote straight Democrat in coming elections. It's the party elites, not the people, that save democracies because too many people are easily conned.

And it's not difficult. Demagogues are evidence that the political tricks and tools we learn by age seven are the tricks and tools we're stuck with for life. Recall how Trump responded to Hillary's prediction-come-true that Trump would be Putin's "puppet." With all the creative originality of a seven-year-old, Trump responded, "No puppet, no puppet. You're the puppet. No, you're the puppet." As political scientist Jonathan Rauch notes, "regardless of educational and cognitive firepower," such lures and our response to them remain just as effective as when we were children. I practice this when I replace Trump with sTupid or recast the GOP as the GOPP (Grand Old Putin Party). Accurate as both are, it infuriates my opposition just as I intended and reveals the reality that both participants know is true, delighting one, infuriating the other. Per Rauch, polarization is not a byproduct of demagoguery, "polarization is the product," serving "cravings for shared outrage against a common adversary," or simply to get under that adversary's skin. And it might even be addictive, says social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, as partisanship gives partisans a chemical hit of dopamine. "Like rats that cannot stop pressing a button," he says, "partisans may be simply unable to stop believing [and doing] weird things." Thanks to that lizard lump that caps our spine, we can't help but be made petty by the petty. As the old saying goes, "When you wrestle with pigs, you're gonna get muddy." When it comes to mud wrestling, humans just aren't that complicated.

This is the sole territory of Right-wing talk radio, TV, and internet. These lie factories are leaders in democracy's worldwide decline-never solutions, only mud wrestling. Real problem solving requires analysis (yawn), negotiation (what?), compromise (treason!), and constant vigilance required to fix things (zzz... snore)-that's hard. Poking the brainstem-that's easy. As George Will said, once a people get in this state, "it's very hard to un-ring that bell."

But such is the state we're in. And from Levitsky and Ziblatt, we see how all those things we thought would keep us safe, won't. The Constitution won't save us, nor its institutions; it's most definitely not the people. Latin American countries and the Philippines made replicas of the U.S. Constitution and structured their governments accordingly, and yet, like 2016 America, they still became authoritarian sanctuaries for half-wits. Laws can be abused in any number of ways, from excessive "letter of the law" to radical "spirit" of the law, either of which can be made to mean anything. There are also many issues that constitutions, including the U.S. Constitution, do not address, in part because it assumed norms of common decency, tolerance, and forbearance. Turns out, that was the secret sauce nobody suspected.



As the authors elaborate, "Institutions alone are not enough to rein in autocrats. Constitutions must be defended... by democratic norms." It was Thomas Aquinas who argued that norms-matters of social habit-are the most powerful laws we have, superior to written law. "Without robust norms, constitutional checks and balances do not serve as the bulwarks of democracy we imagine them to be. Institutions become political weapons, wielded forcefully by those who control them against those who do not... [Without norms, the] tragic paradox of the electoral route to authoritarianism is that democracy's assassins use the very institutions of democracy-gradually, subtly, even legally-to kill it."

With Trump and his GOPP as serial norm-killers, with their Christian ethics replaced by the normalization of immorality, norms and morality are dead on the Trumpian Right. Now that they're gone, it's very hard to un-ring that bell. As it took time for the Right to catch up to the relativity of truth promoted by our postmodern Left, it shouldn't take long for the Left to catch up to the evisceration of norms and the last moral holdout. In part because commencing with our norm-breaking 1960s, the Left was never much for norms to begin with-though some norms, like those opposing civil rights deserved to be broken. Norms-that thin tissue of convention-seem to be the last buttress blocking the fall of unstable humans, almost all of them strangers in global numbers too massive for stability.

With norms gone, there's no need for old-style takeovers. Today, write Levitsky and Ziblatt, "most democratic breakdowns have been caused not by generals and soldiers but by elected governments... There are no tanks in the streets. Constitutions and other democratic institutions remain in place. People still vote. Elected autocrats maintain a veneer of democracy while eviscerating its substance... They may even [portray] efforts to improve democracy... combat corruption or clean up the electoral process." Sound familiar? Like GOPP state legislatures?

Levitsky and Ziblatt provide the recipe for how this gets started. In every case, the outsider follows a period of social unrest attendant economic calamity. (Never forget bread and circuses.) For each case they examine, from Venezuela's Chávez and Peru's Fujimori to Hungary's Orban and Trump, establishment politicians believed the upstart outsider had no chance of winning. And when he did win, the elites knew they could control him, then didn't.

"If a charismatic outsider emerges on the scene, gaining popularity as he challenges the old order," write the authors, "it's tempting for establishment politicians who feel their control is unraveling to try to co-opt him. If an insider breaks ranks to embrace the insurgent before his rivals do, he can use the outsider's energy and base to outmaneuver his peers. Then, establishment politicians hope the insurgent can be redirected to support their own program."

But these insurgent upstarts are of a different psychological type, foreign to the more typical climber inspired by achievement, influence, or fame. Even a casual inspection of those noted, or further back to Stalin, Hitler, and Mao, reveals an ax to grind against some malignant inferiority or loss. Stalin, a victim of his drunken father's frequent beatings and a carriage accident leaving his left arm disabled; Hitler, another target of his father's fist, combined with the death of his dream to become an artist; Mao, a serial dropout; Trump, forever striving to show his father he was as worthy as brother Freddy despite Donald's serial business failures (Trump Shuttle, New Jersey Generals, Taj Mahal, Castle, and Plaza casinos), and never accepted by New York's old money. As Mary Trump opens her biography of uncle Donald, she quotes Victor Hugo, "If the soul is left in darkness, sins will be committed." These insurgent upstarts have infinite wills that run 24/7 in constant need of devouring other souls, striving to light their own. Such types are never corralled, controlled, directed. Their emotions are a chain reaction of almost random, spontaneous eruptions in search of recovery, from what, even they don't know. When political insiders welcome these mental deformations, the illness is normalized and the insurgent gains credibility in the minds of the people, media, and donor class. "Abdication of political responsibility by existing leaders often marks a nation's first step toward authoritarianism."

How Democracies Die was written before Trump's Big Lie of a "stolen election"-now a canonical litmus test. Though Trump tested the Lie in 2016 as prophylactic for his ego if he lost, just as years before when he claimed the Emmys were rigged because his gameshow didn't win one. Using the Lie, GOPP state legislatures began to "clean up the electoral process," or rewriting voter laws in 2020, in some cases seeking means to overturn elections if their candidate falls short. As a bit of prophecy, Levitsky and Ziblatt wrote in 2018, "American states, which were once praised by the great jurist Louis Brandeis as 'laboratories of democracy,' are in danger of becoming laboratories of authoritarianism as those in power rewrite electoral rules, redraw constituencies, and even rescind voting rights to ensure that they do not lose."

While Levitsky and Ziblatt correctly assign the New Right as guilty for America's slide to fascism, they ignore that the New Right's political extremism is a response to the New Left's social extremes: the Sexual Revolution; 60s drug culture; counter-culture hippie movement; authoritarian political correctness; postmodernist dominance of the humanities; leftist segregation of identity politics. The New Left is no more capable of disposing of their hollow "diversity," "inclusivity," and "identity" mantras-much as the first two are reasonably desirable-for the unity of an American melting pot than the New Right can claim to be moral, Christian, or Constitutionalists. A sizable fraction of "the people" don't want freedom and democracy. Instead, the New Right imitates their hero Mao Zedong as "political power grows from the barrel of a gun," under the guise of gun rights and perversions of the 2nd Amendment paraded in state capitols for purposes of intimidation. And as we've seen here before, even Right-wing American "Christians" don't want their Founder's process of democratic governance in accord with Christian morality because authoritarian power over liberals matters more. This is tribal war. As our primate relatives prove, there's only one survivor in this fight.

Buckle up, world. Like Rome, if these Ununited States tumble, they'll smash everything they fall on. If you thought our response to 9/11 was a cataclysmic screwup, you just wait.

References not linked to above:

Paragraph 1: Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, How Democracies Die, B/D/W/Y Broadway Books, 2018. " the first place...": Ibid, pg. 7. "...democracy's gatekeepers.": Ibid, pg. 20. "...isolate and defeat them.": Ibid, pg. 20.

Paragraph 8: " democratic norms.": Ibid, pg. 7. " kill it.": Ibid, pg. 7-8.

Paragraph 10: "...clean up the electoral process.": Ibid, pg. 3.

Paragraph 11: "...their own program.": Ibid, 15.

Paragraph 12: "...sins will be committed.": Mary Trump, Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man, Simon & Schuster, 2020. "...toward authoritarianism.": Ibid, pg. 19.

Paragraph 13: " not lose.": Ibid, pg. 2.

July 4, 2022: It's Not Only America: Is Christianity Imploding Worldwide?

In Seven Truths Trump Taught the World, we asked here, "What is a Christian? Complex as that answer can be, might we simplify it as one who at least attempts to practice the teachings of Christ?... But as the world has witnessed of America since 2016, David Hume's assessment has been validated: 'the highest zeal in religion and the deepest hypocrisy, far from being inconsistent, are commonly united in the same individual.'" In Are We Witnessing the Collapse of American Christianity? We found just half of America's young people identify as religious, and over a third of Americans identify as nonreligious, a four-fold increase in 30 years. We looked at the most well-known scriptural verses and compared them not to people's self-professed "devotion" but to their actions. Adding to the implosion, as Billy Graham Center director Ed Stetzer said on the BBC, some Christians are replacing Christ with Trump's-affiliated QAnon, which 4 in 10 "Republicans" believe in. "Gullibility is not a spiritual gift," says Stetzer. As Baptist News Global's Jeff Brumley wrote, "evangelical support for a scandal-ridden [Trump] could spell the end of Christianity in the United States." It's not science, reason, or liberals that threaten American Christianity most, not widespread pedophilia in the Catholic priesthood, sexual predation by or against Nuns, nor abuse by Southern Baptist clergy. It's the wanton betrayal by the flock themselves. Betrayal not hidden or embarrassing to a specific sect of American Christians, it's a badge of honor. Their party is more important than Christianity. But the U.S. is not alone.

In his strongest words to date against Patriarch Kirill, the pro-war leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, Pope Francis slammed him for endorsing Putin's invasion of Ukraine. "I spoke to him for 40 minutes via Zoom," the Pope said. "The first 20 minutes he read to me, with a card in hand, all the justifications for war. I listened and told him: I don't understand anything about this. Brother, we are not clerics of state, we cannot use the language of politics but that of Jesus." Pope Francis warned Patriarch Kirill, not to become "Putin's altar boy." Kirill back's Putin's war crimes against Ukraine the way Trump does. Putin is "some peacekeeper," Trump said. "He's a genius. Smart, very smart." So we've seen, with Ukraine's ass-whipping of Putin's Army and self-inflicted collapse of his economy. With 70-percent of Russians identifying as Orthodox Christian, Putin has lauded religion in Russia the way his counterintelligence Guns & Bible Campaign did the same for Trump-supporting Christians in the U.S. when Russian spy Maria Butina suckered the NRA and penetrated the Republican Party. In Putin's Russia, the church is a tool of the State, as it is in the U.S. for Trump.

In an interview on PBS Newshour's documentary Inside Russia, Russian Orthodox Arch Priest Ivan Garmisch said, "the only way to be a true Christian is to be a true Russian. The State and my faith are united. They can't be separated. The values of the church and the State coincide."

So, forget Mark 12:17; don't leave to Cesar what is Cesar's.

Coming from a nation where orthodox priests bless Russian weapons, this should be no surprise.

"Putin," says Garmisch, is "a religious man and he takes part in the divine worship." Like Trump, who held up a Bible as he stood beside a church for a photo op after unlawfully clearing peaceful protesters there. And yet Trump can name no verse, no book, no prophet in the Bible. Like Garmisch kissing missiles, theater for the tavern. Pretend belief is close enough.

In Russia, Father Garmisch regularly blesses brigades of Cossacks - once the Czar's henchmen - who believe Russia should be governed by tradition, not the rule of law. And like Trump-Christians beating his opposition at Trump rallies, the good Christian Cossacks act as vigilantes for Mother Russia, hospitalizing those who disagree with Putin.

Surely a thrill to Father Garmisch and Patriarch Kirill, Putin bombed Ukrainian civilians throughout Easter.

In Brazil, the slogan among Christians used to be "Believers don't mess with politics." But in the 1970s, Brazil's economy and politics began to crumble. Economically up and down, rife with corruption, with and without dictators, people wanted order. As Chayenne Polimedio writes in the Atlantic, "Brazil's evangelicals came to recognize their new strength: Democracy is a numbers game. And their own numbers were growing," while nonmilitant, mainstream Christians shrank.

In 1985, in the city of Ana´polis in the rural state of Goia´s, the leaders of the Assembly of God, a popular evangelical church, announced they would begin supporting candidates to run for office. The new slogan was "Brother votes for Brother." Participation in politics by major Pentecostal denominations was a reversal in the faithful's approach to politics. By 2016, with skyrocketing violence, record unemployment, and constant political scandals, Brazil spiraled into chaos. On May 12 of that year, a leader of the Assembly of God baptized in the Jordan River a lifelong Brazilian radical and political outlier by the name of Jair Bolsonaro; though he claims to be Catholic, baptized at birth. As Polimedio writes, "This was [Bolsonaro's] most important act in formalizing his relationship with Evangelicals that he spent the early part of this decade cultivating... Bolsonaro placed his political fortunes in the hands of the evangelicals. Brazilians find Bolsonaro's nostalgia for military dictatorship and even his disdain for democracy appealing, [able to unify] Christians sympathetic to a law-and-order governing style." With our insurrection party's redefinition of "law and order" as its opposite, we in America know what that means. Again, like Putin's "divine worship," Trump's Bible pose, or Bolsonaro's dunk in the Jordan, it doesn't take much to convince those who don't need convincing. Sounding like Trump's authoritarians who "love the Constitution," as Bolsonaro said, "You can't change anything in this country with voting and elections."

What Paul Waldman wrote of Trumpers applies to those above, "Trump taught them that shamelessness can be a kind of superpower. If you don't care whether journalists (let alone your political opponents) point out your lies, then you have been liberated. And if you stop caring what anyone except what your most committed supporters believe, then not only can you ignore the truth, in the Republican's case, you have to... lying is not only permitted but mandatory." So much for Ephesians 4:25: "We no longer lie to one another. We only tell the truth." Lies become the only way to compensate for one's own betrayals; the only way to feel belonging when belonging is dead because the religion we once belonged to has been wrecked from the inside.

To watch prayerful humans parade their faux-faith alongside their normalization of violence, immorality, and fantastical conspiracies is to see the chaotic spiral of incongruities that must attend the disassembly of every once-inspiring system of order. This is what the ancients saw. The unraveling of their beliefs as forerunner to their civilization's dissolution, vanishment, Dark Ages.

With these worldwide examples, perhaps Pope Francis would agree, we're not talking about casual sinners here. These are apostates. Loathers, if not of Christ, certainly of his teachings because political power matters more.

And yet, while Christianity continues its decline in the U.S., worldwide numbers of self-identified Christians might not change much. Russian Orthodox Putin-worshipers will still claim to be Orthodox. Brazilian Bolsonaro-idolizers will still go to church. And 82% of Trump supporters who claim to be Christian will blatantly betray Christ for political power. They can't conceal what they're doing. They make Christianity a farce, a sham, surely an embarrassment to Christ, levied against him by "Christians" themselves. These are cults with a twist. Claiming to be one thing, acting as another.

But this view is one-sided. In a world of over 2 billion Christians, there are those who practice the ethical aspects of their faith, are faithful to the Teachings, and many more who try. These are the people we don't hear about. Whatever their fraction of the whole, compared to what we do see, they appear to be in desperate retreat, losing to their radical brethren.

Until next time, Monday September 5, 2022.

May 2, 2022: Descent of the West? Part 2, Patrick J. Deneen's verdict: Western Civilization Has Failed Because the Left and Right Succeeded

As James Davison Hunter remarks in the Foreword to Deneen's Why Liberalism Failed, "In the young twenty-first century, liberal democracy, that system which marries majority rule to individual rights, has entered a crisis of legitimacy... Deneen's is a radical critique, arguing that [classical] liberalism needs not reform but retirement. The problem is not that liberalism has been hijacked but that its elevation of individual autonomy was wrong from the start..." Or should that be, "the eventual sanctification of individual autonomy was the wrong outcome"?

Deneen's idea can be simplified with an analogy where our social system-that product of Enlightenment philosophy-is a grinder of grain, and we are the grains. Gears in this machine thrash the natural health and goodness of those grains into bits and pieces of what was. While these bits are labeled "Whole Grains," they are nothing of the sort. Instead of healthy wholeness, they've been converted to a substance little different from raw sugar, that source of (social) sugar highs and sugar crashes. While the bits that pile beneath this machine look to be in close proximity to one another, they're severed from their natural attachments, living in isolation with only the appearance of connectedness. But in exchange, these bits acquire the freedom to be manipulated into all sorts of new and wonderous contortions, like pizza crust or breadsticks or lonely nonconformists. Curiously, the gears of this machine run on an odd fuel called "borderlessness." Stranger than it sounds, it's both a motive force that pushes gears forward with intent and direction, and an attractive force that draws the gears toward where they imagine they can be. Borderlessness is a powerful fuel sold by people of two stripes. One side advertises its utility in the grinder for the grain's emancipation from things like national boundaries and gender, while the other side promotes its use in removing safety limits on guns and strip mines. The gears inside this grinder are of two kinds: the state and the market. The state and the market are just gears, they don't know they're smashing the healthy wholeness of grains, they just do. And by doing, they create a low-grade toxin for all who consume it, resulting in any number of ailments, from obesity and heart disease to diabetes and the death of Western civilization. Marketers give this process of converting grain's natural nature a happy name; they call it "Liberty."

Per Deneen, "[Classical] liberalism created the conditions and the tools for assent of its own worst nightmare, yet it lacks the self-knowledge for its own culpability." It failed because it succeeded, a success measured by its achievement of the opposite of its promise. Liberalism-that underlying philosophy of America's Founders-is sinking after 250-years, not because something went wrong, but because, like our food industry built on whole-grain paste, it worked so impossibly well. And what worked so well dissolved the foundation that supported itself, as high-glycemic foods created the most lethally obese population on earth.

"By ancient and Christian understandings," writes Deneen, "...self-rule was achieved only with difficulty requiring extensive habituation with virtue, particularly self-command and self-discipline over base but insistent appetites-the achievement of liberty required constraints on individual choice." A condition achieved less by laws than by norms as custom, which Thomas Aquinas considered superior law. But the grinding philosophy of liberalism made liberty its opposite: "the greatest possible freedom from external constraints, including customary norms." Where the only limitations come from "inferior laws" necessarily constructed by the state to maintain order on unfettered individuals. Liberalism obliterates custom and its norms.

That's the philosophical and psychological effect of the system, but mechanically, procedurally, how does the grinder do what Deneen says it does?

The first gear: the state. "Liberalism rests upon a vicious and reinforcing cycle," says Deneen, "in which state expansion secures the end of individual [barriers to liberty], in turn requiring further state expansion..."

The second gear: the market. "Sovereignty of individual choice in an economy requires demolition of artificial boundaries to a marketplace. The market-once a defined and limited space within the city-must ultimately become borderless."

The fuel: borderlessness. It's "the arbitrariness of almost every border [where] any differentiation, distinction, boundary, and delineation...come under suspicion as arbitrarily limiting individual freedom of choice." Be they barriers to spending, barriers to expression, barriers imposed by nature, they "must increasingly be erased under the logic of liberalism."

These all work together. "The logic of liberalism thus demands near-limitless expansion of both state and market," Deneen writes. "A massive state architecture and a globalized economy, both created in the name of the liberation of the individual, combine to leave the individual powerless and overwhelmed by the very structures that were called into being in the name of freedom." As the market grows, the state grows to manage it with "a felt loss of liberty." As Plato noted, while liberty and license grow with behavior ever more released from social norms-which are, after all, obstacles to free choice-the state must swell to maintain order. Thus managing "a society without shared norms, practices, or beliefs...replacing all nonliberal forms of support for human flourishing...hollowing any deeply held sense of a shared future or fate among the citizenry." Remember the once-lauded "American melting pot"? An idea that made aspirants greater by their unity, now exchanged for "identity"-segregation as sovereignty.

All this can be hard to see. Unlike the plainly authoritarian regimes of fascism and communism, "liberalism is less visibly ideological and only surreptitiously remakes the world in its image," says Deneen, "liberalism is more insidious: it pretends to neutrality, claiming no preference and denying any intention of shaping the souls under its rule. It ingratiates by invitation to the easy liberties, diversions, and attractions of freedom, pleasure, and wealth. It makes itself invisible, much as a computer's operating system goes largely unseen-until it crashes." But ideologies eventually fail "because as falsehoods become more evident, the gap grows between what the ideology claims and the lived experience of human beings under its domain... Either it enforces conformity to a lie it struggles to defend, or it collapses when the gap between claim and reality finally results in wholesale loss of belief among the populace." Consider how Leninist-Marxist ideology worked out for the USSR. It took only seven decades, one lifetime, to fail.

As recognized by Hannah Arendt, Erich Fromm, and Robert Nisbet, the "signal feature of modern totalitarianism was that it arose and came to power through the discontents of people's isolation and loneliness." Three hundred million people in America, and according to the World Economic Forum, loneliness is an epidemic in this, one of the loneliest places on earth. A condition pressed for by liberalism of both Left and Right, and they don't know it, as we all now wonder how totalitarianism became so popular in America.

For social structures like thick communities of custom, tradition, and religion, today's political Left sees these as oppressive of individual free expression. To liberal individualists, rules that service the community demand obedience-and they do, but this is not to be allowed because rules that demand obedience to individuals supersede those of community. Communities are to be opened for state inspection to assure no individual rights are violated, ensuring no coercion exists (although the Amish get away with it). Restraint-i.e., virtue-is an assault on Free Choice in worship of the Sacred Self with a minimum of attachments, expanding personal liberty, liberating moral judgment, disconnecting people from each other. Surprisingly, the Left then wonders why there's little concern for the poor, why the rich want to keep all they can, why corporations would place profit above people and the planet. For liberals, communal belonging is a kind of weakness, needy, an insult to autonomy. Morality-that practice of ethical behaviors in a universe of more than one lone individual-is a matter of personal choosing.

On the Right, free choice is, among other things, manifested through consumerism. Conservatives seek unregulated laissez-faire markets for untrammeled consumption, Christian teachings of modesty and the rich man's ban from heaven be damned. Religious prohibitions of covetous excess are impediments to profit. Markets will govern themselves the way they didn't before Wall Street's Great Recession. Ethics that stand in the way of eviscerating the environment or some other species for economic return is for "tree-huggers." Markets must be protected by big government from poor, indigenous, or politically weak people in a say to their own lands if resources are discovered under it. Markets that relocate occupations overseas from the town they originated and were built from are simply engaged in "asset allocation" and "resource management" for "win-win, due diligence compactification across the enterprise eco-system." (Huh?) Increased purchasing power of cheap goods is supposed to compensate for the export of high-paying manufacturing jobs. Profit is about the dollar, not the flag, except in China, and it's certainly not about employees who provide return on investments and yet are expendable while investors somehow are not. Laws that allow corporate polluters to poison the very people that work for them-from coal miners with black lung to America's Cancer Alley in Louisiana and Texas-are legislated by business-friendly conservative politicians. When it comes to cherished families and their values, try killing off a few-a regular occurrence-then see how their traditions stand up to it. Morality-that practice of ethical behaviors in a universe of more than one lone individual-is a matter for the rugged individual to judge.

While the New Right has garnered recent focus by their normalization of violence and immorality (remember the "Moral Majority"?), the Left and Right are on the same team. Both sides exercise all rights, no responsibilities, the alpha and omega of liberalism. The Founders did not give us a Bill of Rights and Responsibilities so the latter-comprised of duty and virtue in ample supply at the time-wasted away by the kryptonite of post-Enlightenment liberalism.

Notice that both Left and Right accused Deneen's book "of promoting nostalgia for communities that limit mobility and individual liberty." Indeed. True communities thrived on our sensitivities of connectedness, providing judgment and bearing, while state and market society thrive on our disconnectedness, providing liberation and perplexity. As political philosopher, Michael J. Sandel has it, "liberated and dispossessed." Our replacement is the NASCAR "community," the Facebook "community," this afternoon's mass murder "community."

Deneen concludes, "To call for the cures of liberalism's ills by applying more liberal measures is tantamount to throwing gas on a raging fire." All this might cause us to "wonder whether America is...approaching the end of the natural cycle of corruption and decay that limits the lifespan of all human creations."

And the solution?

He doesn't say.


Paragraph 1: "...autonomy was wrong from the start..." Patrick J. Deneen, Why Liberalism Failed, Yale University Press, 2018, pg. vii, viii. Hunter adds, "The symptoms of this ailment are easy to observe: an increasing skew in the distribution of wealth; decay in traditional institutions, from civic associations to labor unions to the family; a loss in trust of authority-political, religious, scientific, journalistic-and among citizens themselves..." pg. vii.

Paragraph 3: "...self-knowledge for its own culpability." Ibid, pg. xvi; "...achievement of the opposite of its promise. Ibid, pg. 3, paraphrased.

Paragraph 4: "...constraints on individual choice." Ibid, pg. xiii; "...including customary norms." Ibid, pg. xiii.

Paragraph 6: " turn requiring further state expansion..." Ibid, pg. 62.

Paragraph 7: "...must ultimately become borderless." Ibid, pg. xiv.

Paragraph 8: "...limiting individual freedom of choice." Ibid, pg. xviii. "...the logic of liberalism.": Ibid, pg. xviii. "...erased under the logic of liberalism."

Paragraph 9: "in the name of freedom." Ibid, pg. xii;"a felt loss of liberty." Ibid, pg. xii. "...fate among the citizenry." Ibid, pg. 62.

Paragraph 10: "...until it crashes." Ibid, pg. pg. 5. "...belief among the populace." Ibid, pg. 6.

Paragraph 11: "...isolation and loneliness." Ibid, pg. 59. "...World Economic Forum...": Kevin Loria, Most Americans are lonely, World Economic Forum, 3 May 2018. Amy Brannan, TOP 10 LONELIEST COUNTRIES IN THE WORLD, IMMIGroup, Aug 30, 2017.

Paragraph 15: "...mobility and individual liberty." Deneen, pg. xxi. "liberated and disposed": Michael J. Sandel, Democracy's Discontent: America in Search of a Public Philosophy, Belknap Press, 1998.

Paragraph 16: "...gas on a raging fire." Ibid, pg. 4.

Until next time, Monday July 4, 2022.

March 7, 2022: Once Again, America is Asking, "Are Trump and His Party, Traitors?"

Just one week after Trump was staggered to find himself in office, on January 29, 2017, Republican Bush Administration State Department counselor Eliot Cohn wrote his prophetic acid bath blistering in The Atlantic. "Precisely because [Trump's] problem is one of temperament and character, it will not get better. It will get worse as power intoxicates him... It will probably end in calamity. It will not be surprising if his term ends with impeachment... When you sell your soul to the Devil, he prefers to collect his purchase on the installment plan. To be associated with [Trump is] an exercise in moral self-destruction."

So we've seen. From House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy cowering in a corner of the Capitol, by cell phone begging Trump to call off his jihadists, only to squat prostrate before Trump at Mara Largo two weeks later; to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell trying now desperately to shower off Trump's orgasmic insurrection climax while, to the contrary, winking with a nod and a smile to Trump's base, "Don't resist. I liked it"; to what was once known as "conservative" FOX News-now popularly known as FOX RT-as it seeks to grow Russia's coalition in the U.S. with broadcasts of Comrade Tucker Carlson's nightly defense of the Kremlin. And with twice the viewership, as Tucker is also shown on state television in Moscow. As Carlson says, "Why shouldn't I root for Russia? Which I am."

Before we go further in this indictment, the word "treason" is being thrown about a lot in his country. How 'bout a definition? Treason: "disloyalty or treachery to one's own country or its government, giving aid or comfort to the enemy." No small offense, almost universally around the world, the punishment for treason is a hanging or execution by a military firing squad.

So, who might America's enemy be? One, in particular, has made the demise of America a top priority. This man doesn't employ millions of bots and a 5000-man Troll Army to sucker gullible Americans into having fistfights in Texas because he loves us. He very much wants us to devour ourselves because-thanks in part to Ronald Reagan-he still cries at night over the implosion of his cherished USSR. A civilization that lasted a mere, trifling, pathetic seven decades; one lifetime and... poof. His name is Vlad, Russia's Vladimir the Great as "conservative" Newsmax called him.

So, there's that. But who might be "giving aid or comfort" to this enemy? Remember our Carnival Barker kneeling his abundance at Helsinki to lick Vladimer's toe? Have we forgotten Trump's secret meetings with Vlad, seizing the notes from a translator? Were we blinded with too much corruption to recall that Trump gave our bases in northern Syria to Vlad through an unannounced pullout and abandonment of the Kurds? Remember Trump's foot-dragging of veto-proof sanctions against Russia? Could there have been a connection to Trump's short-term National Security Advisor Michael Flynn's promise to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that Obama sanctions would be removed? Remember, way back, when Trump deleted anti-Russia, pro-Ukrainian language from the 2016 RNC plank? Was this portent of Trump's halting of arms to Ukraine as part of his extortion pressure in 2018? (For those who believe Trump gave Ukraine, Javelin missiles, while Obama gave only "pillows and bed sheets," click this reference for a laugh.) Was there any connection to Trump's staff having 140+ meetings with Russians, their agents, or cutouts during his campaign? Why did Trump privately discuss destroying NATO and publicly call into question Article 5, that any attack on a NATO nation is an attack on the U.S.? Who could be the beneficiary of all this? Who gained when Trump gave Israeli secrets to Russians in the Oval Office?

As the list goes on and on, is there a discernable pattern here? Must the truth-telling side of our media persist in appearing reasonable when they say, "It's curious," "We wonder why," "No one can understand"?


Have a regular listen with the investigative journalism of The Asset Podcast, where we find Russia's grooming of Trump as a resource began with his loud and proud KGB meetings in 1987. Then validate their findings from reputable sources elsewhere. From what we've seen with our own eyes and countless documented examples, don't we know the answer to the question posed above? Even if Trump acts-and so enthusiastically-as a hostage of blackmail in Vlad's favor, is that not treason?

But what about the party? Has Lincoln's GOP (Grand Old Party) become Trump's GOPP (Grand Old Putin Party)? Is the whole Right-wing mess from Jewish-space-laser expert Marjorie Taylor Green to alleged child-sex-trafficker Matt Gaetz to conspiracy theorist Paul Gosar, whose five siblings made a TV commercial to announce their brother is nuts; are these people even capable of being traitors? Or are they simply, per conservative Reaganite Max Boot, "the Kremlin's useful idiots"?

Let's look at the party. During the House Intelligence Committee hearings concerning Trump's attempted bribery of Ukrainian President Zelensky and subsequent cover-up, we witnessed former National Security Council Senior Director for European and Russian affairs, Dr. Fiona Hill, tutor the GOPP face-to-face. "Some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country," Hill said, "and that perhaps, somehow, for some reason, Ukraine did. This is a fictional narrative perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves... [Russia] deploys millions of dollars to weaponize our own false narratives to divide us against each other, degrade our institutions, and destroy the faith of the American people in our democracy... We are running out of time to stop them. [Don't] promote politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interests." And what was the Republican response? They handed Hill their report claiming Ukraine was to blame for the 2016 U.S. election interference, not Russia-as though they knew what the CIA, NSA, FBI, and 14 other intel agencies did not.

On each day of the hearings, California House "Republican" ranking member Devin Nunez diverted from Russia with opening remarks that were a version of, "What is the full extent of Ukraine's election meddling against the Trump campaign?" The answer was none. Nunez and his comrades were well aware of agency and Senate findings to the contrary. Nunez was later found to have been in Ukraine, secretly seeking conspiracy theories against Biden. Once revealed, he suddenly recalled his forgotten contacts with Giuliani co-conspirator and indicted Lev Parnas. But each day was another promotion of the Ukrainian conspiracy, part of Russian Ops explicitly traced to Vlad by U.S. intel and already briefed to Congress, including Nunez. Meanwhile, House "Republicans" Jim Jordan (OH), Mark Meadows (NC), Matt Gaetz (FL), Doug Collins, (GA), Mike Conaway, Louie Gohmert, and John Ratcliffe, all of Texas, promoted this or other Russian propagandaattached to Right-wing hot button issues like guns, Christianity, and abortion. Finally, Senator John Neely Kennedy of Louisiana chimed in with House comrades to assure it was Ukraine that fondled our elections, the next day he admitted it wasn't, while the day after that it was Ukraine again. Wow. Liiiiiars. Soon after, "Republican" Senator Ted Cruz-whose father, according to Trump, assisted Lee Harvey Oswald in JFK's assassination-joined the Russian Op. There's an old saying that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Notice how the "Ukraine infiltrated our election" story became "China did." No, it was Iran, then it was Venezuela... No, wait, QAnon said it was space aliens. Then it was Hillary again, after long ago it was Obama. None of their shit sticks. Yet they keep pitching it, undeterred by failure, the stench, and uproarious laughter. (Had they a memory, the New Right would laugh too.)

But why finger Ukraine for something Russia did to begin with? Would taking the blame off Vlad ease the pain of a man who murders people in other countries with Novichok? Could it have been that if Trump, his party, and propaganda machine convinced enough people that Vlad was the victim of Russia-bashing liberals, all Russian sanctions would vanish? Would that have affected Russia's stumbling economy and Vlad's power? Perhaps a bit like Trump's removal of sanctions on Russian oligarchs that netted one of them hundreds of millions of dollars in a day. And if all this were to benefit America's enemy, why would Trump's party want to do that? Who gains when Congress welcomes Russian counter-intelligence operations as their own?


Recall, this is the same party for which the "Republican" Senate Majority Leader-whom House Speaker Nancy Pelosi addressed as Moscow Mitch McConnell-repeatedly blocked bills passed by the House that make collusion with foreign powers illegal.

More hmm...

While a sizable fraction of the rank-and-file naively swallows what the lie factories feed them, making it hard to blame them for more than extreme ignorance, 52% of their total claim to so love the Constitution they want it rescinded for authoritarian governance, clearing the way for Trump as dictator. This is the party that after Vlad invaded Ukraine, at their America First Political Action Conference, they chanted, "Putin! Putin! Putin!" And far from mere fringe, the party base that is CPAC doesn't mind, as they idolize the leftovers of what Reagan called the "Evil Empire."

By the time House Intelligence Committee hearings on Trump's bribery commenced, the GOP that sanctioned Vlad was already dead. It took time for the GOP to become the GOPP, but it was surprisingly swift. As Max Boot wrote, what was once "the party of moral clarity" has "declared moral bankruptcy." Cohn's warning has come true. The Right-wing's soul has been evacuated by the Devil that Cohn said they'd sell it to. While after seven of his closest minions became convicted felons, the Devil retains his freedom to spread lies. As Apostle John said, "He does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is the father of lies." And still, the Devil has supporters-legions of them. Even after the Devil tried to overthrow the Constitution with an attack on the Capital that Al Qaeda hoped would do what their fourth plane didn't. "Moral self-destruction" complete.

With Trump gushing over Vlad's "genius" for invading Ukraine (genius, like Trump's own, that's proven to be embarrassingly stupid), with FOX RT on Russia's side, with too much of the "Republican" Congress following Trump's admiration of Vlad, is there really a question here?

Maybe it's not that complicated. There's an old saying in the American Midwest where I was born: If it walks like a traitor and quacks like a traitor, it's probably a traitor.

All we need are the trial and its consequences. Imagine judgment in the affirmative and the consequences publicly televised for the world's cathartic recovery. When it came time for Trump's turn on the stage, as a game show host and World Wrestling Entertainment imp, he'd love the ratings. Finally, at long last, the whole world with every eyeball watching him, only him, just him. His inferiority disease might finally be quenched. For an instant.

References not linked to above:

Paragraph 3: Treason: "disloyalty or..." abbreviated from the American College Dictionary, 1979.

Until next time, Monday, May 2, 2022

February 26, 2022: A Letter to Ukraine: America's Founding Father fought the world's greatest military might, often without gunpowder; he triumphed, so can you


The world is watching you with awe, admiration, and a strong sense of guilt. We see you thwart the Russian Army and shoot Russian jets from the sky as Putin targets civilians in apartment buildings the way he dropped barrel bombs on the people of Syria. All as ordinary Ukrainian citizens take up arms to defend the Homeland.

You have heard obscenities vomit forth from our National Loser, Donald Trump, and his bootlickers on FOX News, like Tucker Carlson, siding with Putin. But Trump is merely asking Vlad to help him again in the next election, thus keeping Trump out of prison, and to declare they're still on the same team: "Please, Vladimir, keep that Golden Shower video hidden." As for FOX, it's FOX RT, and that's Comrade Tucker, seen nightly on television in Moscow. Such is to be expected from Putin's mouthpiece in America. The overwhelming majority of Americans support you with rallies across the country. The entire world, from Australia and New Zealand to South Korea and Japan, supports you.

Something like this happened in America 246 years ago. General George Washington's ragtag army of volunteers had no training, no uniforms, often no shoes, food, guns, or gunpowder, and were repeatedly stricken with smallpox. Washington's most significant achievements in 1776 were miraculous retreats to save what he had, to fight another day against civilization's most powerful Army, its peerless Navy. The biggest economy on earth was sure to outgun and outlast a pathetic band of what British Generals called "sluggards, skulkers, and tavern patriots." There were mistakes, miscalculations, blunders, stupidity, confident leadership, brilliance, grit, and luck. After repeated defeats, on the Eve of Christmas, 1776, Washington took his cadre of 2400 men across the Delaware River to achieve his first victory at Trenton, New Jersey. It was a small triumph but the first of many to come over a long and bloody war. Never should the David of America have defeated the Goliath of Great Britain. The same has been said of Ukraine against Russia.

Thanks to you, the fat man shirtless on a pony rode into a shit-storm. You are humiliating him. His own people are being arrested in the streets of Moscow by the thousands in protest against this war. Russian commercial aircraft are turning back home in flight, banned from the rest of Europe. Russian banks have been kicked out of SWIFT as Russian businesses ask customers to pay early before the money spigot dries up. More importantly, President Biden authorized $350 million more in weapons from U.S. stocks on Friday and called on Congress to spend $6.4 billion more. Many of the troops you face are simply following orders, soldiers for Putin's inferiority disease. Such are the tragedies of war. It's them, or it's you, your mother, your father, your wife, your son, your daughter. Fill the Kremlin with body bags.




January 3, 2022: Descent of the West? Part 1, A Preamble.

"The long democratic recession is deepening," says Freedom House in their annual assessment of democracy's global retreat. Of 195 nations, the U.S. ranks 61st. After 16-years of decline, 2020 was the worst as tyrannies ascended worldwide.

Patrick J. Deneen opens his book Why Liberalism Failed, with a quote from Barbara Tuchman, "When the gap between ideal and real becomes too wide, the system breaks down. Legend and story have always reflected this...." Deneen's book is about classical liberalism employed by America's Founders to invent a country. His thesis-addressed in future posts-is that liberalism was destined to crash by the social logic of its origin, the most brilliant philosophical movement in the record of our species.

Sociopolitical breakdowns referenced by Tuchman and Deneen are evident to anyone in the West today. Particularly America, as we lurch from one debacle, fiasco, or calamity to the next. The 2003 Iraq War bade by the Big Lie of Saddam's WMDs having nothing whatsoever to do with 9/11; 2008's Great Recession, begged for by the Big Lie of self-regulated laissez-faire markets; the 2021 terrorist attack on our Capitol and Constitution with continued assaults on the rule of law as coordination for the next coup and powered by the Big Lie of a stolen election. And just when we hoped a competent, mentally stable adult was at the helm: Biden's inept Afghan-escape on the heels of The Afghanistan Papers showing 20-years of Vietnam War-like mismanagement, bungling, and lies. On historical timescales, these events are simultaneous. The gap between ideal and real is now cavernous.

Like the latest transient fad, "Why?" is all the rage. Except-outside Putin and American lie factories-this topic occupies serious thinkers like Deneen, George F. Will, Michael J. Sandel, Sam Harris, Timothy Snyder, Yuval Levin, and with the rise of China, it appears not so transient.

The Decline of the West is a longstanding refrain, the title of Oswald Spengler's 1923 book. Like the Second Coming, it's been going to happen any day now every handful of decades. Like repeated claims the Roman Republic was about to collapse until Cicero got it right.

Those ideals Tuchman refers to are idealizations we humans invent to avert similar disasters. They stabilize us by accommodating dramatic changes we impose on ourselves through that unstoppable knack for human innovation, technological and social, all amplified on a massively overpopulated planet. Innovation never disappoints in delivering unexpected benefits and undreamed-of punishment. No one can foresee what those will be. Innovations pile atop innovations in branching interaction trees of an interlaced n-dimensional space, where those dimensions are family, work, politics, religion, environment, economics, warfare. Our idealizations are another kind of innovation: what is a family, what the nation means, what is the "pursuit of happiness." Some idealizations we convert into norms, institutions, and laws. They seek to patch what we broke with the last innovation or the x-innovations before that, leading to the tangled nest of unintended consequences we face in the present. Our ideals, our idealizations, are what Yuval Noah Harari labels as myths. As Harari writes in Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, "Ever since the Cognitive Revolution, Sapiens have lived in a dual reality. On the one hand, the objective reality of rivers, trees, and lions; and on the other hand, the imagined reality of gods, nations, and corporations. As time went by, the imagined reality became ever more powerful, so that today the very survival of rivers, trees, and lions depend on the grace of imagined entities like the United States and Google."

Let's call these imagined realities "social myths." There are also religious myths and our burgeoning trade in conspiracy theories. While religious myths violate the laws of nature, they satisfy the laws of human nature; what Marcel Gauchet calls the illogical solution to our illogical condition: death. Conspiracy theories are myths more appropriately known as lies, so abnormally inane they challenge the notion our race could ever be "successful" in population dominance while simultaneously so ignorant and gullible. Currently, this last category of myth appears most efficacious as religious and social myths are tumbling for the adoration of deceit.

Per Harari, it is myth that bound the city, State, then Empire with imaginings of origins, belonging, and duties that fostered coordination between multitudes of utter strangers. Eventually, we would invent myths about other things that do not exist in nature, like democracy and capitalism built on more elemental myths we call freedom, rights, and "maximized utility of rational consumers." So thoroughly can we embrace these stories that tangible outcomes follow from our sometimes brilliant, at others ridiculous, but always fertile imaginations.

And in that resides a problem. The dirty little secret is out-again. That realization made by every religion to ever exist: when people question their myths, they risk doubt. We invented these tales about democracy; we can uninvent them. And we have. Expanding that doubt is now an American industry aided by hostile foreign powers.

On January 6, 2021, just 32 years after Ronald Reagan's "City on a Hill" and "Morning in America," the world saw dozens of American myths collapse in a day. With 1/6 two decades after 9/11, Al Qaeda cheered the broadcasts coming from Capitol Hill, expecting the target of their fourth plane to be taken down by Trump's jihadists. After an initial shock that Trump might launch a strike against China to rally America and somehow seize power, Chinese Communist Party leadership toasted their predictions of America's vertical decline. And Vladimir Putin celebrated with his American assets in U.S. government and Right-wing media, the next step of their mission accomplished. On that day, Americans lost their myth of exceptionalism: "the belief that the United States is immune to tribalism and authoritarianism that plague other parts of the world." We joined the ranks of Banana Republics as a coup planned and attempted by a setting executive uncoiled before our eyes. We all watched the gleeful rejection of the teachings of Christ by Christians; beating, injury, and murder or attempted murder of police by the "law and order party" who "back the blue;" mobs, some carrying a pocketbook Constitution, chanting "Hang Mike Pence!" for failure to exercise his nonexistent Constitutional power to overturn a record 81-million votes. All as Confederate flags from a defeated enemy nation were flown in the building under which George Washington set its cornerstone, the flagbearers shouting "1776! 1776! This is 1776, mother fuckers!" Traitors as "patriots;" assets of China and Russia who call themselves "conservatives."

There's an old Chinese adage, "Kill with a borrowed sword." Why coordinate costly actions to destroy a nation when their own people can be used to do it themselves?

After the assault, with alacrity enabled by asocial media, New Right propaganda machinery, and post-truth GOPP operatives, myths were fabricated on the fly. The insurrection was nothing more than tourists blowing off some steam; it was Antifa; it never happened; it did happen, but it was an inside job staged by the FBI; insurrectionists were "hugging and kissing" the cops they hospitalized; the treasonous Ashli Babbitt is a martyr; the cops mauled by Trump's troops were, according to FOX's Laura Ingraham, poor actors; and according to FOX host Tucker Carlson's "documentary," it was both a heroic act by concerned citizens and instigated by the government, like 9/11, when it wasn't Al Qaeda that brought down those towers. Any or all of these myths can be heard on the same day for whatever suits the moment, mood, and credulity of the audience; credulity without limit.

The very transience of these myths, embraced with the most pious devotion then swapped in an instant for another just as reverent, reinforces what we all sense. Myths, of any form-including those crafted with remarkable intellectual horsepower that once built and sustained America-are dead, or so close to terminal, we wonder if the Republic will survive another 11 months or 3 years when midterm and general elections arrive. With tenacious support of their robeless King of the Liars by "Christians," to whom Apostille Paul said, "We no longer lie to one another, we only tell the truth," it's clear the myth of a "Christian Right" has also expired. With the New Right's normalization of immorality, violence, and laws that allow some "Republican" State legislatures to flip elections if they lose the vote, the end feels near. All done in daylight under the Mein Kampfian fantasy of "Stop the Steal," while Democrats stand by, baffled, feeble, and apparently incapacitated by their too-slight control of Congress.

When Trump torched the norms of the highest office in the land, he broadcast for all the world to see that even the pinnacle of America's image-epitomized by once hallowed names like Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln-is akin to folklore. But for the amateurs, there are no consequences for violating laws, the Constitution, religion, because these are myths that maintain authority only if we believe them. Almost no one knew this. Such things were assumed to be real. Like ancient gods, they depended on the people for their existence, not the other way around. When people stopped believing in their gods, their gods vanished and so too their civilizations.

For creatures like us, reason coupled to morality, which together fabricated America's myths, were not favored to win over savagery in the long run. When conservative William F. Buckley and Ronald Reagan battled Republican parasites from the John Birch Society, Buckley said, "We've always had more crazies on our side." How would Buckley and Reagan put all those cranks back in their cage with tens of millions now loose in the country? As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Events are in the saddle now, and they ride mankind." And as Voltaire said of Trump 250-years before Trump was spawned, "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities."

So we've seen.

From the books by authors noted above, could there be a glimmer of light that points out of our cave? Let's find out. But before we grasp for such a light, we're sure to wonder, is it a spark or an ember?


Paragraph 1: Freedom in the World 2021: Freedom in the World 2021, Freedom House. Also, see Anne Appelbaum's November 2021 Atlantic Monthly article, The Bad Guys Are Winning, cyber, advisors, and trade coordinated between the world's autocracies have formed a new mafia against democratic governments. In the West, parties coordinate against each other. Anne Applebaum, THE BAD GUYS ARE WINNING, The Atlantic, November 15, 2021.

Paragraph 2: Patrick J. Deneen, Why Liberalism Failed Yale University Press, 2018, Frontmatter.

Paragraph 3: Suzanne Goldenberg, Bush: Saddam was not responsible for 9/11, The Guardian, Sep 11, 2006. Bruce Riedel, 9/11 and Iraq: The making of a tragedy, Brookings, September 17, 2021. Anne Field, What caused the Great Recession?, Business Insider, Jul 8, 2021. ERIN COGHLAN, LISA MCCORKELL AND SARA HINKLEY, What Really Caused the Great Recession?, IRLE U.C. Berkely, SEPTEMBER 19, 2018. Michael Waldman, Trump's Big Lie Led to Insurrection, Brennan Center For Justice, January 12, 2021. David Rothkopf, We Still Won't Admit Why So Many People Believe the Big Lie: Six months after the insurrection it triggered, it's clear that the stolen-election nonsense is just a drop in a tidal wave of bullshit., The Daily Beast, Jul. 06, 2021. Deirdre Shesgreen, 'Egregiously mishandled' or inevitably 'messy'? What went wrong in US withdrawal from Afghanistan, USA TODAY, August 29, 2021. Craig Whitlock, AT WAR WITH THE TRUTH, Washington Post, Dec. 9, 2019. Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, VINTAGE, 2011, pg. 36.

Paragraph 7: Marcel Gauchet, The Disenchantment of the World: A Political History of Religion, Princeton University Press, 1997.

Paragraph 10: Robin Wright, The World Shook as America Raged, The New Yorker, Jan. 8, 2021. Isaac Stanley-Becker, Top general was so fearful Trump might spark war that he made secret calls to his Chinese counterpart, new book says, Washington Post, September 14, 2021. Charles Maynes, As US Reels From Capitol Violence, Russia Enjoys the Show, Voice Of America, January 07, 2021. Peter Beinart, Obama's Idealists: American Power in Theory and Practice, Foreign Affairs, November/December 2919, pg. 162-169.

Paragraph 11: GOPP: Grand Old Putin Party, as differentiator from the old, dead GOP of Reagan, Eisenhower, and Lincoln. Cameron Peters , The GOP whitewash of the Capitol attack shows the need for a January 6 commission /i>, VOX, May 16, 2021. Jake Lahut, We watched Tucker Carlson's Jan. 6 documentary so you don't have to. Here's why its whitewash of the Capitol insurrection makes no sense, Business Insider, Nov 22, 2021. Connor Perrett, Liz Cheney said she refuses to 'whitewash' the Capitol Riot, calling Republicans who do 'disgraceful and despicable', Business Insider, May 16, 2021. Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows' release of texts from FOX hosts telling Trump to stop the insurrection, shows by their coverup which side FOX is on. They don't call it FOX RT for nothing. Dartunorro Clark, Fox News hosts, Donald Trump Jr., asked Meadows to get Trump to call off rioters, NBC News, Dec. 13, 2021.

Paragraph 12: Ephesians 4:25. Matt Vasilogambros, Republican Legislators Curb Authority of County, State Election Officials, PEW, July 28, 2021.

Paragraph 13: Caveats to the notion of myth: First, the notion of myth is broadened beyond Joseph Campbell's definition to include the popular use of the term, as in the lies of conspiracy theories. Second, if the ancient Aristotelian notion of Natural Law were revived in terms of human nature and shown to be an emergent property of biology, serving the survival of the individual and thus the species, might then some categories of myths may be seen as objective aspects of that Natural Law, realities of human nature? i.e. as real as any other physical characteristic emergent from other physical characteristics, like the property of wetness from water, a molecule that feels dry until a critical threshold in number is reached.

Paragraph 14: Erick Trickey, Long before QAnon, Ronald Reagan and the GOP purged John Birch extremists from the party, Washington Post, January 15, 2021. 49,000,000 comes from 66% of 74,000,000 who voted for Trump and believe the election was stolen. Of FOX RT viewers, that's 82%. Even more radical Right-wing media has a 97% conviction rate. Clearly, the dimmest people watch the stupidest programming. What a surprise. No wonder Putin is so successful here. PRRI Staff, The "Big Lie": Most Republicans Believe the 2020 Election was Stolen, PRRI, 05.12.2021.

Until next time, the first Monday in March, the 7th, 2022.

November 1, 2021: Humanity's First Colossal Blunder

When it happened, it must have been a sunny day as it almost always was in that part of the world. That part of the world the famous University of Chicago archeologist James Henry Breasted (1865-1935) labeled the "Fertile Crescent." A geographical crescent that arcs up from the Nile, through Israel, into Turkey, and down the valley of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in modern-day Iraq. It was there, somewhere around 10,000 years ago, that a single person recognized something remarkable: seeds that grew near the plants they fell from could grow anywhere.

Hired by Breasted to be the Oriental Institute's field director, Henri Frankfort (1897-1954) concluded that before civilization, the world was seen by "man as neither inanimate nor empty but redundant with life; life as individuality, in man, beast, plant, and in every phenomenon [from] the thunderclap, to the shadow, to the stone which suddenly hurt him when he stumbles." The rock chose to hurt him on that fall. Just as often, the rock chose not to. Whatever individual will that made those seeds grow, it could will them to grow near the campsite for easy harvest. Tending the soil and waiting for spring forced an end to the wandering life as the campsite became a settlement. As population geneticist Spencer Wells tells it in Pandora's Seed: The Unforeseen Cost of Civilization, ten millennia ago, "we made a conscious decision to change our relationship with nature." We went from finding our food to creating it. "The first person to plant a seed in the Fertile Crescent 10,000 years ago," says Wells, "set in motion events that were beyond his or her wildest imagination." What had been a medley of people and the natural world took its first step to becoming the factory floor of an agri-planet. If not the first, that act was one of the first disenchantments of the world.

But wasn't farming an improvement in hunter-gather lives? On the BBC, anthropologist James Suseman said, "The Juhoansi bushmen of the Kalahari Desert were famous as having been the people who torpedoed the idea that hunter-gathers lived lives that were nasty, brutish, and short. [They] sustained themselves well on the basis of about 15 hour's effort in the food quest per week. Once those immediate needs for that day were met, people would take it easy and would hang out, tell jokes, tell stories, eat and relax... [With] farming, on the other hand, all work becomes future-focused. That means you have to focus on accumulating surpluses. So, you had these early agricultural religions where hard work becomes a virtue, idleness, and sloth a sin. Our obsession with wanting to do more comes from the risks of farming, and they've been baked into us ever since 10,000 years ago when people started experimenting with agriculture."

With farming, humans did little but work: clearing fields, breaking ground, weeding other species, carrying water and lugging animal feces around with its stink to make wheat happy. "The culprits were a handful of plant species, including wheat, rice, and potatoes," writes Yuval Noah Harari in Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. "These plants domesticated Homo sapiens..." With the increase in food supply, the population grew. Mothers could have a baby each year (ouch). "Babies were weaned at an earlier age-they could be fed on porridge and gruel. Extra hands were sorely needed in the fields. But the extra mouths quickly wiped-out food surpluses, so even more fields had to be planted. [How could they know] that feeding children more porridge and less breast milk would weaken their immune system, and that permanent settlements would be hotbeds for infectious diseases? [Dependent] on a single source of food, they exposed themselves even more to the depredations of drought." Child mortality soared; settlements grew with possessions to be possessed by, inviting warfare; and all the while, evolving pathogens that could find a way to leap from newly domesticated four-legged creatures to those on two did just that.

And yet, hunter-gathers had been hunter-gathering for 60,000 years in our latest hominid version. Such a deep history of success made their descendants, the ancients, paranoid of change. Wasn't this also true of hunter-gathers, and if life got harder, why do it? Because the Agricultural "Revolution" played out in very slow motion, says Harari. It took generations to transform close-knit communities of onetime wanderers into progressively overpopulated, disconnected, materialists. And while farming is hell for individuals, it's great for the species. In a brilliant statement of what should be obvious, Harari writes, "The currency of evolution is neither hunger nor pain, but copies of DNA. Just as the economic success of a company is measured by dollars in a bank, not how happy its employees are. This is the essence of the Agricultural Revolution: the ability to keep more people alive under worse conditions." Humans put themselves on a path to massification; massified by mass production, mass traffic, mass communication, mass waistlines, mass murders, and who wouldn't want to be massified by asocial media turning their democracies upside down?

But those democracies would come later as one of many attempts to manage all those unstable humans that agriculture produced. And at the level of the individual, not very healthy humans at that. With agriculture, female life span dropped, not to be recovered for 9000 years. Male height struggled to recuperate for 7000 years. Skeletons spanning centuries show "People were not only dying younger," writes Wells, "they were dying sicker." As Harari puts it, "The Agricultural Revolution was history's greatest fraud."

According to philosopher-historian Marcel Gauchet and his spellbinding Disenchantment of the World: A Political History of Religion, a dramatic psychological change also occurred somewhere between the Agricultural Revolution and invention of the State. This new lifeway which would lead to cities, which led to states, which led to empires, "transformed everything that humans had held against themselves to maintain permanent identity with the past into a reversal of unrestrained action against everything around them," writes Gauchet. "The old way submerged human order in nature's order, feeling at one with nature, a co-belonging so strong any damage done required ritual compensation restoring the balance. Nature became opposed and possessed in a renunciation of this world in the name of the other." With divinity exiled from nature, nature became de-sanctified, external to man.

See Genesis 9; written ca. 500 B.C during the Iron Age, well into empires, long past the ag-revolution but still a dominant lifeway, when Yahweh tells Noah: "Breed, multiply and fill the earth. Be the terror and the dread of all the animals on land and all the birds of heaven, of everything that moves on land and all the fish of the sea; they are placed in your hands. Every living thing will be yours to eat, no less than the foliage of the plants... Be fruitful then and multiply, teem over the earth and subdue it!" Compare this with the hunter-gatherer perspective expressed by Chief Seattle: "Every part of this earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle. Every sandy shore. Every mist in the woods. Every meadow. Every humming insect. All are holy in the memory and experience of my people... Perfumed flowers are our sisters. The bear, the deer, the great eagle, these are our brothers... The earth does not belong to man. Man belongs to the earth."

Not anymore. Agriculture-the creation of biodiversity deserts-has denuded more land space than the continents of Europe, South America, and North America, including Canada, the U.S., Mexico, and Greenland combined. According to a 2018 National Academy of Sciences report, humans have terminated 83 percent of all wild mammals, just 17 percent remains, largely due to agriculture. Add birds, amphibians, and reptiles, and over two-thirds have disappeared in just the 50-years since 1970. Export our harvesting practice to the oceans and we see marine populations in a cascade collapse worldwide. Anthropogenic mass has even surpassed the mass of all life on the planet, including that gargantuan sum marshaled by plant life (500 billion tons) with a staggering 1.2 trillion tons of manmade stuff. And all this before we tally the damage of manmade global warming where even earth's poles are under assault. On that score, were it not for 93 percent of excess heat absorbed by the world's oceans our average atmospheric temperature would be 122°F (50°C). Nature is now confused with too much alteration, too fast to evolve compensation. No wonder we live in the sixth great extinction. The last one happened 66 million years ago, thanks to mass volcanic eruptions preparing the way for an asteroid to finish off 76% of all life on earth.

But of course, neither agriculture, nor carbon dioxide jacked into the atmosphere for energy production would be globally ruinous if humans had not so overpopulated the planet. As so often, the problem is not one of kind, but of degree. We're the asteroid, our numbers. And that problem started on a sunny day in the Fertile Crescent by just one person.

Who says one individual can't change the world?


Paragraph 1: Agriculture was independently invented multiple times at between 7 and 10 different locations on earth. The Fertile Crescent was fertile for more than crops and animal husbandry; it's also the region where writing, the wheel, the city, the temple, beer, and the sexagesimal number system with sixty seconds to each minute of a sixty-minute hour would later be invented. A land of fertile ideas, including state sponsored slaughter in coordinated warfare to steal those agricultural gains.

Paragraph 2: Henri Frankfort, H.A. Frankfort, John A. Wilson, Thorkild Jacobsen, Before Philosophy: The Intellectual Adventure of Man, Pelican Books, 1971, pg. 14. Originally published as The Intellectual Adventures of Ancient Man, 1946. Spencer Wells, Pandora's Seed: The Unforeseen Cost of Civilization, Random House, 2010, pg. 16. Ibid. pg. 24.

Paragraph 3: Daniel Susskind, The Compass, BBC podcast, June 2021.

Paragraph 4: Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Vintage, 2011, pg. 90. Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Vintage, 2011, pg. 97.

Paragraph 5: Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Vintage, 2011, pg. 94.

Paragraph 6: Spencer Wells, Pandora's Seed: The Unforeseen Cost of Civilization, Random House, 2010, pg. 23-24. Lifespans did not reach modern levels until public health of the late 19th century and early 20th. Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Vintage, 2011, pg. 90-91.

Paragraph 7: Marcel Gauchet, The Disenchantment of the World: A Political History of Religion, Princeton University Press, 1999. Gauchet's focus is the advent of the state as a primary mover of social change. With the state built on and after the agricultural revolution, unraveling the unique contributions of each to our change in perspective is not addressed in his treatment. In his review of Gauchet's work, Paul J. Fitzgerald S.J. finds "In this alienation of the sacred... the source of all dualistic religious and philosophical constructs, from Plato's theory of forms to the distinction between the mortal body and the immortal soul." Paul J. Fitzgerald S.J., a style="font-weight: normal; color: #bfd8f9; text-decoration: none;" href="" rel="external"Book Review, Fairfield University, 1998.

Paragraph 8: Genesis 9:1-4, 9:7, The New Jerusalem Bible, Doubleday, 1985, pg. 26-27. Joseph Campbell, Transformations of Myth Trough Time, Harper Perennial, 1999, pg. 28-29. To be sure, the two selections selected emphasize the point at the exclusion of tribal warfare between Native tribes, and "the Promised Land" perspective of the Israelites. Though it was a land "promised," not so much "promising," as were the abundant lands inhabited by Native Americans. Stern environments yield stern religions.

Paragraph 9: Hannah Ritchie, Half of the world's habitable land is used for agriculture, Our World in Data, November 11, 2019. James Owen, Farming Claims Almost Half Earth's Land, New Maps Show, National Geographic, December 8, 2005. In 1700, 7 percent of earth's land space was occupied by crops and livestock. Today, that's almost 50 percent of all habitable land. Damian Carrington, Humans just 0.01% of all life but have destroyed 83% of wild mammals, The Guardian, 21 May 2018. Living Planet Report, 2020, WWF. Available as PDF: Living Planet Report, 2020, WWF, 2020. Catrin Einhorn, Shark Populations Are Crashing, With a 'Very Small Window' to Avert Disaster, The New York Times, Jan. 27, 2021. More than 37,400 species are threatened with extinction, IUCN Red List. Rasha Aridi, Human-Made Materials Now Weigh More Than All Life on Earth Combined, Smithsonian Magazine, December 11, 2020. Brian Resnick and Javier Zarracina, All life on Earth, in one staggering chart, VOX, Aug 15, 2018. Yinon M. Bar-On, Rob Phillips, Ron Milo, The biomass distribution on Earth, Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences, June 19, 2018. Zoë Schlanger, If oceans stopped absorbing heat from climate change, life on land would average 122°F, QUARTZ, November 29, 2017. Laffoley & Baxter Ed, If oceans stopped absorbing heat from climate change, life on land would average 122°F, Explaining Ocean Warming, IUCN, 2016.

Until next time, January 3, 2022.

September 6, 2021: Liberty! Freedom! Covid! America's Heroic Public Health War

From the surf, you could hear what sounded like the rip of paper from the weapon that most horrified Allied soldiers-the 25 rounds per second MG-42 machine gun. The U.S. Army called it "Hitler's Buzzsaw," and a long line of them peppered amphibious vehicles carrying troops about to land onshore. D-Day veteran Frank DeVita, scarcely 19 years old by June 6, 1944, recalled the scene after he was ordered to drop the ramp from his vehicle, "The first 7, 8, 9, 10 guys went down like you were cutting down wheat," he said. Others made land only to launch skyward on one of General Rommel's 4-million freshly planted landmines-part of Hitler's 2400 mile long "Atlantic Wall." Snaked about 156,000 Allied warfighters the atmosphere crackled with the electric hiss of bullets, explosions surrounded them, and with so many having had their arm or leg sawed off by the MG-42 their screams joined as one continuous shriek. Those men had rights to self-preservation, yet they were there anyway with responsibilities they embraced to protect the homeland, what news anchor Tom Brokaw called the Greatest Generation.

Seventy-six years after losing 418,000 to WWII, we face another enemy that's already killed 650,000 Americans. But there's a new generation afoot. Facing not machine guns, not landmines, not having to gather one's guts blown out on the sand, many Americans refuse to battle this menace by simply wearing a...cloth mask?

Really? Is this what Rand Paul and his Putin-schooled anti-maskers / anti-vaxxer "Republicans" are so upset about? All that "government intrusion"?

Actually, they have a point. The majority (82%) of these "Republicans" self-identify as Christians who "Love thy neighbor;" they don't need government telling them what to do. Let the people decide. They should decide for themselves which side of the road to drive on or whether to stop at traffic lights-neither of which is in the Constitution. If they want to carry a gun on commercial aircraft, they've got Second Amendment rights.

And while clearly not the WWII generation, perhaps this new cohort is heroic in a different way. As new Covid variants evolve in the bodies of our fiercest patriots, they can sacrifice themselves for the Gamma, Epsilon, or Zeta variant that can never be stopped, thereby keeping "America First!" in deaths from the virus.

U.S.A.! U.S.A.!

We could export our bounty to the world, and planet earth could be relieved of so many nutty bipeds running amuck.

Such is the daring bravery and mental bulk of our New Right, those champions of liberty; those courageous defenders of rights without responsibilities; those lovers of our Constitution in pursuit of fascist tyranny-according to FOX's Tucker Carlson, like dictator Viktor Orbán's Hungary. These people are our last stand against the slippery slope of reason, truth, science, and morality.

As Chatal Desol claimed of we moderns, hardship makes a people. So does its absence, and that absence creates a petty populous.

Petty and pathetic. Our New Right mocks or assaults doctors and nurses who report the revival of Covid death counts thanks to its Delta variant. What is a dramatic undercount-perhaps by a factor of 2-is to the New Right an overcount, including people dead from heart attacks, car wrecks, and according to New Right religious leaders in the Church of QAnon, botched UFO abductions. All while Biden's "do-gooder government intruders" provide local volunteers offering free vaccinations door-to-door. But for what? "Covid's just another seasonal flu." According to Georgia "Republican" Representative and not university history major Marjorie Taylor Green, those volunteers are Nazi Brown Shirts. At the Dallas 2021 GOPP CPAC meeting, North Carolina "Republican" Representative Madison Cawthorn said those volunteers might "take your guns and Bible!" While dead Rush Limbaugh's replacements, Clay Travis and Buck Sexton announced their scientific assessment of mask effectiveness based on "the data": "clearly, they don't work." (Correct. If you don't use them, they don't work.) Yet Limbaugh repeatedly preached, "Science is one of the four corners of deceit." Is this a paradox? After their daily mask-dismissals, Clay and Buck personally promote a miracle cure for pain and aging at "Just $19.95!" "If somebody said it helped, wouldn't you try it?" they ask.

The British love this kind of irony.

Then, like a superhero comic character, FOX NEWS reporter Peter Doocy swooped in to save America from the Great Mask Cover-up. After Biden spent 15-minutes explaining why masks were again needed, Doocy shouted at the departing President to ask why masks were needed.

Aaa... Let' see... Because all those brave "patriots" reared a more lethal version?

Peter, you graduated from Villanova. Do they teach "if-then-else" logic there?

Why is the New Right so easily confused by such simple things?

Because it sells.

Limbaugh's spawn have one god: money. Top dollar demands top ratings. Top ratings demand they rally the troops, boil the blood, keep them angry enough to shoot up pizza restaurants, build their pipe bombs, and destroy the Capitol their Al Qaeda brethren missed. This constant state of agitation is mirrored by the audience-gluing eyeballs-and covers for the fact that "Republicans" are no longer problem solvers. Trump's perpetual bumbling was proof. Bumbling that is now an act of piety, its persistence required to cover for the impotent limpness of Donald J. Christ. And it's well-practiced. We're told Florida and Texas are "beacons of freedom" from mask mandates and those "hysterical loons" wearing them, while those state governors DeSantis and Abbott keep "America First!" in Covid deaths by making their states primo with the disease. Not only have they enlarged liberty but cemeteries as they dig more graves. And while states like Maine and Vermont, who followed expert guidelines, are doing just fine (what a surprise), Abbott called on them to help his hospital staff shortage. Demagogues like these expect that genuflecting to the creed will inspire Trumpers in the next election, regardless of how many people it kills.

This is the kind of knot that dogmas tie people into. It also makes it hard to keep the message straight. Fearing class-action lawsuits from families who lost loved ones to liars, FOX host Sean Hannity said, "Just like we've been saying [they have?], please take Covid seriously. I can't say it enough. Enough have died." But other "Republicans" protested-wait a minute, Hannity! With arousing adolescent defiance, Arkansas State Senator Gary Stubblefield enunciated his scientific illiteracy by choking down cattle dewormer as a Covid prophylactic. (Does this mean Covid's not a hoax?) Fellow Arkansas State Senator Trent Garner declared he might reconsider masks if mortality hits Black Death rates of 30 percent. He prefers "dangerous freedom" to "comfortable safety." Wannabe Arkansas governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders vowed she'd take no steps recommended by health authorities to curb Covid if she's elected-a stirring campaign slogan. And Arkansas U.S. Senator Tom Cotton exposed the awful truth that when it comes to public health authorities, "the only thing they're gonna consider is what they think is in the best interest of public health." (Arkansas. Hmm...)

Returning to the New Right's problem-solving plan (if the Left's for it, the Right's against it), Hannity changed horses, "I never told anyone to get a vaccine!" Opposing public health is a more pious measure of cult-loyalty than "Stop the Steal," which Sidney Powell, FOX, Newsmax, and OAN are running from now that they've racked up over $10 billion in Smartmatic and Dominion lawsuits for lying.

While in the background, in Nashville, Tennessee, "conservative" radio host, manmade global warming denier, and virus-scoffer Phil Valentine lay in a hospital with Covid, his wife pleading for prayers. Valentine's brother said, "Having seen this up close and personal, I'd encourage ALL of you to put politics aside and get [the vaccine]. I don't believe there's a chip in the vaccine, and I don't believe 5G is gonna trigger some sort of mass casualties or any of that stuff. The reason roughly half of the population hasn't taken it is because they (formerly me) assumed we were being lied to for any number of nefarious reasons."

Texas "Republican" Dickinson City Council member H. Scott Apley told promoters of the vaccine, "You are an absolute enemy of free people." Fondly recalling the good old days of camisole cremations, he promoted "mask burning" parties. He's now remembered for his GoFundMe page, raising money to put his Covid-infested body in his grave.

"Conservative" Florida radio host, science denier, and Trump supporter, Dick Farrel said inoculations are "promoted by people who lied all along about masks, where the virus came from, and the death toll." Farrel joined H. Scott Apley and, yes, Phil Valentine beneath the sod as Covid victims-the prayers didn't work.

As the ancient Greeks were fond of noting, there's something poetic about the consequences of willful stupidity.

Isn't it remarkable what issues these people choose to politicize? From manmade global warming decimating their rural voters in the American West, to Covid, now slaying unvaccinated Trumpers everywhere.

But Democrats should stop complaining about it. Of 18 states that voted Trump in 2020, 17 have the highest unvaccinated populations. While Biden slaughtered Trump in the popular ballot, the Electoral College decided Arizona, Georgia, and Wisconsin by less than 45,000 votes. By the next election cycle, New Right doctrine could easily kill off 100,000 or more unvaccinated "Republican" voters. Remember when not Dr. Jared Kushner told us Covid-19 was a blue state problem? Of course, the Delta variant also kills children who aren't equipped to know their parents have been suckered by a cult. And New Right adults are just as incapable of distinguishing between truth and lies, tourism and insurrection, patriots and traitors-they voted for one, by definition, who bumbled his way through a failed government takeover.

As one Bush-2 aide remarked, the GOPP is an acronym, not for the Grand Old Putin Party, but the Grand Old Pandemic Party.


Paragraph 1: Larry Decuers, The MG-42 Machine Gun, National WWII Museum, November 9, 2018. History Channel, 7 Surprising Facts About D-Day, JUN 4, 2020. History Channel, D-Day: Facts on the Epic 1944 Invasion That Changed the Course of WWII , JUN 4, 2020.

Paragraph 8: LIAM HOARE, Tucker Carlson's Hungarian Rhapsody: Authoritarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is everything American authoritarians wish Trump was, SLATE, AUG 05, 2021.

Paragraph 9: Chantal Desol, Icarus Fallen, Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2010.

Paragraph 10: Sandi Doughton, COVID-19 death toll is more than double the official count, UW analysis suggests, Seattle Times, May 6, 2021. Ian Thomsen, HAVE COVID-19 DEATHS BEEN UNDERCOUNTED? NEW REPORTS SAY 'YES' AND HERE'S WHY IT MATTERS, News At Northwestern, May 24, 2021. Paul LeBlanc, Marjorie Taylor Greene compares Biden vaccine push to Nazi-era 'brown shirts' weeks after apologizing for Holocaust comments \, CNN, July 7, 2021. Kelsey Vlamis, GOP Rep. Madison Cawthorn said offering vaccines door-to-door could lead to the government confiscating guns and bibles, Business Insider, Jul 10, 2021. Rush Limbaugh, The Four Corners of Deceit : Prominent Liberal Social Psychologist Made It All Up, Rush Limbaugh .com, April 29, 2013.

Paragraph 12: Clara Hill, Fiery Biden hits out at Fox reporter who accused White House of flip-flopping on masks, The Independent, Friday 30 July.

Paragraph 17: Matthew Haag and Maya Salam, Gunman in 'Pizzagate' Shooting Is Sentenced to 4 Years in Prison, New York Times, June 22, 2017. RICHARD GONZALES, Florida Man Who Mailed Bombs To Democrats, Media Gets 20 Years In Prison, NPR, August 5, 2019. KIRBY WILSON AND DITI KOHLI, While DeSantis, others argue about masks, COVID-19 hits unvaccinated Floridians hard, Miami Herald, AUGUST 02, 2021. ELI STOKOLS, JANET HOOK, Long warned against inciting violence, Trump does so with supporters' Capitol siege, Los Angeles Times, JAN. 6, 2021. Felicia Sonmez and Eva Ruth Moravec , It's the height of hypocrisy': After Texas Gov. Greg Abbott contracts covid-19, Democrats ramp up calls for mask mandates, The Washibngton Post, August 18, 2021. Paige Winfield Cunningham, The Health 202: Vermont and Maine show it's possible to overcome the coronavirus , The Washington Post, August 4, 2021. Filling in for dead Limbaugh, Clay and Buck are the sources of "Florida is a beacon of freedom" and those "hysterical loons" during one of their August 2021 broadcasts. On May 17, 2021, Clay and Buck railed against Biden's desire for herd immunity by crossing that threshold with vaccines. Why the outrage? Trump had the same goal. Someone labeled it the equivalent of "murder." It's that double standard again. However, Trump sought herd immunity through widespread national infection by the live virus. Biden's herd immunity saves lives, Trump's bumbling to the same goal would cost approximately another 7M-that's million-dead (~250M unvaxxed * 0.03 death rate). Conservative William F. Buckley used to tell a story about things like this: "It's one thing to push little old ladies out of the way of oncoming trucks, and quite another to push little old ladies in the way of oncoming trucks. It doesn't do to claim in both cases one is just pushing little old ladies around." Limbaugh was such a better liar than what he left behind.

Paragraph 18: Bruce Y. Lee, Sean Hannity Tells FOX Viewers To Take Covid-19 Seriously, FORBES, Jul 20, 2021. Max Brantley, Holy cow! A tale of herd immunity and COVID-19, Arkansas Times, July 31, 2021. Max Brantley, Trent Garner says he'd consider lifting ban on mask mandates at 30 percent mortality rate, Arkansas Times, July 21, 2021. Max Brantley, Sarah Sanders vows not to fight COVID-19, Arkansas Times, July 23, 2021. Aarohi Sheth, Sen Tom Cotton Says Teachers' Facial Expressions Take Priority Over Public Health Interest, Yahoo! News, July 23, 2021.

Paragraph 19: Justin Baragona, Hannity Makes Vax Stance 'Very Clear': 'I Never Told Anyone to Get a Vaccine!', The Daily Beast, Jul. 22, 2021. Grace Dean and Jacob Shamsian, From Mike Lindell to OAN, here's everyone Dominion and Smartmatic are suing over election conspiracy theories so far, Business Insider, Aug 14, 2021.

Paragraph 20: TANASIA KENNEY, Radio host skeptical of COVID vaccine in 'grave condition' with virus, family says, Charlotte Observer, AUGUST 17, 2021.

Traci Carl, Phil Valentine, a radio host who scoffed at Covid, then urged his followers to get vaccinated, dies, The New York Times, Aug. 21, 2021.

Paragraph 21: Justin Rohrlich, Texas GOP Official Mocked COVID Five Days Before He Died of Virus, The Daily Beast, Aug. 04, 2021.

Paragraph 22: Adela Suliman and Paulina Villegas, Conservative radio host and vaccine critic dies of covid-19 complications, The Washington Post, August 12, 2021.

Paragraph 25: Dante Chinni, Did Biden win by a little or a lot? The answer is ... yes., NBC News, Dec. 20, 2020. Domenico Montanaro, There's A Stark Red-Blue Divide When It Comes To States' Vaccination Rates, NPR, June 9, 2021. Zach Wolf, The full picture of Trump's attempted coup is only starting to emerge, CNN, August 6, 2021.

Paragraph 26: Mark McKinnon.

And some bonus GOPP sTupidity just for fun: Rebekah Riess and Dakin Andone, School mask debate in Tennessee grows heated as local board requires masks in elementary schools, CNN, August 12, 2021. Aya Elamroussi, Some people in Missouri are getting vaccinated against Covid-19 in secret, doctor says. They fear backlash from loved ones who oppose the vaccines, CNN, July 29, 2021.

Becky Sullivan, U.S. COVID Deaths Are Rising Again. Experts Call It A 'Pandemic Of The Unvaccinated', NPR, July 16, 2021.

KATHERINE EBAN, How Jared Kushner's Secret Testing Plan 'Went Poof Into Thin Air', Vanity Fair, JULY 30, 2020.

Until next time, November 1, 2021.

July 5, 2021: Confronting the Constitution Part 7: Capitalism as Freedom or Justice?

Marc F. Plattner's contribution to Confronting the Constitution presents an insightful look at the marriage of capitalism and republican governance. [1] His historical digging unearths nuance that makes a world of difference in conclusions otherwise uninformed. Central to his essay: is capitalism a matter of freedom or justice?

Plattner's interest lies in "the influence of political economy on American opinion about broader questions and morality." [2] A nation's "economic system," he writes, "has an enormous influence on the lives, habits, and views of its citizens." [3] Knowing that any social system we construct then folds back to remake us, Plattner starts with Adam Smith (1723-1790), amalgamator of modern capitalism. Smith believed that getting the economic model right was essential to social stability in accordance with and subordinate to a pre-established moral terrain. A terrain of ethical behaviors and considerations in a real world of more than one lone individual in their quest for more than survival and prosperity. Smith was a professor of moral philosophy, not economics, at Glasgow University. His first book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments underscores his priority. [4]

In keeping with this focus, Smith's second book, The Wealth of Nations, is about more than economics. As one University of Tennessee reference has it, Smith's Wealth is about political economy, "a much more expansive mixture of philosophy, political science, history, economics, anthropology, and sociology... Smith's philosophy bears little resemblance to the libertarian caricature put forth by proponents of laissez-faire markets who describe humans solely as homo economicus. For Smith, the market is a mechanism of morality and social support." [5] Plattner agrees. [6]

As did America's Founders, Smith supported taxes as a requirement for order and rational government regulations. The Constitution is, after all, a document of regulations. Freedom also has it limits. Restricting the "natural liberty of a few individuals, which might endanger the security of the whole society, are, and ought to be, restrained by the laws of all governments," says Smith. He also never expected his system to be implemented in the extreme, an idea Smith wrote, "as absurd as to expect that an Oceana or Utopia should ever be established in [Great Britain]." [7]

Putting Smith's view in context with ancients and contemporaries, Plattner finds, "The Laws of Plato contain detailed regulations [about society which] impose the strictest bounds on the pursuit of wealth, including narrow limits on the accumulation of property, the banning of gold and silver, and the forbidding of 'vulgar' commercial occupations. For riches are held to be incompatible with virtue and friendship among citizens." [8] Which all has a familiar ring to it: "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get to heaven." [9] Given he arrived 350 years after Plato in the same Hellenistic neighborhood, perhaps Jesus was a Platonist. Living at the same time as Smith, Rousseau (1712-1778) said, "ancient political thinkers incessantly talked about morals and virtue, those of our time talk only of commerce and money." [10] But Smith sides with none of the above. For Smith, the political order should provide "the people with liberty and security [guaranteeing] enjoyment of the fruits of their labor... In a commercial society, people's self-interested and 'vulgar' desire to 'augment their fortune' is alone sufficient to produce that industriousness, sobriety, and frugality Smith characterizes as 'good conduct.'" [11] Thus reinforcing political stability, though in a manner in opposition to Plato and Jesus. In other words, private vice makes public virtue.

In the 1780s, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and Thomas Jefferson read Smith's Wealth of Nations. Jefferson called it the best book on the subject. (The constitutional debate was in 1787.) While Smith influenced their Lockean perspective, Smith diverged from John Locke (1632-1704). Smith conspicuously echoed Locke's protocapitalist views on labor as a source of wealth, but Smith tended to side with David Hume (1711-1776) and Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) against Locke on his "state of nature" idea and "the natural rights of man." Hume labeled the state of nature concept "'mere philosophical fiction, which never had, and never could have any reality,' and he never mentions men's natural rights." [12] Jeremy Bentham said natural rights were "nonsense on stilts." [13] While Smith favored rights to life and liberty, he was less fond of property rights, possibly out of inclinations for monarchy.

Among Smith's critics, we find John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), a fulcrum in Plattner's essay. For Plattner, Mill divides the thought of Smith and particularly Locke. One branch elevated natural rights, the other the utility of societal wealth that benefits all. The latter became utilitarianism-the greatest happiness for the greatest number-a socialist thrust decades later. For this group, capitalism would no longer be judged in reference to a past state of pre-civilized poverty and insecurity (however fictional) but to a more enlightened future with a higher "standard of morality," what Plattner views as a different standard of morality. [14]

Mill wrote that "distributive justice constitutes not in imitating but redressing the inequalities and wrongs of nature." [15] Including human nature. Yet Alexander Hamilton said, "Inequality would exist as long as liberty existed, and it would unavoidably result from that very liberty itself." [16] These "rewards accruing to greater ability" with one's right to the fruits of their labor in their exercise of freedom is the just outcome that capitalism serves, according to Plattner, and his central emphasis. [17] Of course, both Hamilton and Plattner assume that reward is due to talent, not corruption. But with Mill's life ending in the midst of robber barons, one wonders if he re-sighted the aim from moral origin to moral destination because of capitalist abuse. What good was capitalism's promise of individual gain when a handful of men enslaved wage labor unrestrained "by the laws of all governments"?

"Once it was no longer believed that legislation must be guided by the requirements of civic virtue," writes Plattner, "the unlimited pursuit of wealth is free to emerge..." [18] After hailing unlimited wealth while demoting virtue, it should be no surprise-though it seems one to Plattner-that over time, he finds a "radical divorce of freedom from justice" constituting a decisive departure from the Founders. [19] Hence, as Plattner tells it, appeals to "individual freedom, divorced from justice, are unlikely to prevail in the political arena against appeals to equality that emphatically claim to be on the side of justice." [20]

Did the embrace of greed provide a wedge for the Left? Does the divorce of freedom from justice now bolster the Right?

Smith's philosophy is a practical, individualist, materialist one, emphasizing stability of the whole through prosperity of the one; the individual. [21] Through accumulation, it's meant to translate into prosperity-if only in political stability-for those many individuals composing the state. Explicit in some ways, implicit in others, it degrades obligations to community through the practice of virtue and virtue's self-restraint on individual passion as preached by the Greeks and Jesus. Such Enlightenment ideas were a colossal reversal in the century's old beliefs-notably Christian-about wealth, morality, and society. America's Founders relegated selflessness for the endorsement of selfishness, believing as Smith did that it could be harnessed for the common good.

After some 250 years, how did it work?

Materially, in the long run, on the whole, no other system so far divined comes close to the products of selfish, individualist, capitalist society. East and West Berlin serve as a virtual lab experiment between competing economic models. On one side the prosperity of democratic-capitalist West Berlin. On the East, a razor-wire fence to keep people in. Marx's "alienation" turned out to be "incentive."

But are there flaws? Does Smith's model assume infinite resources without knowing it assumes it? Does its viability falter should the planet be crowded by 10-times the number of humans today than the 800 million alive at Smith's time? Does capitalism again invite assault when the average U.S. CEO salary is 320-times that of their workers? [22]

In practice, Smith's philosophy came naturally to overshadow what Smith meant to foster: morality. "Economics is [now] entirely neutral between ends," writes Plattner, "to the extent that it conforms to this, economics cannot be explicitly pro-capitalist or committed to the principles of [classical] liberalism... [it] has emancipated itself from any concern with moral and political ends." [23] E.g. corporations are about money, not the flag. Dodging taxes in the nation they're born from for lower rates in another is standard practice.

The selflessness of virtue is a community-referenced, self-imposed brake on passion, in contrast with external regulation. [24] True communities (Amish, Mennonite, orthodox Jews) exert pressure external to the individual to coerce behavior in conformance with community rules. But unlike imposition from far away strangers of a State, community pressure comes from those we know and are raised with. Laws from the State might seem like oppression, while from the community, like family values. But with human numbers now in the hundreds of millions composing pluralistic mega-societies, community ties were bound to dissolve, regardless of capitalism's community-curbing effects; regulation had to come from somebody. A thousand years after the Sumerian invention of the city, king Ur-Nammu didn't create the first extant law code ca. 2100 B.C. for nothing. Law made by faceless strangers became a necessity, especially for individualist societies like America with our absolutist attitudes of "all rights, no responsibilities." So irresponsible that the mere inconvenience of wearing a cloth mask to combat a foreign invader killing hundreds of thousands of Americans would, by mental acrobatics of the most inane, become a violation of some new right. The WWII Generation we ain't. To devalue selflessness by what became the sanctification of selfishness was to set not a static hierarchy but two trajectories, one up, the other down.

Smith did not intend this, but all great ideas commit suicide through excess.

[1] Alan Bloom Ed., Confronting the Constitution, AEI Press, 1990. At publication, Marc F. Plattner was the director of programs at the National Endowment for Democracy. Previously, he was a fellow in residence at the National Humanities Center in North Carolina; advisor on economic and social affair at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations; program officer of the Twentieth Century Fund; and managing editor of The Public Interest. He is the author of Rousseau's State of Nature: An Interpretation of the Discourse in Inequality and the editor of Human Rights in Our Time.

[2] Ibid. pg. 315.

[3] Ibid. pg. 315.

[4] Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, 1759, Uplifting Publications, 2009.

[5] Adam Smith (1723-1790), Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. and Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, 1776.

[6] "Smith was not extreme or dogmatic in his advocacy of laissez faire as it is sometimes believed." Bloom. pg. 320.

[7] Ibid. pg. 320-321.

[8] Ibid. pg. 319.

[9] Matthew 19:24.

[10] Bloom, pg. 319.

[11] Ibid. pg. 321.

[12] Bloom, pg. 325.

[13] Ibid. pg. 325.

[14] Ibid. pg. 329.

[15] Ibid. pg. 328.

[16] Founders Online, Constitutional Convention. Remarks on the Term of Office for Members of the Second Branch of the Legislature, [26 June 1787], National Archives.

[17] Ibid. pg. 331.

[18] Ibid. pg. 319. By the way, political "science" is not a science.

[19] Ibid. pg. 331. Note how this separation of freedom from justice dovetails with Jamal Greene's book How Rights Went Wrong. In that book, Green makes the point that jury cases became thought of only in terms of rights, not justice or morality. But the Left established the courts as the preferable route to law in the 1960s with courts taking preference over slow, uncertain outcomes of Congress-as Greene in part argues, as does Walter Burns in Taking the Constitution Seriously. Since the Left usually argues there is no overarching morality common to all, appeals to justice and its moral foundation would be replaced by intellectual arguments of competing rights.

[20] Ibid. pg. 332.

[21] Smith's argument is not entirely a material one, as that much sought after-and apparently quite temporary-political stability possesses a strong existential element. Americans now know what this means.

[22] Callie Holtermann, Are C.E.O.s Paid Too Much?, New York Times, May 11, 2021. "According to the Economic Policy Institute. In 1989, that ratio was 61 to 1. From 1978 to 2019, compensation grew 14 percent for typical workers. It rose 1,167 percent for C.E.O.s."

[23] Bloom. pg. 332-333. In agreement with Stephen A. Margil's The Dismal Science: Why Thinking Like an Economist Undermines Community, Harvard University Press, 2008.

[24] A community-based restraint is not meant to be confused with political correctness, though political correctness tries to imitate such a thing. I define political correctness as the oxymoronic claim that an overarching moral preference for select identity subgroups serves the common good and should be obeyed by everyone else, while simultaneously promoting the notion that there is no common good or overarching moral standard.

Until next time, Monday September 6, 2021.

May 3, 2021: At the Center of the Universe, From the Middle of Nowhere. (And Anybody Can Go There.)



Clear skies above, bounded by a full circle of woodlands on the ground.

Cuddled by that forest, and beneath a giant metal ear to the sky lay the electronics shack, all part of one big radio. [1] I'd just come inside from looking at the crescent moon through an 8-inch Newtonian telescope 315 years after Newton invented it. The moon's craters looked like they'd been blown open that instant. With no atmosphere or erosion there, it's no wonder. Radial ejecta from impacts fanned out like spokes on a wheel. Mountainous walls rimming each basin looked like a naked range on earth. And with the sun at such steep angles, shadows were stark and crisp, cast from the blackest black to the brightest white.

When the moon was formed by a titanic collision some four-and-one-half billion years ago, it was much closer, appearing about 24-times larger in the sky, before it fell away to where it is now. Today, the moon is only a bit over a light second away as it recedes from earth at 1.5-inches per year. Practically speaking, by light speeds, what I saw on the moon happened that moment. But inside the shack, what I saw happened long ago. Actually, I couldn't see it with my eyes because the message was sent via light my eyes cannot detect: radio waves. Like an echo from desperate times, that signal left its home as here on earth the god Ptah lost his hold on Memphis, cursing Egypt with a second dark age as its Middle Kingdom fell to Hyksos invaders. But the broadcast didn't come from earth. It came from a place 3600 light years away-and thus 3600 years in the past-in that little-talked-about constellation Camelopardalis between the more talked about Cassiopeia and the Big Dipper. Recall, one lightyear is about 6 trillion miles (10T km). While light travels 186,000 miles per second (3e8 m/s), it still takes a lot of seconds to cross 3600 times 6 trillion miles. [2]

Inside the shack, one of the professors connected the received radio signal to a frequency downconverter, translating it to audio on a speaker. As fast as you can say, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap... is what it sounded like. Just right for the percussion musician Gerard Grisey to use in his Le Noir de l'Etoile, The Black Star. [3] Pulsed every seven-tenths of a second, what I heard was like some kind of code above a disagreeable hiss. But what did it mean and who made it? Was it a warning? A cry for help? Or simply, "Hello universe. Here I am. My name is Pulsar PSR B0329+54," which, with proper translation, is what it said. [4] Since we on earth just happen to be on the line-of-sight with this pulsar's strobing poles-from which it blasts the universe with unfathomable power-we get pulsed with its message like a lighthouse.

A pulsar is a leftover shard of a star that blew itself apart as a supernova-an exploding star bigger than the sun. The supernova that created this gyro occurred about the time Ardipithiecus ramidus split off from Ardipithiecus kadabba on what appears our ancestral line, and did so somewhere along the dividing tectonic plates of Africa's Great Rift Valley 5-million years ago. Fortunately for us, the stellar calamity that created this pulsar was far away or kadabba would not have become ramidus; there'd be no life on earth.

Big stars-like this one used to be-live hard and die young. They burn the midnight oil for several hundred million years, but when enough is enough, they demolish themselves in milliseconds. They're terribly obese, so when they fall, they fall really hard. So hard, they smash the countless positive-protons and negative-electrons that make up their atoms into neutral neutrons. Like a giant atomic nucleus 10-miles (17 km) across with more mass than our 800,000 mile (1.3M km) diameter sun. Hence another name for pulsar is neutron star. This compression is so dense a single teaspoon weighs a billion tons. And like a skater retracting her arms on the ice for a spin, with a teeny fraction of the radius it once had a neutron star spins at ferocious rates. In the time it takes earth to rotate once on its axis for a single day, PSR B0329+54 whips through 123,000 days, because each day is only seven-tenths of a second long.

As I leaned over the audio speaker, I tried to think of all that took place for me to hear what I heard. Though not far by galactic standards, this inconceivably distant object sears anything nearby with its blowtorch beacon to atomize any planet that might have been there. So much raw power, from my distance a minuscule measure of its greeting could still be heard. From scooping up that signal in the sky with a dish antenna to the rat's nest of wires and electronics to my ears, it was amazing, but intangible. Who can conceive of a distance of 22e15 miles (36e15 km), or a ten-thousand-trillion-trillion-Watt strobe light? That's 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 Watts... Huh? Or even something as comparatively puny as the five million years since this pulsar was born?

I stood there trying to get my head around it. Gazing at stacks of electronics, it seemed remarkable that humans can even engineer such things to discover microscopic needles in truly cosmic haystacks. And with science, by experts employing reason and the rational workings of a 3-pound brain, we know what they are, when they were born, and how they'll die.

When I walked back outside, Mister Newton's invention had been repositioned to gather what he called corpuscles of light, this time from the constellation Coma Berenices. I peered into the eyepiece. From a wee spec of black space emerged a cascade of radiance that got focused-simply by the shape of my gelatinous eye-onto my retina. The retina is a kind of photodiode, converting light that travels well in air to electricity that travels well on optic nerves. From there, that current tunneled through my head and smacked the back of my brain so hard I could feel it. A call went out over the wires to make realizations, memories, and get excited. Right there in front of me was the Coma Cluster, 300 million light years away. The Hubble Telescope assayed it as an empire of over 22,000 galaxies, each with hundreds of billions of suns. Thanks to the Kepler spacecraft we now know most of them have planets. From this colossal kingdom I could see only a handful of states among the vastness of stellar desert. Hubble's mirror is a much bigger eye, almost 8-feet in diameter, not an 8-inch Newtonian. But what I saw plugged me in. The spiral arms of Coma's turbine galaxies were spun up just waiting for someone to close the switch, to make their connection, pumped up with wonder.

Having the Drake equation fresh in my head-a formula to estimate the number of intelligent species in the universe-I stared transfixed. Somewhere among the hundreds of billions of stars I could see was somebody in orbit on a planet looking up at their own empty night. From a wee spec of black in their dark sky was an eyeball looking back.


Like those occasions at Notre Dame and a clean room in Pasadena, years in my future, it was "A religious experience without the religion. I felt dizzy. I stood in that spot for the longest time, afraid to move and miss something." [5] Much further back in time, this communique was sent when my locale was on the equator as part of Pangea, that giant supercontinent where even dinosaurs hadn't yet evolved. And right then, after 300 million years and all that's happened since-from the rise of humans to discovery of the New World to my parents falling in love-I just happened to catch its message with a stiff punch in the head. In that moment I was staggered to exist; a biological organism comprised of the atoms those stars made and conscious of it, all from a forest in the middle of nowhere.

"Holy shhhhit," I whispered.

It's for moments like these that people do things like science and art. All the hours spent, all the solitary study, all the work in search of relations between what seem unrelated things to paint a worldview of connected inspiration. And it's open to anybody. One needn't be a scientist or an engineer or an artist to feel that epiphany.

Yes, the grind of American life is one in which for many each day is another lesson in submission. Yet there's revelations to be had if we can turn away from what we made for what already exists but gets no press. That remarkable machine called chlorophyll in every cell of that plant on your desk; the disappearance of 4 million tons of matter every second inside that sun above your head-matter converted to light to power that chlorophyll; those forty-trillion-trillion hydrogen atoms in your hand, atoms created with the Big Bang that are 13.7 billion years old. And before you want to believe it, they'll be part of somebody else. It's all there, waiting to inspire. All one needs is a book, to read about it, ponder it, and plug in.

[1] Part of the NRAO (National Radio Astronomical Observatory) is the North Liberty Radio Observatory, part of the University of Iowa Physics and Astronomy department. More about the Very Long Baseline Array network can be found here .

[2] Sometimes the speed of light does cheat the speed limit. See, Brett Williams, Notre Dame and the Religious Experience in Science, on Goodreads, May 6, 2019.

[3] Gerard Grisey, Le Noir de l'Etoile, YouTube. Grisey opens with 0.7 sec percussion rep rate of Pulsar O329+54.

[4] Wikipedia, Pulsar O329+54.

[5] Williams, ref. 2.

Until next time: Monday, June 7, 2021.

March 1, 2021: Rush Limbaugh is dead. So are Joseph Goebbels and Al-Ghazali. The similarities don't end there.

As a young Reaganite after Reagan was gone, I'd hurry down the stairs of the building I worked in. Outside, under that eternal Newport Beach, California sunshine, I'd trot to my car, turn on the radio, grab my lunch, and settle in for an hour of rousing provocation like none on radio before.

Or so I thought. [1]

There were three elements of personal ignorance yet to be illuminated in this experience. Little did I realize, what I was hearing was the seed of a massive social countermovement. Having been first duped as a child by Erich von Däniken's space aliens, I would later discover I was working on the second occasion of three in life. And finally, I'd not yet understood postmodernism either. Postmodern liberalism was the agenda I heard countered in that car. As Ferry and Renaut note in their French Philosophy of the Sixties, postmodernism is "a cult of paradox... accustoming their readers and listeners to the belief that incomprehensibility is a sign of greatness, and that the thinkers silence before incongruous demands for meaning is not proof of weakness but indication of endurance in the presence of the Unsayable." [2] Translation: inflated gobbledygook to hoodwink those who can be. Postmodernism bled into liberal American universities in the 1960s as a tool against a dominate, "Eurocentric," white male West, every bit as anti-science and anti-reason as Right-wing Creationists and Trump's Grand Old Putin Party. [3]

Notice this conclusion to reject reason emerged from a reasoned argument-an inherent self-contradiction and standard practice of the movement. Such thinking allows for the wildest of conclusions.

According to postmodernists, given that the West was built on Greek reason (which they consider a form of bigotry), recovered by the Renaissance, codified by Enlightenment, everything about the West was eventually indictable. The entire non-Western world was seen as a victim of the West, and there were plenty of reasons to justify such claims. From colonialism and slavery to opposition of women's suffrage, reasons to oppose the Western Way were abundant for this forerunner of victim culture. Conveniently, this ignored the same iniquities in non-Western cultures and denied reason's capacity for self-correction.

Before Marxism proved inane, postmodernism presented itself as another ally against the West. Upon colonizing American university humanities departments from those in France, including sociology, history, anthropology, literary criticism, cultural studies, it then created new ones like Women's Studies, White Studies, and feminist theory. [4] This is not to say all humanities at university are postmodern. Many possess rationalists seeking truth as best they're able, and postmodernism could not survive, nor even enter university sciences and engineering where proven truth is required. Without the truth of nature as reasoned by science, no devices built to that nature could ever work; there would be no technology. [5]

Sixties intellectuals spun the new social doctrine which was to be free from the blasphemy of rational examination and beyond it, like a religion which so many of them scorned. Per Ferry and Renaut, postmoderns like Foucault, Derrida, and Lacan sought to create "a cult of paradox." [6] With Foucault's "there are no facts, only interpretation," the way was opened to their core oxymoron, summarized as, "There is no truth and that's the truth." One presumes it applied to those who preached it, but it didn't.

This practice would eventually be absorbed and fired back at postmodern liberals by postmodern "conservatives"-today's populists. Nihilistic relativism born on the Left is now backbone of the Right for the political utility of lying expressed by Kellyanne Conway's "alternative facts" and Rudy Giuliani's "Truth isn't truth." [7]

What I listened to in Newport was a response to sweeping irrationalism newly defined as "correct thinking" in concert with the birth of authoritarian political correctness. Correctness witnessed today by the Smith College fiasco. [8] Enlightenment liberalism employed by America's Founders moved in reverse to create a new liberalism, the New Left. [9] Its counter-response was what became the New Right and a new industry, spearheaded by Rush Limbaugh. This industry grew to be today's lie factories for radicalized "conservatism" with no association to traditional conservatism other than appropriation of the name.

Limbaugh exposed the Left's countless absurdities: racist German shepherds; all boys are sexual proto predators; multiculturalism's groundwork for tribalism through its replacement of America's "melting pot" with "identity politics." [10] To challenge such political nonsense was sacrilege to the Left and Rush relished exposing it with entertaining sound bites we harried Americans crave. His political incorrectness made it keenly satisfying.

But it wasn't all he was doing. Laced with his revelations was another. I began to notice Limbaugh describe things in hostile terms which I'd personally witnessed with the opposite reaction. I heard him cherry-pick, truncate, and spin, discarding critical parts of a story that would reverse his allegations. I began talking out loud to my radio, asking questions to the bemusement of passersby. By the humblest of inquiries, it was alarming just how flimsy was Limbaugh's rock-solid bombast. The full truth was an obstacle to winning his political arguments. [11]

Limbaugh's master technique was to season lies with just enough truth to give his lies something to ride on, dependent on the fact that modernity overwhelms us with too much information we can't track. His verbal knife flayed detail, nuance, and any need for lengthy attention spans. With relentless repetition, he put words in other's mouths then told how wrong they were. A perpetual mind reader, he put thoughts, opinions, and schemes in other people's minds-then told how wrong they were. He took the sins he practiced daily then pasted them to his adversaries. He exaggerated valid ideas to absurdity, then indicted the original idea with his ridiculous extension. He claimed to live in "Realville" but created a fake world in concert with the other fabricators he spawned. While bemoaning the Left's victim culture, he chronically griped, We always play by the rules; they always take advantage of us; the elites never care about us, the little people, flyovers, hicks. With an absolutist's emphasis on always, never, everybody, his grievance was easy to swallow. Not only did it require no thought, Limbaugh demanded it. "Don't doubt me!" he'd say. And when he talked about his cat, the blustering fat man was charming.

While the Left offered ample targets, Limbaugh began to chase ever more trivial matters in a business that demands progressively shocking revelations of universal evil. Because LED light bulbs consume less energy, last longer, and add thus less atmospheric CO2, LEDs became a rallying cry against the "global warming hoax," "invasions of our liberty," more "big government control." From just another appliance, to The Assault on America. He could have spun it differently: "American innovators, entrepreneurs, and capitalists solved another problem to create wealth, jobs, and greater GDP for a stronger USA." We used to call this Yankee Ingenuity. The Old Right was all for it. For Limbaugh and his flock, everything became hopelessly politicized. [12]

Like the New Left's reversal of Enlightenment reason, Limbaugh's New Right would betray everything it once stood for: Reagan, Founders, Christ. [13] This coalescing of tribal safety on its way to a militant cult fully amalgamated with Trump's rise, stretching Limbaugh's skills. As Trump flip-flopped on paying porn stars for silence, Trump Tower Moscow, campaign meetings with Russian operatives, Limbaugh was forced to maintain a halo of infallibility for the New Right's newest Savior.

Per historian Hugh Trevor-Roper, another once-dazzling mob orator was "history's first master of the media Big Lie who created Hitler's halo of infallibility," Joseph Goebbels. [14] As Minister for Propaganda and Enlightenment, Goebbels vindicated Hitler's Mein Kampf, which claimed the bigger the lie, the more likely it's believed. For Trump, Limbaugh made this his career after first blasting Trump as a fake. Like Goebbels, Limbaugh, along with the New Right's silo, "created the myth of the Führer... above the Party, blindly followed," christened by evangelist Pat Robertson's "mandate of heaven." [15] Both Goebbels and Limbaugh employed arguments that appealed "to emotions and instincts, not intellect." [16] And like Goebbels, Limbaugh "valued reality only as a means to its distortion." [17]

Run-of-the-mill propaganda.

But Limbaugh had an added X-factor shared with another historical figure. That man's X-factor was hostility to rational thought fueling his society's philosophy, art, literature, economics, and science, such as it was in 1100 A.D. Islam. An entire civilization of varied nations ignited by rational inquiry, while in Europe, as physicist Steven Weinberg writes, "Charlemagne and his lords were dabbling in the art of writing their names." [18]

As Pakistani physicist and historian Pervez Hoodbhoy elaborates, from civilization's 12th-century beacon emerged one central figure to bring it all down: Al-Ghazali (1058-1111). [19] Like Limbaugh, like the postmodernists, Al-Ghazali set out to wreck the very thing that built his civilization, replaced with unwavering obedience to dogma. Why? Because rational thought was then, as it is now, a danger to religious orthodoxy, be it mainstream or a political cult. Critical thinking inherited from Greece and expanded by the Arabs made a growing number of Muslims hesitant about their Scriptures. Like Westerners who analyze the Bible critically, inconsistencies appear, self-contradictions, rank immorality, they ask questions, they doubt. So too, Islam. For Al-Ghazali, reason was to be exterminated to save the Koran and Al-Ghazali's definition of right thinking. Islamic extremists "proclaimed a holy war against Rationalism," writes Hoodbhoy, "against the upholders of reason and advocates of philosophy and science." [20] And they won; one of history's greatest civilizations collapsed. Admirers said Al-Ghazali "saved orthodoxy by depressing science." [21]

Fast forward nine-hundred years to hear Rush Limbaugh broadcast that science and scientists are "One of the four corners of deceit!" [22] Done so over radio waves discovered by science, on electronics built by science, from a nation that once put men on the moon.

Isn't it ironic that before Limbaugh died, he turned to science to save his life? But there are some things even science can't fix, liars first among them. In a nation of so many, it's a valued skill.

After years of barking at my radio, I was surprised to find how much I missed Limbaugh the day he died. The day I heard all those replays, from his beginnings as a conservative spinner to his demise as another Alex Jones conspiracy-pimp. Limbaugh fought the Left with emotion. He did not defeat them with ideas, and the Right followed to become the empty vessel it is.

Note how disparate sources are identical in their hostility to reason. From fundamentalists-be they Christian, Muslim, or postmodern atheists-to political cults like Stalinists, Nazis, Maoists, or Trumpers. From the Middle Ages to modernity; from America's New Left to its New Right. And they think they're different.

Like Al-Ghazali, Limbaugh's war on rational thought led the way for a post-truth army against science, morality, and the reason democracies depend on. There may be no man more responsible for America's current decline than Rush Limbaugh, 30-years before Trump, paving the foundation. Will what Limbaugh set in motion fail as Goebbels failed or succeed like Al-Ghazali?

[1] After Newport, I stumbled across another provocative radio personality as one of Limbaugh's predecessors, but she made the blog title and body too long: Aimee Semple McPherson. She was a Pentecostal evangelist and founder of the Foursqaure Church. McPherson used the new invention of radio to redirect what had been masterful stagecraft in 1920s American theater. She had a massive national following, was one of the most influential women of her time, and was corrupted by money, power, and fame, dying early of an apparently accidental overdose. Limbaugh's popularity, his talents in the new arena of talk-radio that he created, and his ultimate corruption look something like McPherson's. Limbaugh crumpled paper near the microphone for effect when disposing of other's ideas. He whispered, he shouted, he preached fire-and-brimstone doctrine. He was also, once-upon-a-time, a Reagan supporter, championed fiscal responsibility, opposed Russia's murderous dictators, and said character in leadership was paramount while Bill Clinton was having his parts polished in the chair Lincoln sat. But for a serial adulterer, draft dodger, and 40-year money launderer for the Russians in the name of Donald Trump, all that changed. Limbaugh lived just long enough to see what he created lose along with Trump, but the perverse distortions with which he "reeducated" his tens of millions of "Dittoheads" lives on in their hypocrisy, most notably their claim to be both American patriots and Christians.

[2] Ferry and Renaut, French Philosophy of the Sixties: An Essay on Antihumanism, University of Massachusetts Press, 1990, pg. 12-14. More fully, Ferry and Renaut state, "a cult of paradox... accustoming their readers and listeners to the belief that incomprehensibility is a sign of greatness, and that the thinkers silence before incongruous demands for meaning was not proof of weakness but indication of endurance in the presence of the Unsayable."

[3] While Ferry and Renaut emphasize "imperial colonialism and Nazism" pg. xxii-xv, others include WWI and the Great Depression. In addition to their rejection of reason, the postmodernists wanted to create a philosophy "which means nothing." pg. 5. Hmm...

[4] Examples are provided in Keith Windschuttle, The Killing of History, Encounter Books, 2000. While not all of each department is dominated by postmodernists, for some like feminist theory (part of Women's Studies) championed by UCLA's Sandra Harding, there seems no interest in truth, only misandrist propaganda.

[5] Neither postmodernists science deniers, like UCLA's feminist theorist Sandra Harding who drives a car and uses computers, nor the New Right's science deniers like Limbaugh and the New Right's liar's silo have financial incentive to acknowledge the truth of science represented by its astounding success, it's foundation in our national defense, its record-breaking Covid-19 vaccine, its building of the West, and their use of science every day.

[6] Ferry and Renaut, pg. 12-14.

[7] Alternative Facts, Wikipedia. REBECCA MORIN and DAVID COHEN, Giuliani: 'Truth isn't truth', POLITICO, 08/19/2018.

[8] For anyone who doubts the authoritarian nature of political correctness there are countless examples, but one recent display destroyed the lives of innocent working people at Smith College: Michael Powell, Inside a Battle Over Race, Class and Power at Smith College, New York Times, Feb. 24, 2021. Notice this negative assessment of an aspect of liberal political correctness comes from the "liberal" New York Times, something Limbaugh repeatedly asserted could never happen. An earlier example is chronicled by Alan Charles Kors & Harvey A. Silvergate, The Shadow University: The Betrayal of Liberty on America's Campuses, Harper Perennial, 1999.

[9] The New Left, Britannica. Some of this had already been paved by early 1900s progressives, like J. Allen Smith's The Spirit of American Government in which he protested the Founder's form of representative republican government because he wanted a direct democracy like the Greeks had when they lamented the poisoning of Socrates thanks to that form of order. Also early was Herbert Croly's The Promise of American Life. However, none of these would have argued for expulsion of rational thought.

[10] Limbaugh was also not beyond finding the most fringe Left-wing stories online (or perhaps were not "Left" at all) and painting the Left with it as though it were a common feature.

[11] Of course, like 82% of "Republicans," Limbaugh also claimed to be a Christian. Yet, long before Limbaugh lied for a living, Apostle Paul said, "We no longer lie to one another, we only tell the truth." Ephesians 4:25.

[12] With age, death's doorway, and his "Dittoheads" increased acceptance of lies, Limbaugh got weaker. After Trump's January 6 jihadists stormed the Capitol, Limbaugh said on 1/18/21 that the forty Trump rallies before January 6 were all peaceful, yet the Democrats locked down D.C., and for what? Hmm... Because of January 6? Adding that the fence around the Capitol violated what he said is the Democrat's opposition to walls, a nod to Trump's border wall, "paid for by Mexico." After Trump recommended injecting disinfectant into our veins to fight Covid and was excoriated for such abject stupidity, Limbaugh lambasted NYC Mayor Cuomo for having subway train cars disinfected as though the two were equivalent. Other examples of weakness include his complaint that the "drive-by media" will claim Biden inherited the Covid-19 crisis from Trump, not that it belongs to Biden himself. This was said after almost a year of Trump's colossal ineptitude, erratic distortions, and 400,000 dead in the U.S. In his final weeks, Limbaugh saw the 200,000 flags ordered in rows at the Capitol Mall during the Biden inauguration, and saw in them a sign the U.S. had become China. That's not merely weak, that's asinine. More asinine than claiming the Left hid top stories he deemed threatening to them, when any and every Left and center media outlet in the country could he seen and heard covering these stories at the top of their broadcast. Limbaugh only got away with this because he knew his flock never tuned in to anything but he and the Right-wing silo.

[13] We all got to see Trump's "Christians" parade a golden Donald in flip-flops as their Golden Calf at CPAC's cult meeting and pep rally in Florida: Zack Beauchamp, This golden statue of Trump at CPAC is a perfect metaphor for the state of the GOP. Apparently CPAC attendees missed the part of the Bible about the Golden Calf., VOX, Feb 26, 2021. Brett Williams, King Trump has no clothes. What a sight... Let the laughter begin!, on Goodreads, January 4, 2021. Brett Williams, Charlie's Expose, Part 1: When America's Right-Wing Became What it Most Despised, on Goodreads, November 2, 2020. Brett Williams, America's history lesson: Seven truths Trump taught the world, on Goodreads, September 7, 2020. Brett Williams, Why my old Right-wing tribe betrayed everything it once stood for, on Goodreads, March 2, 2020. Brett Williams, The Collapse of American Christianity, on Goodreads, January 18, 2020. Brett Williams, America is asking, "Are Trump and his Party, traitors?", on Goodreads, January 6, 2020. Brett Williams, Our Dear (mafia) Leader, on Goodreads, December 24, 2019. Brett Williams, The betrayal of Christ: global warming denial, on Goodreads, November 5, 2018.

[14] Hugh Trevor-Roper Ed., Final Entries 1945: The Diaries of Joseph Goebbels, AVON, 1979.

[15] Ibid. pg. pg. xix. And, Kim Bellware, Trump 'in danger of losing the mandate of heaven' over Syria decision, Pat Robertson warns, Washington Post, Oct. 8, 2019.

[16] Trevor-Roper. pg. xxiii.

[17] Ibid. pg. xxxix

[18] Steven Weinberg, To Explain the World: The Discovery of Modern Science, Penguin, 2016, pg. 104.

[19] Pervez Hoodbhoy, Islam and Science: Religious Orthodoxy and the Battle for Rationality, Zed, 1991. Hoodbhoy spells the name with an added "z:" Al-Ghazzali. In comparison to Limbaugh and the New Right's hostility to universities, regardless of department or process, Hoodbhoy notes, "With time the attitudes against secular learning hardened. By the 12th century, the conservative anti-rationalists schools of thought had almost completely destroyed [rationalist] influence," pg. 100.

[20] Ibid. pg. 99.

[21] Ibid. pg. 104.

[22] Rush Limbaugh Giuliani: 'Truth isn't truth', Rush Limbaugh .com, April 29, 2013. Ironically, Rush also had a habit of quoting "scientific" evidence, which is whatever he designated as "real science," while he was opposed to what he called "junk science." His definition of junk science is revealed by an old joke: A modern artist is anybody who says they are, and modern art is anything they say it is. Ditto for Limbaugh, whatever served his creed. As scientifically illiterate as most of his followers, Limbaugh didn't know science from a kumquat and was terrified of integers.

Until next time: May 3, 2021.

February 1, 2021: Lies, Dupes, and How to Patch Cracks in America's Broken Foundation. Part 1

When I was a small, innocent, and naive boy living in Iowa, I discovered Erich von Däniken's bestselling book, Chariots of the Gods?. [1] It was full of inexplicables, including ancient geoglyphs recognizable as animals only from high in the sky above Peru's Nazca Desert. Von Däniken resolved these mysteries with a "simple" answer: our ancient ancestors were given technology by extraterrestrials. Giants of the publishing industry, print media, cinema, and TV all jumped in to validate the stunning claim. I told everyone I knew. "Space aliens visited planet earth!" "Read this book!" "It will change your life!"

A few years later, still an innocent and naive boy living in Iowa, though not as small, I happened across another book by archeologist Clifford Wilson, Crash Go the Chariots. [2] I assumed it a validation of von Däniken's discovery, crash-landed spacecraft perhaps.


Step-by-step, Wilson dismantled von Däniken with science. I was stunned. I'd been duped. I was embarrassed for having pushed nonsense on so many people, like an ass for impossible conspiracies. I committed never to be suckered again, though I would be.

Decades later, I witness similar gullibility from 60 million Americans still breathlessly devoted to fantastical fabrications of 2020 election fraud. The Internet says so. Right-wing propaganda daily stirs the blood for ratings cash. Demagogues Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley manipulate the flock for political gains. And the National Loser, who claimed the Emmys were rigged because his gameshow didn't win one, asserts the election was rigged too. [3]

As Timothy Synder writes, "To make sense of a world in which the 2020 presidential election was stolen requires distrust not only of reporters and experts but also local, state, and federal government institutions [of both parties], from poll workers to elected officials, Homeland Security, and the Supreme Court... Imagine all the people who must have been in on such a plot and all who had to work on the cover-up." [4]

But as we saw at the U.S. Capitol, lies don't come free. "To tell the big lie is to be owned by it," writes Snyder. [5] "No fraud is necessary; only allegations that there are allegations of fraud. Truth is to be replaced by spectacle, facts by faith... To claim the other side stole an election is a promise to steal one yourself." [6] And paves the way for standard practice.

While cocksure on this and every topic at the tavern, in the halls of reason's offspring-science and democracy-such people are lost, even when acting out their Beer Hall Putsch. "[Trump sent] them on a rampage in the Capitol," writes Snyder, "but none appeared to have any idea of how this was to work or what their presence would accomplish. It's hard to think of a comparable insurrectionary moment when a building of significance was seized that involved so much milling around." [7]

I've struggled to understand these people for four years through personal engagements, email, and face-to-face, including acquaintances, friends, and family. What I came to find with perfect certainty is that there's no reasoning with a cult. [8] And per Johnathan Rauch, education doesn't matter. [9] One of them I know has a Ph.D. in my field of physics. All but one of thirteen I know have university degrees.

I once told them my financial success never saw such a high return investment as that provided by a web link. They clicked the bait only to find the U.S. Treasury FinCEN website detailing Trumps most recent record fine for (Russian) money laundering. [10] Their response? All politicians do this-including Lincoln and Reagan; Trump only ran the operation, he didn't know what went on behind the scenes; God chose Trump, He works in mysterious ways; I didn't vote for daddy. And this from people who said character was paramount during the Bill Clinton era.

One, a self-described "devout Lutheran," instructed me to take Apostle Paul's quote, "'We no longer lie to one another, we only tell the truth,' and shove it up your ass. I live in the real world. Force wins!" So much for his devotion.

In a 180-degree reversal of the Founder's moral means to ends, these people not only prioritize immorality, they glorify it as a tribal identifier. No surprise, "Republicans" favor Putin (60%) and want fascist authoritarian rule in the U.S. (52%), while they claim reverence for the Constitution and fly the Stars and Stripes. [11] Precisely the self-contradiction we saw when Confederate flags waved-from an enemy country we defeated-through the building under which George Washington set its cornerstone.

Per David Brooks, "One core feature of Trumpism is that it forces you to betray every other commitment you might have: to the truth, moral character, the Sermon on the Mount, conservative principles, the Constitution." [12]

When National Guard surrounded the Capitol to protect it from the president, one Trumper I know stood his ground. Commencing with "whataboutism," because these "Christians" can't "Pull the plank from your own eye first." [13] Then he embraced the big lie as "some pretty underhanded ballot manipulation." The Right got "a little rowdy," he said, "demonstrating their displeasure," and for that, "they are Domestic Terrorists?"

As Billy Graham Center Direct Ed Stetzer said, what evangelicals have done is "The definition of selling out your beliefs." [14] It's not only the evangelical sector, "a sacrilegious mob blasting Christian pop music, chanting 'Hang Mike Pence.'" [15]

After the botched Capitol coup, our New Right ignored it and doubled down on election fraud claims because Trump taught them something useful. GOPP voters demand lies because truth is an obstacle to winning political power. [16] Even without Trump, his base has made it clear they are eagerly conned. By lying demagogues and cowards like Kevin McCarthy, Louie Gohmert, Rand Paul, Matt Gaetz, Paul Gosar, Ron Johnson (there's so many, 147, House and Senate), and Georgia QAnon Representative Marjorie Taylor Green who claims Hillary Clinton cuts the face off children to wear on her own, and that there's no evidence a plane crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11. [17] And then there's NY Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, who clarified she's never said there was widespread voter fraud but voted to reject the Electoral College certification anyway. [18] Why? Because there are 60 million Americans who believe there was fraud. Why? Because liars like Malliotakis said so.

Notice, all the above are "adults," not nine-year-old boys duped by another hustler.

How long can a civilization hang on when vipers like these are elected by ignorant masses, charged with national powers?

As Thomas Jefferson said, "A nation that believes it can be ignorant and free is a nation that never was and never can be."

By April 2020, I started to cut ties with these people. No matter how much proven evidence is triangulated, there's always another Limbaugh lie to push after the last one failed. [19] It's no surprise their militias, "better trained, with more weapons, and more members than Al Qaeda or ISIS," would impersonate Al Qaeda's 9/11 by leading their own attack on 1/21. [20] Vandals, thieves, and cop killers among them are cheered by Putin, China, Iran, and Trump as he watched his jihadists on TV, stalling support for overwhelmed Capitol Police. [21] A week after the desecration, 45% of "Republicans" supported it, 73% believed Trump was trying to "protect democracy." [22]

So can we keep it, as Benjamin Franklin asked of the Republic, or lose it to monsters among our own ex-friends and family?

Starting only with systemic government matters, Johnathan Rauch answers with solutions that take stock of the fact humans are an inherently unstable species. [23] Make gerrymandering illegal. The U.K., Australia, and New Zealand already do this. Eliminate primaries begun in 1912. No one cares about politics so early in a cycle but radicals. This and abolition of gerrymandering would terminate incumbents from being "primaried" by even crankier cranks appealing to extremists. Bring back pork-barrel politics in which lawmakers trade legislative votes for wasteful home-district "pork." They've nothing to show home for compromise, so compromise is treason. Small change compared to the cost of what we've got. Like the 1787 Constitutional Convention, make select committee deliberations secret from public scrutiny so politicians can speak freely without militant special interests twisting every word. No more 4-day worksweeks, then back home. Require all Congressional members reside in D.C. with regular, scheduled, one-on-one family gatherings of the opposition. "It's really hard to hate your political opponent when you know his wife and kids." [24] Impose strict regulations on asocial media. Kill Section 230. Resurrect the Fairness Doctrine; crush the propaganda silos. Stop the mountains of corrupt dark money in campaign finance. Fix our educational system. It will be a gigantic bill. But we gave Wall Street's gamblers trillions after they destroyed the world economy in 2008. We can't educate our own people out of the gutter? And not STEM alone. Americans proved they know less about Founding governance, law, and ethics than they know about kumquats. When "Republicans" can support the fascism of a Russian-groomed tyrant and feign support for the Constitution, something is unspeakably perverse. [25]

Or, we can jettison reason, justice, and democratic governance. Let Trump and his crime family free, and watch our terrorists take over. Lenin did it, Hitler did it, Mao did it. As we've seen, psychologically and morally, almost half of America is little different. [26] While already they eat each other: "'A Total Failure': Proud Boys Now Mock Trump;" "QAnon believers in disarray after Biden inaugurated;" "Trump Ignites War Within the Church: After a week of Trumpist mayhem, white evangelicals wrestle with what they've become." [27] Demonstrative of how absent Trumpist "ideals" are, and a gauge of American immorality, credulity, and ignorance. A vast resource for Putin and despots like Trump to come.

[1] Erich von Däniken's, Chariots of the Gods?, Putnum, 1969. Notice Berkeley Press reissued the book in 1999 without a question mark in the title. It has a 3.5-star rating with 13,698 ratings on Goodreads at time of this blog post. At the time of its first publication, newspapers told of its breakthrough, a movie was made, and a television program. The film was based on "The book that shattered conventional theories of history and archeology!" The television program, which I saw, was called "In Search of Ancient Astronauts."

[2] Clifford Wilson, Crash Go the Chariots, Lancer Books, 1972, with a 3-star review and 64 ratings on Goodreads. Sensational rubbish sells more than thoughtful analysis.

[3] DANIEL WHITE, Yes, Donald Trump Thought the Emmys Were Rigged Against Him, TIME, OCTOBER 19, 2016.

[4] Timothy Snyder, The American Abyss, New York Times, January 9, 2021. In America, we've seen these big lies and their consequences before in the denial of man-made global warming and Creationist rejection of human evolution. Analogous to Snyder's argument, there are tens of thousands of scientists from every discipline, from every nation, of every religion, or none at all-the vast majority as complete strangers-investigating millions of physical phenomena with over a century of fieldwork and terabytes of measured data direct from nature. Who could possibly herd so many cats pointed in so many directions that all end up at the same conclusion: man-made global warming is a fact; human evolution really happened. The only naysayers of apparent authority are paid by or affiliated with the likes of Heartland Institute in Chicago and outside San Diego. Affirmative proof for scientific conclusions comes from the same science of physics, chemistry, and biology that drives the world economy, our national defense, and every working device on planet earth from iPhones to SpaceX. All as the planet burns and fundamentalists force schools to teach religion in science class, dumbing down American students already at bottom of the industrialized world. This is the same ignorant, gullible, and largely Christian apostates with no intention of "Seeking the truth" their Savior counsels that we've scrutinized, pondered, and poked here before. Recall, their politics trumps their religion. They hate liberals more than they love Jesus. And regardless of faith or lack of it on the New Right, truth is an obstacle to winning their political arguments.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] As David Brooks notes, "You can't argue with people who have their own made-up facts. You can't have an argument with [the] deranged..." David Brooks, Trump Ignites a War Within the Church: After a week of Trumpist mayhem, white evangelicals wrestle with what they've become., New York Times, Jan. 14, 2021.

[9] Jonathan Rauch, How American Politics Went Insane, The Atlantic Monthly, JULY/AUGUST 2016.

[10] Contact: Steve Hudak, FinCEN Fines Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort $10 Million for Significant and Long Standing Anti-Money Laundering Violations, U.S> Treasury FinCEN, March 06, 2015.

[11] Henry E. Hale and Olga Kamenchuk, Why are Republicans using Putin's talking points? This study helps explain. Increasingly, Republican voters think Vladimir Putin is a good leader. , Washington Post, Feb. 4, 2020. Aaron Blake, The GOP has caught autocratic fever, The Washington Post, August 7, 2019.

[12] Brooks.

The point was also noted here: Brett Williams, Why my old Right-wing tribe betrayed everything it once stood for, on Goodreads, March 2, 2020.

[13] For those uninitiated into the latest American slang, "whataboutism" is simplistic diversion which allows one not to answer a question defensively, but rather go on the offense to ask "what about:" Black Lives Matter protests, burnings, killings of police from any era so long as it can be associated with liberal radicals, ignoring that according to FBI reports the New Right is responsible for more violence since 1994 than the radical Left, and that America's Capitol GOPP jihadists are also cop killers. Whataboutism is also a version of motivated-reason that only accepts evidence if it supports what we already believe, contrary to right-reason which accepts validated evidence no matter how it makes us feel. We used to call these people liars. I still do. They still are. "Pull the plank from your own eye first." Matthew 7:5.

[14] MELISSA BLOCK, "How Did We Get Here?" A Call For An Evangelical Reckoning On Trump, NPR: Morning Edition, January 13, 2021.

[15] Brooks.

[16] GOPP: Trump's Grand Old Putin Party

[17] David Gilbert, Marjorie Taylor Greene Believes in Frazzledrip, QAnon's Wildest Conspiracy Theory, VICE, January 27, 2021.

[18] CNN & Brian Tyler Cohen, Republican tries to defend her vote to overturn election... it backfired HORRIBLY, January 23, 2021.

[19] My termination of friends and family over Trump and his cult has been labeled "cancel culture" in an attempt to lump me with the Left. The label applies equally well to any among the New Right, including Matt Gaetz's cancel of fellow "Republican" Liz Cheney at a rally he held in her home state of Wyoming in January 2021, or Arizona's State GOPP cancel of Governor Doug Ducey, ex-Senator Flake (not in office), and John McCain's wife, because they "didn't say very nice things about Trump," and South Carolina's State GOPP cancel of Rep. Tom Rice for voting to impeach Trump an historic second time for his treason. Since I don't belong to a tribe, I'm not required to lie for it. Trump and his cult are far past politics, deep into moral matters which apply universally to all, not only the other party, while we give our own a pass. I have no more obligation to associate with immoral Americans than I have to associate with the Taliban.

[20] Former FBI Special Agent Clint Watts. MSNBC Deadline Whitehouse. January 2021.

[21] Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey and Philip Rucker, Six hours of paralysis: Inside Trump's failure to act after a mob stormed the Capitol, Washington Post, Jan. 11, 2021.

[22] Matthew Smith, Jamie Ballard, Linley Sanders, Most voters say the events at the US Capitol are a threat to democracy, YouGov, January 06, 2021.

[23] Ibid, Rauch. Of course, this is not a full coverage of all of America's many ills or their solutions, nor are they all from Rauch, but rather simple common sense.

[24] Reference lost.

[25] David Smith, 'The perfect target': Russia cultivated Trump as asset for 40 years - ex-KGB spy, The Guardian, 29 Jan 2021.

[26] Brett Williams, King Trump has no clothes. What a sight... Let the laughter begin!, on Goodreads, January 4, 2021. Brett Williams, Charlie's Expose, Part 1: When America's Right-Wing Became What it Most Despised, on Goodreads, November 2, 2020. Brett Williams, America's history lesson: Seven truths Trump taught the world, on Goodreads, September 7, 2020. Brett Williams, Why my old Right-wing tribe betrayed everything it once stood for, on Goodreads, March 2, 2020. Brett Williams, The Collapse of American Christianity, on Goodreads, January 18, 2020. Brett Williams, America is asking, "Are Trump and his Party, traitors?", on Goodreads, January 6, 2020. Brett Williams, Our Dear (mafia) Leader, on Goodreads, December 24, 2019. Brett Williams, What is "truth" in America's post-truth fog, and how can we find it?, on Goodreads, December 12, 2019.

[27] Sheera Frenkel and Alan Feuer, 'A Total Failure': The Proud Boys Now Mock Trump, New York Times, January 20, 2020. Brian Fung, Kaya Yurieff, QAnon believers are in disarray after Biden is inaugurated, CNN, January 21, 2020. Notice from this article: "Other believers insisted that the lack of a climax was itself a part of the plan, theorizing that Trump merely "allowed" Biden to become president "for appearances" while the former reality show host would be the one pulling the strings. 'Anything that happens in the next 4 years is actually President Trumps doing,' wrote one 4chan user." I wish I'd had this for my previous post, adding to the laughter. David Brooks, Trump Ignites a War Within the Church: After a week of Trumpist mayhem, white evangelicals wrestle with what they've become., New York Times, January 14, 2020.

Given Trump's insurrection in the U.S. Capitol as a capstone to his inaugural claim of carnage, this unscheduled blog was posted between the usual bimonthly submissions. Trump and (mostly) his fake Christians-not just casual sinners, but determined apostates-have been responsible for a number of such insertions over these last four interminable years. With the exception of a parting salute to Rush Limbaugh after he's dead, and the occasional historical, psychological, and moral comparisons between fascist tyrants of the past and Trumpers today, we will return to more uplifting subjects. Those being the subjects of nature and science, history and civilization, religion, mythology, and philosophy, leaving this downer of America's epic disgrace behind for as long as our jihadists allow. Unfortunately, that won't be long.

Until next time, the first Monday in March, the 1st, 2021.

January 4, 2021: King Trump has no clothes. What a sight... Let the laughter begin!

Trump-the man who tried to convince us he has large hands-has been disrobed. [1] What we see is not a surprise, but it is funny. Likewise, that other stand-in for phallic prowess, the AR-15, is returned to its gun rack beside the jeans that don't fit, the junior-varsity jacket, and MAGA hat dusted with coronavirus. During America's four-year saga of reality TV drama, who knew it would end as a comedy? When Rudy Giuliani flashed his petite portion of voter fraud so small it couldn't be found-in a filthy parking lot between a porn shop and a crematorium. [2] And if that weren't farcical enough, after Giuliani screamed "Fraud!" in public but denied it in court, he reappeared for a 105-minute lie-a-thon. As black sweat ran down his face, America received the news: the ghost of Hugo Chavez molested our election. [3] One last prank from the jester who colored his hairs with Trump's Sharpie. [4]

Mercifully, the Trump comedy was canceled thanks to a ratings drop for its game show host. But while Putin's asset hastened America's retreat, accelerated the rise of China, and made conspiracy theorists feel special, he also provided the gift of laughter for generations to come. As a sayonara to our populist temper tantrum-in the Oval Office for now-we gaze here at Trump's tiny segment of spoofery, and his screwball supporters who performed their own striptease. It took them four whole years of undressing that not-so-scary camo to finally get naked, and a laugh. And while Trump scrapes his knees for a mouthful of counterfeit votes in Georgia, the GOPP sedition caucus, led by Missouri Senator Josh Hawley and Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks, plan to bare their anatomy in public chambers for one last guffaw; a coup against that Constitution they pretend to venerate. [5]

This all started with a joke: Trump's puerile populism raised to the level of a new religion, ditching the old one. As Billy Graham Center director Ed Stetzer wrote in Christian Times, "Christians seem to be disproportionately fooled [as] Putin's troll factories focused on...evangelicals." [6] On the BBC, Stetzer said some Christians had replaced Christ with QAnon-hence the new religion and magnet for populists-which 4 in 10 "Republicans" believe in. [7] This latest adoration of the New Right crawled under Trump's bedsheets along with the Proud Boys, neo-Nazis, and the Klan, where Trump fondled their gullibility to let them feel special too. Though "Gullibility is not a spiritual gift," says Stetzer.

But humor is. And there's plenty of it, with QAnon a fresh display of sidesplitting credulity. Get this: Q claims that John F. Kennedy Jr. faked his 1999 plane-crash death in order to replace Vice President Pence as the con man's 2020 running mate. [8] Q divulged that Hillary Clinton drinks "adrenochrome" as a fountain of youth derived from the blood of children her pedophile syndicate holds captive at that D.C. pizza shop, which Trumper and gun-besotted Edgar Welch shot up to free all those children who were never there. [9] And Q-cult-leader Austin Steinbart's prophetic insights into government are "because he receives messages from his future self through quantum computing." [10] "Steinbart, recently jailed for violating terms of his pre-trial release on extortion charges, had in his possession a prosthetic penis called a 'Whizzinator.'" [11] Now, that's funny! We're told the lesson of the Whizzinator is that it showed Trump what's essential to grasp when holding the staff of Q-leadership, even with small hands. And who needs an AR-15 to thrust high in state capitols when a man can grab his lightweight Whizzinator instead? [12]

While Mad King Trump and his disciples embraced QAnon and any crank who would lick Trump's... boot, he, Rush Limbaugh, and Sean Hannity revealed to the waiting world "doctor" Stella Immanuel's support of hydroxychloroquine as Covid-19's cure. [13] Recall, hydroxy was a lie Trump told as a diversion from his prescription to inject Lysol, and Trump's a no-nonsense, straight-talking liar. When he tells a lie, he sticks to it. To polish her medical credentials, Immanuel added that, by-the-way, "people are having sex in their dreams with demons and witches." [14] These phantasms turn themselves into women that have sex with men to collect their sperm. Upon which, they turn themselves into men who sleep with men, depositing that collected sperm... somewhere, and... somehow reproduce more of themselves. Forget vaccines, she said; scientists cooked those up "to prevent people from being religious." [15] With backdrop-gravitas of the Supreme Court at our 1st Annual White Coat Summit-organized by "conservative" Tea Party Patriots-Immanuel dropped the bombshell: the U.S. government is run by reptiles and aliens! How often have I said Trump operates solely off that reptilian structure at the base of his brain, "Responsible for feelings of urgency: gag, vomit, defecation, sex, fight or flight..." [16] And when Immanuel says "aliens," she's not talking that border crossing version, but those who zip in from distant galaxies. See my post, U.S. government Deep State impregnates our daughters with illegal aliens from other planets! [17] I knew I was on to something.

Late in Trump's zany programming came a televised interview where NBC host Savannah Guthrie asked Trump about tweeting "a conspiracy theory that Joe Biden orchestrated to have Navy SEAL Team Six killed to cover up the fake death of bin Laden." (Newsflash! Osama's not dead!) And Trump's reply? "That was a retweet. I'll put it out there. People can decide for themselves." To which Guthrie responded, "I don't get that. You're the president. You're not someone's crazy uncle!" [18]

Trump's someone's crazy uncle. Ask Mary Trump.

While Donald, and Rudy-beside-the-porn-shop-with his witness to voter fraud, who turned out to be a liar and registered sex offender-pushed the China-paid-Biden story, the Wall Street Journal and-wait for it-FAUX NEWS, reported nothing to it. [19] By this point, Trump's belt was undone, his zipper was down, his pants were about to come off, and...

Don't look, cult fans! You'll be forced to lie (again) about what your eyes see clearly!

And their latest giggle? Authoritarian-fascists-who-loath-socialism scream, "STOP the STEAL!" Dead people voted; Trump ballots were burned; Biden ballots were stuffed! It says so on the Internet. Even mail-in ballots were counted. And kept counting, until all votes cast before the election were counted after. (As always.) [20]

These assertions from sTupid himself, Rudy, and Goebbels Media were then fed to 57,151,930.99 guileless Americans who-released from evidence, facts, and planet earth-believe. [21] And opened their wallets for Trump's last con: his "legal fund." [22] Vindication of that funny Chinese saying: "One dog barks at a shadow, and one hundred dogs respond to make it a fact." This shadow was laughed out of a record 63 courts, with two 9 to 0 swan songs sung by The Supremes. [23]

Wow. What a looser.

But Trump got Putin's help in 2016. He extorted Ukraine in 2019. What are these "losers" and "suckers" complaining about? [24] (Not a reference to Trump's description of fallen U.S. troops. [25]) Don't the ends justify any immoral means? Isn't that the governance our Founders gave us?

Secretary of State Impersonator Mike Pompeo said, "There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump term." [26] So what's the problem? Democrats tried The Steal but failed, lost seats in the House, and could lose the Senate in a runoff.

Or... was that part of the plan? Plausible deniability... Finish impeachment the Senate bungled, set the bootlickers free?

Brilliant! Way to go, Dems!

Recall this trifling bit of reality: pimps and addicts for this type of stupidity are not toddlers, fearful of goblins under their beds. These are "adults," many with university degrees. So psychedelic-high on their lies, they display fealty to their buck-naked pharaoh by refusing protective masks at his rallies, strutting their adolescent defiance of... a virus.


Deny there's a lethal killer in the air today, cheer Trump for saying so, who admits it's a killer on a February recording, who then says it's not, whereupon we as deniers sign an agreement absolving Trump from responsibility for our death from the virus-that-doesn't-exist acquired at his rally. [27]


Among these draft-dodgers from our war against a foreign invader, "no-masker," and Idaho pastor Paul Van Noy refused to halt in-person church services. He landed in an ICU with the Trump virus. [28] The Constitutional scholar and Arizona Sheriff, Mark Lamb, "proclaimed the state's attempt to curb coronavirus was unconstitutional," winning Lamb a White House invitation. [29] Sadly, Lamb tested positive for Covid, contracted at a campaign event, invitation canceled. That's not just funny; that's the kind of scrumptious irony the British love and another reason they, the Canadians, French, Pakistanis, Sudanese, Bangladeshis... laugh at us. Everybody's laughing. In San Antonio, TX, a man in his 30s succeeded in contracting the disease at a "Covid Party." Later, in hospital, he looked to his nurse and said, "I think I made a mistake. I thought it was a hoax, but it's not." [30] As his last words, he then died.

Maybe that's not funny.

With America First! in Covid deaths, it's fall to 25th place in democracies, a world record $29 trillion in debt, ranked 16th in infant mortality, 38th in mathematics education, 24th in science, utter ignorance of founding governance, and alone in the world with a decreasing life expectancy, maybe these aren't funny e

ither. [31] "Make America Great Again"? Let's not.

We once thought Nazi Germany suffered a national madness. Psychologically, morally, half of America is little different.

And we have nukes.

That's not funny.

[1] Recall the "large hands" remarks are in reference to an old tavern myth, equating the size of one's hands to other parts of the male anatomy, thus "proving legitimacy as a leader." Given its origin, it's no surprise such comparisons play well in the tavern.

[2] LAUREN EDMONDS and FRANCES MULRANEY, Trump campaign is mocked for holding press conference in a parking lot between a sex shop and a crematorium, Daily Mail, 8 November 2020. Let's see if sTupid, Rudy and the Goebbels Networks can get those AR-15s back out on the street for some real life 20th century-like fascist action on January 6 or thereafter. Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert is calling for it.

[3] Lisa Lerer, Giuliani in Public: 'It's a Fraud.' Giuliani in Court: 'This Is Not a Fraud Case.', New York Times, Nov. 18, 2020. Jonah Engel Bromwich, Whatever It Is, It's Probably Not Hair Dye, New York Times, Nov. 19, 2020.

[4] TINA NGUYEN and MARK SCOTT, How 'SharpieGate' went from online chatter to Trumpworld strategy in Arizona, POLITICO, 11/05/2020. Umair Irfan, Trump's "Sharpiegate" grudge may have cost NOAA's acting chief scientist his job, VOX, Oct 31, 2020.

[5] GOPP: Grand Old Putin Party. Amy Gardner, 'I just want to find 11,780 votes': In extraordinary hour-long call, Trump pressures Georgia secretary of state to recalculate the vote in his favor, Washington Post, Jan. 3, 2021. Dan Balz, Trump knows no limits as he tries to overturn the election, Washington Post, Jan. 3, 2021. Dean Obeidallah, Trump loves Rep. Mo Brooks' election objection. But Congress can't overturn Biden's win., NBC News, Dec. 4, 2020. Dareh Gregorian, GOP senator to object to Electoral College results, forcing Congress to vote on overturning Biden's win, NBC News, Dec. 30, 2020.

[6] ED STETZER, On Christians Spreading Corona Conspiracies: Gullibility is not a Spiritual Gift, Christianity Today, April 15, 2020.

[7] BBC, Why is QAnon going global?, The Real Story, September 4, 2020. The quote was abbreviated here from, "troll factories focused on...evangelical Christians." Ed Stetzer, Evangelicals need to address the QAnoners in our midst, USAToday, September 4, 2020. Max Boot, Republicans are becoming the QAnon Party, Washington Post, August 12, 2020. Boot on Twitter.

[8] Dana Milbank, Thanks to the Trump administration, one QAnon theory is panning out, Washington Post, September 15, 2020.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] According to BBC, this quintessentially American creation of QAnon has infiltrated 71 countries. (Who says America's not an exporter?) These offshore adherents claim 5G radio waves can carry matter, in this case, the coronavirus. Naturally, those metal 5G towers had to be burned like a witch at the stake in 1692 Salem, Massachusetts. Pity, metal doesn't burn. Is that not hilarious? However, while metal does not burn, unfortunately for customers of 5G and other effected normal people, the organic insulations and circuit boards which ride those metal towers do burn. Corinne Reichert, 5G coronavirus conspiracy theory leads to 77 mobile towers burned in UK, report says, CNET, May 7, 2020.

[13] Will Sommer, Trump's New Favorite COVID Doctor Believes in Alien DNA, Demon Sperm, and Hydroxychloroquine, Daily Beast, Jul. 28, 2020.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Brett Williams, America's history lesson: Seven truths Trump taught the world, on Goodreads, September 7, 2020.

[17] Brett Williams, U.S. government Deep State impregnates our daughters with illegal aliens from other planets!, on Goodreads, December 2, 2019.

[18] Eliza Relman, 'You're not, like, someone's crazy uncle': Savannah Guthrie slams Trump at the NBC town hall over his promotion of conspiracy theories, Business Insider, October 15, 2020.

[19] MATT FRIEDMAN, Man featured at Giuliani press conference is a convicted sex offender, POLITICO, 11/09/2020. Ben Smith, Trump Had One Last Story to Sell. The Wall Street Journal Wouldn't Buy It., New York Times, Oct. 25, 2020. Maxwell Tani, Wall Street Journal's News Side Debunks Opinion Side's Hunter Biden Screed, Daily Beast, Oct. 23, 2020.

[20] BBC, US election security officials reject Trump's fraud claims, BBC, 13 November, 2020. Gregory Krieg, Trump's attempt to steal the election unravels as coronavirus cases surge, CNN, November 22, 2020. Jemima McEvoy, Here Are The (Debunked) Voter Fraud Claims Trump And His Supporters Are Spreading, Nov 5, 2020, FORBES. Tom Perkins, The dead voter conspiracy theory peddled by Trump voters, debunked, The Guardian, Wed 18 Nov 2020. Oscar Gonzalez , Voter fraud: Social media is playing whack-a-mole with a bunch of bogus claims, CNET, Nov. 25, 2020.

[21] That's 74,223,287 votes from sTupid times 77% who believe the vote was rigged. The Guardian, US election results 2020: Joe Biden's defeat of Donald Trump, The Guardian, December, 4, 2020. Told J. Gillman, 77% of Trump voters blame fraud for loss to Biden, despite lack of evidence, Dallas Morning News, November 18, 2020.

[22] MAGGIE SEVERNS, Where Trump's recount fundraising dollars are really going, POLITICO, 11/12/2020.

[23] Wikipedia, Post-election lawsuits related to the 2020 United States presidential election. Zoe Tillman, Trump And His Allies Have Lost Nearly 60 Election Fights In Court (And Counting), BuzzFeed, December 14, 2020.

[24] Notice that two sides of the conspiracy fence are employed here. The conspiracy theorists of voter fraud with zero evidence vs. the conspiracy of Trump's Putin-connection proven as collusion and obstruction by the Mueller Report and validated by the Republican Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Report. There are "conspiracies," fake, and conspiracies, real. One requires enough brain activity to tell the difference.

[25] JEFFREY GOLDBERG, Trump: Americans Who Died in War Are 'Losers' and 'Suckers', The Atlantic, September, 2020.

[26] Matthew Lee, Mike Pompeo says there will be 'smooth' transition to a 'second Trump administration', Associated Press, November 11, 2020.

[27] Jamie Gangel, Jeremy Herb and Elizabeth Stuart, 'Play it down': Trump admits to concealing the true threat of coronavirus in new Woodward book, CNN. Spetember 9, 2020. JESSICA LEE, Do Tulsa Trump Rally Attendees Have To Sign COVID-19 Waiver? TRUE, Snopes, 16 JUNE 2020. Like the fine print on Trump's "STOP the STEAL legal fund" that gives him the money, picking fool's pockets like his fake university. One last scam on his way out the door. MAGGIE SEVERNS, Where Trump's recount fundraising dollars are really going, POLITICO, 11/12/2020.

[28] Nakia McNabb and Scottie Andrew, An Idaho pastor skeptical of masks lands in the ICU for Covid-19, CNN, September 18, 2020.

[29] Timothy Bella, A GOP sheriff vowed not to enforce Arizona's coronavirus restrictions. Now he's tested positive., Washington Post, June 18, 2020.

[30] Ella Torres, 30-year-old dies after attending 'COVID party' thinking virus was a 'hoax', ABC News, July 11, 2020.

[31] Referencing, The Economist, Democracy Index, Wikipedia. U.S. debt, U.S. Debt Clock, Validated by DATALAB,, By the end of 2020, the federal government had $26.95 trillion in federal debt, ABC News, July 11, 2020. macrotrends, U.S. Infant Mortality Rate 1950-2020, 2020. DREW DESILVER, U.S. students' academic achievement still lags that of their peers in many other countries, PEW Research Center, February 15, 2017.

Until next time: March 1, 2021.

November 2, 2020: Charlie's Expose, Part 1: When America's Right-Wing Became What it Most Despised

Not long ago, America's political Right could be defined by a host of principles and beliefs. Among them: respect for the Constitution; Edmond Burke-like esteem for traditions that bridle human nature's negative inclinations; fiscal responsibility that considered excess debt as hazardous for the country as it was for the home; a strong national defense; respect for the teachings of Jesus; and since 9/11, sternly anti-terrorist.

Today, America's political Right enthusiastically betrays the Constitution, from hostility to a free press to supporting non-State-regulated militias armed to intimidate. Conservatism has been replaced by radicalism where compromise is treason. Human nature's worst tendencies are embraced, foremost through their lies. Fiscal responsibility is so passe its once great purveyor, Rush Limbaugh, declared, "this concern for the deficit and budget has been bogus for as long as it's been around." [1] The nation's defense is scorned as Right-wingers dodge America's war effort to combat a viral enemy. As for the teachings of Jesus-is that pronounced "Heysouse," that Mexican guy? While the Right welcomes terrorists, from the Proud Boys, QAnon, Nazis, Klan, and the "Texas Trump Train" to America's #1 terror threat, Donald Trump. Think not? Reference [2]. Recall, this is the "law and order" party.

It is this right-side of America's failure that old-style Reagan conservative Charles Sykes wrote his postmortem about. [3] "Among the many ironies of the conservative implosion," writes Sykes, "was how the Right became what it once mocked." [4] "Conservatives once recognized that politics was a means, not an end because they believed that we live in communities sustained by moral capital, recognizing...that moral communities are 'fragile things, hard to build and easy to destroy.' Somehow a movement based on ideas devolved into a new tribalism that valued neither principle nor truth..." [5]

Sykes' focus is on the Right's moral, ethical, and intellectual collapse. He hits a number of crucial causes, ignoring the Right's economic debacles. Philosophical divisions were born early, says Sykes. "Fusionism" attempted to unify the countervailing conservative forces of freedom of the person with a Christian understanding of moral responsibility to others. Fusionists remind us that the "Constitutional Convention in 1787 had not embraced either the 'libertarian' vision of the Jeffersonian nor the 'authoritarian' politics of Alexander Hamilton, but instead steered a middle course laid out by James Madison..." [6] Conservative Russell Kirk resisted emphasis on individualism as "social atomism" incompatible with traditional Christianity. [7] One of the goals of the conservative flagship National Review was to reconcile these schools of thought, from traditionalists and libertarians to anticommunists. This required deliberation, analysis, and rational acumen. But anti-rationalism is a long-standing bone in the American posture. It only got stronger, and the Right now wields it like a fleshless weapon.

Echoing Allan Bloom, Sykes recognizes that prior ideas of conservatism and decency belonged to an age "when statesmen actually read books." [8] "The American Founders... had in the main all consumed the same library of Greek and Latin classics, British and Continental literature from fiction to political economy... This did not lead to a uniformity of opinion [but] literate and enlightened argument." [9] Today, the Right's aggressive ignorance scraps the Founder's Enlightenment while simultaneously lauding these very men whose expertise and science they reject. For Sykes, "Donald Trump's presidential candidacy is only possible in a society that doesn't read or think much." [10]

While "dumbing down the electorate" is not a solely Right-wing phenomenon, "An ignorant electorate is not likely to hold ignorant politicians to account... So ignorance begets ignorance and the tolerance of it in high places." [11] How expansive can ignorance get before its mere stupidity? Such people are also often emotional people, easily duped. Frequently what Right-wing populists defend as Constitutional is its very opposite. Instead, they fervently hold to what they're told to believe by their propaganda-silos.

Sykes sees this "rise of illiterati" on the Right as a "broader populist anti-intellectualism [that] rejected expertise and authority alike." [12] Add to this the technology we created that now manipulates us from foreign shores through banquets of gullibility served on Twitter and Facebook, and conservatism became "more personal and less principled-more flippant and less thoughtful. It became mean. It became lazy. As conservatives cultivated their everyman anti-intellectualism [to] deliberately shun erudition, academic excellence, experience, sagaciousness, and expertise in politics." [13] Logically, the old GOP transformed itself into the new "party of Sarah Palin and Donald Trump." [14] Eventually, they would embrace foreign influence (from Putin), just as George Washington warned against in his 1796 Farwell Address.

When Sykes asks, "did we create this monster?" he provides a yes and no answer. While it was Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner who said, "We fed the beast that ate us"-fed by the liars of talk-radio and FOX-it's also true that all social movements are counter-movements. As in warfare, where each technology is a response: the bow was a response to the spear, the cross-bow to the bow, the carbine to the cross-bow-measure, counter-measure, counter-counter-measure. Right-wing radicalism was a response to Left-wing radicalism, which was a response to Right-wing abuses like the poll tax, lynchings, and Vietnam War. In a society that peddles sensationalism for a dollar, radicals are hard to miss. Radical minorities overpower silent majorities, and it doesn't take many. Like the handful of incompetent misfits or criminals Trump gathered, from Corey Lewandowski to convicted felon Paul Manafort, Adolf Hitler began his career with just four cranks. [15]

With molestation from so many quarters, conservatism could no longer draw an even strain. By hindsight, Sykes recognizes an unraveling commence with Newt Gingrich as a pioneer of obstruction in 1994, later purified during Obama. [16] Republicans steered away from deliberation, analysis, and problem-solving. Sound bites like "establishment" and "elites" substituted for thought, in parallel with "a surge in anti-intellectualism in American life." [17] This abdication of thought was justified by Right-wingers like Sarah Palin because, "It's really funny to me to see the splodey heads keep 'sploding," she quipped. [18] Sound governance, and support for Arnold Toynbee's thesis that civilizations fail through the disappearance of rigorous political innovators. As conservative Christian, Peter Wehner wrote, it became easier for conservatives to confuse "cruelty, vulgarity, and bluster with strength and straight talk." [19] As when radio-talker and profanity enthusiast Mike Levin "screamed at a caller that her husband should shoot himself," or when race-baiter Rush Limbaugh said in Obama's America, "white kids deserve to get beat up by black kids." [20] With the Right's re-education, conservatives "pivoted to embrace Vladimir Putin as an exemplar of white Christian civilization," orchestrated by Putin's "guns and Bible campaign," when he slithered into the NRA before Trump arrived to follow suit. [21] A task made easier for Putin given the Republican base had become more Southern, where the worst primary and secondary state education systems reside in a nation that ranks near bottom in the industrialized world. Headed south, the party also became more evangelical, primed for creed without question. [22] A shift occurred, tilting from "freedom to authoritarianism, from American 'exceptionalism' to nativism [with] repudiation of Reagan's optimistic agenda replaced by the darker paranoid side of the Right." [23] "In this environment, conformity was demanded... since even the mildest of dissent was punished by withering fire on-air and through [asocial] media." [24] A cult was forming. With Trump's arrival, it coalesced. One so sanctified its members signal fealty by risking their lives and that of loved ones through defiance of protective masks and social distancing at "Donny Appleseed's" rallies, seeding the Trump virus, while deaths sore in red states. [25]

For the Left's part, the pejorative mantra "angry white male"-their only accepted racist, sexist slur-"was seldom used in the context of asking whether those white men had any legitimate reason to be angry. Instead, it was used to argue we should pay even less attention to their voices and issues." [26] "White privilege" became another chant "even as white working-class America entered a period of acute economic and social decline [as] blue-collar workers faced the loss of jobs, income, and cohesive communities." [27] The spike in white male suicides was so dramatic that U.S. life expectancy declined. [28] And while we see resurgent racism and sexism, the Left's hurling of "racist, sexist, homophobe" became so overused that the Right not only responds with a collective yawn but wears it as a badge of honor like their t-shirts announcing "I'm deplorable!" As one juvenile to another, and no longer feeling a need to grovel at the foot of what Bertrand Russel labeled the "superior virtue of the oppressed," the Right now responds with, "Yes I am, all of the above. Now let me prove it to you." Like manmade global warming denial, racism has become another tribal identifier.

"But this [Left-wing bigotry] does not let conservatives off the hook," says Sykes. [29] The Right ignored conspiracy theorists after William F. Buckley Jr. thought he'd defeated the John Birch Society decades before. That moral failure, says Sykes, became a tacit invitation, in the way Trump welcomes domestic terrorists with a wink, nod, and "stand back and stand by." [30] Much as Hitler's Brown Shirts had their own insignias, this phrase was turned into sleeve patches within hours available online.

While the Lincoln Project contributor in this chair hopes our Carnival Barker and his party are eviscerated from every state legislature to the U.S. Senate and Executive in tomorrow's election, their aberrant psychology is too rich to let alone. The Trump era is historic. It won't be over even if Putin fails, even if Trump's want-to-play-army misfits don't intimidate voters at the polls, even if GOPP state legislators fail to corrupt the Electoral College. [31] With departure of the Greatest Generation, their virtue and responsibility, this dark episode has peeled back the false layers of what Americans think they are. It exposed the naked fakes dominating still-Trump-supporting "Christians" as rank apostates. [32] And because much of this psychology is universal, it proved just how dangerous humans can be. What better example of the need for proper governance when face-to-face with that? These and other topics make for fascinating analysis upon which action can be taken. But only if we're able, freed from combat with cults.

[1] Billy Binion, Rush Limbaugh Abandons Fiscal Conservatism, Reason, 7.18.2019.

[2] Think Trump's not a terrorist? Some definitions, commentary, and spleen-venting: "Terrorism:" the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes. "Violence:" damage through distortion or unwarranted alteration, rough or immoderate vehemence as of feeling or language, an unjust or unwarranted exertion of force or power as against rights or laws, rough or injurious physical force, action, or treatment. [] From Trump's Secret Police beatings, his tear-gassing of peaceful protesters exercising their constitutional right for his photo-op with a Bible (upside-down), his daily assault on the rule of law, to his administration's hunting of climate scientists early in his term, by these definitions and examples of his countless distortions, Trump is a terrorist. But who needs definitions? We've lived with this beast for four years. Like a dog's definition of a rat, the dog knows one when it sees it.

In his position of authority, we label such people "tyrants," which properly identifies tyrants as terrorists. A tyrant who invites his militias to terrorize voters, and "LIBERATE MICHIGAN," as Trump's screwballs scheme to kidnap and execute state governors. It can't get any clearer than that. Two days ago he lauded domestic terrorists-who also know enough to drive pickup trucks laden with Trump-flags as part of their "Texas Trump Train"-in their attempt to run a Biden / Harris bus off a Texas freeway. Ironically, many of those trucks also flew the U.S. Stars and Stripes. (If these people dislike being labeled "hayseed, hillbilly, hicks," shouldn't they stop acting like hayseed, hillbilly, hicks?)

Terrorists are also commonly associated with those who seek to kill innocent people. See SLATE's The Trump Pandemic: A blow-by-blow account of how the president killed thousands of Americans. Tens of thousands of dead from Covid that would not have died were common-sense action taken to stop it. How many Americans have died and will die as Trump seeds the virus across this continent at his pep rallies where, in adolescent defiance and displays of loyalty, his disciples proudly pack close without masks? How many families have said the only thing their dead family members did wrong was to believe Trump's dismissal of Covid-19? Instead of that, he told the public it was a hoax. Then he told people to ignore it after he was already recorded by Bob Woodward, saying it was a serious killer on February 10, 2020. Now he says our world-leading 100,000 cases per day and rising death rates (America First!) are numbers faked by the doctors "so they can make more money." (And, how does that work, exactly? And do the people who buy this ever ask such obvious questions?) So far, at time of writing, that's 240,000 dead, and at least another 40,000 uncounted, approaching 500,000 total deaths expected as the gift of Trump by Christmas. A tremendous death toll even ISIS would envy. Many fewer would have died if proper action were taken sooner. Still, even after Covid galloped into its first wave, as experts have suggested: $4T initial aid package coupled with four months nationwide shutdown with mandated mask-wearing and social distancing enforced by Federal law (which means coordinated action between Congress and the Executive-imagine that); Defense Production Act used to turn major manufacturers into test makers to test the entire or a satisfactory majority of the nation's 330,000,000 people multiple times; then trace all infectious interactions and isolate the exposed and infected.

But Trump and his disciples are not problem solvers. Their solution is to lie about doing "a great job" as the dead pile up while Trump, Limbaugh, Hannity, FOX, et. al. say there's nothing to worry about, Trump got it and look at him, the "strong man." At least as late as September, Rush Limbaugh still claimed that Covid was less lethal than the flu with fewer than the flu's 30k-50k deaths per year when Covid deaths were 150,000 by the day he said it, 9/4/20. (Have I said too many times that Limbaugh calls himself a "Christian"? In fact, 82% of "Republicans" call themselves "Christians." The Apostle Paul said, "We no longer lie to one another, we only tell the truth." Ephesians 4:25. Hmm...)

Are Trump's Covid deaths as culpable as blowing himself up in a crowded market or pulling the trigger as he brags about being able to do on 5th Avenue with impunity? There's an element of self-responsibility here. Someone has to be dumb enough to sucker themselves into Trump's orbit and foolish enough to willfully stand near other potential coronavirus vectors to catch it. There are about 60 million such people in this country. They still call themselves "Republicans." Oh... and did I say they still call themselves "Christians"? For weak men like Trump, who cover their weakness by pretending otherwise, the only power he has is what is granted by these people. It's not his invisible intellect-one so powerful he paid other boys to take his college exams; it's not his wealth, as we learn from his tax returns, he has none, but rather a mountain of debt owed to who we can't yet say (Trump's trail of money laundering for Russia is well documented by the U.S. Treasury and IRS as noted here before); it's not even his physical abundance which might provide a caveman impression of power for the undereducated. He commands no innate respect nor fear. And yet, the cult persists, the lemmings follow.

[3] Charles J. Sykes, How The Right Lost Its Mind, St. Martin Griffin, 2018, pg. 25.

[4] Ibid., pg. 25

[5] Ibid., pg. xxxii, xxviii, 3.

[6] Ibid., pg. 37.

[7] Ibid., pg. 36.

[8] Ibid., pg. 28.

[9] Ibid., pg. 28.

[10] Ibid., pg. 29.

[11] Ibid., pg. 27.

[12] Ibid., pg. 28.

[13] Ibid., pg. 28.

[14] Ibid., pg. 28.

[15] William L. Shrier, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, Touchstone, 1990. In the early 1920s the central figures were Rudolf Hess, Alfred Rosenberg, Herman Goering, Ernst Roehm, as well as lesser-known members Max Amman, Ulrich Graf, Heinrich Hoffmann, Christian Weber, Hermann Esser, Julius Streicher, described by Shrier as "crackpots of mediocre intelligence," "confused and shallow philosophers," "amateur wrestlers," "lusty beer drinkers," "scoundrels," "Jew-baiters," and "murders, pimps, homosexual perverts, drug addicts or just plain rowdies." [pg. 50]. By 1931 Gregor Strasser, Joseph Goebbels, Herman Goering, Ernst Roehm, and Frick Wilhelm were central.

[16] Sykes, pg. xxv.

[17] Ibid., pg. 6.

[18] Ibid, pg. 7.

[19] Ibid, pg. 7.

[20] Ibid, pg. 9.

[21] Ibid., pg. 9. Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger, Guns and religion: How American conservatives grew closer to Putin's Russia, Washington Post, April 30, 2017. CASEY MICHEL, Russians and the American right started plotting in 1995. We have the notes from the first meeting., Think Progress, JUN 19, 2018. Matthew Rosenberg, Maria Butina Pleads Guilty to Role in a Russian Effort to Influence Conservatives, New York Times, Dec. 13, 2018.

[22] Ibid, pg. 6.

[23] Ibid., pg. 5.

[24] Ibid., pg. 6.

[25] Erin Mansfield, Josh Salman and Dinah Voyles Pulver, Trump's campaign made stops nationwide. Coronavirus cases surged in his wake in at least five places., USA TODAY, Oct 22, 2020.

[26] Ibid., pg. 14.

[27] Ibid., pg. 14.

[28] BBC, Drug and suicide deaths rise as US life expectancy drops., BBC, 29 November 2018. For extensive detail, see Anne Case & Angus Deaton, Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism, Princeton University Press, 2020.

[29] Sykes, pg. 14.

[30] MELISSA QUINN, "Stand back and stand by": Trump declines to condemn white supremacists at debate, CBS NEWS, SEPTEMBER 30, 2020.

[31] GOPP: Grand Old Putin Party, to designate Trump's creation from Reagan and Lincoln's GOP, Grand Old Party.

[32] Brett Williams, The betrayal of Christ: global warming denial, on Goodreads, November 5, 2018. Brett Williams, The Collapse of American Christianity, on Goodfreads, January 18, 2020. Brett Williams, Why my old Right-wing tribe betrayed everything it once stood for, on Goodreads, March 2, 2020. Brett Williams, America's history lesson: Seven truths Trump taught the world, on Goodreads, September 7, 2020.

September 7, 2020: America's history lesson: Seven truths Trump taught the world

In Peter Beinart's review of books, he summarizes his collection as "chronicling both the decline of American power and the decline of American exceptionalism: [that is,] the belief that the United States is immune to tribalism and authoritarianism that plague other parts of the world." [1] As we now know, it is not. As the New Right busies itself with making America a full-blown tyranny, the most common and sometimes cavalier comparison is Nazi Germany. (Cliches are cliches for a reason.) However, when it comes to political sects, as Brookings Institute's Jonathan Rauch shows, ideology is irrelevant; fanatic cranks on both Left and Right operate in the same manner as Stalin, Hitler, Mao, and now Trump have demonstrated. [2] For many humans suffering from disconnected modernity, our fix is a tribal cult based on who we hate-or more accurately, who we can be made to hate.

Ashamed to be Americans after four years of national humiliation, laughed at and pitied by the world, even incapable of facing a common viral enemy thanks to an all-rights-no-responsibilities faction stoked by our propaganda networks, we watch America retreat. [3] Dazed and impotent like a 3rd world country with a 1st world economy, "alternative facts" have lacerated truth and trust to dismember the social body, from our highest institutions to the man on the street. As moral philosopher Stuart Rachels illustrates, no civilization long survives without trust and the capacity for truth. [4]

Domestic institutions are hanging on by efforts of the rank and file, but political loyalists appointed to run them are in control. Many of them in "acting" roles, some illegal, free to abuse without the people's review by a craven Senate. [5] With recent discoveries of executive powers undisclosed even to Congress, shadow authorities emerge, facilitated by Attorney General and Trump-fixer, Bill Barr, to direct Trump's Secret Police. [6] Like Himmler's early S.S., these unmarked agents kidnap people off streets far removed from Federal property they ostensibly protect (while some protesters provide Trump the vandal video he wants). They beat Navy veterans and break the skulls of old men with "lethal cell phones," as China jokes about U.S. criticism of China's human rights abuse. [7] Cultivated by hardships of the Great Depression and WWII, moral leadership by the Greatest Generation seems to have died with them and the last Cold War president.

Though not entirely. As Trump and his enablers denied, dithered, and diverted, frontline nurses and doctors risked and sometimes lost their lives to fight a virus that couldn't be bullied by liars. While refrigerator trucks filled with dead people in blue-state New York, then a defiant red-state Texas as it swaggered into the record books, medical staff showed those with a spine can still stand up to evil. [8] We expect that every person they saved praised the science and expertise of someone who knew what they were doing, rather than vilify them under oath of tribal creed in a nation whose scientists and experts once put men on the moon. All the while, Trump and his bootlickers nurtured their conspiracy theories spoon-fed by comrade Putin.

As America appears to imitate 1934 Germany, we've arrived, after what seems an eternity, at the 2020 election just two months away. At this juncture, it might do to assess what's been learned from Trump and his disciples:

1. Crime pays. Consider Trump's money laundering through casinos and real estate; his fake university scam; his bribery of Ukraine; Russian collusion (not conspiracy) as proven by Mueller and validated by the Republican Senate Select Committee on Intelligence; his fleecing of U.S. taxpayers and foreign nations; all were considered here, supported by IRS, Treasury, Senate, House, and media investigations. [9] Trump is a walking crime wave, but a lucrative one. After 40-years immersed in New York and Russian mafia, surrounded by convicted felons, "law and order" Trump stumbled into a position he had no idea could be so safe for a life of crime. The only person in a nation of 330,000,000 above the law.

2. The stage was set, and we didn't know it. Economists "assumed" their domestic models applied worldwide. [10] Jobs lost in one location would be offset by jobs created through innovation elsewhere. Instead, under "hyper-globalization," when we paid China for manufactured goods, we also gave them our jobs. [11] Such are the economic "experts" blue-collar Americans rightly denounce, though they include hard science experts to make themselves feel better and because Rush Limbaugh told them to. For labor, this was groundwork, like Germany's economic collapse delivered by a punitive Versailles Treaty. Add to this: corporations more powerful than nations; authoritarian political correctness; death of the Fairness Doctrine spawning our propaganda-silos; a U.S. K-12 educational system ranked near bottom in the industrialized world to yield attenuated reasoning and scientific illiteracy; collapse of Right-wing Christian morality; isolation through loss of belonging predictable in individualistic modernity, and the stage was set for a rise in primate behavior. [12] With demise of an external enemy in the USSR, The End of History turned out to be The Bumbling Superpower. Bush-Cheney's Iraq Calamity and laissez-faire pandering to unregulated Wall Street gamblers who gave themselves a $20B bonus for wrecking the world economy further depleted American confidence as the working Joe lost his job and home. [13] People were pissed. They wanted to break things. Trump was just another dumb hammer.

3. The supremacy of our reptile brain. "The reptilian structure [in our brain] is the most primitive to ripen in the long line of human mental development. Responsible for feelings of urgency-gag, vomit, defecation, sex, fight or flight-it's the oldest structure, fundamental to blind survival in a man-eating world, and irresistibly mighty." [14] Commandeered by primate tribalism, this tool can make people defraud everything they once stood for. [15] Evolutionary mechanisms adapted to ensure species survival guarantee that any clan-threatening reason, proof, or science is rejected to save the clan. What Eric Hoffer terms that "fact proof screen between the faithful and realities of this world." [16] "We are that our reasoning [supports] in-group solidarity," writes Jonathan Rauch. "Presenting people with facts that challenge group-defining opinions does not work. Instead of changing their minds, they [reject] facts to double down on false beliefs...regardless of educational and cognitive firepower." [17] Polarization is not a byproduct, "polarization is the product [as] cravings for shared outrage against a common adversary." [18]

4. The internet is smarter than we are. With laws established to protect social media from litigation other media is subject to, anything goes on the internet. We invented and built a platform for hostile powers to upend nations for low cost and no risk, except for complaints about it. The internet proves how poorly humans sift fact from fake. We even prefer fake news over real news as more sensational. [19] Without regulation, social media business models profit off this sabotage of open Western society. [20]

5. As students of history, our Founders anticipated despots, but this? Could America's Founders have conjured Trump and his true-believers hell-bent on subverting Constitutional governance? Trump defied Congressional subpoenas under claims of "absolute immunity" ("Wrong," said the Court); hid or destroyed classified documents; appointed family members to the highest security positions despite Defense Investigative Service rejections; fired Inspector Generals as retribution and to hide his corruption; persists in secret meetings with America's enemy, Putin, un-phased by Putin's bounty on U.S. troops because, as Trump said, American soldiers are "losers" and "suckers"; and installed inept loyalist to intelligence and Health and Human Services amid a persistent KGB/FSB cyberwar and coronavirus pandemic to teeter this Republic and cost hundreds of thousands of lives. [21] All as Congress proved helpless to do anything about it, other than a momentous but symbolic gesture of impeachment. Who knew just how toothless Congress really is? [22]

6. Politics trumps religion. What is a Christian? Complex as that answer can be, might we simplify it as one who at least attempts to practice the teachings of Christ? But if someone who identifies as a Christian makes no such attempt, proudly rejecting those teachings for political orthodoxy, are they Christian? Is their "faith" simply a crutch when fate calls? For these people, their in-group is the party, not the church. Their idol is Trump, not Jesus. Per David Hume, "the highest zeal in religion and the deepest hypocrisy, far from being inconsistent, are commonly united in the same individual." [23] Judged not by their commitment but by their actions, we've considered here before how Trump-supporting Christians betray their Savior for politics. [24] As evangelist Pat Robertson expressed Trump's "Mandate of Heaven," so too in 1937, Hans Kerrl said, "The Fuehrer is the herald of a new revelation." [25]

7. A large faction in America is no different than any other totalitarian. Surveys show half of "Republicans" want an authoritarian dictatorship, discharging that Constitution they pretend to revere. A third of "Republicans" favor Putin. Their House and Senate representatives promote Putin's talking points, and those like Representative Devin Nunez, assisted by Rudolph Giuliani, actively seek Russian assistance in the coming election. [26]

Once upon a time, the U.S. was the world's champion of democratic governance. The post-WWII order implemented worldwide institutions (not worldwide government) to stall WWIII. For 70 of the most prosperous years in all of human history, it worked. [27] But the Greatest Generation gave way to the next, economists bumbled #2 noted above to stimulate that reptile brain of #3 inflamed by asocial media of #4, thus inviting America's Carnival Barker in #5, only to find a large faction of Christians and Americans noted in #6 and #7 aren't so special after all. On the heels of National Book Award winner George Packer's conclusion that America is now a failed state, Reagan conservative George Will wrote, "This is what national decline looks like." [28]

As 44 B.C. Rome, 1934 Germany, and 2020 America remind us, pathologies rooted in human mental circuitry have not changed since the rise of Homo sapiens. The Right-wing is not alone in this as campus free-speech bans, "Cancel Culture," and despotic leftist postmodernism will attest. American "exceptionalism" Peter Beinart noted, is now a fallacy.

But there are glimmers in the dark. In two months, America's tyranny will harden, or it won't. And we are witness to history-live, not in a book.

[1] Peter Beinart, Obama's Idealists: American Power in Theory and Practice, Foreign Affairs, November/December 2919, pg. 162-169.

[2] Jonathan Rauch, Rethinking Polarization, National Affairs, Fall 2019.

[3] Tom McTague, The Decline of the American World, The Atlantic, June 24, 2020. Philip Bump, A majority of Americans are embarrassed by President Trump, The Washington Post, Feb. 23, 2017. Timothy Egan, The World Is Taking Pity on Us, New York Times, May 8, 2020. OLGA KHAZAN, Americans Are Getting Secondhand Embarrassment From Trump , The Atlantic, MARCH 27, 2019. Aaron Blake, A brief history of world leaders laughing at Trump, The Washington Post, Dec. 4, 2019. Megan McArdle, Conservatives who refuse to wear masks undercut a central claim of their beliefs, The Washington Post, May 27, 2020.

[4] Stuart Rachels, The Elements of Moral Philosophy, McGraw-Hill, 2010.

[5] Michael D. Shear, G.A.O. Says Top Homeland Security Officials Are Serving Illegally, New York Times, Aug. 14, 2020.

[6] Elizabeth Goitein and Andrew Boyle, Trump Has Emergency Powers We Aren't Allowed to Know About, New York Times, April 10, 2020. Gary Hart, How Powerful Is the President?, New York Times, July 23, 2020. ERIC LUTZ, TRUMP'S SECRET POLICE: COMING TO A CITY NEAR YOU, Vanity Fair, July 21, 2020.

[7] TIM DICKINSON, How Oregon Is Pushing Back Against 'Kidnap and False Arrest' by Trump's Agents, Rolling Stone, July 21, 2020 ANDREW SELSKY, Navy vet beaten by federal agents on the streets of Portland, Oregon: 'They came out to fight', ASSOCIATED PRESS, JUL 20, 2020. QUINT FORGEY, Trump's conspiracy theory on 75-year-old protester draws sharp backlash, POLITICO, 06/09/2020. Peter Baker, Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Monica Davey, Trump Threatens to Send Federal Law Enforcement Forces to More Cities, New York Times, July 24, 2020. Dan Friedman, Federal Agents Invade Portland, Citing Trump's Executive Order Protecting Statues, Mother Jones, July 17, 2020. Riyaz ul Khaliq, 'US world's top human rights violator,' China says, Anadolu Agency (ANKARA, Turkey), 16.07.2020.

[8] CAITLIN O'KANE, Refrigerated trucks requested in Texas and Arizona as morgues fill up due to coronavirus deaths, CBS NEWS, JULY 15, 2020. Philip Bump, The shift of the coronavirus to primarily red states is complete - but it's not that simple, Washington Post, June 24, 2020.

[9] Brett Williams, Our Dear (mafia) Leader, Goodreads, December 24, 2019. Brett Williams, America is asking, "Are Trump and his Party, traitors?", on Goodreads, January 6, 2019. Sean Illing, Trump's ties to the Russian mafia go back 3 decades: Journalist Craig Unger talks Russia, Trump, and "one of the greatest intelligence operations in history", VOX, Jan 12, 2019. See The Asset Podcast for extensive details.

[10] To "assume" models work is unheard of in the hard sciences. Hence, one of many reasons why economics and the other social "sciences" should be called the social "studies" instead. Autor, Dorn, and Hanson, The China Shock: Learning from Labor-Market Adjustment to Large Changes in Trade , Annu. Rev. Econ, 11/21/2016. Automation is now a significant factor in U.S. job loss, but not 30 years ago when this process started.

[11] Dani Rodrik, Globalization's Wrong Turn, Foreign Affairs, July/August, 2019. As Rodrick writes, "Globalization became the end, national economies the means."

[12] ARAG KHANNA, These 25 Companies Are More Powerful Than Many Countries, Foreign Policy, March/April, 2016. Katy Steinmetz, The Death of the Fairness Doctrine, TIME, Aug. 23, 2011. JILL BARSHAY, U.S. now ranks near the bottom among 35 industrialized nations in math, The Hechinger Report, December 6, 2016. JILL BARSHAY, What 2018 PISA international rankings tell us about U.S. schools, The Hechinger Report,December 16, 2019. Peter Wehner, Conservatives Have Only One Choice in 2020: After what we have seen during Trump's first term, any true conservative should be appalled by the prospect of a second., New York Times, Aug. 24, 2020. JEFF BRUMLEY, Support for Trump could spell end of the evangelical church. But when?, Baptist News Global, MARCH 19, 2018.

[13] CBS NEWS, Wall Street Doled $20B in Bonuses in 2009, CBS/AP, FEBRUARY 23, 2010.

[14] Brett Williams, Why my old Right-wing tribe betrayed everything it once stood for, on Goodreads, March 2, 2020.

[15] Brett Williams, The Collapse of American Christianity, on Goodfreads, January 18, 2020.

[16] Eric Hoffer, The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements, Perennial, 1989.

[17] Jonathan Rauch, Rethinking Polarization, National Affairs, Fall 2019.

[18] Ibid. Extreme partisanship may be addictive, says social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, as justifying lies gives partisans a hit of dopamine. "Like rats that cannot stop pressing a button, partisans may be simply unable to stop believing weird things."

[19] Hiawatha Bray, Survey says: Many Americans love their fake news, Boston Globe, January 17, 2020. ROBINSON MEYER, The Grim Conclusions of the Largest-Ever Study of Fake News: Falsehoods almost always beat out the truth on Twitter, penetrating further, faster, and deeper into the social network than accurate information., The Atlantic, MARCH 8, 2018.

[20] FRONTLINE, The Facebook Dilemma (Part One), Goodreads, PBS, Aired: 10/29/18. FRONTLINE, The Facebook Dilemma (Part Two), PBS, Aired: 10/30/18.

[21] JEFFREY GOLDBERG, Trump: Americans Who Died in War Are 'Losers' and 'Suckers', The Atlantic, SEPTEMBER 3, 2020. SCOTT DETROW, AYESHA RASCOE, CARRIE JOHNSON, Presidents Do Not Have Absolute Immunity, Supreme Court Rules, NPR, July 9, 2020. Rachael Bade and Tom Hamburger, White House whistleblower says 25 security clearance denials were reversed during Trump administration, Washington Post, April 1, 2019. George Packer, The President Is Winning His War on American Institutions, The Atlantic, APRIL 2020. Aaron Blake, Pompeo just undercut Trump's continued dismissal of Russian bounties, Washington Post, August 13, 2020. James Glanz and Campbell Robertson, Lockdown Delays Cost at Least 36,000 Lives, Data Show, New York Times, May 20, 2020. Gene Jarecki, Trump's covid-19 inaction killed Americans, Washington Post, May 6, 2020.

[22] Dareh Gregorian, Trump impeached by the House for abuse of power, obstruction of Congress, NBC NEWS, Dec. 18, 2019.

[23] David Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Penguin, 1990 (1779), pg. 133.

[24] Brett Williams, The betrayal of Christ: global warming denial, on Goodreads, November 5, 2018. Brett Williams, The Collapse of American Christianity, on Goodfreads, January 18, 2020. Brett Williams, Why my old Right-wing tribe betrayed everything it once stood for, on Goodreads, March 2, 2020.

[25] William L. Shrirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany, Touchstone Simon & Shuster, 1990, pg. 239. And as Thomas Paine wrote, "When a man has so far corrupted and prostituted the chastity of his mind...he has prepared himself for commission of every other crime." Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason, Prometheus Books, 1984 (1794), pg. 8.

[26] Vicky Ward, Giuliani associate willing to tell Congress Nunes met with ex-Ukrainian official to get dirt on Biden, CNN, November 23, 2019. JOHN BOWDEN, Nunes declines to answer if he received information from Ukraine lawmaker meant to damage Biden, The Hill, 07/30/20.

[27] Wikipedia, Post-World War II economic expansion.

[28] George Packer, We Are Living in a Failed State, The Atlantic, JUNE 2020. George F. Will, The nation is in a downward spiral. Worse is still to come., Washington Post, July 15, 2020.

July 6, 2020: Confronting the Constitution Part 6: Western ideals and idealists: The quest to balance too many humans

In Susan Shell's contribution to Confronting the Constitution, her chapter, "Idealism," surveys its impact on the American Founding and later Western experience. [1] Through examination of ideals by idealists, Shell considers their approach to "the political problem." That is, the employment of classical liberal principles used to stabilize large numbers of inherently unstable humans. Rather than Rousseau's (1712-1778) negative impression of science on society, these philosophers saw "science and the civilizing arts [as] not the enemy of morality but its tool." [2] Instead of the likes of John Locke (1632-1704) and his ilk, Shell's exemplars include Enlightenment late-comers Emanuel Kant (1724-1804), Johann Gottlieb Fichte (1762-1814), and George Wilhelm Hegel (1770-1831).

Shell begins with the type of person who searches for the model socio-political framework. "The idealist," she writes, "is a moralist: a person guided by visions of how things ought to be... He is likely to view the world with indignation and yet at the same time with hope. The distance between his visions of the world does not lead him to turn away from it in resignation and despair...but calls to action." [3] Shell's indignant-yet-hopeful idealists are seen throughout history as motors of moral advance: Socrates, John Adams, Martin Luther King. "At the same time," writes Shell, "the idealist is not simply an activist... Idealism harbors an uneasy tension between external (or this-worldly) concern for results and an often overriding internal (or otherworldly) concern for purity of conscience." [4]

Among them, we find a common assumption. By analogy in physics, there are unified field theories that merge, say, the separate natures of electricity and magnetism into a more coherent electromagnetism. Similarly, for these political idealists, apparent clashes between opposing forces, like freedom and equality (perfect freedom is chaos, perfect equality is tyranny), can only be resolved through unification at deeper philosophic levels, unified by the coherent moral theory they seek. Beneath this assumption is another: that conflicting ideals like freedom and equality are not reflections of the hopelessly contradictory nature of people. If so, isn't a unified political theory impossible?

As Shell elaborates, oxymora inherent in us and our societies did not spare the Constitution. "The Constitution derives its fundamental principles largely from the regime of reduced moral expectations characteristic of Montesquieu and Locke," says Shell. [5] "It begins with equal rights of individuals, each assumed to be moved by a strong and overriding concern for self-preservation... And yet, by enshrining these concerns as rights, worthy to be upheld even at cost of life, the Constitution seems to lift these concerns above themselves." [6]


Thus, chafing at the heart of America's Founding "between the self-interested character of the rights it claims and the sacrifices of self-interest it must call upon if those rights are to be properly upheld-indeed if civil life is to be possible at all." [7] An unstated paradox in the Founding itself.

Recall those uniquely American images of assault-rifle-toting gun-rights extremists recently menacing our state capitols. Or spittle-spewing militants shouting at nurses over a new-found right not to wear a COVID-19 protective mask, whihch shields others from more than adolescent defiance and ignorance of the Constitution these militants profess to know so well. All rights, no responsibilities. Those very responsibilities, not enunciated, are what Shell demonstrates the Constitution depends on or dies without.

Yet, the idealist's believed the new political "science" of their day was capable of solving all political problems. Even the kind just noted. Kant's attempt reveals the shock of his age. The Bible once described the world with an ethical bearing for us in it. Then along came science with a superior description of the world without comment on, nor moral direction, for people. [8] Consequently, while Kant admired the American Constitution, he considered its Enlightenment principles insufficiently "transcendent." So, Kant became an evangelist for reason when he separated science and morality, yielding to the first but elevating the second as a kind of emergent property. Last time on this blog, we considered the "idea" of God as an emergent property of consciousness. Likewise, Kant's emergence of morality is quite real for humans regardless of its reality in nature. By this means, Kant tries to make morality objective in humans, not a "transitory custom of a given age." [9] Placing morality above self-preservation, Kant hoped to "set right and duty above the morally questionable ground of prudent selfishness." [10] Rousseau's obligation of individuals to others via the state becomes, for Kant, serving others by bypassing them, attaching the "individual directly to a universal and transcendent fellowship of reason." [11]

In the end, Kant uncovered philosophical flaws. People "need more to buttress their practical faith than the austere dictates of an a priori moral logic." [12] "The problem of organizing a state," says Kant, "can be resolved for a nation of devils only if they are intelligent." [13] Kant tried to replace God with a reasoned ideal-an authority people would follow when no one's watching. But like America's Founders, Kant was forced to come back to where he started: the low moral expectations of people, which Rousseau rejected, and Kant tried to patch.

Enter Fichte, who tried to nudge Kant's otherworldly idealism toward the worldly. In opposition to Alexander Hamilton, Fichte saw material equality as paramount. Sounding Utilitarian, Fichte equates material equality with equal happiness. [14] Like Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor (1931 - ), who regards production and reproduction as central to human nature, labor is to Fichte, an "enduring source of dignity and joy." [15] His state's role is to eliminate risk, so Fichte requires an apparatus that knows "pretty much what everybody is doing at every time of day... [Lost] under such a yoke by way of freedom of choice is made up through freedom of uncertainty." [16] Precisely what Michael Polanyi (1891 - 1976) argued is impossible omniscience, thus condemning such societies to failure. [17] Fichte believed "a unity of race," which requires the homogeneous closed community of ancient Greek small republics, would bind the people with meaning. While Fichte didn't intend it, he became a favorite of later idealists in the form of socialists, Marxists, and Nazis. Fichte, Shell argues, failed "to see that the pursuit of material well-being, whether rooted in resentment [the poor] or in greed [the rich], cannot support the sense of common purpose by which a political community is sustained." [18]

Next stop, Hegel, for whom there was less a need to counter classical liberalism with Kant's "transcendence" or Fichte's Nanny State than to reimagine it. Integration of the ancient duty-bound citizen and contemporary individualist is realized in the modern state, says Hegel. Finally, philosophy and history paid off. The marketplace allows each to pursue their interests and, unwittingly, those interests of the whole. Under this arrangement, the people absorb functions previously of government with more potent means of public benefit than exhortations of self-sacrificing virtue. Under modern states, the individual is virtuous by being selfish. [19]

Though what such a society provides is anything but the spiritual connectedness of authentic community Rousseau lamented the loss of. So Hegel sought to buttress modernity with sub-communities of guilds, class structure, and the family, "to supply at the level of feeling a supplement to one-sided individualism of the marketplace." [20] Though Hegel's nuclear family-as we know painfully well-has a temporal existence with the maturing of children and the death of parents that end it. Hegel also promoted patriotism to rouse us from "self-preoccupied existence into a fuller awareness of and participation in the whole." [21] As some Roman generals contended, this could also be serviced by war. Ignoring that one side must lose and the benefit of death has its limits, war, for Hegel, is not only unavoidable but morally beneficial. All those private acts of self-interests he cast in a new light, as serving a semi-divine State.

By Hegel's bearing, apparent contradictions in the Constitution noted above, are not. That which is unsaid-rights sacrificed for responsibilities-becomes, with echoes of Rousseau, a superior spiritual element that doesn't need explaining. Even the all-rights-no-responsibilities anti-mask gun-rights radicals will agree in their support of a strong military defense, for soldiers do not parade their rights on the battlefield but surrender them and their self-preservation for the nation.

So enamored with the modern state was Hegel, he makes this fascinating assertion that each in their self-interested role as housewife, soldier, etc., "represent in their very ordinariness a qualitative moral and spiritual leap beyond the always exceptional heroics of the ancient polis. These modern human types are not so much the heroes of the modern world as proof that we no longer need heroes." [22] What exceptional people once strived for has arrived for everybody.

For Hegel, "The superiority of modern virtue lies not only in its democratic accessibility to all but also in its accommodation of the ordinary passions-greed, fear, even vanity-that the classical Greek and Christian accounts of virtue held it necessary to check. Modern man, Hegel claims, need no longer live divided from himself." [23]

But doesn't this depend on the correct definition of human? If hunter-gatherer community-connectedness of 25 people or less was for 40,000-plus years the match for our nature, did civilization and modernity-with its world overpopulated by strangers-not create a division from each other? And wasn't it civilization with its materialist self-focus that created the division of greed not seen in hunter-gatherers? As Shell states, "The conflicting demands of freedom and community do not seem so much resolved by the modern liberal state as left to lie in an uneasy tension." [24]

As humans are so much more unpredictable than rational nature, we seem trapped one or more levels above unification in a paradox between poles. Those competing examples of freedom (conservatives) and equality (liberals) ebb and flow in Western society, but there's never a truce. Adherents of one have a different moral emphasis than supporters of the other because no unified moral theory yet exists. While ideals of the idealists flash across the Western trajectory, America's Framers seemed "to skirt many of the theoretical difficulties with which the idealists so earnestly grappled [in a] practical accommodation of theory to political need." [25] Through reason, late-Enlightenment idealists tried to find an irresistible motive to organize people and kept them tame. Like their earlier brethren for whom they embarked to compensate, they never found it. The new science of political philosophy was not a science, after all. Counterbalancing our lower natures seems, sadly, the most enduring option, though current political events and Patrick J. Deneen make us wonder if that too has run its course. [26]

Until next time, September 7, 2020.

[1] Allan Bloom, Ed. Confronting the Constitution, AEI Press, 1990.

[2] Ibid. pg. 260-261. See Michael Shermer The Moral Arc, Griffin, 2016, and Timothy Ferris, The Science of Liberty: Democracy, Reason, and the Laws of Nature, Harper Perennial, 2011.

[3] Ibid., pg. 258

[4] Ibid., pg. 258

[5] Ibid., pg. 259

[6] Ibid., pg. 259

[7] Ibid., pg. 259

[8] This, of course, was the intent of Thales' (625-456 B.C.) description of nature as it is, whether or not humans exist, and without recourse to supernatural powers. But Newton was such an astonishing success, what Thales started in a petite philosophical corner of the world was 2000 years later the foundation of innovations that built economies and weaponry that empires rode to world dominance.

[9] Ibid., pg. 263

[10] Ibid., pg. 264

[11] Ibid., pg. 265

[12] Ibid., pg. 267

[13] Ibid., pg. 268

[14] Emphasizing freedom and in opposition to such positions, Alexander Hamilton expected some level of inequality because all people have different talents more or less suitable to the times. "Inequality would exist as long as liberty existed," he wrote, "and it would unavoidably result from that very liberty itself," while realizing excess inequality is another route to social instability.

[15] Bloom., pg. 271. Charles Taylor, The Malaise of Modernity, House of Anansi Publishing, 1991

[16] Bloom., pg. 272

[17] Michael Polanyi, Meaning, University of Chicago Press, 1975

[18] Bloom, pg. 274

[19] As the old saying goes, "Private vice makes public virtue."

[20] Ibid., pg. 277

[21] Ibid., pg. 278

[22] Ibid., pg. 279

[23] Ibid., pg. 279

[24] Ibid., pg. 280

[25] Ibid., pg. 282

[26] Patrick J. Deneen, Why Liberalism Failed, Yale University Press, 2018

May 4, 2020: Is God an emergent property?

It was a frosty but luminous evening in Alpbach, Austria. Snuggled in a bowl lifted by the Kitzbühel Alps, Alpbach is a village of 2500 people at 1000 meters above sea level. Scattered about me were traditional Austrian homes like mountainside inserts seemingly assembled from chestnut colored sequoias. These broad wooden structures had low pitched roofs spread wide to shield stories below from heavy snows. So robust, they appeared able to support another building or a planet. Each story was draped in banks of pink and red flowers, four to five feet high, which flattered their way around the full circumference of the house. Appropriate for a place that won the "Most Beautiful Floral Village in Europe" award. [1] While spring had defeated snow in Alpbach, it was king for a while longer another thousand meters above me. Peaks so white against that cobalt sky, my iris exceeded its contraction limit, and I had to look away. Better than most cameras, my eyes had insufficient "dynamic range"-that distance between the darkest darks and lightest lights. I was there for a synthetic aperture radar symposium, and dynamic range was sure to arise as a radar's response to radio waves, another sibling in the spectrum of light. At that moment, I felt what it meant.

Spiring over my head was the green steeple of St. Oswald Catholic Church. Hugging the church like the mountains hugged Alpbach was an immaculate graveyard and daily reminder of why the church was there. Each grave was capped by an ornate iron cross four feet high. Each held a plaque as identifier for those who once stood in this little town before they lay here. A ground-hugging custodian of chiseled stone enclosed each plot for the safety of more flowers, though these were for the dead.

I'd been anticipating this occasion for a while. To stretch the moment, I surveyed my surroundings, squinted back up at the white-tipped peaks beyond the green spire, then down to a tomb in front of me. Attached to its cross was an addition like no other in the yard. One of the most potent encapsulations of human mental horsepower. It was Schrödinger's quantum mechanical wave equation, inscribed on a circle of iron. A short reach beneath my feet and two meters ahead lay the mortal remains of Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger (1887-1961), tunneler to nature's unseeable micro world. His famous equation, like a dusty window into the mind of God at his weirdest, bedeviled me as a university student. Perhaps anything so close to creation should. I assumed in those far off years of younger days that quantum mechanics made sense to everyone but me. So I suffered alone, in silence, lest I be discovered a fool (test scores proved it). Years later, I learned that a paragon of physics, Richard Feynman, declared, "If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don't understand quantum mechanics." Rehabilitated, I made friends with quantum, and with the aid of engineering pals, produced a few innovations in the field. [2]

Schrödinger's wave equation is, in the micro-world, the equivalent of Newton's equations of motion in the macro. Almost. [3] In our everyday Newtonian existence, where something is and how fast it moves can be known with precision. Schrödinger allows only probabilities instead.

Standing before the old Austrian, I held his final book in my hand, My View of the World. [4] I extended my arm, holding its title in Schrödinger's direction, in case by some marvel beyond me, he might be able to read it. If so, I decided, he'd be a bit happier than his current condition would suggest. Perhaps he'd not mind if I hovered a while. So I did.

I checked the people-less vacuum about me. I opened Schrödinger's book to page 20. I read what he wrote out loud. "Suppose you are sitting on a bench beside a path in high mountain country. There are grassy slopes all around with rocks thrusting through. On the opposite slope of the valley, there is a stretch of scree with a low growth of alder bushes. Woods climb steeply on both sides of the valley up to a line of treeless pasture. Facing you, soaring up from the depths of the valley, is the mighty glacier-tipped peak. Its smooth snowfields and hard-edged rock-faces touched at this moment with soft rose-color by the last rays of the departing sun..." I peeped overhead and wondered where he sat up there when he wrote this.

"According to the usual way of looking at it," I read, "everything that you see has, apart from small changes, been there for thousands of years before you. After a while-not long-you will no longer exist, and the woods and rocks and sky will continue, unchanged, for thousands of years after you. What is it that has so suddenly called you out of nothingness to enjoy for a brief while this spectacle which remains quite indifferent to you?"

By then, the sun had dipped beneath the local Alps. Though too early to see the stars, with our solar orb obstructed, lanterns of Venus and Jupiter dimpled the dimming sky. Thanks to a colossal wreck between tectonic plates, those peaks above me got their biggest boost for the heavens about 100 million years ago, less than 1% the age of the universe. Once a seafloor, they were now a mile high, three in some places, and littered with the lives of once-dominant creatures that swam here. Hoisted by the earth, fossil offerings of life's creative genius seemed tendered to the planets and stars soon-to-shine. So they could see what nature made here: trilobites, corals, snail-like brachiopods. And there I was, in the same line they led ahead of me, just behind Schrödinger. Each in the queue, here for an instant, compared to the cosmos, too small for even quantum mechanics to measure.

What called me out of nothingness may well be discovered by the current scientific revolution in complexity theory. Stuart Kauffman's At Home in the Universe makes a stunning case for it and what he calls "order for free." [5] The self-organization of complex molecules, catalytic processes, and self-reproductive systems appear to have given evolution a head start by the laws of physics and chemistry alone. From simple systems emerge new properties not envisioned by their building blocks. One example is wetness. Less than about a million water molecules will feel dry on your hands, dusty, not wet. But from the propinquity of a million such molecules is born the emergent property of wetness.

As Kauffman shows, natural reactions in sufficiently nutrient-rich environs, with disequilibrium energy gradients pushing reactions up or downhill, can find their way to islands of stability in a sea of complexity-collapse. Each isle a different stable molecule, catalyst, cell, or organism on a fitness landscape. Forces self-coordinate blindly toward the boundary between order and chaos. They cross into the oblivion of runaway reactions, fall off fitness peaks into valleys of less orderly arrangements, or tempt fate at the door to one or the other in long term survival. Evolution doesn't need an eternity to wait on random chance and deterministic selection; the raw materials are already there. [6] (Sorry, Creationists.) Life becomes the expected outcome of fundamental physical laws, with all the implications this has for life in the universe.

What about consciousness? Was it an emergent property, budding from the structure of our brains and its bio-physics? If so, what happened next? One suspects recognition, not only of the external world but of a self, separate from other conscious beings. With a drive to survive, pre-dating consciousness, respect for our ending couldn't be too far behind. And with that, the ending of others we know. Would grief, then morality, then desires for magic emerge to fix what's wrong?

That such perceptions sprouted early in living complexity is implied by Neanderthal burials ca. 100,000 years ago. [7] They buried their dead with flowers (pollen remains) and red ochre in their graves. Like a womb, they were placed in fetal position. Facing east and the rising sun, they lay, like a seed or a savior, to be resurrected with the next season, poised for the sunrise of another day in a new life. There's ample speculation in what they meant, yet the same symbols persist to this day in different parts of the world by a different species-our own. [8]

But is our lineage alone in this emergence? For centuries it was assumed only humans made tools, recognized faces, planned ahead, were self-aware, transmitted culture and ethics among their own kind, and only humans grieved. As primatologist Frans de Waal elaborates, all such assumptions have sunk under the weight of measured evidence. [9] Dolphins, with equal or larger brain-to-body mass ratios than humans, call for their pod, as men carve their live bodies for mercury-rich flesh to put in our mouths. Fur seal mothers cry over remains of snow-white infants ripped free of their skin for the vanity trade-a bloody carcass she labors for three days to feed. Infant rhinos bleat for their mothers, shot for nothing more than her horn (the same protein as toenails), pulverized and added to beer for better sex or miraculous cures-despite the fact it doesn't work, and the planet doesn't need more humans. And in 2018, a mother orca carried her dead newborn for 17 days across a thousand miles to prevent it from sinking, nudging it to the surface to breathe, in what the media labeled a "tour of grief." A tour commenced by human decimation of north Pacific salmon fisheries, the sustenance for orcas. Humans aren't the only ones conscious of self and others, a reckoning that leads to morality, ethics, and grief.

If consciousness emerged from ordered brains, spawning grief and magic yearnings, what about God? [10] Ignoring elaborations of the idea (scriptures, canon, dogmas), could God be an emergent property of consciousness? Would that mean God is or isn't real? Will God disappear when humans are extinct? [11]

Reduce the count of water molecules below a million, and wetness goes away. But isn't the emergence of wetness a physical reality? Try it in your shower. Is faith in water's wetness, omnipresence, and aid in daily life, unfounded?

Perhaps God's appearance is a matter of emergent capacity to perceive what's already there, external, and independent of us. But if God is not external, born only from our brains, does that change anything for humans? Thanks to complexity theory, rather than irrational, God might be-like the emergence of complex molecules, cells, life, and consciousness-among the most rational and expected consequences of physical laws, and being human.

Until next time, July 6, 2020.

[1] Alpbach, Austria. And, Alpbach on Wikipedia.

[2] Specifically in the quasi quantum, quasi-electromagnetic field of plasmonics as applied to antennas and waveguides. See Plasmons on Wikipedia.

[3] Actually, Schrödinger's equation should be simpler than Newton's as Schrödinger's is linear and Newton's is not. So, for example, one wave will have a solution under Schrödinger as will another and another, as will the sum of those waves and the scaling of either one or both. As for Newton, his equation has a solution for the two body problem (like a planet that orbits a star), but add a third body for the so called "three body problem," and it has no solution. No one knows what it's going to do, so its position, velocity and momentum cannot be predicted exactly. Numerical methods come close.

[4] Erwin Schrödinger, My View of the World, Oxbow Press, 1961.

[5] Stuart Kauffman, At Home in the Universe, Oxford University Press, 1995.

[6] Order for free didn't happen overnight.

[7] Paleolithic religion: Timeline, Wikipedia.

Michael Marshall, 70,000-year-old remains suggest Neanderthals buried their dead, New Scientist, 18 February 2020.

[8] Genetic markers show we did some mixing with Neanderthals before they went extinct, likely at our own hands. Interbreeding between archaic and modern humans, Wikipedia.

[9] Frans de Waals, Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are, Norton, 2016.

[10] The concept of "gods" accompanied the idea of magic early. See Henri Frankfort, Before Philosophy, Penguin, 1960. Our many cosmic bellhops (Sumer even had a god for the pickaxe) were simplified by coalescing the many benevolent or villainous gods down to one with the invention of monotheism, either by Akhenaton (ca. 1350 B.C.) or Zoroaster (ca. 1750 - 760 B.C., his dates vary wildly).

[11] Author and cherished skeptic, Michael Shermer maintains that God and consciousness are "mysterians" that can never be explained. Maybe that's not so. Michael Shermer, The Final Mysterians, Scientific American, July 2018.

March 2, 2020: Why my old Right-wing tribe betrayed everything it once stood for

I've noted how lying for my tribe ended with 2003's Iraq invasion, a stark contradiction with my pursuit of truth in nature required in the workplace. [1] Get nature wrong, whatever's built from that analysis won't operate. The way Right-wing "morality" undermines America today, the cost of nurtured immorality came home to roost for me then as it has now for the U.S., though half the country denies it. [2] "Mass movements," wrote Eric Hoffer, "interpose a fact-proof screen between the faithful and realities of the world... [The true believer] cannot be frightened by danger nor baffled by contradictions because he denies their existence." [3] Like Rome after Republic, the U.S. Senate just completed their impeachment show-trial, which validated Hoffer, and demonstrates how menacing this is. [4] Before our eyes, Constitutional governance is unraveling due to embrace, protection, and celebration of lies and liars.

But professional liars like Trump-who lies as he breathes-and his propaganda networks are different now than I was then and different from Trump's disciples today. Iraq made me see what I was doing, but for years I thought I was (mostly) telling the truth defined by FOX and radio talker Rush Limbaugh, just as many do among Trump's GOPP. [5] (How can I know I'm not lying now? Reference [6].) Without too much self-analysis (zero), Trump's believers think they're telling the truth when they defend their tribe. As it turns out, what they're doing is a matter of biological evolution and its emergent psychology roused by recent history. As we'll see, it's no different for the Left. First, the biology.

Neurologist Paul MacLean's triune brain-model subdivides our noodle into three structures that reflect its evolution: the reptile brain capping our spine at the back of our head; its mammal brain overlay; the cerebral cortex with its curvaceous terrain atop that mammal inheritance. [7] Our reptilian structure is the most primitive to ripen in the long line of human mental development. Responsible for feelings of urgency-gag, vomit, defecation, sex, fight or flight-it's the oldest structure, fundamental to blind survival in a man-eating world, and irresistibly mighty. The mammal brain houses our emotions. The human cerebral cortex handles high-order abstractions like mathematics and religion. Our reptile brain works fast, no thinking necessary (don't pontificate in a fistfight). The cerebral cortex works slow, rumination required. From these structures emerge primate-human psychology.

For a people too harried for inquiry since Tocqueville said we were in 1840, if one can appeal to our fast-acting reptile brain, they've abruptly got our attention. [8] Lace emotional attachments of the mammal brain to our tribe with threats to its survival and we're supercharged for action. But there's still that cerebral cortex to protect us from manipulators, right?

Not right.

"Humans are designed to be tribal," writes Brookings Institute senior fellow, Jonathan Rauch. "We are wired to organize into that our reasoning and even our sensory perceptions support in-group solidarity. 'Believing is belonging.'" [9] In an individualist nation that evacuated communities along with that belonging, as we've found, (human) nature abhors a vacuum. Our backfill is a mostly faceless techno-media-tribe. As an evolutionary survival mechanism, tribes are naturally partisan. But "what if partisanship is not really about anything?" asks Rauch. [10] "What if tribalism, not ideological disagreement, is behind [our] polarization? ...not so much rallying for a cause or party we believe in, as banding together to fight a collective enemy." [11] But surely that cerebral cortex which put men on the moon honors facts that reveal how dangerous tribal factions are for republics built on compromise.

Surely not.

"Presenting people with facts that challenge a group-defining opinion does not work," says Rauch, "instead of changing their minds, they [reject] facts to double down on false beliefs...regardless of educational and cognitive firepower. Belonging to a particular political party should distort our reasoning." [12] As Democrats justified Bill Clinton's sexual escapades and Republicans justify Trump's extortion of Ukraine. "Extreme partisanship may be literally addictive," writes social psychologist Jonathan Haidt. [13] Rationalizing their beliefs gives partisans a hit of dopamine, "Like rats that cannot stop pressing a button, partisans [Left & Right] may be simply unable to stop believing weird things." [14]

Tribal solidarity also invites flip-flops on long-standing beliefs. "We flip, then rationalize the reversal," says Rauch. [15] As Limbaugh preached fiscal responsibility for 30-years, ripping Obama for his failures. But with Trump's populist tactic of spend-everything-now-who-cares-about-the-future, Limbaugh's tribal-primate-psychology forces him to convert with, "All...this concern for the deficit and budget has been bogus for as long as it's been around." [16]

"[Republicans didn't] rally to Trump because they embraced his message," says Rauch, "they embraced his message in order to rally to Trump. Once what 'we' believe was redefined, the party preserved its identity by scrambling aboard. Partisans felt no psychological inconsistency or lurch, because, as a result of their ideological somersaults, they continued to be aligned with the same in-group and opposed to the same out-group. The Republican base likes Trump precisely because the Democratic base hates him. Polarization is not a byproduct of his policies and rhetoric; polarization is the product...cravings for shared outrage against a common adversary." [17]

When it comes to influence, keep that cerebral cortex and its powers of reason out of it. Like the replacement for a dying god, the tribe can do no wrong, is sanctioned for every obscenity, beyond reproach, and must be obeyed no matter how corrupt. [18] Just as Hoffer wrote and our bio-based psychology demands.

With this psychology common to all humans, is it any wonder that conservatives would betray Jesus for political power and material gain, deny manmade global warming yet depend on science in their daily lives, or claim Trump saved democracy as everyday he attacks it? [19] Should we be shocked to find liberals are just as anti-science as conservatives but about different things, or that succeeding where the Klan failed their multiculturalism self-segregates by identity, celebrating every culture but our own? [20] Crazy? Irrelevant. It's church dogma, defined by tribal priests. Who we hate matters most. True believers fall in line. Echo chambers assure there's no logic clash, and the dogma is amplified for psychological comforts of belonging. With little effort, no wonder Putin upends nations. Primate psychology performs the heavy lift.

And recent history helps. [21] Snubbing simple-minded apologetics of Obama / Clinton "what aboutism," examples of the Right's inducement include a 2013 incident at Florida Atlantic University. A professor assigned students to write JESUS on a piece of paper, put it on the floor, and step on it. [22] One devout student refused, was suspended, and made national news. U.S. college campuses are places where people protest over photos of white girls in sombrero-and-mustache Halloween costumes (imitation is no longer flattery, but "appropriation" of minority culture). [23] However, that this assignment could insult Christians remained a mystery. Would the name MUHAMMAD have been allowed? What could make a liberal want to insult a victim of an imperial power (Rome), wrongly accused of a crime for which he was executed? Isn't this the very type of minority the Left defends?

Something as innocuous as product advertising shows how ubiquitous this liberal bias is. A Honda SUV commercial shows men lifting their hatchback to grab and open food bags and beer bottles smashed into or poured over their ravenous faces as the scene draws back to reveal a woman with headphones, recording their animal behavior. A white man struggles to cook his breakfast seated on a moving bus as a black woman stands over him, shaking her head with amused disgust, a Kellogg's breakfast bar in hand. Obese white men clad only in mini-skirts and bikini-tops stumble in their high heels to refuel Danica Patrick's Formula 1 racecar for Boost Mobile. [24] Funny, were it not that outrage would flood the continent with reversal of race and gender. Advertisers know this, but did they assume "white males" wouldn't notice, or could it be so ingrained in this society it didn't occur to them?

These illustrations compare with bigotry witnessed at gun-toting Right-wing rallies against Obama, but not with torch-bearing boys marching through Charlottesville, Virginia, soon to murder with a car, or a white supremacist executing blacks at their church in Charleston, South Carolina. [25] But discharged from their factory jobs exported to China, working-class whites were inattentive. White men took the brunt of the Great Recession, decreasing American life expectancy with their suicides and opioid overdoses. [26] While talk radio reported that illegal foreigners gain driver's licenses, rent assistance, and in-state tuition in some states, which (surprise) happens to be true. [27] When Obama DOJ AG Eric Holder announced we don't talk enough about race, these same displaced whites asked, "Is there another topic?" [28] So Putin helped Trump win the last election; to them, it's all the better Putin help win the next. Facts, truth, morality, the Constitution, and Christ be damned; these people are enraged. And not just at the Left. Immigration reform is stalled because the rich get richer on the backs of cheap-labor-illegals. And it's not hard labor Americans won't do, it slave wages they won't take. Many lost their homes when Wall Street gamblers-saved by taxpayers-tanked the world economy, awarded themselves a $21B bonus for doing so, and not one of them went to prison. [29]

This is how my old Right-wing tribe came to betray everything it once stood for. Recent history ignited primate psychology poised for threats to survival of the clan, biologically hardwired for defense. And their answer? A self-destructive counter-movement led by our newly anointed Emperor and mafia mobster. [30]

Emperor Trump is a carnival barker, but this barker bites. His worldwide criminal network is just what the Right wanted. The more corrupt he is, the more likely he's to cure the disease by killing the patient as he obliterates the rule of law for personal gain under guise of a despot's refrain, "For the people!" (But he "promotes 'conservative' policies!") Trump's hypnotic perversity has seized even those few remaining Republican rationalists (except Mitt Romney and Justin Amash) who can no more ignore him than they can stand still to face a grizzly on a sixty mile per hour charge. They run. And in just the direction Trump knows they will. Onto that terrain of fear and revenge governed by automatic response of their reptile brain. [31]

Does this sound like an "intelligent species"?

Ponder Mao's Cultural Revolution, Nazi Germany, the Bolshevik Revolution, Thirty Years War, and Crusades in this light.

Could this be symptomatic of that hypothetical PCD (Programmed Civilization Death) we considered? [32] Isn't including this in the "human definition" a more complete characterization of unstable humans, hinting at proper governance? Enlightenment's "natural man" never saw this. Could this biologically-based primate-tribalism garner forgiveness? After all, I did it. It's remarkable that what saved us in the primeval beginning when there weren't enough humans, could wreck us in the end when there's too many.

After this 6th-consecutive Trump-GOPP-related posting, a shower is needed, shock therapy, and a passport from another country. On Monday, May 4, 2020, we return to matters more uplifting than America's moral dive, precursor to all great power endings despite their economic prowess. [33]

[1] Brett Williams, Has America become a nation of liars?, on Goodreads, September 4, 2017.

[2] Trump disciples will claim his immorality works quite well with a boom economy almost as good as Bill Clinton's who saw a national budget surplus, not already $3T in debt generated by Trump. Recall these same mostly self-described Christians ranked character as their #1 concern during Clinton, not his boom economy. According to Trump's budget, he's pushing for $30T in debt after inheriting Obama and his forerunner's $20T. Trump's average growth rate in his first 3-years is equal to Obama's average of 2.1%/yr. As witnessed in Trump's State of the Union, most of Trump's historic economic claims are fake. What he calls in his Art of the Deal "truthful hyperbole," which the rest of us call "lies."

[3] Eric Hoffer, The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements, Perennial, 1989

[4] With the exception of one moral man in the GOPP Senate, Mitt Romney (R-UT), the U.S. Senate sanctioned Trump's attempts to rig the 2020 election in his favor through extortion of Ukraine, and thus invited him to continue his corruption. Which he has, with all the levers of governmental power now at his disposal unchecked. This includes DOJ AG Bill Barr's repeat corruption of justice beginning with his lies about the Mueller Report, to his interference of sentencing for convicted felon and Trump criminal associate, Roger Stone; Pelosi's correct designation of "Moscow" Mitch McConnell's blocking of election protections against foreign interference; and coordination with the Putin, FOX and American talk radio propaganda networks. Only an almost impotent Democrat House stands in Trump's way from rescinding the Constitution as 52% of GOPP "Republicans" hope to do (noted and referenced in previous posts). The Right has decided to kill the patient to defeat what they view as the disease of liberalism. It cannot be repeated enough that these people call themselves "Christians" for whom Jesus said, "What good is it to win the whole world and lose your soul?" as expanded on this blog last time.

[5] Trump's "GOPP:" Grand Old Putin Party, to distinguish it from Lincoln and Reagan's GOP: Grand Old Party.

[6] If I didn't know I was lying (usually) for my tribe when I was a member, how do I know I'm not lying now? There are only two tribes in America. The "Reason Tribe" does not exist, unless we decide most scientists, some sector of philosophers of reason, and true independents are its members, even though they don't know it, which refutes the idea of a tribe from the start. I didn't join the Left-wing tribe, so what tribe would I lie for? As I'll elucidate in a future post, I oppose abortion (with caveats) and support mammal rights (with caveats), both based on the same reasoned argument. Am I a conservative or a liberal? This violates both dogmas, relying instead on reason, thus open to change should superior reasoned arguments warrant. Would that not constitute a "flip-flop"? No, because it's not a "belief." Reason is based on facts, data, nature as it is, not how we feel about it. Finding the earth orbits the sun rather than the sun orbits the earth, what is our position on the orbit? "Belief" wanted to ignore reality to keep humans at the center. Reason places truth above dogma. In the political arena, I didn't join another tribe because based on my own actions I came to suspect I couldn't tell the truth if I were married to one of them. Now I know why-biology. From that biology is the emergent property of primate psychology. From that psychology springs the need for belonging, and that means a tribe. In pluralistic modernity on a massively overcrowded planet in one of the poorest educated nations in the industrialized world, tribe means cult. However, none of this means I can't be wrong. Just because I don't lie for a tribe is not to say I'm not ignorant about something that could change some conclusion based on reason. Tribes make life easier with absolutism, as Limbaugh (whom I listen to daily) proves. Only by knowing the truth can civilization be made to work, like those devices we build that depend on knowing the truth of nature, regardless of how we feel about it. We're now seeing in real-time the social failures of lying with Trump and his GOPP's defense against the coronavirus as a "liberal/Democrat hoax." How to manage reality while simultaneously satisfying Trump's inferiority disease and keeping him in office (and out of prison) has been an historic example of societal failures when the truth can no longer be spun, faked, or lied about as the corona pandemic spreads and body counts get the attention of all those reptile brains.

[7] Richard Restak, The Brain, Bantam, 1984, pg. 136

[8] Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Mentor, 1984.

[9] Jonathan Rauch, Rethinking Polarization, National Affairs, Fall 2019.

[10] ibid

[11] ibid. Our Founders called tribes "factions" and sought to defang them.

[12] ibid. And Steve Rathje, Why People Ignore Facts, Psychology Today, Oct 25, 2018. As an example, and in keeping with Hoffer, recall that in our November 2018 post was noted a man who said, "I'm not going to listen to your facts and data" about manmade global warming. And might I repeat for the n-th time, he's a devout Christian, for whom Jesus said, "Seek the truth to set you free." See, Brett Williams, The betrayal of Christ: global warming denial, on Goodreads, November 5, 2018.

[13] Rauch

[14] ibid

[15] ibid

[16] Billy Binion, Rush Limbaugh Abandons Fiscal Conservatism, Reason, 7.18.2019. And for Limbaugh's flip-flopping and lifetime of lies-a man who claims to live in Realville-he got the Medal Of Freedom (which used to mean something, until now) from Trump as reward for fealty. Hence the value of liars when lies run the country. Talmon Joseph Smith, Rush Limbaugh in His Own Words: A collection of comments from the latest recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, New York Times, Feb. 7, 2020.

[17] Rauch

[18] The "death of god" remark is a direct reference to the last post here as it applies to the descent of religion in America, but tangentially invites a much larger discussion for another occasion in regards to what came first, the God or the tribe. Marcel Gauchet makes a strong case for the latter in his Disenchantment of the World: The Political History of Religion. In that case, the tribe exists, the scriptures are then written as though God precedes the tribe and must be adhered to. In Gauceht's reading, God then depends completely on the tribe for existence. When the Maya disappeared, so did their gods. For the former reference, see Brett Williams, The Collapse of American Christianity, on Goodreads, January 18, 2020.

[19] A very few examples of Trump and his GOPP's attacks on democracy, America, and its place in the world are provided here. Others noted are easily Googled. His motivation is trifold: feed his malignant inferiority disease, stay out of prison, and keep fleecing the country and foreign powers for his bank account. On this blog, we've discussed how science is the father of modern democracy, as supported by Michael Shermer and Timothy Ferris. Trump inaugurated his term by chasing down scientists who performed climate science research. He's dismissed science and his intel agencies from the beginning, and now with the coronavirus, he suddenly needs the science and all those he chased out of the Center For Disease Control and National Institutes of Health where's he's cut budgets and closed departments meant to manage pandemics. Trump repeatedly assaults the Constitutional guarantee of a free press with his Stalinist claim that the press is "the enemy of the people," his restrictions on named reporters and media outlets, his discontinuation of press briefings, his support of or silence concerning reporters murdered by his favored despots including his tacit sanction of Putin and MBS assassinations. Trump now interferes with the judicial branch by attacking judges and jurors who threaten his criminal associates with justice, as he seeks to change sentencing and "promises" pardons for convicted felons like Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, and Michael Flynn after granting clemency to white-collar criminals who were promoted by FOX, and for those who gave him $580,600/couple at a fundraising event. Trump is directing DOJ to kill multiple investigations into his own decades of corruption moving cases from the independent Sothern District of New York to the more compliant Eastern District. Trump's foreign policy is slave to his business interests in Saudi Arabia, UAE, Russia, etc. The list of corrupted U.S. government institutions by Trump continues to grow: DOJ, State, EPA, and now intel agencies with loyalist installed at their head. He seeks to corrupt DOD, but his success there is as yet unclear to this reader. Trump's lauding of despots from Kim to Xi and Putin supports the growing worldview that republican democracy and classical Founder's liberalism is, as Putin said, over. The U.S. now ranks 25th as a "flawed democracy," with Hungary, Poland, Turkey, and Brazil tied or slightly ahead of us in the global collapse of democratic forms of governance. Trump's suggestion that NATO be dismantled, his imitation concern for their short defense budgets, which cost the U.S. nothing, and his continued belligerence against Europe and it's leaders per Putin's delight make it no surprise that as they laugh at Trump behind his back and turn to China for trade deals (even Italy's part of China's Belt & Road), while Europe embrace's Huawei's 5G despite pleas from Trump not to. Like Hugo Chavez, Trump interferes with existing contractual agreements not under his auspices (e.g. between Amazon and the USPO), under Constitutional and Congressional controls. Trump has repeatedly noted how collusion with foreign powers that so terrified the Founders-notably George Washington as noted in his Farewell Address-is the right thing to do. It appears that in keeping with Trump's mafia history since at least 1985 when he bragged about his Russian connections in his Art of the Deal, that and he and his family may be profiting from repeat manipulations of the markets with fake news and exaggerations. A few links illuminating points noted are provided here, recalling that previous posts have shown that Right-wing media is now made up almost universally of liars and that Left-wing media in reagrds to Trump has been validated by our own eyes, the Mueller Report, and its validation by the Republican Senate intel report: Steven Mufson and Juliet Eilperin, Trump transition team for Energy Department seeks names of employees involved in climate meetings, Washington Post, December 9, 2016. Rush Limbaugh, The Four Corners of Deceit : Prominent Liberal Social Psychologist Made It All Up, Rush Limbaugh .com, April 29, 2013. Heather Horn, Is the Right Wing Anti-Science?, The Atlantic, 9.10.2010. Zack Beauchamp, A major democracy watchdog just published a scathing report on Trump, VOX, January 5, 2019. Robert C. Lieberman, Suzanne Mettler, Thomas B. Pepinsky, Kenneth M. Roberts and Richard Valelly, The Trump Presidency and American Democracy: A Historical and Comparative Analysis, Cambridge, January 5, 2019. URI FRIEDMAN, Democrats Have Found Their Battle Cry, The Atlantic, JULY 15, 2019. Alan Crawford, Andre Tartar and Hayley Warren, Europe Has Had Enough of Trump's Tirades From Trade to Security, Bloomberg, August 19, 2019. David E. Sanger and David McCabe, Huawei Is Winning the Argument in Europe, as the U.S. Fumbles to Develop Alternatives, New York Times, Feb. 17, 2020. Damian Paletta and Josh Dawsey , Trump personally pushed postmaster general to double rates on Amazon, other firms, The Washington Post, May 18, 2018. Justin Baragona, Asawin Suebsaeng, Trump Grants Clemency to Another Round of Crooks He Saw on Fox News, The Daily Beast, Feb. 19, 2020. CHAUNCEY DEVEGA, Are Trump and his circle manipulating the markets for personal gain? Here's the evidence, Salon, JANUARY 26, 2020.

[20] Brett Williams, Why America's anti-science movement is a moral matter: Part II, The Left, on Goodreads, January 1, 2018. Brett Williams, Why America's anti-science movement is a moral matter. Part I: The Right, on Goodreads, March 6, 2017.

[21] While every social movement is a counter-movement, who started what when is a chicken-or-the-egg question. The Left is now responding to the Right with their own populism in Bernie Sanders. But didn't the Right respond to the Left's proliferation of minorities with special rights and privileges as the Left vilified white males as dominant oppressors? But wasn't the Left's emphasis on minorities a response to racism in the Sixties, when blacks exercising their Constitutional right to peaceful protest were blown off their feet by water cannons and attacked by white, baton-wielding cops? This could go on for volumes, hence, it is suggested here that the Left started this latest round of tribalism if for no other reason than the Right was so slow to realize that institutionalized lying had real power in a nation that had-by a significant fraction-become a nation of liars. The Left was well on to this thanks to their embrace of 1950s, 60s French postmodernist liars like Foucault, Derrida, and Lacan.

[22] "What aboutism" is American slang adopted from Russian espionage tactics, this time for the mental acrobatics "conservatives" go through to protect Trump and deflect from his corruption. "What about Obama's whisper to Russia's Medvedev?" "What about Obama's debt?" "What about Antifa radicals at Charlottesville?" "What about Hillary's emails?" Greg Lukianoff, FAU College Student Who Didn't Want To Stomp On 'Jesus' Runs Afoul of Speech Code, Forbes, Mar 26, 2013. Avik Roy, FAU College Student Who Didn't Want To Stomp On 'Jesus' Runs Afoul of Speech Code, Forbes, Mar 26, 2013.

[23] There are so many references to "racial appropriation" by Halloween costumes, I picked this, the first to popup on Google: Kirk Johnson, Halloween Costume Correctness on Campus: Feel Free to Be You, but Not Me, New York Times, Oct. 30, 2015.

[24] Boost mobile commercial.

[25] Paul P. Murphy, White nationalists use tiki torches to light up Charlottesville march, CNN, August 14, 2017. Wikipedia, Charleston church shooting.

[26] Erica Meade, Men hit harder during the recession, but are recovering jobs faster than women, Urban Institute, July 11, 2012. Alison Burke, Working class white Americans are now dying in middle age at faster rates than minority groups, Brookings Institute, March 23, 2017. Anne Case and Angus Deaton, Rising morbidity and mortality in midlife among white non-Hispanic Americans in the 21st century, PNAS December 8, 2015.

[27] Wikipedia, Driver's licenses for illegal immigrants in the United States. Housing for Eligible Noncitizens. Assistance for undocumented or illegal immigrants. This site is full of information but no links to the organizations it notes: Housing for Eligible Noncitizens.

[28] ANDY BARR, States remains "a nation of cowards" on issues involving race, POLITICO, 02/18/2009.

[29] Louise Story and Eric Dash, Bankers Reaped Lavish Bonuses During Bailouts, New York Times, July 30, 2009.

[30] Brett Williams, Our Dear (mafia) Leader, on Goodreads, December 24, 2019.

[31] Combine all this (our reptile brain, etc.) with a U.S. primary and secondary educational system ranking near bottom in the industrialized world and it's no wonder Trump's Senate tribe would sanction his extortion of Ukraine to rig the next election. The study of Constitutional governance (civics) was killed in states across America decades ago. When Trump's lawyers claimed impeachment was some alien construct invented by Democrats; that "the people" should decide his impeachment by their vote the way Moscow Mitch McConnell (Pelosi's correct assessment) said they should for Supreme Court Justice nominee Merrick Garland; that no executive commits a crime by bribing another country to cheat elections if he claims his re-election is in the public interest; most Americans have no more understanding of what Constitutional desecrations these are than Trump himself.

[32] Like Programmed Cell Death responsible for the death of our bodies once our DNA "knows" our reproductive years have passed, instead Programmed Civilization Death has been hypothesized here as responsible for the death of society once some psychological threshold is crossed, perhaps too many of us. Brett Williams, Is PCD an acronym for Programmed Civilization Death?, on Goodreads, November 7, 2016.

[33] Moral depravity is central to Will Durant's hypothesis for why civilizations fail in his Lessons From History, built on his 11 volume, ~ 10,000 word Story Of Civilization. Oswald Spengler's Decline of the West offers a youth to old age trajectory. Brooks Adam's Law of Civilization and Decay notes a cyclic process from religious fear and emergent creativity to organization so stifling that society is eviscerated by hyper-economic control and humane debasement in the limit when civilization returns to religious fear. Arnold Toynbee emphasizes incompetent leadership, unable to adjust to rapid change in mature societies as to blame for their collapse.

January 18, 2020: The Collapse of American Christianity

Christianity is under threat in America. Today just half of its young people identify as religious. Over a third of Americans identify as nonreligious, a four-fold increase in 30 years. [1] What threatens Christianity in America is not science, reason, or liberals, but Christians. Widespread pedophilia in the Catholic priesthood, sexual predation by or against Nuns, and abuse by Southern Baptist clergy are ancillary compared to wanton betrayal by the flock themselves. Betrayal not hidden or embarrassing to a specific sect of American Christians, it is a badge of honor and part of a creed much more inviting than Jesus. Why? Because open infidelity announces membership that provides a sense of belonging in an individualist nation where belonging is as dead as communities that once provided it.

I was born into a conservative Christian family in the Midwest, which in adulthood, having lived across the country, I found different from other places. In the Midwest, believers were devout in a private way that monitored their own behavior, recognized failures, and sought correction, all without an audience. Quite the contrast when living elsewhere, I found the most "devout" Christianity a public performance, though sporadic and impulsive. The audience took two forms: as others one felt a need to impress, or oneself. Both needed convincing. As though the more flamboyant, effusive, and-to a Midwesterner-outlandish, the more firmly doubt could be concealed.

Today, from among these very people, are those most likely to betray their Savior's teachings, replaced by a new idol. A focus on those verses commonly known reveals the deception. It comes in the arena Mark the disciple said, "false prophets would lead astray the elect." [2] Through the influence of one whom John claimed, "does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is the father of lies." [3] An idol who publicly lied over 13,000 times in 1000 days, while Jesus preached to "Seek the truth," and Paul said, "We no longer lie to one another, we only tell the truth." [4] Rather than "Turn the other cheek," this idol claims to hit back ten times harder. [5] And though Jesus advises to "Pull the plank from your own eye first," this idol blames only others for his failings. [6] In that celebrated reference to those things that are Cesar's and those that are God's, Cesar's world is paramount to this idol and his supporters, no matter how immoral, corrupt, or treasonous the means to win it. [7] Yet Jesus asked, "What good is it to win the whole world and lose your soul?" [8] With such teachings conservatism once associated, however imperfectly, to shade its politics with moral guidance. No more.

With repeat displays of mental derangement, this idol proudly parades behavior befitting a malignant juvenile. A testament to the arrested development of an admitted adulterer and draft dodger, a thief who would launder millions in stolen Russian money and rip off thousands of students at his fake university for millions more. [9] A man who has fleeced other nations for his financial gain and that of his family, while fleecing American taxpayers by filling his hotels with administrative staff and military personnel. [10] A man who excluded all Sunni countries (where he does business) from his Shia Muslim ban, said to "keep us safe," while only Sunnis killed Americans on 9/11. [11] A man who told ABC's George Stephanopoulos that help from foreign entities to rig an American election is the right thing to do, and he'd do it again. [12] Then did, when he sought to extort Ukraine into "announcing" an investigation of his political opponent (he didn't want a real investigation), to be exchanged for Congressionally-mandated military aid to fight our mutual Russian enemy-illegal according to the GAO [13]-followed by a cover-up. [14] A man for whom witnessed and documented court and congressional evidence has all the markings of a Putin asset. [15] As all the while his party, propaganda machine, and supporters promote his lies to ensure belonging, placing their clan higher than America or their Messiah. These people excuse their idol's sleaze by reference to God's use of the adulterer King David for good, while Paul said to do evil so good may come is wrong. [16] They even block legislation that makes collusion with foreign powers illegal. [17] Among their rally compatriots: QAnon, the Klan, and Neo-Nazis-fanaticism my father and 16-million others enlisted in the US Armed Forces to defend this nation against in WWII, now embraced. As Thomas Paine wrote, "When a man has so far corrupted and prostituted the chastity of his mind...he has prepared himself for the commission of every other crime." [18]

Who could imagine that such an idol risks losing-like some ancient Chinese emperor-"The Mandate of Heaven," as evangelical Pat Robertson warned for the "chosen one's" ineptitude in Syria? [19] Prime example of the magnitude to which these people can lie to themselves, and an echo from the 20th century. It was then history witnessed three different ideologies commit the most egregious of crimes. They, too, called it moral. They, too, branded the press "enemies of the people." They, too, bathed in the kind of conspiracy theories peddled by America's propaganda networks today. And they had their own idol. Look what happened to them. As Voltaire said, "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities."

The integrity of this idol's Christian Right has collapsed. Immorality is not only their identity, but also their tool. From a newly "results" oriented people touting the economy, for whom moral character was paramount in their abhorrence of Bill Clinton, not his budget surplus and boom economy. Their ends justify any means.

Yet, America's Founders wrapped morality into our form of governance, where the means were made a moral matter more vital than the ends. Delays, checks, and balances were meant to frustrate tyrants, encouraging moral means to win over corruption. If means don't matter, why not adopt a more efficient tyranny than the messy nature of republican democracy?

An old story illustrates the moral process of Jesus and the Founder's: A man can secure a million dollars for his church to feed the poor if only he can win a foot race. Should he cheat? Imagine the benefits his church could provide, while his corrupt means corrupt his ends. But supporters of this idol, Donald Trump, say the system is rigged against them, they're forced to cheat (and forever revive Hillary to hate as though she's still here to beat). At least immoral actions might produce positive material outcomes, violating Jesus, Paul, and the Founders.

So put Jesus in the runner's place. Knowing his contestants are swindlers, would he practice corruption to win? An individual who stood for truth all the way to the cross when he could have cheated truth and Pilate to save his life. This practice of the Right's duplicity ignores that immorality has no check and balance. Corruption is unlimited in what it seeks and how it seeks it. What will the Right do when losing the election, the corruption they sanctioned turns against them? They'll be calling for their Redeemer, morality, and justice. That is, if they can lose after they've rigged state systems.

I, too, feel the populist anger, my hometown eviscerated of factory jobs; globalization that gave sovereignty to corporations, not nations; and I bristle at the authoritarianism of political correctness that dictates how I can talk, what I must defend and reject. But the treason we saw from our ex and twice-impeached executive, his party, and lie factories, all opposed to character and morality matters to me more. As the Founders knew, ethical actions must be sustained or liberty is lost. To endorse a lawless criminal in violation of the Founder's and Jesus-both of whom the Christian Right pretend to revere-dooms this republic founded on moral means. [20] What a surprise that immorality would have tangible costs to American Christianity and America as world leaders laughed at the idol behind his back and the world turned to China.

Part of the appeal of Christianity is its emphasis on ethics in an unethical world filled with habitually unethical humans. While I still pine for Reagan and revere the Teachings, I'm no longer a Christian by traditional definitions, nor would I join associations of people who so zealously vandalize their faith. This degeneracy will only hasten its collapse. Though it's hard to remember, American Christianity is not a monolith, as evidenced by founder Billy Graham's Christianity Today when it defined Trump as "grossly immoral," calling for his removal. [21] Or as Baptist News Global's Jeff Brumley wrote, "evangelical support for a scandal-ridden [Trump] could spell the end of Christianity in the United States." [22] Not without rejoinder by evangelical loyalists, including the president of Christian Liberty University, Jerry Falwell Jr., notable for his alleged nepotistic administration, trafficking in nude photos of his wife, and investments in a Miami brothel. [23] After all we now know, what we've seen, and what the world has experienced as a result of Trump's malevolent seizures, and yet an overwhelming majority of "evangelical" / "conservative" / "Republicans" still support him. [24] This is a cult. As Minister of Church Affairs, Hans Kerrl said in 1937, "True Christianity is represented by the Party, and the German people are now called by the Party and especially the Fuehrer to a real Christianity." [25] Evidence that in the perennial contest between everlasting salvation and political power, the here-and-now wins.

I've sparred with people like this for years and frequently learn from them. Their denials, obfuscation, and mental acrobatics prove miracles do happen. Rational analysis, right-reason, and truth are an obstacle to winning their political arguments. Psychological perversions like this have not been witnessed in such breadth and depth in America since Southern Christians justified slavery with Hebrew Scriptures. One would do better to debate democracy with the Taliban. And while much is said about a return to civility in America, when it comes to their sacred dogmas, approaching these people with civility is like taking a Bible to a knife fight. Just what Putin wanted. He won. America was defeated.

And now, thanks to advances in cognitive psychology and a bit of history, we know why. Aside from Putin's leverage of our gullibility, the Right didn't betray all they once stood for without help from the Left and primate biology. Next time, after this our 5th of 5 irregular installments portending America's monarchy, and a return to the bimonthly Monday: March 2, 2020.

[1] Allen Downey, The U.S. Is Retreating from Religion, Scientific American, October 20, 2017. Jana Riess, "Religion declining in importance for many Americans," especially for Millennials, Religious News Service, December 10, 2018.

[2] Mark 13:22

[3] John 8:44

[4] John 8:32, and Ephesians 4:25

[5] Matthew 5:39

[6] Matthew 7:5

[7] Mathew 22:21

[8] Matthew 16:26

[9] Brett Williams, Our Dear (mafia) Leader, Goodreads, December 24, 2019.

[10] Ibid

[11] Wikipedia, Trump travel ban.

Patrick Cockburn, Donald Trump puts US on Sunni Muslim side of bitter sectarian war with Shias, Independent, 21 May 2017.

[12] Lucien Bruggeman, 'I think I'd take it': In exclusive interview, Trump says he would listen if foreigners offered dirt on opponents, ABC NEWS, June 13, 2019.

[13] Emily Cochrane, Eric Lipton and Chris Cameron, G.A.O. Report Says Trump Administration Broke Law in Withholding Ukraine Aid, New York Times, Jan. 16, 2020.

[14] Elie Honig, The Trump cover-up is unfolding before our eyes, CNN, December 31, 2019.

[15] Brett Williams, America is asking, "Are Trump and his Party, traitors?", Goodreads, January 6, 2019.

[16] Romans 3:8.

[17] JORDAIN CARNEY, Senate GOP blocks bill to require campaigns report foreign election assistance, The HILL, 06/13/19. Senate Democrats, UPDATED: DESPITE HIS CLAIMS TO THE CONTRARY, SENATE MAJORITY LEADER MITCH MCCONNELL IS BLOCKING ELECTION SECURITY LEGISLATION - PART OF A LONGSTANDING REFUSAL TO STAND UP TO RUSSIAN ELECTION INTERFERENCE, July 29, 2019. SOPHIA TESFAYE, Sen. Marsha Blackburn takes one for Trump, defends flow of Russian money, SOLON, JUNE 14, 2019.

[18] Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason, Prometheus Books, 1984 (1794), pg. 8.

[19] Kim Bellware, Trump 'in danger of losing the mandate of heaven' over Syria decision, Pat Robertson warns, Washington Post, Oct. 8, 2019.

[20] While Right-wing radio talker, self-designated Christian, and devotee of our moral process document, the Constitution, Rush Limbaugh asserts "Trump is results oriented...and results mean there's no need for process." 1/9/2020 Apparently, Limbaugh's a Bill Clinton fan now as well.

[21] MARK GALLI, Trump Should Be Removed from Office, Christianity Today, DECEMBER 19, 2019.

[22] JEFF BRUMLEY , Support for Trump could spell end of the evangelical church. But when?, Baptist News Global, MARCH 19, 2018.

[23] BRANDON AMBROSINO, My Weekend at the Falwells' South Beach Flophouse, POLITICO, August 25, 2017. Frances Robles and Jim Rutenberg, The Evangelical, the 'Pool Boy,' the Comedian and Michael Cohen, The New York Times, June 18, 2019. Brendan Skwire, Jerry Falwell Jr. Sends Pictures Of His Half-Naked Wife To His Buddies:, Skwire, Sep 9, 2019.

[24] Philip Bump, A popular theory for Trump's popularity among Republicans appears to be wrong, Washington Post, Jan. 8, 2020.

[25] William Shrier, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany, Touchstone Simon & Shuster, 1990, pg. 239. Likewise, though ideologically different, be they evangelicals or any Trump-idol-supporting Christian, these people hate liberals more than they love Jesus. And what is liberal? Whatever their propaganda machine says it is, from science and scientists to wind power and LED light bulbs.

January 6, 2020: America is asking, "Are Trump and his Party, traitors?"

Just one week after Trump found himself in office, on January 29, 2017, Republican Bush Administration State Department counselor Eliot Cohn wrote his prophetic acid bath blistering in The Atlantic. "Precisely because [Trump's] problem is one of temperament and character, it will not get better. It will get worse as power intoxicates him... It will probably end in calamity. It will not be surprising if his term ends with impeachment... When you sell your soul to the Devil, he prefers to collect his purchase on the installment plan. To be associated with [Trump is] an exercise in moral self-destruction." [1] Prophecy, like Bill Clinton's philandering, and Weapons of Mass Destruction we knew didn't exist in Iraq; not hard to predict.

What was harder to predict was the collapse of the Reagan's GOP (Grand Old Party) for Trump's GOPP (Grand Old Putin Party) with their willful participation in Russian Operations to destabilize America and rig our elections; the ever more fanatical lie factories in Right-wing media that rallies their troops to cash in on hatred and provide shelter for Trump; and, most surprising of all, the collapse of American evangelical Christianity in the flock's betrayal of their Savior through cultic worship of Trump that we'll look at next time. With witness to this, is it so strange to wonder if Trump and his Party are traitors? Is that a logical extension of their moral self-destruction, or exaggeration? Or are they simply, per conservative Reaganite Max Boot, "the Kremlin's useful idiots"? [2]

First, a definition. Treason: "disloyalty or treachery to one's own country or its government, giving aid or comfort to the enemy." No small offense, punishment for treason, almost universally around the world, is execution by a military firing squad. [3]

During the House Intelligence Committee hearings concerning Trump's attempted bribery of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and subsequent cover-up, we witnessed former National Security Council Senior Director for European and Russian affairs, Dr. Fiona Hill, tutor Trump's Party face-to-face. "Some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country-and that perhaps, somehow, for some reason, Ukraine did," Hill said. "This is a fictional narrative perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves... [Russia] deploys millions of dollars to weaponize our own false narratives to divide us against each other, degrade our institutions, and destroy the faith of the American people in our democracy... [They] are gearing up to repeat their interference in the 2020 election. We are running out of time to stop them. [Don't] promote politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interests." [4] And what was the Republican response? They handed Hill their report claiming Ukraine was to blame-as though they know what the CIA, NSA, FBI, and 14 other intel agencies do not.

On each day of the hearings, California House Republican ranking member Devin Nunez's opening remarks were a version of, "What is the full extent of Ukraine's election meddling against the Trump campaign?" [5] The answer is, there is and was none. Nunez and his comrades are well aware of agency and Senate findings to the contrary. [6] (Nunez was later found to be secretly in Ukraine seeking conspiracy theories against Biden, and suddenly recalled his contacts with Giuliani co-conspirator and indicted Lev Parnas [7].) But each day was another promotion of the Ukrainian conspiracy as part of Russian Ops explicitly traced to Putin by U.S. intel and already briefed to Congress. [8] House Republicans Jim Jordan (OH), Mark Meadows (NC), Matt Gaetz (FL), Doug Collins, (GA), Mike Conaway, Louie Gohmert, and John Ratcliffe, all of Texas, promote this or other Russian propaganda attached to Right-wing hot button issues like guns, Christianity, and abortion. [9] Republican Senator John Neely Kennedy of Louisiana chimed in with his House comrades to assure us it was Ukraine, the next day he admitted it wasn't, while the day after it was Ukraine again. [10] Soon after, Republican Senator Ted Cruz (whose father, according to Trump, assisted Lee Harvey Oswald in JFK's assassination [11]) joined the Russian Op encouraged by Trump. [12] There's an old saying that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Notice, this is the same Party for which the Republican Senate Majority Leader-whom House Speaker Nancy Pelosi addressed as Moscow Mitch McConnell-repeatedly blocks bills passed by the House that make collusion with foreign powers illegal. [13] Thus making true the fear of foreign incursion George Washington expressed in his 1796 Farewell Address. This is a Party and its supporters who claim to so love the Constitution that 52% of them want it rescinded for authoritarian governance, clearing the way for Trump as dictator. [14] What Max Boot wrote was once "the party of moral clarity," is now the party where FOX fake-news-generator and conservative patriot, Tucker Carlson says, "Why shouldn't I root for Russia? Which I am." "The Republican Party," says Boot, "has become all that it once despised." Cohn's warning has come true. The GOP's soul has been evacuated by the Devil that Cohn said they'd sell it to, while that Devil retains his seat with 7 of his minions in or about to be in prison. [15] "Moral self-destruction" complete.

But why blame Ukraine for something Russia did? Will taking the blame off Putin ease the pain of a man who murders people in other countries with Novichok? [16] Could there be a connection with Trump's soon-to-be-imprisoned National Security Advisor Michael Flynn's promise to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that Obama sanctions would be removed? [17] Could it be the same reason Trump refused to impose Russian election meddling sanctions from a near-unanimous Congress after the election until he was forced to, then missed the implementation deadline? [18] Why did Trump privately discuss destroying NATO and publicly call into question Article 5, that any attack on a NATO nation is an attack on the U.S.? [19] In another of his knee-jerk reactions without consultation with allies, why would Trump dispose of our anti-ISIS allies, the Kurds, after a phone call to Turkey's Erdogan, (Trump has two towers in Istanbul), then pull all U.S. troops from the Syria-Turkey border where Russia now occupies U.S. bases? [20] Given that the government fiscal year was 5-days away when Trump reversed course on Ukraine extortion after he was caught; given that expiration would have made $391M in Ukraine weapons aid disappear; given this episode has a curious echo in the removal of lethal-weapons-aid-to-Ukraine language from the 2016 RNC Platform, who could be the beneficiary of all this? [21] (For those who think Trump gave Ukraine Javelin missiles, while Obama gave only "pillows and bead sheets," see the references for a laugh. [22]) Who gains when Trump gives Israeli secrets to Russians in the Oval Office? [23]


Could it be that if Trump, his Party, and propaganda machine convince enough people that Putin is the victim of Russia-bashing liberals, that all Russian sanctions will vanish? Would that effect Russia's stumbling economy and Putin's power? Perhaps a bit like Trump's removal of sanctions on Russian oligarchs that netted one of them hundreds of millions of dollars in a day. [24] And if all this were to benefit America's enemy, why would Trump want to do that? Is there any connection to Trump's staff having 140+ meetings with Russians, their agents, or cutouts during his campaign? [25] Why does Trump hold secret meetings with Putin with no Americans present? Why in the last meeting in which an American was present (the translator) were notes seized by Trump with an order not to talk? [26] After 17 U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 election to aid Trump, why would he ingratiate himself to Putin in Helsinki, validating Vlad's, "Who, me?" [27]

For the "Republican" Party, it's a mixed story. They sanction Putin but later parrot his propaganda. They protest Trump's coddling of Putin, but later protect Trump's abuse of power that favors Putin. Did it take them three years to make the full conversion from GOP to GOPP-Putin-asset? Their ham-handed rollicking during the House Intel and Judiciary Hearings sure looked like it. For Trump, it's more clear. What other reason could Trump have for these actions right from the start, beyond treason or blackmail? (See The Asset podcast series by the Moscow Project for details.) Perhaps there are other reasons, but if Trump acts out of blackmail in Putin's favor, is that not treason?

America needs a lawyer.

But U.S. Attorney General William Barr has proven he works for Trump, not America. He lied about the Mueller Report before its release (did he think we wouldn't read it?), he tried to bury the Ukraine-extortion-whistleblower notice, he tours Europe in search of conspiracy theories, and he repeated his Mueller gag on the Inspector General's exoneration of FBI / Obama / Deep-State-alien-impregnators-from-other-planets spying on Trump. The NYC Bar is currently seeking a Congressional investigation of DOJ AG William Bar. [28]

Maybe it's not that complicated. There's an old saying in the American Midwest where I was born: If it walks like a traitor and quacks like a traitor, it's probably a traitor.

How 'bout a prediction. Given the Steele Dossier appears mixed-some of it corroborated, some not; given the CIA asserts if this kind of raw intel is 75% wrong, it's great intel; then if Trump loses the next election, of no use to Putin, might we anticipate that juicy video of Trump's naked abundance mounting prostitutes in a monitored Moscow hotel room after the infamous golden shower? [29] It would be in perfect keeping with the character of our man in the Oval Office. [30] As a game show host and World Wrestling Entertainment imp, he'd be delighted with its ratings. [31 - a video of Trump's wrestling pranks]

Next time, the 5th of 5 in the irregular series on America's soon to be Pharaoh, we look at the most base of Trump's base. Those people who are the only reason Trump is able to continue his mafia ways we examined last time, and why Trump's GOPP so blatantly lie for him.

[1] Eliot Cohen, A Clarifying Moment in American History, The Atlantic, Jan 29, 2017.

[2] Max Boot, The Republicans have become the party of Russia. This makes me sick, The Washington Post, December 4, 2019.

[3] American College Dictionary, 1969

[4] John Cassidy, The Extraordinary Impeachment Testimony of Fiona Hill, The New Yorker, November 21, 2019.

[5] KATE IRBY, Decoding Devin Nunes' opening statement at impeachment hearing, McClatchy News, NOVEMBER 13, 2019.

[6] Report of the Select Committee on Intelligence United States Senate on Russian Active Measures Campaigns and Interference in the 2016 U.S. Election (PDF), U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, October 2019.

[7] ERIC LUTZ, DEVIN NUNES IS HAVING SOME UKRAINE PROBLEMS OF HIS OWN, Vanity Fair, NOVEMBER 25, 2019. DAVID LIGHTMAN, Giuliani aide links Devin Nunes to Trump's Ukraine effort: 'He knows who I am', McClatchy News, JANUARY 16, 2020. KIM WEHLE, Phone Records Drag Nunes into the Ukraine Scandal, The Bulwark, DECEMBER 4, 2019.

[8] Julian E. Barnes and Matthew Rosenberg Charges of Ukrainian Meddling? A Russian Operation, U.S. Intelligence Says< i>, New York Times, Nov. 22, 2019.

[9] David Kocieniewski, Greg Farrell, Polly Mosendz, Prayer, Guns Paved Path to GOP Influence for Accused Russian, Bloomberg, July 17, 2018. Michelle Goldberg, Are Republicans Covering for Trump, or for Themselves? If the N.R.A. was compromised by Russia, the whole party's in trouble, New York Times, July 20, 2018.

[10] MARIANNE LEVINE and BURGESS EVERETT Folksy John Kennedy gets serious pushback on Ukraine mess,, POLITICO, 12/03/2019. WILLIAM CUMMINGS, 'I was wrong': Sen. Kennedy takes back claim that Ukraine may have been behind 2016 election email hack, USA TODAY, Nov. 27, 2019. DANIEL POLITI, Watch Chuck Todd Challenge Sen. John Kennedy as He Doubles Down on Ukraine Interference Claim, SLATE, DEC 01, 2019.

[11] DAN SPINELLI, Trump revives rumor linking Cruz's father to JFK assassination, POLITICO, 07/22/2016.

[12] Jacob Knutson, Cruz promotes conspiracy that Ukraine "blatantly interfered" in U.S. election, Axios, Dec 8, 2019.

[13] Recall Moscow Mitch McConnell blocked Obama's release of the 2016 Russian eletion invasion before and after the election. Majority Leader McConnell Blocks Bill That 75% of Republicans Support To Require Campaigns To Report Foreign Interference, Law Works, 2019. Barrett, Manu Raju and Clare Foran, Why Mitch McConnell is rejecting Hill calls on election security, as House Dems plan new push, CNN, June 14, 2019.

[14] Aaron Blake, The GOP has caught autocratic fever, The Washington Post, August 7, 2019.

[15] Tasos Katopodis, Here's a breakdown of indictments and cases in Mueller's probe, ABC News, November 15, 2019.

[16] NIGEL NELSON, Vladimir Putin 'ordered novichok assassin to murder British spy behind Trump sex dossier', MIRROR, OCTOBER 14, 2018.

[17] BEN MATHIS-LILLEY, Report: Flynn Proposed Sanctions Relief Deal to Russia While Working for Trump Campaign, SLATE, DEC 13, 2018.

[18] MAX BERGMANN, JAMES LAMOND, Trump's Attitude Toward Russia Sanctions Makes a Mockery of the United States, Foreign Policy, MARCH 1, 2018.

[19] Nicholas Burns and Douglas Lute , NATO's biggest problem is President Trump, The Washington Post, April 2, 2019. ERIC LUTZ, TRUMP PRIVATELY DISCUSSED DESTROYING NATO ALLIANCE, Vanity Fair, JANUARY 15, 2019

[20] JASON MOTLAGH, 'Trump Is Pleased to Watch Us Suffer' - Scenes From the President's Kurdish Betrayal , The Rolling Stone, October 31, 2019. Tracy Connor , Russians Take Over 3rd U.S. Base in Northern Syria, The Daily Beast, Dec. 26, 2019.

[21] R. Jeffrey Smith, TRUMP ADMINISTRATION OFFICIALS WORRIED UKRAINE AID HALT VIOLATED SPENDING LAW, Public Integrity, December 21, 2019. Josh Rogin, Trump campaign guts GOP's anti-Russia stance on Ukraine, The Washington Post, July 18, 2016.

[22] "Republicans involved in the impeachment inquiry have repeatedly touted the Trump administration's sale of anti-tank missiles to Ukraine as evidence the president is supportive of the country against Russian aggression, but they've left out key details in the process. Under the rules of the sale, the Javelin missiles have to be stored in western Ukraine, which is far from the frontlines of the ongoing conflict in the eastern part of the country (the Donbas region) against pro-Russia separatists. In short, the Javelins were essentially provided to Ukraine under the condition that they not be used in the conflict zone." John Haltiwanger, There's a huge loophole in the GOP's claim that Trump's sale of Javelin missiles to Ukraine shows his support for the country, Business Insider, Jan 23, 2020. "But while there is evidence that the Javelin sale has been a powerful gesture of support for Kyiv, the missiles' military application has been far more limited. Under the conditions of the foreign military sale, the Trump administration stipulates that the Javelins must be stored in western Ukraine-hundreds of miles from the battlefield. 'I see these more as symbolic weapons than anything else,' said Samuel Charap, a senior political scientist at Rand Corp. Experts say the conditions of the sale render them useless in the event of a sustained low-level assault-the kind of attack Ukraine is most likely to face from Russia." AMY MACKINNON & LARA SELIGMAN, Far From the Front Lines, Javelin Missiles Go Unused in Ukraine, Foreign Policy, OCTOBER 3, 2019.

[23] Carol E. Lee and Shane Harris, Trump Shared Intelligence Secrets With Russians in Oval Office Meeting, The Wall Street Journal, May 16, 2017.

[24] Tom Embury-Dennis, Trump lifts sanctions on Russia oligarch Oleg Deripaska in 'huge gift to Putin', The Independent, 28 January 2019. Karoun Demirjian and Jeanne Whalen, Russian oligarch's deal for sanctions relief is sweeter than publicly portrayed, document suggests, The Washington Post, Jan. 22, 2019.

[25] KAREN YOURISH and LARRY BUCHANAN, Mueller Report Shows Depth of Connections Between Trump Campaign and Russians, The New York Times, APRIL 19, 2019.

[26] WILLIAM CUMMINGS, President Trump went to 'extraordinary lengths' to hide details of Putin meetings, report says, USA TODAY, Jan. 14, 2019.

[27] Ron Elving, Trump's Helsinki Bow To Putin Leaves World Wondering: Why?, NPR, July 17, 2018.

[28] Recall it took Trump 3 tries to find a loyalist DOJ AG who would so flagrantly betray the Cosntitution. Greg Farrell, NYC Bar Association Asks Congress to Investigate AG Barr for Bias, Bloomberg, January 9, 2020. WILLIAM SALETAN, Barr Is Trying to Erase the Truth: He's smearing the Russia investigation and covering up Trump's guilt, SLATE, DEC 13, 2019. Michelle Goldberg, Just How Corrupt Is Bill Barr?, New York Times, SEPT. 26, 2019. Jay Willis, How Bill Barr Turned the Justice Department Into a Cover-up Operation for Trump, GQ, September 27, 2019.

[29] Sarah Grant, Chuck Rosenberg, The Steele Dossier: A Retrospective, Lawfare, December 14, 2018. Erik Wemple, 'The story stands': McClatchy won't back off its Michael Cohen-Prague reporting (8-part series), The Washington Post, Dec. 13, 2019.

[30] Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch, Crime In Progress: Inside the Steele Dossier and the Fusion GPS Investigation of Donald Trump, Random House, 2019.

[31] A special look at 2013 WWE Hall of Fame Inductee Donald Trump: Raw, YouTube, Feb. 25, 2013. EDWIN RIOS, 6 Unreal Moments From Trump's Pro Wrestling Career, Mother Jones, JULY 4, 2017.

December 24, 2019: Our Dear (mafia) Leader

With Trump's months-long effort to bribe Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (or attempted bribery, depending on one's tribe-both acts are illegal [1]), and the resulting House Intelligence Committee hearings which so gripped America, much has been made of Trump's "pattern of behavior." [2] As we'll see here, Trump's pattern has been documented in court records from over 3500 lawsuits, 1990s U.S. Senate investigations, media tracking, and commercial / intelligence research over three decades. [3] Trump's pattern we now know well was made clear before the 2016 election by Trump's ghostwriter of Art of the Deal, Tony Schwartz: "So somebody comes after him and says he's done something...horrible, and he just goes back at them with all guns blazing... And admits nothing, never admit anything, never say you made a mistake... And if you lose, declare victory." [4] "When Trump is feeling cornered, in business or politics, he has a go-to strategy: He lies, and he just keeps lying." [5] Trump didn't divine this pattern by himself.

Trump's father introduced him to corruption in real estate, but Trump's personal operations got a boost with his 1973 introduction to Senator Joseph McCarthy's chief counsel and eventually disbarred lawyer, Roy Cohn, who gave birth to the pattern Schwartz noted. [6] Cohn also represented mobsters Tony Salerno, Carmine Galante, and John Gotti, who died in prison, of multiple gunshot wounds, and in prison, respectively. [7] In the 1980s, Trump got into the casino business. He sold $675M in junk bonds to complete his Taj Mahal Casino Resort in Atlantic City. [8] When he failed to make a $47M interest payment, he was forced to turn over half ownership to bondholders and enter bankruptcy. This was Trump's 3rd casino in Atlantic City after the Castle and Plaza. When Trump finished the Taj Mahal Casino it so cut into Castle and Plaza business that Trump was eventually unable to make a whopping $338M payment on the Castle (there also commenced a recession), hence another bankruptcy; three in the same town at the same time. [9] Costs of the Taj ended up at nearly $1B. [10] It was when the Taj teetered on bankruptcy right from the start that it became the "preferred gambling spot of Russian mobsters," and "broke anti-money laundering rules 106 times in its first year and a half of operation in the early 1990s according to the IRS..." [11] With a slap on the wrist, Trump paid the Treasury almost a half million in fines for violation of the Bank Secrecy Act.

By 1992 the U.S. Senate released a report, "Asian Organized Crime: The New International Criminal," that linked Trump's businesses to that sector. [12] Trump's Taj VP for Foreign Marketing was Danny Sau Leung, and according to the Senate report, an associate of Hong Kong-based crime syndicate 14K Triad linked to murder, extortion and heroin smuggling. [13] In this same timeframe, the USSR had collapsed, as oligarchs, Russian mobsters, a broken KGB, and bankrupt government officials clambered to consolidate control over resulting chaos. They did so through the brute force of an amalgamated machine. As Russian General Oleg Kalugin said of the Russian mafia, "Oh, it's part of the KGB. It's part of the Russian government." [14]

"Throughout the 1990s," writes Craig Unger, "untold millions from the former Soviet Union flowed into Trump's luxury developments and Atlantic City casinos. But all that money wasn't enough to save Trump from his own failings... He owed $4 billion to more than 70 banks, with a mind-boggling $800 million of it personally guaranteed. He spent much of the decade mired in litigation, filing multiple bankruptcies and scrambling to survive... Fortunately for Trump, his own economic crisis coincided with one in Russia." [15] To Western banks, Trump was poison, but not to stolen Russian money.

After multiple attempts at selling and refinancing his casinos, Trump recovered control. That only made things worse, and the Castel was finally sold to Landry's for a paltry $38M in 2011. Landry's turned it into a gambling revenue giant. [16]

Trump's talent for business continued its display through bankruptcy of his airline (Trump Shuttle), his football team (New Jersey Generals), and his part in impoverishing the entire league (USFL). These failures turned Trump's focus to hotels, condos, and resorts. Things were looking up. As Unger writes, "From the day [Trump Tower] opened, the building was a hit..." [17] But, "During the '80s and '90s, we in the U.S. government repeatedly saw a pattern by which criminals would use condos and high-rises to launder money," says Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for international law enforcement, Jonathan Winer. " explained why there are so many high-rises where the units were sold, but no one is living in them." [18] David Bogatin (a former Soviet pilot shooting down Americans over North Vietnam) bought five condos in Trump Tower for $6M (~$15M today). Bogatin pled guilty in a massive gasoline-bootlegging scheme with Russian mobsters. He fled the U.S. and his Trump condos used to "launder money, to shelter and hide assets" were seized. [19] Vyacheslav Ivankov, "infamous for torturing his victims and boasting about the murders he arranged...oversaw the mob's growth from a local extortion racket to a multibillion-dollar criminal enterprise. '...we found out that he was living in a luxury condo in Trump Tower,''' said James Moody, chief of the FBI's organized crime unit. [20] Ivankov was later gunned down on the streets of Moscow. Another Trump tower resident and diamond dealer from Uzbekistan, Eduard Nektalov, lived "directly below Trump's future campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway." [21] After rumors Nektalov was cooperating with federal investigators, he was shot in the back of the head on Sixth Avenue in NYC. [22] At least "13 people with known or alleged links to Russian mobsters or oligarchs have owned, lived in, and even run criminal activities out of Trump Tower and other Trump properties... 'They saved his bacon,' says Kenneth McCallion, a former assistant U.S. attorney in the Reagan administration." [23]

Another hotel property, Trump SoHo, had "multiple ties to an alleged international money-laundering network," according to the Financial Times. [24] In one case, FT reported a former Kazakh energy minister was sued for conspiring to "systematically loot hundreds of millions of dollars of public assets," then purchased three condos in Trump SoHo to launder his "ill-gotten funds." Trump SoHo was the brainchild of two development companies, including Bayrock Group located on the 24th floor of Trump Tower, run by Trump business partner, Felix Sater. It wouldn't be until 1998 that "Sater pleaded guilty to racketeering...with alleged Russian mobsters that bilked investors of at least $40 million... By 2003, the suit alleges, Sater...proceeded to use the firm to launder hundreds of millions of dollars while skimming and extorting millions more..." [25]

Is this guilt by association? In 2015 a long-running investigation by the U.S. Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) caught up with Trump in the amount of a $10M fine for "willful and repeated" "significant and long-standing money laundering," the highest fine ever levied by FinCEN against a casino enterprise. [26]

"My name's Donald Trump," Trump declared in his introduction to The Apprentice, "I've mastered the art of the deal." What Trump mastered was the art of laundering billions in dirty Russian money.

"I document something like 1,300 transactions of this kind with Russian mobsters," said Unger, "...real estate transactions that were all-cash purchases made by anonymous shell companies...obviously fronts for criminal money-laundering operations..." [27] "It's not as though [Russians] zeroed in on Trump 30 years ago, and only Trump. Russia had hundreds of agents and assets in the US, and General Kalugin, the former head of KGB operations in Russia, told me that America was a paradise for Russian spies and that they had recruited roughly 300 assets and agents in the United States, and Trump was one of them." [28]

Read those last five words again. How can we believe such spectacular assertions are true? Last time we looked at the proven performance of Left-wing media in regards to Trump (and why he's forced to call it fake news); the Joseph Goebbels-like nature of America's Right-wing media that covers for him; our own observations of Trump's odious character validated by the Mueller Report, which was validated by the Republican Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. But two posts ago I claimed with certainty "U.S. government Deep State impregnates our daughters with illegal aliens from other planets!" Some people took it seriously, despite its thick syrup of irony and closing statement to the contrary. First, like Rudy Giuliani's hallucinations, it didn't pass the laugh test. Second, my invention of space alien impregnation had as much justification as similar QAnon / 8Chan / 4Chan / Brietbart / Alex Jones / Limbaugh / and FOX-commentator declarations. Passion, intensity, conviction, or flawless delivery by our propaganda networks do not make their claims true. No question, Putin and his U.S. propaganda associates noted here often do better. [29] But the assertions offered above can be tracked, validated, and in some cases pulled from public court and Congressional records as linked here or in the references themselves. And lest we forget, we have three years of Trump's lawlessness, impeachment for international extortion, and 34 indictments with 7 of Trump's inner circle in prison as supporting evidence for the kind of man he is. Corruption runs in his veins. Again I ask, by now, isn't this plain common sense?

Like Trump's adultery, this pattern of behavior didn't end simply because Trump got another wife or executive position. While filling his hotels with U.S. administrative staff and military personnel on taxpayer dollars, it appears Trump extorted Qatar for over $1B to bail out his son-in-law Jared Kushner and his worthless 666 Fifth Avenue tower. Recall, without justification, Trump declared Qatar a terrorist state much to the confusion of the Department of Defense, its largest Mid-East base stationed in Qatar. After months of Trump insults, Qatar was just as suddenly America's great ally again. Trump's noise machine flew these stories under the public radar, but not that of Congress currently investigating all of the above. [30]

As Unger remarks, "Russian mobsters and corrupt oligarchs...propped up Trump's business and enabled him to reinvent his image. Without the Russian mafia, it is fair to say, Donald Trump would not be president of the United States." [31]

As this post can only scratch the surface of Trump's corruption, see The Asset podcast series for in-death treatment. But there's more to being an asset than just a partner in crime. Does Trump answer to Putin?

Next time, in the 4th of these 5 irregular posts before our Senate inaugurates America's monarchy.

[1] US Legal, Solicitation And Attempted Bribery, "The difference between an attempt to bribe and the actual passage of money or property as a bribe is of little practical importance where the definition of the crime includes an attempt to commit it."

[2] LISA MASCARO and MARY CLARE JALONICK, President Donald Trump impeached by US House, 3rd in history, AP, December 18, 2019.

[3] NICK PENZENSTADLER, SUSAN PAGE, Exclusive: Trump's 3,500 lawsuits unprecedented for a presidential nominee, USA TODAY, Oct. 23, 2017.

[4] FRONTLINE TRANSCRIPT, President Trump, PBS, January 3, 2017.

[5] David Leonhardt, Donald Trump's Playbook for Smearing, New York Times, Oct. 17, 2016.

[6] Matt Levine, Fred Trump's Tax Scheme Was Quite Impressive, Bloomberg, October 3, 2018.


[7] Roy Cohn: Legal Carreer, Wikipedia.

[8] Richard D. Hylton, Trump, $47 Million Short, Gives Investors 50% of His Prize Casino, New York Times, Nov. 17, 1990.

[9] Richard D. Hylton, Trump's Castle and Plaza file for bankruptcy, UPI, MARCH 9, 1992. Trump Castle/ Golden Nugget Atlantic City, Wikipediav\

[10] $1B Taj debt, this included those incurred by its originator, Resorts International, from which Trump bought the unfinished project. Wikipedia

[11] Jose Pagliery, Trump's casino was a money laundering concern shortly after it opened, CNN Investigates, May 22, 2017

[12] Search Trump, Taj Mahal, and his dealings here, Asian Organized Crime: the New International Criminal, The Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Committee on Governmental Affairs, United States Senate. 1992.

[13] Links to organized crime, this included those incurred by its originator, Resorts International, from which Trump bought the unfinished project. Wikipedia.

[14] Sean Illing, Journalist Craig Unger talks Russia, Trump, and "one of the greatest intelligence operations in history", VOX, Jan 12, 2019.

[15] CRAIG UNGER, Trump's Russian Laundromat, New Republic, July 13, 2017.

[16] Trump Castle/ Golden Nugget Atlantic City, Wikipedia. By 2014, Trump Entertainment Resorts sought bankruptcy and was eventually absorbed by Ichan Enterprises.

[17] CRAIG UNGER, Trump's Russian Laundromat, New Republic, July 13, 2017.

[18] ibid

[19] ibid

[20] ibid

[21] ibid

[22] Craig Horowitz, Iced, New York Magazine, Nov. 19, 2004.

[23] CRAIG UNGER, Trump's Russian Laundromat, New Republic, July 13, 2017.

Linda Qiu, Yes, Donald Trump has been linked to the mob, POLITIFACT, March 2nd, 2016.

[24] Tom Burgis, Dirty money: Trump and the Kazakh connection, Financial Times, OCTOBER 19 2016. And quoted from Craig Unger.

[25] CRAIG UNGER, Trump's Russian Laundromat, New Republic, July 13, 2017.

[26] Steve Hudak, FinCEN Fines Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort $10 Million for Significant and Long Standing Anti-Money Laundering Violations, U.S. Treasury Department: Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, March 06, 2015.

[27] Sean Illing, Trump's ties to the Russian mafia go back 3 decades: Journalist Craig Unger talks Russia, Trump, and "one of the greatest intelligence operations in history", VOX, Jan 12, 2019.

[28] ibid

[29] In one email virus I received during the Obama administration, a slick and we'll polished story complete with media links pushed the perennially popular notion that Obama was out to get our guns. Cunning as Obama was, he found a backdoor way to do that by shutting down all lead smelters to choke off ammo. It took me 5 hours of search and destroy before I debunked all its many claims. Yes, the "primary" smelter in St. Louis had just been closed, by market forces. The company's owner had just built the world's largest "secondary" smelter, because there's no market for mined lead, given 85% of all lead comes from recycled car batteries, which is what secondary smelters do. The law referenced was passed by George Bush, not Obama, with links to and its link to the law in all its legalese available online. Who's likely to spend 5 hours tracking down what was likely a Putin product? It's much easier to believe what we're told to believe.

[30] Riley Beggin, The US military may have spent millions to help prop up a Trump resort, VOX Sep 7, 2019.

NATASHA BERTRAND and BRYAN BENDER, Air Force crew made an odd stop on a routine trip: Trump's Scottish resort, POLITICO, 09/06/2019.

Derek Kravitz, Alex Mierjeski and Gabriel Sandoval, We've Found $16.1 Million in Political and Taxpayer Spending at Trump Properties, ProPublica, June 27, 2018.

Roberta Rampton, Trump takes sides in Arab rift, suggests support for isolation of Qatar, Reuters, JUNE 6, 2017.

David Smith and Sabrina Siddiqui in Washington and Peter Beaumont in Doha, Gulf crisis: Trump escalates row by accusing Qatar of sponsoring terror, The Guardian, Fri 9 Jun 2017.

Emily Shugerman, Jared Kushner 'tried and failed to get a $500m loan from Qatar before pushing Trump to take hard line against country', The Independent, 10 July 2017.

Dmitry Zhdannikov,Herbert Lash,Saeed Azhar, Qatar admits it unwittingly helped bail out Jared Kushner's skyscraper, The Independent, 12 February 2019.


EDDIE KRASSENSTEIN & BRIAN KRASSENSTEIN, Bombshell New Allegations: Kushner Appears to be Extorting Qatari Government, The Hill Reporter, March 29, 2019.

Miriam Hall, Brookfield Bails Out Kushner at 666 Fifth Ave. With 99-Year Ground Lease Deal New YorkCapital Markets, Bisnow, August 5, 2018.

[31] CRAIG UNGER, Trump's Russian Laundromat, New Republic, July 13, 2017.

December 12, 2019: What is "truth" in America's post-truth fog, and how can we find it?

"Ours is a nation of liars, John. We lie about the big things, we lie about the small, we lie about it all... Why? Because lies elevate our self-esteem, blame somebody else, defend our tribes, and are worth a lot of money." Such are the words of a fictional character, Morgan Whitaker, spoken to his son, John, ca. 2028. [1] Morgan continues, "Remember, John, America's most important commodity is doubt. Spawn it, you paralyze correction and get rich. Remove it with dogma, you create impossibly perfect certainty. You're dealing with cunning primates. Never forget that."

If the previous 30-years have not proven this is America's reality, the last seven have. Truth is now the enemy of political dogma as physical truths in nature have been the enemy of mythical aspects in religious dogma for centuries. But lies and dogma imply conscious knowledge of truth. What is "truth" in a post-truth America, and how can we find it?

The fog started long ago. Postmodernism led the way. Postmodernism was born from a mid-twentieth-century notion that Western reason was responsible for or could not stop the Great Depression and two world wars, so reason was to be replaced by pseudo-reason, by all appearances, on its own terms. As Wikipedia has it, while "Various authors have criticized postmodernism as promoting obscurantism..." postmodernists claim, "objective facts are dismissed as naive realism." Like the conservation of mass/energy and angular momentum, Newtonian mechanics or Maxwell's electromagnetism - from which all working technologies are built, performing just as science designed them to work. From the beginning, leftist French postmodernists of the 1950s and '60s claimed a paradox: the truth is there is no truth. Then they proclaimed the "truth of relativity" of values, traditions, norms, knowledge. This served to dismantle moral judgment, which requires a footing on social norms of assumed certainty, which happened to have been the individualistic utility of this "philosophy." But postmodernism aimed at much bigger game. In Luc Ferry and Alain Renaut's, French Philosophy of the Sixties, we find that once Marxism could be seen to fail its meeting with human nature, postmodernism became the radical Left's tool against the West built on ancient Greek philosophy and European Enlightenment foundations of reason. [2] To emphasize its anti-West posture, every other culture became its favorite. A minority of anything became superior to the majority of anything else. And all which was not Western took on the halo of what Bertrand Russel termed, "The superior virtue of the oppressed."

However, at the root of right-reason is a core of healthy doubt; a recognition of fallibility to preserve open-minded examination in the interest of truth. Postmodernists transformed this doubt from a stimulus for knowledge to paralysis. By the end of the Sixties, French postmodernism infected American universities, which commenced to flush its untreated (and untested) notions in torrents from academia to literature, media, and policymakers. A public philosophy of relativism began to leach its way through the American psyche. Postmodernists were building a vacuum. But the human psyche abhors a vacuum, especially for those losing their traditions. The vacuum was looking for a way to fill.

What the postmodern Left pioneered as doubt in knowledge was eventually embraced as doubt in facts by our political Right. Alternative facts, declared by Trump apologist Kellyanne Conaway, and truth isn't truth, pronounced by likely-to-be-indicted Rudy Giuliani, were just what the postmodern Left declared under guard of academic freedom. [3] The Right recognized this postmodernist implement for breeding doubt and dogma for political gain through lies, practiced with such alacrity that as Paul Waldman writes, "lying is not only permitted but mandatory." [4]

These lies, doubt, and dogma are now the grist of Right-wing American radio talkers in support of Trump, like Rush Limbaugh (I listen daily), hatched by removal of the Fairness Doctrine. [5] Just one day after DOJ Inspector General Horowitz released his report exonerating the FBI's investigation of Trump's Russia connections but not their FISA procedures, Limbaugh claimed the very opposite of IG findings. "The IG report confirms there was...there is an ongoing coup to get rid of Trump," he said. [6] Limbaugh has even divined that Russians who met Trump's team over 140 times weren't Russian, but FBI agents seeking entrapment. Limbaugh's delivery is masterful. After 28-years of practice, America has no better liar. Thus, a better propagandist than even Sean Hannity on FOX, also a first-rate liar. As 69-year-old Limbaugh likes to tell, "I know all about this stuff, my dad was a lawyer." (Not his strongest moment.)

But when confronted with over 30-years of experience in law by Inspector General Horowitz, 8-years as IG, with his staff having reviewed almost one million documents and 170 interviews of over 100 people with all the FBI levers at their disposal, who do we believe, Horowitz, or a talk-radio propagandist?


Let's see...


Who can say?

Such tools, leveraged by the Right (or anybody: Stalin, Mao, Hitler), are not novel, but their sweeping magnitude is new to this country. The closest example to what our Right-wing has raised to a refined art comes from Joseph Goebbels' propaganda machine for the Nazis. [7] And as with 1930s Germany, such machinery is not about tribal turf alone. Moralist Stuart Rachels charts a clear path from the rejection of truth to loss of trust to despotism. [8]

But there's a problem. Given that virtue so cherished by the ancients and the early Christians is dead on the New Right in America; [9] given character no longer matters in America; given winning the world while losing one's soul is how things get done, not the starry-eyed preachings applied to daily life by some wandering carpenter, then perhaps Mr. Horowitz, like Attorney General and Trump loyalist William Barr, also an experienced lawyer, is just a partisan liar. How complicated things get in a post-truth country. [10]

So, where can we find truth through all this smoke? There's no better source of truth than science. Nature tells us unconditional truth through measured data with zero concern for human political perversities. Problem is, much of what we deal with is not conducive to scientific measurement. But it is subject to that foundation of science targeted by liberal postmodernists and GOPP conservatives: reason. [11]

Take for example...Trump. Here's a man who bragged about his adultery and draft-dodging; [12] a man who claimed to raise $6M for veterans (it was $2.8M), found guilty of misusing those funds, fined $2M, and the "charity" dissolved; [13] a man found guilty and penalized $25M for stealing millions of dollars from thousands of students at his fake university; [14] a man found after two years of Mueller's FBI investigation to have colluded (not "conspired") with Russia to cheat the 2016 election, obstructing justice 10 times. [15] Notice, the Mueller Report was validated by the Republican Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. [16] Of the thousands of media reports concerning Trump's corruption from center Left (CBS, ABC, PBS, CNN, WaPo) to Left (NBC, NPR, NYT) to hard Left (MSNBC), all but a handful of their reports have been correct. The mainstream media was validated by Mueller, the Republican Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, our own observations, and Trump himself. I saw and heard Trump deny his payoffs of prostitutes; deny he or his staff had any contact with Russia; deny he had business with Russia; deny Obama was born in the USA, and deny his extortion of Ukraine, to name a very few examples, then admit to all of it. Including his extortion of Ukraine, which he denies, admits, then denies again. [17] After all, who can keep track? Not even the lifelong liar.

So, if Trump says something, and the mainstream media, CIA, NSA, FBI, or any of the other 14 intel agencies contradict him, is the question "Who's telling the truth?" a hard call to make?


There's also fact-checkers like, PoltiFact (Pulitzer Prize winner), and who risk their very lives against Russian assassins for revealing so much murder and corruption by Trump's best friend, Vlad. [18] Naturally, some sites self-designate as fact-checkers only to hawk their propaganda-be weary. For Trump, PolitiFact has page after page of his "Pants On Fire" lies, and more for "All false statements involving Donald Trump" (pull up a chair). [19] The Washington Post keeps a tally of Trump's lies, totaling 13,435 after 993 days in office. This doesn't count the number of Trump lies since birth. Given he's almost 74; we can estimate (excluding lies in the womb [20]) that he's lied approximately 365,437 times since he could first babble and drool. If Trump's luck holds out, he might exceed a half-million lies before he's hanged. At last, Trump can earn something honestly, without cheating to make up for his defects.

Pause to consider this argument. Right-wing media is composed of Goebbels-like propagandists; Trump has established his place in history as a serial liar and one-man crime wave; the mainstream media has an established track record, validated by the FBI, Republican Senate, and personal observation; all of us have eyes and hears that with simple honesty reveals these truths. Isn't it plain common sense to look to ourselves and the Left-wing media (with reasonable skepticism) for facts, at least when it comes to Trump? I reference all the above for just this reason: proven performance.

It seems to me, the only way to find the truth is to be able to tell the truth. To do this-our biggest obstacle in tribal America-requires we divorce our tribe / Party / identity. Otherwise, as "cunning primates" we're obligated to lie for it, just as I lied for my conservative tribe until the Iraq invasion. You'll lose that sense of faux "community" and ersatz-belonging, but you won't foul your surroundings with devout liars either.

But there's yet another problem. We now possess a system solidifying clannism combined with techno-capitalism that kills democracies they spring from. Our impulsive passions support the multi-billion-dollar business models of Facebook (Fakebook?) and Twitter that leverage passions for profit and a national meltdown stoked by foreign hostiles. By American business ethics, why should Facebook care? Business in America is about the dollar, not the flag.

First, regulate social media until their ears bleed. Then implement the systemic solutions of Johnathan Rauch. [22] In agreement with our Founders, don't rely on humans to do the right thing. Rely on their laws and institutions, reasoned, structured, and implemented to save us from emotions we know will betray us when the time comes. Make gerrymandering illegal, as does the UK, Australia, and New Zealand. District voting lines are then not tuned to this or that Party, thus diluting one-sided views. Eliminate primaries begun in 1912. Primaries cater to cranks and force each candidate to outdo the other in their appeal to base radicals, forcing candidates to somehow turn normal in the general election. Thanks to the primaries, Trump was mainstreamed by a mere 11% of the total national electorate (14M of 129M). [21] Make Congressional votes opaque again so representatives can vote freely, not as a performance for special interest groups tracking their every move. Bring back pork-barrel politics. It was removed by good intentions because it was a waste of money, but now these politicians have nothing to trade in their deal-making. Require by law that all members of Congress must live full time during their tenure in D.C., not renters Monday-Thursday. Bring back the old social gatherings between Parties, when a single Representative would dine with another of the other side to discuss policy. In ways peculiar to humans, under face-to-face conditions, they'll venture into other matters like family, hobbies, and upbringing. Imagine that. As a Senator once said, "It's really hard to hate your political opponent when you know his wife and kids." [23] In short, make the system humane, reasoned, and capable of sustaining civilization, not burning it down the way we're about to.

So ends this second of five irregular posts before the U.S. Senate takes our first step to monarchy.

[1] Brett Williams, The Worst of Things: America in the 21st Century, Combustible Books, 2019

[2] Postmodernists decided Western reason was responsible for two world wars, so reason was to be replaced by pseudo-reason, by all appearances, on its own terms. Luc Ferry & Alain Renaut, French Philosophy of the Sixties: An Essay on Antihumanism, UMass Press, 1990.

[3] Alternative facts, Wikipedia. Caroline Kenny, Rudy Giuliani says 'truth isn't truth', CNN, August 19, 2018

[4] Paul Waldman, Why the Republican commitment to lying will outlast Trump, Washington Post, December 10, 2019.

[5] The Fairness Doctrine required both sides of an argument be presented to balance naturally unbalanced humans. Dylan Matthews, FCC fairness doctrine, Wikipedia. Matthew Haag and Maya Salam, Everything you need to know about the Fairness Doctrine in one post, Washington Post, August 23, 2011


[7] Joseph Goebbels, Final Entries 1945: The Diaries of Joseph Goebbels, AVON, 1979

[8] Stuart Rachels, The Elements of Moral Philosophy, McGraw-Hill, 2010

[9] Virtue is a community characteristic, communities were killed by individualism.

[10] If Trump had an operative brain cell, he'd use his term of "shithole countries" on this one. Not a material shithole, a moral shithole. Given morality is outside his purview, no such connection is possible.

[11] GOPP: Grand Old Putin Party.

[12] Max Rosenthal, The Trump Files: Listen to Donald Brag About His Affairs-While Pretending to Be Someone Else, Mother Jones, SEPTEMBER 29, 2016. Trump says sex in the Eighties was 'his personal Vietnam', Daily Mail, video. Steve Eder and Dave Philipps, Donald Trump's Draft Deferments: Four for College, One for Bad Feet, New York Times, Aug. 1, 2016. Tim Mak, Draft-Dodger Trump Said Sleeping Around Was My 'Personal Vietnam', The Daily Beast, Apr. 13, 2017

[13] Merrit Kennedy, Judge Says Trump Must Pay $2 Million Over Misuse Of Foundation Funds, NPR, November 7, 2019

[14] Josh Hafner, Judge finalizes $25 million Trump University settlement for students of 'sham university', USA TODAY, Apr. 10, 2018

[15] The Mueller Report Paperback , The Washington Post, April 30, 2019.

[16] CRISTIANO LIMA, Senate Intel's newest Russia report undermines pro-Trump conspiracy theories, POLITICO, 10/08/2019

[17] Grace Panetta, Watch Trump openly admit on live TV to doing the thing he's accused of in the impeachment inquiry, Business Insider, Nov 22, 2019. Sonam Sheth and Grace Panetta, Trump essentially admitted on live TV to doing the thing he's accused of in the impeachment inquiry, Business Insider, Nov 22, 2019. Conrad Duncan, Fox News host Tucker Carlson admits media is right about Trump's lying: 'He's a full-blown BS artist', The Independent, 28 November, 2019. Jen Kirby, Donald Trump just tweeted he paid back his lawyer for the Stormy Daniels hush money, VOX, May 3, 2018. Kevin Liptak, Trump now says both China and Ukraine should investigate Bidens, CNN, October 3, 2019. INAE OH, Trump Admits He "Lightly Looked" at Developing a Russian Building Project During the Election, Mother Jones, NOVEMBER 30, 2018. ERIC LUTZ, TRUMP ADMITS RUSSIA HELPED HIM WIN, DENIES IT 20 MINUTES LATER, Vanity Fair, MAY 30, 2019. Merrit Kennedy, Trump admits son met Russian for information on opponent, BBC, 6 August 2018. Glenn Fleishman, , FORTUNE, December 19, 2018. Veracity of statements by Donald Trump, Wikipedia.

[18] Eliot Higgins: Searching for facts in a 'post-truth' world, BBC, HardTALK, 12/11/2019

[19] All Pants on Fire! statements involving Donald Trump, PolitiFACT. All False statements involving Donald Trump, PolitiFACT.

[20] "Excluding lies told in the womb." Which raises a question: If Trump tells a lie in the womb and nobody hears it, is it a lie?

[21] Jonathan Rauch, How American Politics Went Insane, The Atlantic Monthly, JULY/AUGUST 2016

[22] 2016 United States presidential election, Wikipedia. Results of the 2016 Republican Party presidential primaries, Wikipedia

[23] The Senator's name is lost to memory.

December 2, 2019: U.S. government Deep State impregnates our daughters with illegal aliens from other planets!

This is not a conspiracy theory. This is a first-hand eye witness account of U.S. government Deep State operators from someone on the inside. From a man of utmost integrity. A moral monitor for Judeo-Christian family values and champion of liberty. A man suspicious of all branches of government, with patients registered at the He won Inventor of The Year in 2008 at the world's largest defense contractor, defending America from communists, socialists, and liberals. Make no mistake, he supports the troops. This man is a front line first responder against government control and regulation. He cherishes the U.S. Constitution, that document of governance and regulation. As one of the forgotten white men (with Cherokee and Blackfoot Native American matriarchs in his bloodline), he has not forgotten that greatest of men, President Ronald Reagan, for whom he has a shrine in...his...home. This "straight-talking," "no-nonsense," "get 'er done" real man even has a soft side as an animal lover.

Who is this man?


And what did I see? Where I worked was, and remains, Building 59. Like Area 51, with its crash-landed aliens (notice both lead with the number "5"), this building's only designation is a nondescript number. An integer. A large integer compared to, say, 1, or 2, or other numbers we can grasp less than 10. Building 59 could have been built in any shape. It could have been made spherical, octagonal, or geodesic. But it wasn't. It's rectangular, precisely so it won't stand out from other rectangular buildings, lost in this common design as though strange things don't go on there. It has four floors, but many have asked, Why not one? What could be so important to require so much space? A space with not one...single...window. Why can't we see in there? What are they trying to hide?

I know. I worked there.

In Building 59 are dozens and dozens of-brace for it-vaults. One after another, down long hallways as far as the eye can see, just before the restroom. On and around each vault are cipher-locks, spin dials, illuminated numeric touch-pads, and cameras. When I first entered that building, those halls were empty. Was the entire complex built just for me? Was I the only one working on "Black Programs"? This designation has nothing to do with race, and should not be taken as insensitive to people of color or campus snowflakes who cry over exposure to words. It's merely a long-standing description of what happens there. Every activity, computation, simulation or lab test and their results go dark. No one knows what happens but for a small clique of privileged people chosen by higher powers to be there. They even have an enigmatic designation for programs that occupy those vaults: SAR-Special Access Required. But why don't they say for what? Why not, Special Access Required for Accounting, or Storage, or what it is-impregnation of our daughters. And by who? Space aliens, illegally escorted by our own government via the UFO super skyway. All coordinated by the CIA and Food Stamp program, because aliens require assistance early in any invasion. This Deep State Black Program uses innocent American girls seized by the U.S. government's Pizza Parlor Pedophile Syndicate in Washington, DC. Recall this Syndicate was first revealed by a courageous 29-year-old man from North Carolina who-after his arduous 400-mile quest-has been awarded a 4-year rest, in prison. True. Google it. [1]

By now, you must know this is authentic. Like Nobel Prize-winning physicist and manmade global warming science denier, Ivar Giaever (we met him before [2]), I'm a scientist too. I worked for this nation's defense. This appears in print. It's on the Internet. I'll bet anybody 50 cents that QAnon, 8Chan, 4Chan, Breitbart, the Klan, and FOX RT will log this as eyewitness evidence of truth, fact, and justice in support of Our Dear Leader and his mumblings of a Deep State coup. Doesn't that make it gospel? As radio talker Rush Limbaugh says, "Don't doubt me!"

Or maybe you do.

Maybe you weren't raised in America with our rankings in math, science, and reading education near bottom in the world. [3] Perhaps you live in a democracy, while ours now ranks 25th, as a "flawed democracy," just above "banana republic." [4] Even the life expectancy of Americans is declining; currently, we're 43rd. [5] Infant mortality in this "technological powerhouse" is 55th from the best. [6] Trump's budget staff projects to add $9 trillion to our national debt, the world's highest, currently at $20T, with a GDP to debt ratio just 8 places better than Greece. [7] So much for Tea Party austerity. "Great again," we ain't.

When it comes to the "Deep State," one might assume it's that first stat above that leads a sizable fraction of Americans to so effortlessly believe what they're told to believe. Yet, I count 11 of my friends with university degrees, some with PhDs, who support the sleaze promoted by our current administration. Some of them even parrot Russian Ops promoted by GOPP luminaries witnessed in Trump's Impeachment Inquiry. (Once known as Lincoln's Grand Old Party, it's now Trump's Grand Old Putin Party). It's not America's so-called "educational divide" alone that's responsible for this group (dawning t-shirts reading "Proud to be deplorable!"). Alexander Hamilton warned us about them, as did George Washington in his 1796 Farewell Address when he said partisans holding party over country would embrace foreign powers to take control. It would seem, as we saw with Hitler's inner circle, that innate primate tribalism is stronger than education or common sense.

Ask any in the GOPP to define "Deep State," including their Golden Calf himself (orange, actually), and they can't say. Having served in the "Deep State," I can attest to the sad reality clear to anyone who worked there, it doesn't exist-yet. I'm saddened by this because the world would be so much more forgiving with a multitude of covert, nefarious, TOP SECRET schemes running interference against my every move. Such could be my excuse for not having achieved more. But, turns out, so numerous are the compartments, serfdoms, turf wars, and financial buckets from disparate entities, most of them secret from the others, to coordinate on anything but their own efforts would be remarkably difficult and dangerous to their livelihoods. As Jon D. Michaels noted in Foreign Affairs, the term "Deep State" applies in countries like Egypt, Pakistan, and Turkey where one or a few individuals control all or most of the ministries, and their money. That no such arrangement exists in the U.S. is also why government is so frustratingly inefficient, and safer. "Officials inside these agencies," writes Michaels, "...can investigate, document, and publicize instances of high-level government no small part because they are insulated by law from political pressure, enjoy de facto tenure, and have strong codes of professional conduct. [Trump never imagined any of this.] In some ways, the Trump administration-in truth, any administration-is right to see them, collectively, as a potentially dangerous adversary. But unlike deep states in authoritarian countries, the American state should be embraced rather than feared. It is not secretive, exclusive, and monolithic, but open, diverse, and fragmented. Its purpose is not to pursue a private agenda contrary to public will but to execute that will." [8] Just as those 12 courageous witnesses we saw in Trump's Impeachment Inquiry. Honest, working people doing their job, having sworn an oath to the Constitution, not Pharaoh.

Outside motivated-reason (otherwise known as lying) and motivated-morality (which isn't moral), both practiced with adoring care by the GOPP, in the real world of facts the Deep State has collapsed. DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz is about to absolve the FBI from GOPP claims of abuse of power, finding the FBI met proper legal evidence thresholds for FISA warrants to surveil Trump advisor Carter Page; the Steele Dossier did not open FBI investigations into Trump's Russian influenced campaign; the FBI did not politicize the investigation; the CIA was not involved; professor Joseph Mifsud was not an FBI informant; there were no planted "spies" in Trump World; and no, Obama never spied on Trump. Sad news for Attorney General William Barr and his Liar in Chief. [9] (UPDATE 12/9/19: And as the IG officially announces all of this, Trump states, "It's far worse than I ever thought possible" [10] Which should have been good for him. 12/10/19: Yet one day later Trump slammed his own appointed FBI Director for agreeing with the IG report. The White House needs a schedule of which Trump split-personality is talking when. [11])

Crash goes the Deep State, alive now only as desperate assertions in the tavern, Trump's Joseph Goebbels Networks, and his GOPP. But as I showed at the top of this post, it's easy to invent another conspiracy theory.

(This irregular post, contrary to the bimonthly schedule, is the 1st of 5 in succession before the U.S. Senate is expected to betray their Constitutional promise for personal gain and the excoriation of history.)

[1] Matthew Haag and Maya Salam, Gunman in 'Pizzagate' Shooting Is Sentenced to 4 Years in Prison, New York Times, June 22, 2017

[2] Brett Williams, The betrayal of Christ: global warming denial, Goodreads, November 5, 2018

[3] DREW DESILVER, U.S. students' academic achievement still lags that of their peers in many other countries, PEW, FEBRUARY 15, 2017

[4] Democracy Index, Wikipedia

[5] World Fact Book, Life expectancy by nation, CIA. Michael Devitt, CDC Data Show U.S. Life Expectancy Continues to Decline, CDC AAFP, December 10, 2018

[6] World Fact Book, Infant mortality by nation, CIA.

[7] KIMBERLY AMADEO, Trump and the National Debt, The Balance, November 27, 2019. Debt to GDP Ratio by Country 2019, World Population Review. List of countries by external debt, Goodreads, November 5, 2018

[8] Jon D. Michaels, Trump and the "Deep State": The Government Strikes Back, Foreign Affairs, September/October 2017.

[9] Adam Goldman & Charlie Savage, Russia Inquiry Review Is Said to Criticize F.B.I. but Rebuff Claims of Biased Acts, New York Times, November 22, 2019

[10] Dave Boyer, Trump says watchdog report on FBI is 'far worse' than he expected, The Washington Times, December 9, 2019

[11] Allan Smith, Trump blasts FBI director Wray for backing IG report that 2016 campaign probe was justified, ABC NEWS, Dec. 10, 2019

November 4, 2019: After five years, my second novel is complete. What I wish I hadn't learned:

I discovered long ago a common thread in art and science that keeps me coming back to both. Those equations that lift off the page to reveal nature, possessing what physicists call "beauty," are like the brushstroke that ties the painting together or the stage scene that clicks. They all provide a sense of awe. Writing can be like that. But, like the other forms of art and science, only after colossal exertion, and only on occasion. So it was that my self-imposed schedule of one book every five years has produced a second.

But writing has a dark side. This second book took 2226 hours to write. While I don't record research time, I estimate approximately another 2000 hours. And that's where the danger is, which I'll get to in a moment. Funny I didn't realize that after the first book. Such research is required to predict as accurately and plausibly as possible the future of 2057 when the story in book two commences. Historical, philosophical, and geopolitical facts laced together by the nebulous nature of human psychology make both accuracy and plausibly, 40 years hence, a tall order, and why it took me 4000 hours to do it. Whether I succeeded is up to the reader to decide.

With plausibility of a future America in mind, there are several scenes that make me wonder if the reader may suspect the author as mad. Yet, in each of those acts, a significant or majority fraction of details (depending on the scene) are a matter of yesterday's news. I even added where possible the place and dates to pique the reader's memory or offer a reference to check these realities online. The remaining extrapolations are a bare extension from what we already have. Who in America just a few decades ago could imagine we would distinguish ourselves as the mass shooting capital of the world? Where, by late 2019, we suffered more mass shootings than there were days in the year by then. [1] Americans now take this as normal. The people cry for corrective measures and Congress promises to do so. All then returns to normal as we go about our daily lives hopeful our loved ones or ourselves aren't shot today, prepared to shout into the void again tomorrow. What should we expect in four decades when this second novel takes place? While some may find political and social evolution in America addressed in this book as bizarre, disconcerting or offensive, I'm not writing children's books. I'm striving to make these novels not merely entertaining in whatever way people find the fall of civilization entertaining, but in an attempt to predict the future.

Given that a subtopic of this series hinges on the eventual collapse of planet Earth under human assault, I had to study current calamities around the globe and their cause in detail. Like hundreds of massive fires that torched Alaska and Siberia after a record series of hot years, including 50°F above average during Alaska's winter (6 years in a row). Soot from those fires blanketed Greenland's ice sheet to accelerate its loss by elevated solar absorption, expanding disruption of the Gulf Stream with 197 billion tons of melt in July of 2019 alone. [2] The Arctic ice cap continues to shrink to record lows as animals that depend on it blink out of existence due to lost habitat and hunting grounds now too far away to reach. While the lower 48 periodically freezes in another drifted Polar Vortex, then floods much of the country, both the result of a failing Jet Stream. All as human CO2 emissions driving manmade global warming responsible for these disasters reach new highs. [3] After the 5th Great Extinction sealed by an asteroid impact 66 million years ago, the 6th Great Extinction continues unabated in this, our Anthropocene, driven by liars and ineptitude. [4] What I wish I hadn't learned.

Research into political aspects revealed the now visible retreat of Western Civilization-in America, masked by paper dollars. After three decades of China Shock, I understand the populist motivation but oppose the self-destructive response. For a significant fraction of Americans to endorse a criminal monster in flagrant violation of the Founder's rules for this republic and the teachings of Jesus many of them claim to follow, is to doom liberty for eventual tyranny and lose the soul of this nation. But as my main character states, "To make things right is not so gratifying as to make things worse." We've seen worse done through daily violation of Western civilization's fundamental element-the rule of law-with the brazen glee of a thin-skinned 5-year old and his bootlickers holding the highest offices in the land. Who could have imagined in 2016 that conspiracy theorists and sympathizers or affiliates of the Ku Klux Klan and Neo Nazi's supported by Breitbart News who likewise support Trump and vise versa would be welcomed by the White House? [5] The very Right-wing fanaticism my father enlisted in WWII to defend this nation against, now embraced. If it weren't enough to witness three years of blatant immorality practiced by a draft-dodging adulterer, malignant liar, and money fleecing thief, we also witnessed the colipase of American Christianity through a sector of it which sponsors all of this. [6] American Christians on the Idol-supporting Right are now Christian by assertion alone. What I wish I hadn't learned. Though I did find a silver lining: fortunately for them, this subset of true Christianity in America doesn't read and or believe their scriptures, lest they find what Judas did for his betrayal. All of this informed the book's trajectory, and assists plausibility in those scenes otherwise strained without it.

Added to this chain of real-life calamities was the bombshell work by Patrick J. Deneen, Why Liberalism Failed. Deneen, lauded by opposing camps from The America Conservative to Barack Obama, shows that the seeds of our demise were planted from and within the very Founding itself. A point I've tried to make in my own books, though without the more historically traceable, step-by-step coherence allowed by Deneen's non-fiction. I also wasn't so sure of it until he put all the pieces together for me. Through his analysis, what we see now, Left and Right, are distortions of Enlightenment liberalism's promise to the point of eviscerating the entire project. Not because something went wrong, but because classical Founding liberalism worked so impossibly well. America's failure was destiny.

Wonder if I can unlearn that?

Finally, since the main character in my books must discover a more complete definition of humanity, beyond the natural man of Enlightenment approximations (for proper governance), so did I. My investigations into the evolution of human psychology, political philosophy, and the arch of civilizations was more than a revelation, it was horrifying. In one of my earliest blog posts here in March of 2015, I wrote, "...whether it be the miraculous mechanics of the living cell or the brightest shinning quasar, few things compare to the lavish spectrum of marvels that humans produce." I meant that as a complement. Less than half joking, I think now I was wrong. As a physicist having studied as a hobby the nature of quasars, I feel confident enough in their behavior to say their incomprehensible destructiveness is nothing so dangerous as what our race threatens. It's no wonder our Founders struggled so mightily to find a form of governance of, by, and for unstable humans. The research I performed for this book, to aid predictions of the future, based on our past and present, changed me. I'll never view the human race the same again. For those who dare to read this book, I hope they won't either. Not to decimate their lofty views of America once deserved by the Greatest Generation, now dead, but to contribute, however small, to that call to morality, reason, truth, and justice now emerging around the globe from the miasma of modernity. [7]

From my seat in witness to this spectacle, 2019 caps what appears to have been a fulcrum to lever not the US alone into the gales of a perfect storm of planetary and political meltdown, but the Western world with it. It was in this miasmatic atmosphere that this second novel was completed, The Worst of Things: America In The 21st Century. The intersection of these perfect dual storms is what it's about. While it is second in The Father trilogy, it can stand alone as a prologue summarizes book one.

Until next time, January 6, 2020.

[1] JASON SILVERSTEIN, There have been more mass shootings than days this year, CBS NEWS, SEPTEMBER 1, 2019

[2] Andrew Freedman and Jason Samenow, The Greenland ice sheet poured 197 billion tons of water into the North Atlantic in July alone, Washington Post, August 3, 2019

[3] Eleanor Imster and Deborah Byrd, Atmospheric CO2 hits record high in May 2019, EarthSky, June 17, 2019

[4] Do liars believe they're free of consequences of their lies and ineptitude?

[5] Dylan Byers, Two Breitbart staffers join Trump administration , CNNMoney, January 25, 2017

[6] EMMA GREEN, Why Some Christians 'Love the Meanest Parts' of Trump, AUG 18, 2019

[7] Allana Akhtar and Juliana Kaplan, A world on fire: Here are all the major protests happening around the globe right now, AUG 18, 2019, Oct 22, 2019

September 2, 2019: Patrick J. Deneen's argument for the collapse of Western Civilization, right now

Patrick J. Deneen's Why Liberalism Failed adds a compelling hypothesis to Western Civilization's trajectory. [1] While the present with its flood of information overwhelms historians unable to decipher what matters and what doesn't, Deneen offers a specific cause as an "emergent property." [2] A property to emerge only recently from Enlightenment ideals evolved and combined over time. Other notables in this arena deal with history, where information is always lacking, and they deal in generalized rules. [3] For them, collapse of the West is an arc; part of a cycle; moral debasement; or blundering leaders unable to innovate social mutations that survive a changing environment. Deneen's only generalization appears when he asks if America is "approaching the end of the natural cycle of corruption and decay that limits the lifespan of all human creations." [4]

By "liberalism," Deneen means "Enlightenment liberalism" employed by America's Founders. Given liberalism is fundamental to the West, his book is an indictment of not only the outcomes of our constitutional foundation two centuries hence, but of Western Civilization as a whole. It's a story of patricide without knowing it or wanting it by the very system that Enlightenment provided from the beginning. Per Deneen, "Liberalism created the conditions and the tools for assent of its own worst nightmare, yet it lacks the self-knowledge for its own culpability." [5] "[It] failed because it succeeded... success measured by its achievement of the opposite of its promise." [6] In short, liberalism sank not because something went wrong, but because it worked so impossibly well.

Enlightenment's prioritization of self-interest required an authority to protect it. That authority would be self-governance under rule of law to ensure individual rights allowing self-determination. A free market economy was the natural choice for practical day-to-day practice of it. But as Deneen elaborates, under this dual service to liberty, what began as one, bifurcated as two worldviews: the State to insure liberty, and the Market to exercise it. Once born, both would evolve like a live organism.

More fundamental than politics, the root of this evolution is human innovation, our strongest tool for survival. Humans don't innovate technology alone, but also social norms, morality, traditions, and religion. Our irresistible urge to innovate breaks the rules, finds workarounds, and through "creative destruction" terminates what gave it life. Often these innovations are a counter-measure, trying to fix what we broke when we fixed something else. We invented agriculture for greater food certainty than hunter-gatherers, but as evidenced in the chemistry of buried bone remains, made humans sicker. [7] With agriculture came sedentary life and large investments in one location as an invitation to war for those built assets. So humans invented cites as protection. But with so many people so close together, never on the move, focused more on each other than the environment, laws were invented to manage behavior as the personal judgement of kin increased its distance and lost its power. Cities became capitals of wealth with still greater invitations to war, so we invented the State. But States, like modern individuals, are their own centrifugal force, casting themselves apart with ambition while struggling to hold themselves together as a result of change brought on by ambition. [8] Liberalism was a counter-measure fix for one set of problems. Like these other measures, it took centuries to reveal that it created a whole new set of problems, those emergent properties Deneen reveals.

Not an indictment of innovation, the point is there will always be unintended consequences no one can predict. James Clerk Maxwell unified electricity, magnetism, and light in 1865. No one could know this would lead to radio, TV, and smart phones that allow people to flash mob, riot, or take over countries. Likewise, Enlightenment liberalism could not foresee what its innovation would lead to, though the Founders expressed fear over aspects of it. Eventually for liberalism, any restriction of State/Market partners in advancing liberty would be seen as arbitrary, in need of erasure to fulfill liberalism's promise.

But this is based on modernity's shifted definition of liberty. As Deneen explains, to ancient and Christian understandings, liberty was the condition of self-governance via habits of virtue. Virtue as self-restraint over, and freedom from, base appetites through limits on individual choice. Instead, modernity redefined liberty as the greatest possible freedom from externally imposed boundaries. [9] Like inventing the city, as social restrictions lost control, the State was enlarged through lawmaking to take its place, crossing boundaries of what once were communities of common cause. Simultaneously, sovereignty of individual choice required removal of artificial boundaries to the marketplace, once a delineated space within the city. This "borderlessness" is a shared fundamental, says Deneen, opposed to "arbitrary" restrictions. Expressed in modernity by the Market in which a business has no loyalty to its home or its people. And by the State where, ironically, national boundaries are merely for mapmaking. Even those imposed by biology are to be corrected as legislation "breaks barriers" to gender "preference." [10] This logic of free choice autonomy eventuates in a mass State architecture and globalized economy. Both set out to liberate the individual, instead leaving them overwhelmed by the machinery of each.

Consider the social elements of custom, tradition, and religion. For generations of Homo sapiens these provided belonging and its consequent meaning. But for today's political Left these are oppressive of individual free expression. True communities built from these elements are to be opened for State inspection to assure no individual rights are violated, and to insure no coercion exists that conform individuals to community values (though the Amish get away with it). Instead, our replacement for communities of old are the NASCAR "community," the Facebook "community," or this afternoon's mass murder "community." For liberals, restraint (i.e. virtue) is seen as an assault on the Sacred Self in worship of Free Choice with a minimum of attachments. Hence liberals continue their deconstruction in a quest to tame these social rudiments, disconnecting people from each other in order to expand personal liberty, then wonder why there's no concern for the poor, why the rich want to keep all they can, and why corporations would place profit above people and the planet. For liberals, belonging is a kind of weakness, an insult to autonomy.

The political Right is just as ruinous. Like the State, the Market couches this program in terms of free choice as "maximized utility." To Market conservatives, religion's embrace of modesty or its prohibitions on excess are obstacles to maximized consumption and profit. Ethics stands in the way of eviscerating the environment or some other species for economic return. Markets must be protected from poor, indigenous, or politically weak people in a say to their own lands if resources are discovered under it. Markets that export occupations overseas from the town they came from are simply engaged in standard business practice. The increased purchasing power of cheap goods is supposed to compensate for the absence of high paying manufacturing jobs. Profit is about the dollar, not the flag (except in China), and it's certainly not about employees who provide return on investment and yet are expendable while investors somehow are not. Laws that allow corporate polluters to poison the very people that work for them-from coal miners with black lung, to America's cancer alley in Louisiana and Texas-are passed by "business friendly" conservatives. When it comes to cherished families and their values, try killing off a few-a regular occurrence-then see how their traditions stand up to it. [11]

True communities thrived on our sensitivities of connectedness. State and Market society thrives on our disconnectedness. [12] Three hundred million people in America and according to the World Economic Forum (isn't that ironic?) loneliness is an epidemic in one of the loneliest places on Earth. [13]

That Enlightenment liberalism worked so well is a testament to the match between the practical results of this philosophical system and human nature. These philosophers came closer than anyone in correctly defining humans, and assigning terms to the "Equation of Man" that describes them. But like the mathematical series approximation to any phenomena, they couldn't include every variable. They were forced to leave out terms they considered less important in their day, and accepted an approximation. Hence, they did not give us a Bill of Rights and Responsibilities. What they ignored or assigned less weight, over time evolved to become a predator with its creators as its prey. What began as a society to serve self-interest has become a society of "separate, autonomous, nonrelational selves replete with rights and defined by our liberty, but insecure, powerless, afraid, and alone." [14]

In posts to follow we'll test Deneen's ideas in hopes of locating where we are in that "natural cycle of corruption and decay that limits the lifespan of all human creations," and ponder solutions.

Until next time, November 4, 2019.

[1] Patrick J. Deneen Why Liberalism Failed, Yale, 2018

[2] Recall that an emergent property is a characteristic that comes about when the right combination of things come together. For example, water feels dry until from a million or so water molecules in contact emerges the property of wetness.

[3] Oswald Spengler's Decline of the West notion is one of arc. Like a person, civilization rises on some idea in youth, advances to middle age stagnation, and decays in elder years. Brooks Adams' Law of Civilization and Decay roots collapse in cycles. From superstition, disorder, and lack of control, civilizations rotate out of this and into spans of order and control only to be spiritually and socially eviscerated by their own social machine (like many Americans in the workplace, where each day is another lesson in submission), whereupon the civilization heals over into another superstitious phase of the cycle. Will & Ariel Durrant's Lessons of History blame moral decay. For Arnold Toynbee's Story of History it's a failure of leaders to adjust to ever changing landscapes.

[4] Deneen, pg. 4

[5] pg. xxvi. In regards to Deneen's remark that liberalism fails to see its own culpability, see the blog post Is PCD an acronym for Programmed Civilization Death?, Brett Williams, November 7, 2016

[6] Deneen pg. 3

[7] Spencer Wells, Pandora's Seed: The Unforeseen Cost of Civilization, Random House, 2010

[8] This concept of States that hurl themselves apart as they struggle to hold themselves together comes from Marcel Gauchet and his remarkable Disenchantment Of The World.

[9] Deneen pg. xiii

[10] Deneen uses abortion as corrective to limits imposed on women. The gender preference example is my own and references an actual gender spectrum dictated by biology, not psychological preference as summarized in Radiolab Presents: Gonads , WNYCStudios, June 2018.

[11] As one of countless examples: Miles O'Brien, The danger of coal ash, the toxic dust the fossil fuel leaves behind, PBS Newshour, Aug 14, 2019. As Louis Dumont clarifies in From Mandeville to Marx, economics divorced itself from religion and morality in order to make "rational" numerical judgment without interference. Which reminds me of libertarian guru Murry Rothbard's notion that freedom is defined for individuals as though each were alone in the universe-which don't exist. See more on Dumont on this blog at Mount Economics - It Wasn't Always So Tall, Brett Williams, July 6, 2015, and for Rothbard, Murray Rothbard's strange and zany world, Brett Williams, September 5, 2016.

[12] Free market economy promoter, Michael Polanyi who schooled Frederick Hayek on this matter, had a brother, Karl, who's The Great Transformation makes this very point, that the Market embeds society in economy rather than the other (original) way around as modern economy now has it.

[13] Kevin Loria, Most Americans are lonely, World Economic Forum, 3 May 2018. Amy Brannan, TOP 10 LONELIEST COUNTRIES IN THE WORLD , IMMIGroup, Aug 30, 2017

[14] Deneen pg. 46

July 1, 2019: Confronting the Constitution. Part 5: Utilitarians vs. the Founders. Who was right?

In Joseph Hamburger's contribution to Confronting the Constitution he looks at debates between the 18th century British utilitarians of Jeremy Bentham, James Mill, John Stuart Mill, and John Austin vs. builders of the US Constitution. [1] The utilitarians had great respect for the new Constitution and its creation, but they also had withering criticisms. None of them a secret as The Federalist papers (1787-88) explicitly condemned utilitarians in their written arguments, while utilitarians labeled its authors foolish and ignorant.

It helps to keep in mind the context of the times. Europe was sky high on the new science of Isaac Newton. His method applied to the natural world also penetrated the human realm with a froth of new thinking about a "science of politics." The Renaissance preceding this Enlightenment had rediscovered and made widely available the findings of Greece and Rome with historic reference to universal human nature. And the Enlightenment itself was frequently hostile to all forms of authority, especially religion as represented by Voltaire and Paine. The utilitarians were more enamored with these movements than the Founders who, while products of the Enlightenment and uniquely crafted by the same forces, where able to retain an even strain between the power of popular fashions and a more practical approach. Religion, for example, would not be crushed by the Founder's Constitution, but made a right, albeit a right to an opinion, as no religion could among all the others be considered a fact supported by the State.

"North America was 'one of the most, if not the most enlightened, at this day on the globe,'" claimed Bentham. [2] While, as individualists like me now recognize, Bentham also portentously regarded the US as "unhampered by the weight of tradition." [3] Tradition had been suffocating for the new individualism and Bentham wanted it ended, that "dead hand of the past... from savage and stupid ages, [that made people] slaves of custom... in the infancy of reason." [4] Likewise, Bentham dismissed the establishment of traditions through the Constitution's principles and institutions. Instead, he suggested a complete set of statute laws to Madison in 1811, to free the US from "perplexity and plague." After five years unanswered, Madison finally replied, No thanks.

Contrary to Alexander Hamilton's remark that if men were angels, there'd be no need of governance (meaning constraints on the populous and government), "utilitarians were opposed to the very idea of constitutional limitations... It was the character of a sovereign body to be incapable of legal limitation." [5] "Sovereign" here meaning something like a parliament of Plato's philosopher kings. Good luck finding one of those. According to Hamburger, utilitarians had "a powerful faith that a science of legislation could be developed," where Bentham wanted to "play Newton's role for a science of law." [6]

It's ironic that while utilitarians believed popular power must be checked by a forceful sovereign, they also envisioned an almost unlimited freedom of the people-so long as people behaved in accordance with what I'll loosely term a scientifically perfected behavior. On the other hand, for the Founders that check was between the people themselves and their self-interests. According to The Federalist, "There is a degree of depravity in mankind which requires a certain degree of circumspection and distrust... But [and here we see separation from dogma] the supposition of universal venality in human nature is little less an error in political reasoning than the supposition of universal rectitude." [7]

For the Framers, an iron fist sovereign carried with it an inference "that there is not sufficient virtue among men for self-government; and that nothing less than the chains of despotism can restrain them from destroying and devouring one another." [8] The Constitution would appeal to our better natures. And yet, the system our Founders built has become one with a ceaseless expansion in liberty. Ours is now a nation where the self-restraint of virtue-in service to a no-longer-existent common good-is an obstacle to not only liberty, but the market. Where religious teachings of modesty are obstacles to consumer spending, and ethical treatment of animals or the environment impose production costs that restrain profit. In America, virtue is nearly as dead as the communities from which they emanated. Instead, we have the NASCAR "community," the latest mass murder "community," or of all the laughs, the Internet "community." As Aristotle said, a community is not merely a common location that people occupy to ease exchange, which is exactly how Americans define it. With this evolution, we've reached a point in American history when tens of millions of disconnected, disaffected, rugged individualists support an authoritarian dictatorship. Does this not indicate "that there is not sufficient virtue among men for self-government"? Could it be social disconnectedness is what utilitarians sought to avoid by cohesion of a forceful sovereign?

Apparently not. For Bentham, communities are no less oppressive than their traditions. Slightly later, Tocqueville would warn of the "unwholesome condition of isolation that left individuals without attachments to others and to larger communities." And when this happens, he said, "a society is ripe for despotism." [9] (Hmm... Fast forward to the 2016 election.) For John Stuart Mill, tradition composed of "religion and the expectations of one's peers in associations and other groups were oppressive and, in the case of custom, despotic. For Tocqueville these were things that would serve as obstacles to tyranny... What for Mill was an ideally free society was Tocqueville's nightmare." [10] The utilitarian's sovereign was intended to maintain order in society among disconnected island-individuals - laws alone, not sentiment. Either this is complete ignorance of human nature and the masses' need for belonging and the meaning it provides, or it's a willful perversion. Had the utilitarians had their desires codified into founding documents and institutions, they'd have only accelerated our social / spiritual decline.

The utilitarians also protested the Founder's separation of powers. Utilitarians warned that with a tripartite system two of the three would combine to dominate the third. As we've been recently reminded, this remark might imply the utilitarians failed to notice that 3 could be 4 branches given a bicameral Congress. With a Congress divided between House and Senate, collusion between Congress and the Executive was frustrated by the 2018 election, thus allowing corruption to be addressed, including potential impeachment expressly provided by the Constitution because so much damage can be done between elections. However, as it turns out the utilitarians did recognize bicameralism and dismissed it because "it caused a delay and checked the power of the more democratically elected House." By now it might seem the utilitarians were making the Founders case for them. Delays were for the purpose of allowing reason to rise above dangerous passions hardwired into human nature. And who would not want a check on the most populist branch of government? Under the utilitarian's system the nation would be whipsawed from one idiotic passion to the next.

The judges weren't safe either. For utilitarians, the power of legislative annulment transferred "a portion of the supreme power from an assembly from which the people had some share in choosing, to a set of men [they didn't chose]." [11] But rather than create another body subject to the people's capricious will, the Founders wanted an unelected group steeped in legal philosophy and practice to stand outside the usual fray, with reasoned contemplation unencumbered by political machinations.

Lastly, utilitarians considered the Founder's checking mechanism of varied self-interests as sinister and divisive. As an example, and harkening back to the ancient's small republic, John Austin claimed the Reformation was "an evil to mankind" as it popularized theological questions and made people quarrelsome. For utilitarians, stable society seems to have depended on making human political thought robotically uniform. While the Founders saw our race as a spectrum from rational to ridiculous. From those of "reason and good sense" to those with "the most frivolous and fanciful distinctions...sufficient to kindle...and excite their most violent conflicts." [12] Consequently, "They wanted effective but also republican government, liberty but also stability, energy in the executive...but due dependence on the people." [13] The Federalist acknowledged their solution was an imperfect contrivance and improvisation. One should not be surprised their solution was forced to adopt "deviations from that artificial structure and regular symmetry [of the utilitarians] which...might lead an ingenious theorist to bestow on a Constitution planned in his closet or in his imagination." [14]

While understandable with hindsight, utilitarians were overly idealistic about embracing the new science, especially in personal human behavior. Their system of governance seems likely to be short-lived, arriving sooner to where we are now. Utilitarian arguments only strengthen the Founder's case. The Founders instead accepted human flaws to create a system of, by, and for unstable humans. A system that unleashed human potential like never before in the history of our species. It was also a system that would destroy itself as we'll see in future posts when we look at Patrick J. Deneen's alarming work, Why Liberalism Failed. [15] As it turned out, the Founders handed us a time bomb.

Until next time, September 2, 2019.

[1] Allan Bloom Ed. Confronting the Constitution, AEI Press, 1990.

[2] ibid, pg. 235

[3] ibid, pg. 235. Italics added.

[4] ibid, pg. 242

[5] ibid, pg. 236

[6] ibid, pg. 237

[7] ibid, pg. 243

[8] ibid, pg. 243

[9] ibid, pg. 253

[10] ibid, pg. 255

[11] ibid, pg. 241

[12] ibid, pg. 244

[13] ibid, pg. 248

[14] ibid, pg. 248

[15] Patrick J. Deneen, Why Liberalism Failed, Yale University Press, 2018

May 6, 2019: Notre Dame, and the religious experience in science

As I write this post on April 15, 2019, Notre Dame in Paris has collapsed into a caldron. The shimmering embers of its delicate spire have tumbled into an eruption of cinders, consumed by billows of incandescent smoke. The visible apse and nave of that magnificent church-one of the world's greatest architectural wonders-has been lifted to the sky in a column of ash, chaired remains on the ground, and mass converted to energy as photons of light now some six light hours distant, almost to the planet Neptune. While now, here on earth, one of the bell towers is on fire. [1]

Notre Dame was the holiest of holy places I'd ever been. That place which so stirred a hard agnostic like me, 800 years after it was built to inspire. When I walked between those massive bell towers, beneath those many saints on guard at its entrance portal, and looked up at that magnificent North Rose Window, I knew I was in the right place. Kaleidoscopic colors carved the shadows. Sounds were vague and cavernous. Thousands of candles lit fissures otherwise black as pitch. Above me, that vault of heaven dripped with golden shimmers off the boney marrow of stone supports like those other imposing sanctuaries in France: Lascaux, Trois-Frères, and Chauvet. All of it combined to lift me skyward as though an iron man drawn by its magnetic antiquity. A religious experience without the religion. I felt dizzy. I stood in that spot for the longest time, afraid to move and miss something. I walked to the nearest pew and for two hours absorbed the place by every pore on my skin. I was staggered by what humans can do.

It wasn't the last time I had such a revelation. In a completely different and sterile setting, it happened in Los Angeles.

When I approached LAX from the sky it was just "another day of sun," as the song by that name sings from the musical La La Land. They don't call it a Mediterranean climate for nothing. One of just five slivers on planet earth with ideal sun, temperature, and humidity (unlike Florida). Conditions so foreign to the rest of us that after six months of living there I went outside one morning to wonder if I'd ever see another cloud. I became solar powered, an attitudinal boost that must be lived to be understood. Visitors can never grasp it. With all those rays from Ra, how could I have ever felt so down about life, death, corruption, money launderers, adulterers, and criminal presidents above the law? (Actually, the combination of money launderer, adulterer, and criminal president above the law did not yet exist.)

But, sadly, I was flying into Southern California because I didn't live there anymore. I had moved back to Dallas, leaving behind that celebrated California climate where I could tell what time of day it was by how the air tasted (who needs a clock?), and regularly sat in traffic to turn my wheels over 3 miles in 90 minutes ("relaxation").

Still relishing the memories from my window seat, I saw what I could of those arousing Sierra Mountains: Kings Canyon, Sequoia, Death Valley, and Yosemite National Parks. Those beaches and islands in the world's largest body of water where each night after a jog on the Strand I watched that orange, oblate spheroid dive into the Underworld. In Dallas, I had Starbucks. And the most remarkable work of my career in an applied research group of the most innovative, motivated engineers and scientists I would ever have the good fortune to know.

Our group at Lockheed had hired a JPL spinoff called OEWaves in Pasadena. Pasadena lies just below that great telescope where in 1924 Edwin Hubble discovered we live in but one galaxy among billions, each with hundreds of billions of suns. Downhill at OEWaves, the engineers and scientists there were building a microwave photonic receiver born from a design we created, improved by their own intellectual property. The word receiver simply means we were building a radio. The words microwave and photonic means we were leveraging a new technology that unifies radio waves with laser light for all sorts of advantages. [2]

In OEWaves' clean room I suited up in hermetic attire to look through a microscope at that itsy-bitsy device. Not just any radio, it used something called the whispering gallery mode of a microdisk. "Whispering gallery" gets its name from London's St. Paul's Cathedral, where in 1878 Lord Rayleigh discovered he could hear a person whisper from the other side of the dome's gallery many meters away. In that case, sound waves were pressed against the circular dome as they bounced around its perimeter. In our case, light waves made that transit in a miniature disk of something like glass.

As I envision my magnified eye gazing down into that tiny house furnished with dazzling physical phenomena, one in particular deserves embroidery. As far back as Isaac Newton, people knew that when light is shone into a prism there are angles of entry beyond which all light will reflect off the back of that prism with none passed through the other side. A process called-and for once appropriately-total internal reflection. But at the point of reflection, something inexplicable happens. Recall that light photons, be they from your computer screen, lightbulb, or our receiver's laser, exist in only one state-gliding through space at 186,000 miles per second (3e8 m/s). Photons are always and only on the move. Except when totally internally reflected, from one dense medium to a less dense medium, like the glass of a prism interfaced with air. On the other side of that glass, in the air hugging its surface, is a fuzz of virtual photons. [3] Virtual because they're not real. Yet, there they are, loitering at zero miles per second.


By creating this fuzz of magic light, and only by this means, can those photons be "frustrated" by another dense medium like glass placed within mere nanometers of the prism. Simply intruding upon that ghostly space makes those photons real again. As though they've been seen to violate the law and run away humiliated. In our radio, it was the microdisk that so rudely disturbed their peaceful misbehavior. Once revived, those particles of laser light would whiz about its whispering gallery. And do so for long periods of time as we imposed information upon them by the modulation of radio waves applied to the disk. Without elaborating that last process, it's how we made laser light carry radio waves to then manipulate the result in useful ways.

As my eye peered down into that enigmatic world, we turned on the device, and absolutely nothing happened. No explosions, no fist fights, no car chases. All those circuit elements just sat there. Yet on the spectrum analyzer output, a brassy signal hurled above the noise from our elfin radio. Rock and roll was never so loud. A sorcerer's brew of Nature's mysteries and God's laws swirled in that tiny tabernacle to science smaller than a sugar cube. Those virtual-not-real photons I couldn't see were resurrected from the dead, right in front of me. It was an epiphany.

Like my elevation at Notre Dame, I felt dizzy. I hunched over that microscope for the longest time, afraid to move and miss something. I walked to a chair. I sat down and tried to absorb what just happened. Overcome with awe, momentarily speechless, I was staggered by what humans can do.

Much is made of the potential for science to steal meaning from our world. But as physicist Richard Feynman said, "I too can see the stars on a desert night, and feel them. Do I see less, or more?" That answer's easy: much more. I used to watch my advisor and one time astronomy instructor, James Van Allen preach science to students filling the pews in a 300 seat temple to learning. Nary a one came away undazzled. So enthusiastic in his measured way was he for the subject, he seemed like a priest for Truth, possessed by the Spirit, the Salvation of Science.

So, religion and science; are the two aspirations really so different? I don't mean in how they practice. Religion accepts supernatural cause, and the effects are miracles. Science accepts only natural cause, and there are no miracles. I mean in the way they make us feel. Not small, not insignificant as so many claim, but bigger than life. More expansive than the galaxy we live in and know so much about, while forever more to learn, ascendant by that knowledge.

By the time I upload this post, the final flash from Notre Dame will be over 300 billion miles distant. Far beyond the 13 billion mile boundary of our solar system-which took Voyager 40 years to reach-but still over four years from our nearest stellar neighbor. The marvel of photosynthesis formed into plant cells of wood, carved by craftsman, exalted by art, and part of that church will sail on as the memory of what it was. It's odd to think that it will do so long after those who saw it are dead. Long after the human race is extinct. Long after earth is vaporized by a dying sun, Notre Dame's whisper will persist, like a prayer for help from the cosmos. Another prayer unanswered.

Until next time, July 1, 2019.

[1] The bell towers were saved by Parisian firefighters.

[2] Notice that I, like all of us familiar with the discipline use the words "light," "waves," and "photons" interchangeably.

[3] Physicists familiar with the term "virtual photon" will protest my use of the word here since it is usually attributed to those photons engaged in force exchange between charged particles, i.e. the particle representation of electromagnetic interaction. A more proper designation would be that TIA produces evanescent waves that fall away exponentially in amplitude from the prism/air interface. But that's a whole other bag of worms to elucidate.

March 4, 2019: Confronting the Constitution Part 4: Rousseau's enduring rebuke of Enlightenment governance

In Allan Bloom's contribution to Confronting the Constitution he depicts the insights of, and threats to, Enlightenment political philosophy posed by Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778). [1] Rousseau's ideas were inspiring and inflammatory to those of his age, and since, though most today don't know Rousseau as the source of their own outlook. According to Harvard's Leo Damrosch, while the Founders were chiefly influenced by Locke and Montesquieu, all were moved by Rousseau one way or another, especially Jefferson. [2] While Rousseau's radical reputation made it imprudent to affiliate, Jefferson's declaratory line comes from Rousseau's Social Contract: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights." [3]

Rousseau's reach extended past the Counter-Enlightenment, past Romanticism, and into the brains of Hume, Thomas Paine, Adam Smith, Alexis de Tocqueville, John Stuart Mill, Thoreau, Marx, Leo Strauss, Goethe, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., America's Right, Left, and me. It was 20 years ago when I first met Rousseau, who puzzled, agitated, and knocked me off my feet. As Allan Bloom tells it, Rousseau "possessed an unsurpassed intellectual clarity accompanied by a stirring and seductive rhetoric." [4] His reflections "had the effect of outflanking the Framers on the Left, where they thought they were invulnerable." [5] While the Founders sought to neuter the old European orders of power propped up by the church and wealth on the Right, their "movement from prejudice to reason, despotism to freedom, inequality to equality [was not meant] to be infinite," nor driven by a policy of retribution. [6] Yet Rousseau's philosophy did just that, multiple times through history.

Striking at the heart of Enlightenment philosophy and thus foundations of our Constitution, Rousseau proved to himself that the "attempt to use man's natural passions as the foundation of civil society fails while it perverts those passions." [7] "The fulfillment of unnecessary desires, begun as a pleasure, ends up being a necessity... Desire emancipated becomes limitless and calls forth an economy to provide it." [8] "[This economy] instituted to serve life alters the purpose of life, and the activity of society becomes subservient to it... [while] a prosperous future is always just beyond the horizon. As politics turns into economics... men are abstractions while money is real." [9] Or, per anthropologist Louis Dumont, things become more important than people. [10]

What's created from a philosophical background of politics is an economic system that as Brooks Adam's tells it in his Law of Civilization and Decay will continue to squeeze out efficiency, until it has squashed the last of humane nature from its maker - man rebuilt by the system he made. [11] An artificial man, whose central interest was once self-preservation becomes "covetous" in theological language. Which rings again the bell of contradiction between the selflessness of religion and the belonging it provides, vs. the selfishness of interest-based economics with its promise of autonomy. Precisely Rousseau's concern.

Four years ago on this blog we considered Rousseau's fears realized: "The economic promise to make individuals independent was a resounding success. Compared to the past, we are materially rich, socially and spiritually impoverished. We've decided without knowing it to trade one domain for the other. As political philosopher Michael J. Sandal puts it, 'liberated and dispossessed.' Economics is not merely a tool of analysis to tell us what happened or attempt predictions; it sets public policy to structure the very society we live in. By Dumont's account, 'Something that remains opaque in this transition in mental perspective is that the new morality regulates social relationships whether or not goods are involved.'" [12]

It's a complex social system. The economic model is a consequence of the political philosophy. [13] The political philosophy is a consequence of the human definition. That human definition delineates what moral ethics require-rights or responsibilities? This moral ethic reevaluates others in a world of more than ourselves alone, when it used to be those others in the form of true communities of deep human connection that gave us meaning (different from purpose [14]). A meaning once set so high above the self there was no need for an afterlife, as what lived on was the readily visible community on earth in the here and now. [15] Much later (800 BC - 200 BC), with the inward turn of Axial Age meditation, prayer, and philosophy, the individual ascends and community begins its long decay. Preservation of the self becomes a lot more important when death is psychologically final. An afterlife becomes essential. The new world religions provided it. Individualism that the Axial Age gave rise to is how we got on this self-interest track to begin with. It's what Enlightenment tried to sort out, and what our Founders had to engage. It's a package deal of historic span. [16]

Like the Founders, Rousseau believed passion must control passion, not unreliable virtue. As his solution, "Rousseau chooses patriotism," writes Bloom, "a motive tinged with fanaticism, [but he does so] because it alone can counterpoise the natural inclination to prefer oneself over everyone else, an inclination much intensified and perverted [by Enlightenment]... Patriotism is a sublimated form of self-love, seeking the first place for one's country." [17]

Or maybe not. As demonstrated by the satisfaction of bloodlust in the French Revolution, more than a little tinged by fanaticism and a policy of retribution, "traced, without intermediaries, to Rousseau's influence," says Bloom. [18] For all Rousseau's opposition to Locke's self-interested system, "Locke was simply right in one decisive aspect. Everybody, not just the rich, gets richer in a system of liberal economy. Gross inequalities of wealth persist or are encouraged by it, but the absolute material wellbeing of each is greatly enhanced." [19] And as Alexander Hamilton told us in January, "In every community where industry is encouraged, there will be a division of it into the few and the many... Inequality would exist as long as liberty existed, and it would unavoidably result from that very liberty itself" because talents are unequal. [20] As we saw back in September, the Founders provided "not the best government they could devise, but the best government the people would accept." [21]

But despite the practicalities and positives of Enlightenment philosophy, Rousseau's portentous warnings have arrived. With a level field the Constitution strives to maintain, it's up to individuals to make the most of a system that frees them to pursue their interests, or be eaten by it.

If not dominated by the combat of "just getting by," most Americans chase primate hierarchies of status, material display for sexual selection (the male purview of most species), while possessed by our possessions with so much stuff we rent storage. A little mediation goes a long way to a life of freedom in pursuit of interests worth pursuing. I know because I did it. I committed to my career for a limited number of years (though up to 98 hours/week). Having learned from my mistakes, I saved all I could, invested wisely, and for a decade and half had little more than a pad to sleep on, a spoon, fork, knife, and two plates-one for the cats. That prosperous future (of freedom) need not be forever "just beyond the horizon."

I was lucky. For most, each day's commute is another lesson in submission, where, as Mark Twain said, "All men live lives of quiet desperation." I relished applied physics in engineering. Yet, despite that fascination, for me there were other important matters that pay nothing. Like painting, writing, the study of history, philosophy, and other sciences on another hike in the Sierras with my pups, without a deadline. Some young people have figured this out through the Mister Money Mustache movement. [22] I salute them as smarter than I was at their age when I bought into America's consumerist society hook, line, and sinker. Then sunk into spiritual ruin in short order after my idyllic university experience. Preparation for calamity.

While anecdotal, my example implies Rousseau correctly diagnosed the symptoms of modernity, but he got the medication wrong. He tried to impose pre-Axial Age community on individualist society; errors Marxism and socialism would repeat with Rousseau's help. Enlightenment offered the right prescription for post-community modernity (with caveats [23]). Most right for those who can turn from those shiny lures modernity also offers that come with a sharp hook.

Aside from his brilliance, which I cannot parallel, Rousseau was able to see the ills because he was an idealist, believing solutions exist. In that regard, Rousseau and I are birds of a feather. For people like this it is their mission to exhume a remedy to civilization's troubles somewhere in that deepest fissure of the human nucleus where "The Truth" resides. For these types it's an irresistible quest from the day they realize they're on one. A quest for salvation. Saved by understanding, and with that, forgiveness for the species we hold liable-our own. But as is said of idealists, "They're always in a moral huff." Idealists can't find the solution because it does not exist. They engage in a tireless fistfight to square the circle in an attempt to make sense of a creature that can't. An exhumation that unearths not salvation, but damnation of a cerebral sort. Rousseau was damned in this same glorious and inspiring way.

Until next time, May 6, 2019.

[1] Allan Bloom Ed. Confronting the Constitution, AEI Press, 1990. Notice that Rousseau was sandwiched between the duos of Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) and John Locke (1632-1704) as pioneers in the modern movement, with Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) and Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) capping the phase, conventionally closed by 1789, commencement of the French Revolution.

[2] Leo Damrosch, Friends of Rousseau: Some of the people he has influenced don't even know it, Humanities, July/August 2012, v. 33, No. 4, , Leo Damrosch is professor of literature at Harvard University and author of Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Restless Genius, Houghton Mifflin, 2005

[3] Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract, Oxford, 1994

[4] Bloom, pg. 214

[5] ibid, pg. 212

[6] ibid, pg. 212

[7] ibid, pg. 217

[8] ibid, pg. 217

[9] ibid, pg. 222

[10] Louis Dumont, From Mandeville to Marx: The Genesis and Triumph of Economic Ideology, University of Chicago Press, 1977

[11] Brooks Adams, The Law of Civilization and Decay, Macmillan, 1916

[12] Brett Williams, July 6, 2015: Mount Economics - It Wasn't Always So Tall

[13] Recall Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations that codified capitalism was first published in 1776.

[14] "Different from purpose." In keeping with my hypothesis that meaning is externally granted from those who value us, while purpose in internally generated with an endless list of things to do.

[15] Mark W. Muesse, Religions of the Axial Age, The Great Courses, 2007

[16] Recall that Enlightenment philosophy from which all this blooms was built on the fruits of Newton's Scientific Revolution, with an attempt to apply its kind of thinking to man. Newton was built on Renaissance, which was the West's rediscovery of ancient Greece, their philosophy, science, and mathematics. It was Thales who ca. 600 BC said, we will-in this new pursuit one day to be called science-no longer accept supernatural explanations. There are no miracles in science. Why? Because the gods are as fickle as the people who invent them. Science accepts only natural causes that bear testable predictions. Now, 2600 years later, planes, trains, internet and automobiles prove his method quite right-The Truth in nature with a capital T. But success in nature does not necessarily make it a discipline appropriate for the mastery of human nature. Except that the Founders tried to do just that with Enlightenment's new "science of political philosophy." Could it be, as Marcel Gauchet terms it, an "illogical solution to our illogical condition," that we exist and that we won't, would be more appropriate? Marcel Gauchet, The Disenchantment of the World: A political History of Religion, Princeton, 1997. Furthermore, I hide here in the footnotes a notion that the Axial Age is the second indication of too many humans on earth, the first as a swap in priority from goddess to god. I suggest the goddess with her powers of reproduction were initially paramount as survival of the species depended on it. Once there were too many humans, especially with sedentary agriculture and its highly invested settlements (no more hunter-gatherer wandering), then war gods rise to primacy in order to defend and dispose of threats from all those humans. War gods favor only a chosen people, with little regard for the humans themselves. Dramatic individualization that accompanies the Axial Age occurs (I suggest) not because of increasing change, effects of the State, or Empires and their wars, but one level down: because there's too many humans that result in all these compensations-social countermeasures as innovations to counter innovations. We just keep trying to fix what we broke. Then break something else.

[17] ibid, pg. 216. Notice Rousseau turns to patriotism, not religion.

[18] ibid, pg. 212

[19] ibid, pg. 223

[20] Brett Williams, January 7, 2019: Confronting the Constitution, Part 3: Has social change made the US Constitution obsolete?

[21] Brett Williams, September 3, 2018: Confronting the Constitution, Part 2: Government of, by, and for unstable humans

[22] Mister Money Mustache

[23] However, as we now witness, self-interest based political philosophy and its resulting economic model come with an unstated assumption, and lethal on a planetary scale: limitless resources. Couple that assumption with massive human overpopulation and we get what we got.

January 7, 2019: Confronting the Constitution Part 3: Has social change made the US Constitution obsolete?

In Nathan Tarcov's contribution to Confronting the Constitution he argues that American society has changed dramatically in the last two centuries while its political framework barely budged. [1] With a charter hard to change the Founders did not, however, "freeze social facts or aspirations," writes Tarcov, and bound us to no social theory. [2] This was different from ancient or modern sociopolitical founders, "who alike were creators or destroyers of classes." [3] By design, "the founding tended to leave society free to develop outside the purview not only of constitution making but of government altogether." [4] The Constitution was to remain largely as it was while society evolved-the abolition of slavery as an example. [5] This is not to say the structure had no social intent. "They gave careful thought to the kind of free society that is compatible with republican government..." [6] Their goal, "That society be made of free [individuals], and that individuals be fit for free society." [7]

But today, "there is an uneasy sense," claims Tarcov, "that our inherited political institutions and principles are inappropriate to our new society... Must we abandon our political fit our social practices and goals?" Before we can answer that, he considers what sort of society the Founders thought appropriate for republican institutions. These institutions and their interaction with society were central to the 1787 Convention, and this is where Tarcov dives into the competition of ideas between these statesmen, not politicians. [8]

One perennial problem of civilization has been the tension between the few and the many. The "haves," which constitute the few, must not be allowed to dominate the "have nots," which constitute the many. Nor should the "have nots" be allowed to confiscate legal property of the "haves" (with caveats). [9]

At the Convention, Charles Pinckney tried to make the case that America is of one social order with "greater equality than is to be found among people of any other country." [10] Alexander Hamilton disagreed. "Whereas Pinckney hoped that America could avoid either a dangerously influential rich few or a dangerously poor many, Hamilton declared 'In every community where industry is encouraged, there will be a division of it into the few and the many... Inequality would exist as long as liberty existed, and it would unavoidably result from that very liberty itself.'" [11] Material inequality characterized a free nation.

Yet the potential for extreme economic inequality was well known in the ancient example of Solon who, in his establishment of direct democracy, engaged in dramatic redistribution to keep the peace in Greece. But as Tarcov elucidates, "The point of republican equality is not an economic notion of just distribution...but a political notion of a social structure suitable to maintaining political equality and liberty." [12] For the Founders, a level field was fundamental, prior to economic concerns, which would follow and be naturally unequal by talent. (Does political equality render the free speech argument of Citizens United counter to the Constitution by giving the rich more political clout?)

In debates over the branches of government, how independent they should be, how long they should serve, and the consequences of each branch for the few and the many, it was Gouverneur Morris who acknowledged Hamilton's perspective, with caution. "Wealth tends to corrupt the mind, nourish its love of power, and stimulate it to oppression..." he said. [13] Despite Pinckney's hope that a vast territory would preserve a single class of industrious yeoman, Morris countered, "The schemes of the rich will be favored by the extent of the country... [The people] will be dupes of those who have more knowledge and intercourse. Thus it has been the world over. So it will be among us. Reason tells us we are but men: and we are not to expect any particular interference of Heaven in our favor." [14] "Pride is," Morris claimed, "the great principle that actuates both the poor and the rich...which in the former resists, in the latter abuses authority." [15] (Look about yourself today; Morris comes across as scarcely short of prophetic.) His social psychology was more political than economic, more concerned with power and freedom than wealth. Republican government was more likely to succeed if it "expressed and arbitrated, rather than repressed or neglected the fundamental [and inevitable] social division between the few and the many." [16]

It doesn't hurt to remind ourselves that the sticky issue here is one of balance. Too much inequality leads to social upheaval and/or the immorality of master/slave. Too much equality leads to tyrannical oppression of talent and its reward, commensurate with the least of us. Everyone has different talents, and it was just such talents the Founders sought to unleash. Enabled by an arrangement that invited a society suitable to political equality and liberty, not equality of outcomes.

Madison offered a third vision distinct from Pinckney's social homogeneity, or Morris and Hamilton's laissez-faire acceptance between rich and poor. Madison's was regulation by default. Regulation by the structure of the system itself as an expansive republic, in direct violation of the ancient's goal to keep republics small, thus producing citizens like-minded enough to be stable. An expansive republic multiplies interests, thus diluting their power. Farmers have different interests from fishermen. But there's a bonus. Rich and poor fishermen have interests different from rich and poor farmers. Interests have an opportunity to unite the few and the many within each interest in competition with other interests. With numerous interests dictated by local environment over an expansive country, Madison expected to weaken any particular one in its potential to constitute a tyranny of the majority. "Not to prevent majority rule," Tarcov writes, "but [at least the opportunity] to form majority coalitions on principles of justice and the general good." Assuming a general good exists.

As Francis Fukuyama characterizes America's current status, "[Our] preoccupation with identity has clashed with the need for civic discourse. The focus on lived experience by identity groups prioritizes the emotional world of the inner self over rational examination of issues in the outside world, and privileges sincerely held opinions over a process of reasoned deliberation..." [17] We now live in an age when identity groups have chosen to be treated not "the same [as] dominant groups" but to "assert a separate identity...[demanding] respect for them as different from mainstream society." [18] Insisting "not only that laws and institutions treat them as equal...but also that broader society recognize and celebrate intrinsic differences that sets them apart." [19] This bearing born from the Left, Fukuyama alerts, has now been implemented by the Right, worldwide. Where demagogues pander to groups aggrieved by threats to their identity real or imagined.

As 50 years of Leftist relativism has taught the Right "alternative facts," fake news, and Rudy Gulliani's postmodernist impersonation with his "truth isn't truth," so too has Left-wing segregation under the politically correct guise of modern "multiculturalism" and "diversity" invigorated the populist Right's appeal to the "white working class on ethnocultural grounds." [20] A revival of bigots on the Right, by bigots on the Left.

Is there a common good in this new social theory? Is it "compatible with republican government?" Tarcov makes an unstated assumption that Americans would want such a government in perpetuity. Could it be social change has made the US Constitution obsolete, the people desirous of another form? Perhaps the totalitarianism of perfect equality dreamed of by the idealistic fringe Left, so long as each group is regarded in a manner particular to their victim status. Or should it be Right-wing authoritarianism? To "take back America" by force, given that the undereducated many have proven themselves incapable of reasonably disputing intellectual convolutions of those educated few. After decades without civics education in self-governance we Americans don't know the difference between republican government and any other. How hard can it be to embrace something else? [21] Tarcov doesn't say. Currently in America, 51% of young people favor the economic-political blend of socialism. [22]

It may be the Founder's vision has been incrementally corrupted by the interests they aspired to enable, just as they feared. As Ralph Lerner notes elsewhere in the text, they wanted a system that could endure "a thousand daily circumstances [that] drew citizen's thoughts and energies earthward and inward. Where the enticements of immediate material reward threatened to drain public life of the indispensable involvement of the many and the indispensable contribution of the best." [23] But, knowing human nature, they feared "A nation of private calculators with short memories would forget the long-term consequences of not tending to the public business." [24] Thus failing to remind "people of the evils self-governance helps them avoid." [25]

Until next time, March 4, 2019.

[1] Nathan Tarcov, "The Social Theory of the Founders," in Allan Bloom Ed., Confronting the Constitution, AEI Press, 1990. Tarcov's remark is not to say America's politics, and fidelity to the Constitution has remained the same. We now have Gerrymandering, primaries, Senators elected by the people, and an Electoral College no longer the last safeguard against despots given that the Parties take precedence over the country and its Constitution, to name but a few changes.

[2] ibid, pg. 167

[3] ibid, pg. 167

[4] ibid, pg. 167

[5] Recall from a previous post here how Michael Polanyi argues for an open society based on a fixed tradition that nonetheless makes room for and invites change in the interest of justice. Likewise he notes a similar tradition of practice in science inviting the completion of knowledge in the interest of truth. Note also the effort required to change the Constitution as spelled out in that document through the process of Amendment with satisfactory majorities in the House, Senate, and the States themselves. By no means can the Constitution, by its own decree, be adjusted willy-nilly by the latest fool to occupy the White House through an executive order. That Trump could utter such inanity reinforces what we already know.

[6] Confronting the Constitution, pg. 167

[7] Ralph Lerner, "Jefferson's Pulse of Republican Reformation," pg. 164, in Allan Bloom Ed., Confronting the Constitution, AEI Press, 1990.

[8] Brett Williams, September 3, 2018: Confronting the Constitution. Part 2: Government of, by, and for unstable humans

[9] We should add not only "legal property" but morally acquired, as free from seizure by authorities. An old idea included as far back as the Magna Carta, which gave to the people rights to confiscate the King's property if wrongfully acquired. American Big Pharma is a shining example in their immoral dumping of harmful and/or ineffective drugs into patients for profit. In some cases these drugs are known to be harmful or potentially lethal and in some cases these drugs are shielded by the FDA, whose charter it is to protect public health, not pad Pharma profits. See Redacted: Is the FDA withholding drug trial data to protect corporate secrets of pharmaceutical companies?, Scientific American, February, 2018, pg. 38-43. Are those profits free from seizure by government fine or public lawsuits? For direct violations in healthcare when FDA does (or did) its job, Google: Haldol and Dementia. You'll find Haldol, according to NIH the most hazardous antipsychotic among all antipsychotics when used on elderly dementia patients, with tortuous and/or lethal consequences. While Haldol has been shown to have some efficacy on patients with schizophrenia, no benefits have been shown when used on the completely different category of dementia patients. Yet still it's prescribed despite FDA's 2008 black box warning against it. As Bernie Sanders noted, hundreds of millions in lost legal cases by Big Pharma is the "cost of doing business" for drugs that earn in the billions. Such is corruption of the Founder's system, when business buys the representatives that write laws for the business few, not the many.

[10] Confronting the Constitution, pg. 171. Pinkney did however see equality "in the first place legal and political, and only secondarily every freeman has a right to the same protection and security."

[11] ibid. pg. 172

[12] ibid. pg. 171, italics added

[13] ibid. pg. 175

[14] ibid. pg. 176

[15] ibid. pg. 176

[16] ibid. pg. 173

[17] Francis Fukuyama, Against Identity Politics: The New Tribalism and the Crisis of Democracy, Foreign Affairs, September/October 2018, pg. 101

[18] Confronting the Constitution, pg. 97

[19] ibid. pg. 98. This is in wonderful agreement with postmodernist self-contradictions infecting the Left. "We demand equality. But treat us differently."

[20] Eric Kaufmann, Immigration and the Future of the West, Foreign Affairs, September/October, 2018, pg. 224-231

[21] Questioning republican governance, Americans are currently engaged in a low-level rebellion, not without cause. As we've seen before, the Founder's enthusiasm for prosperity was not only for taxes to pay defense and law enforcement ensuring liberty and rights, but to gain popular consent for republicanism. Today, after Afghanistan (losing to the Taliban) and the much bigger boondoggle in Iraq to destabilize not only the Middle East but Europe with a total of $5T spent in the Mid-East, and tens of thousands dead, how does government look now? See, Gordon Lubold, U.S. Spent $5.6 Trillion on Wars in Middle East and Asia, Nov. 8, 2017. Add to this the already reeling effects from the China Shock, when Wall Street took down the Western world's economy only to reward themselves $21B in bonuses with none of them in jail and no laws to restrain elusive CDOs and derivatives that put us there. How does globalism, and capitalism itself, long embraced by representatives-who wrote the laws for banks and corporations that bought them-look to those who lost their jobs, homes, and families? These people can't afford congressmen. The Founder's system has been corrupted, in both these examples in ways they feared: foreign entanglements, and the rich few.

[22] Kathleen Elkins, Most young Americans prefer socialism to capitalism , CNBC, Aug 14 2018

[23] Ralph Lerner, "Jefferson's Pulse of Republican Reformation," pg. 165, in Allan Bloom Ed., Confronting the Constitution, AEI Press, 1990.

[24] ibid. pg. 165

[25] ibid. pg. 165

November 5, 2018: The betrayal of Christ: global warming denial

I get prickly about a few things.

Well... maybe more than a few. But I'm most prickly about liars.

I get prickly when I catch myself lying. My deceit is never so large as to lie about porn star adultery, stealing millions from students at my fake university, Russian money laundering or treason. Nothing like that. My lies are exaggerations fueled by the thrill of talking too much. With time I've come to hear a cautionary voice. I halt before the offense or pause and correct. Rarely now do I get away with it.

That voice came from my parents, still alive in my head. But the teaching came not only from their moral lessons of Great Depression hardship but from what I learned in Sunday school as a boy. "Jesus said, 'Seek the truth, and it will set you free,'" I was told, and I never forgot it. [1]

By traditional standards, I'm no longer a Christian because I don't take mythic elements like miracles, virgin birth, and resurrection from the dead as real. Almost all gods in antiquity, centuries or millennia before Jesus, performed miracles, were virgin born and resurrected from the dead. For me, these are distractions from the teachings of Jesus as one of the great philosophers. And a unique one, hence the designation Chistos, worthy of reverence in another sense. [2]

If there's one thing I do worship, it's truth, likely born from those youthful lessons. In those younger days, the political Right in America stood-sometimes-for objective morality based on a version of Natural Law (i.e. human nature). They respected our Constitution and the spirit of compromise our Founders saw as central to republican democracy. They saw science as the Western Way that would defeat Soviet Communism in the space race. Above all, when I was young, the Right tried to live by the teachings of Jesus Christ, at least in my house.

I once reported here the penance I served as a four-year-old, having stolen five 1? Tootsie Rolls for the family. [3] I noted how after a series of immoral examples in adulthood, I sought to live a more truthful and moral life. I later came to believe that probing the depths of physics in the workplace served this because, at its root, science is a quest for Truth in nature with a capital T. If you get the science wrong or lie about it or satisfy your politics instead, whatever you build will... not... work. Conversely, this Truth of science is represented by those billions of devices that work just as science said they would. Eventually, with the brazen lies enabling the 2003 Iraq invasion, I came to realize I had to divorce my Right-wing tribe perverted after Reagan and stop lying for it. This doesn't mean I joined the Left. They lie about different things. But since those younger days, the Right has betrayed every ideal they once stood for. Morality no longer matters. [4] The Constitution is too cumbersome for obstructionist governance seeking authoritarianism. [5] Instead of champions for science like the Apollo mission, the Right's spokesman, Rush Limbaugh, broadcasts anti-science homilies claiming, "Science is one of the four corners of deceit." [6] A message transmitted over radio waves discovered by science, with electronics built by science. Much like Al-Ghazali's successful 11th-century sermons against rational thought that threatened belief in the Koran, only to destroy the world's preeminent culture. [7] But most striking, and wedded to America's anti-science movement, is the Right's rejection of Christ's instruction. Instead of the truth to set them free, truth is willfully abandoned. Notably, when it comes to manmade global warming, one of this planet's greatest threats since an asteroid extinguished 75% of all life 66 million years ago. [8]

After a career where facts are the stock-in-trade, I'm still surprised to see what sells in the world outside. Many Americans, perhaps most now, have little tolerance for truth, facts, or morality. All are obstacles to winning their political arguments. As an example, psychologists Boven and Sherman found a majority of Republicans surveyed think manmade global warming is true, but they can't say so because it violates tribal doctrine. [9] Given that the Left accepts the science, the Right prefers they betray Christ by seeking the lie rather than admit liberals are correct. [10] More than mere adolescent defiance, Right-wing politicians make policies and laws that kill science funding, block solutions, and harass scientists like all despotic regimes that target intellectuals first. [11] Since when did the Right vilify innovators, entrepreneurs, and capitalists who solve hard problems to get rich and create jobs?

I recently witnessed this in a debate about global warming with a conservative man. At first, I assumed that as a very devout Christian, he sought the truth. "The cost to fix global warming is too high," he said. "What will it cost to lose Miami, New York, and LA underwater?" I asked. [12] For vital interests, like trillions in defense, do we shirk our duty because the cost is high? "It's been warm before." "And we know why," I responded. "Does that make manmade global warming OK?" There have been murders before. Does that justify the next one? "What about CO2 from fires, and volcanoes? There's always been fires and volcanoes." Measured in the geologic record, what climate scientists will never find in all earth history is the much larger 30 to 40 gigatons of CO2 jacked into the atmosphere per year by humans-until now. [13] And the comment that verified the source of these remarks, "Limbaugh's not anti-science. He's anti-junk-science." Note Limbaugh's reference above. What is junk science to Limbaugh is whatever he says it is-whatever violates his dogma. [14]

Despite all this man's church participation, Christian retreats, and Bible study, what I realized was, he didn't want answers. He didn't seek truth. He wanted to win what he viewed as a political argument. His talking points were meant to mint that paramount American political currency of doubt. Doubt in order to deny answers because people like this hate liberals more than they love truth. Since Limbaugh and comrades define global warming as liberal, no logic, no measurements, or truth will change the mind of True Believers. Pun intended, it was a Revelation: for these types of Christians their political tribe is more important than Christ.

Not only is there no initiative among deniers to seek the truth, as in this instance, but answers provided are labeled junk science with another red herring lined up to thwart resolution. Instead of sound-bite answers to sound-bite questions, when I offered the climate science, he ended the conversation with, "I'm not going to listen to your facts and data." The dogma was safe. As Hoffer wrote, "To rely on...reason is heresy and treason... [the True Believer] cannot be freighted by danger nor disheartened by obstacles nor baffled by contradictions because he denies their existence." [15] If facts and data are rejected, not only is Christ's search for truth jettisoned, but we have an entirely different quasi-religious creed to coddle lies. [16] A creed that dare not be challenged lest the Radio Oracle label us liberal.

By the time this conversation was over, I was a little prickly.

But there are more elaborate maneuvers than Limbaugh. A year ago, I received a video making rounds on the Internet. It was the Nobel Prize-winning physicist, Ivar Giaever who just "proved" global warming a pseudoscience. As a member of the field I watched Giaever's 30-minute video with interest, then created a 10 slide presentation refuting every one of his deceptions. It wasn't hard, even for an average hillbilly, hayseed plowboy like me. Apparently the Nobel doesn't confer honesty, though it does garner connections to cash as Giaever is paid by global warming deniers: the Heartland Institute in Chicago. Having completed my presentation I blanketed my email list with it. From scientists and engineers I knew would examine its contents with a fine-toothed comb, to those deniers I'd received it from. Yet even these Limbaugh disciples were silent. They knew enough about the game not to venture into verifiable measurements and logic. Forget Christ's instruction. Better to keep their distance from Truth than jeopardize clan affiliation. It's informative to see just how fraudulent Giaever's sham is. A link to his video and my presentation is here and in references below. [17]

The science that makes planes, trains, automobiles, computers, TV, and radio work just as science says they will, is precisely the same science that proves manmade global warming a fact-physics and chemistry. No difference. The central quest in science meets Christ's guidance in complete accord-at the Truth.

It's remarkable what science can do. [18] Remarkable that while dependent on science in their daily lives Americans can lie about it over the airwaves or right to your face. And remarkable that many of these same people call themselves Christians. [19] Christ's teachings are a matter of convenience to them, practiced on Sunday morning, or to patch their fears when needed. The ultimate hypocrites, the ultimate liars, and that makes me really prickly. As a non-believer, in practice, I'm more Christian than they are.

But so what if people violate what they once stood for, or if they deny science? One reason is China. China is spending $361B on the science of renewables, creating 13 million new jobs over the next four years. They've committed $6T (that's trillion) to low carbon power by 2040. [20] This deliberately targets American foreign influence with its newfound oil and gas vs. Chinese green power. Meanwhile, America hobbles technology, investment, and policy that would create wealth and jobs with solutions because Americans believe what they're told to believe by a celebrity on the radio. Another celebrity who wouldn't know science from a kumquat. Welcome to the Chinese Century.

But another reason to care is deeper in America itself. If, as Trump said, he wants to avoid "shithole countries," he should leave the one he's in. Not a material shithole, a moral one. Denial of truth from the man on the street to political leaders speaks to character, a topic Americans no longer raise for obvious reasons. Coupled to this weakness are the moral consequences of science rejection by the Right and Left we've considered before. [21] The upshot is, when science is ditched, so too is the reason it's built on, and with reason goes morality. Why? Because morality requires we know what really happened for just decisions to be made-essential for republican democracy.

It's a malignant moment here in America. We've the potential to rival 11th century Islam, or through political pressures bastardize science as communists did with "Proletariat Science" that starved to death 20 to 40 million people. If Americans want America to be "great again" they'll have to learn how to tell the truth.

Until next time, January 7, 2019.

[1] John 8:32. According to the New Jerusalem Bible (Doubleday, 1985, pg. 1763), what this verse actually says is, "You will come to know the truth, and the truth will set you free." Its context is set by John 8:31: "To the Jews who believed in him Jesus said: If you make my word your home you will indeed be my disciples." Some religious scholars claim this truth is the truth about God. But if God created the physical universe, and given science is merely how we understand that universe, then is the truth of science not also the truth of God? In Ephesians 4:25, Paul says, "So from now on there must be no more lies. Speak the truth to one another..."

[2] The Greek word "Christos" is translated as "the Messiah" or "anointed one." While I find the universal nature of mythical elements in religion in regards to human psychology and traditions fascinating, my position on divinity is similar to that of the fictional character I created in The Father, a man named Morgan who debates with his devout son John: "What I believe, John, is that there can be no greater hero than a man who would live by the truth all the way to his doom...If Jesus was God, or a god, where's the risk in death on the cross? There's no loss. No permanent consequence to his suffering. But for the man who does this, who knows his life will end if he stands for justice, that is greatness worthy of worship."

[3] Brett Williams, September 4, 2017: Has America become a nation of liars?

[4] Danielle Kurtzleben, Under Trump, America's religious right is rewriting its code of ethics, NPR, October 23, 2016. Randall Balmer, POLL: White Evangelicals Have Warmed To Politicians Who Commit 'Immoral' Acts, The Guardian, February 18, 2018

[5] Thomas B. Edsall, The Contract With Authoritarianism, New York Times, April 5, 2018.

[6] Rush Limbaugh: "The Four Corners of Deceit are government, academia, science, and the media," in The Four Corners of Deceit: Prominent Liberal Social Psychologist Made It All Up, April 29, 2013. Heather Horn, Is the Right Wing Anti-Science?, The Atlantic, 9.10.2010.

[7] Pervez Hoodbhoy, Islam and Science: Religious Orthodoxy and the Battle For Rationality, Zed, 1991, pg. 126.

[8] Global warming is but one of earth's great threats. Others include habitat loss, mostly due to agriculture for almost 8 billion humans. Another is simply eating species into oblivion like the 95% of tuna to vanish in the last 20 years. Another is pollution. Another is the wild animal trade driving species into extinction garnering a bonus with higher prices before they are poached out of existence. See "Loved To Death," Scientific American October, 2017.

[9] Leaf Van Boven and David Sherman, Actually, Republicans Do Believe in Climate Change, New York Times, July 28, 2018.

[10] My interpretation, not Boven and Sherman's.

[11] Oklahoma Republican Senator Jim Inhofe claims global warming is "the greatest hoax ever perpetrated against the American people." He's chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee. See, Brad Johnson, Inhofe: God Says Global Warming Is A Hoax, ThinkProgress, March 9, 2012. Texas Republican Representative and science denier Lamar Smith has built his reputation on harassment of climate scientists and attorneys general with 25 subpoenas, from a committee that issued only one since its creation in 1958. Smith is chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. See, Lisa Rein, House science chairman gets heat in Texas race for being a global warming skeptic, Washington Post, November 7, 2016. For harassment of scientists see, Phil Plait, Scientists Stand Up To Congressional Attacks, SLATE, June 2, 2016.

[12] Having listened to Limbaugh for 22 years, I was already familiar with his sound bites, with ample sound bite responses. Jordan B. Peterson would say my response was in keeping with the true cultural warrior by answering a talking point with a talking point, thus denying the potential for resolution, stimulating the next Limbaugh talking point. A more revealing response to "It will cost too much," may have been, "How much will it cost?" Since that cost would be unknown it could be asked, "Then how can we claim it costs too much?" Thus asking the talking point promoter to ask themselves instead of trying to skewer them, which is a natural bad habit. As Michael Shermer and Steven Pinker have noted, facts and data harden opposing orthodoxy in today's America. As stated, truth is an obstacle to winning political arguments.

[13] The volcanic effect on climate depends on the type of volcano. Short term effects can cool, not heat, through albedo increase of ejecta (see Toba eruption). Volcanoes place approximately 0.3 gigatons of CO2 in the atmosphere per year, or about 1/60th human annual injection according to NOAA, June 15, 2016. At time of writing, 2018 California CO2 output from fires appears not yet available. But 2015 data show about 25M tons of CO2 from California fires: David R. Baker, Huge wildfires can wipe out California's greenhouse gas gains, San Francisco Chronicle, Nov. 22, 2017. There are of course fires worldwide. Though forest fire CO2 output is decreasing because the forests are being replaced by CO2 producing farmland. See, Daisy Dunne, CO2 emissions from wildfires have fallen over past 80 years, study finds, Carbon Brief, 7 April 2018.

[14] There's a parallel between Limbaugh's anti-science declarations and modern art in an old joke: "A modern artist is anyone who says they are. And modern art is anything they say it is." Notice, Limbaugh also relishes his iPhone and consumer tech. But as America's most talented propagandist, he also claims to be a Christian. I did not say he's not a hypocrite.

[15] Eric Hoffer, The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements, Perennial, 1989. It goes without saying this does not apply universally to all Christians, nor that a single group (like Christians) are subject to this self-deception, which happens to be the point of Hoffer's book.

[16] One can see a potential flaw in this argument. If any validated science must be treated like gospel lest we reject the teachings of Jesus, doesn't that mean we've traded one dogma for another? Not if we adhere to the practice of science, based on a vital and healthy doubt. A recognition of fallibility that preserves open minded examination in the interest of truth. As science is not a dogma it invites discoveries that expand our understanding of nature, even to the point of upending our current understanding for a better one. (See Michael Polanyi's Meaning.) We award such rebels with Nobels. Only in the extraordinary case of an Ivar Giaever are such people liars. Science is an open, not closed practice, where lies cannot survive open scrutiny from strangers around the world applying the scientific method.

[17]. 10 slide Giaever rebuttal. The careful viewer will find I violated one cardinal sin in the document: Never fail to provide a reference. See slide 6, lower right-hand corner. It comes from Climate Science. Sin rectified.

[18] When it comes to global warming, climate scientists can even judge the source of individual carbon atoms in carbon dioxide molecules as from living sources or fossil fuels. With radioactive C14 produced daily in the stratosphere, the CO2 molecule with its lone carbon atom from recent emissions like forest fires contain C14 because plants ingest it freshly made. But with a 6000 year half-life, in about 10 half-life cycles, or 60,000 years, C14 produced today will disappear. After millions of years buried underground, how much C14 do fossil fuels have? Zero. With total atmospheric volume and known variation over altitude and region, at 411 ppm CO2, the annual excess matches annual fossil fuel inventories sold. This NOAA site illuminates the matter, with pages navigated before and after the one linked to here, elaborating details and definitions. Written by a student it's accessible to anybody.

[19] This entire issue is a lesson in motivated-reason, and motivated-morality. Motivated-reason, defined by Michael Shermer, is the acceptance of validated evidence only if it supports what you already believe. Likewise, it rejects validated evidence that refutes what you already believe. What I call motivated-morality follows the same logic. Applying mortality only to the other tribe while allowing our own tribe every vulgarity. This act is pronounced by evangelical Christians who ranked morality as most critical for a president during Bill Clinton's sexual thrills. Now, under Trump, this same group ranks morality of a president among their least important measures.

[20] China's $361B green technologies. China's $6T for low carbon power: Amy Myers Jaffe, Green Giant: Renewable Energy and Chinese Power, Foreign Affairs, pg. 87. Myers Jaffe reports, with China's push on batteries and electric cars they expect to be gasless by 2040.

[21] Brett Williams, March 6, 2017: Why America's anti-science movement is a moral matter. Part I: The Right. Brett Williams, January 1, 2018: Why America's anti-science movement is a moral matter: Part II, The Left

September 3, 2018: Confronting the Constitution. Part 2: Government of, by, and for unstable humans

In the book Confronting the Constitution, David F. Epstein offers his chapter, "Political Theory of the Constitution." [1] Here we see what range and depth the Founders explored in their mission for the best form of governance. A government guided by self-evident truths about human nature, natural rights philosophy, and the purposes of government arrived at by the power of reason. "The obstacles of prejudice and partiality," writes Epstein, "did not persuade the Founders that establishing government by consent was impossible, only that it was difficult. [They feared] that a failure to agree on a government at that time would lead to disunion, anarchy, and eventual usurpation... [Success] appeared fragile and fleeting." [2] It was a government, in Epstein's reminder of Solon, which was not the best government they could devise, but the best government the people would accept.

In creating a governmental structure populated with unstable humans in service to unstable humans, the Founders set out to use human nature for and against itself in proper measure for each office and their arrangement. While a marvelous balancing act, Epstein warns that without reference to underlying principles, Constitutional institutions can easily be debased, vilified, or disposed of. [3]

Recall, these men were scientists or heavily influenced by European Enlightenment on the heels of Isaac Newton's scientific revolution. [4] Their philosophic differences were devoted to reason, not tribe. Each had good and bad ideas, but their quest for truth produced practical solutions that satisfied their purpose in the end. It's informative to note their kind of thinking is practiced today almost exclusively by science, engineering, and the practical arts of medicine and law, not politics. [5]

Epstein delineates this logic when it could still apply to politics, though as history teaches of their hostilities, far from always. He begins with the abstract and not entirely accurate "state of nature" hypothesis of self-preservation, where each person takes the law into their own hands. (Notice how America's new Stand Your Ground laws return to this.) Hence, in the state of nature are social instabilities of "dissensions and animosities." [6] But if self-preservation is of primary importance, the necessity for order and control makes a need for governance obvious. With the Declaration's enunciation of equality for all men and their inalienable rights, government's purpose is then "to secure these rights." [7] Foundational to all of it is the source of government's legitimacy as just powers derived from the consent of the governed. But as James Madison put it in the 1787 debates, "You must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself." [8]

But before that, they had to pay for it. If individuals were going to form a new society, surrendering a portion of their liberty once employed to defend themselves, this society's government, as an enforcer of their rights would need tools to secure them. Laws created, enforced by police, decided by courts all cost money, and that means taxes. "The necessity of taxation alone," writes Epstein, "means the right to property is not immune to political decision [imposed upon it]." [9] (Take that, conservatives.) And since taxes mean there must to be something to tax, the Founders sought prosperity for all through protection of rights to "honest industry," not to coddle the wealthy. [10] (Take that, liberals.)

Once paid for, the problem was not only to select but attract meritorious individuals to office. Provide opportunity and motive by catering to human nature but be careful about it. One motive was the ambition that loves office or honor. Despite this salute to the ancient virtue of honor, "Even Montesquieu suggested virtuous men do not entirely forget themselves." [11] And as Madison said, "If [patriotism] be the only inducement, you will find a great indifferency in filling your legislative body." [12] More likely "the love of fame... would prompt a man to plan and undertake extensive and arduous enterprises for the public benefit..." [13] To control that love of fame, "the Constitution," says Epstein, "not only grants powers [to those recruits] but arranges offices so as to encourage those powers to be used well." [14] The Founders wanted virtue, but didn't count on it, preferring to manage self-interest instead.

But how should these representatives be chosen? Should they be the highest achievers selected via indirect elections by knowledgeable electors - at the risk of cabals and horse trading? Or direct elections by frequently ignorant masses, and selected from a more accurate representation of the people? The solution was a mix. The House as unrefined populist representatives as witnessed today, and the Senate, which used to be distinguished, though more debased with time. [15]

For the Congress and Executive our Founders believed the people could better control by reward and punishment the personal motives of representatives through elections, rather than hope to "elevate men who do not think of themselves at all." [16] Though as one Anti-Federalist observed, most elected representatives will be complete strangers to electors. Only those locally familiar in small republics (states) can be properly judged. But Federalists, and ultimately the Constitution, argued otherwise. Resemblance between representative and represented is not so important as the represented being able to choose, second-guess, and depose their representatives. Better that power be in the hands of those likely to be jealous rather than friendly with those elected.

What the people could do was limited as well. While they would choose from these recruits and judge the outcome of their polices, the people would not create policies. "A noteworthy feature of the new Constitution was its total exclusion of the people in their collective capacity for any share in government [in its direct creation of laws]." [17] That's the representative's job and leaves the people alone to pursue their productive interests.

"The Founders did not bend much effort to conform the principles, morals, and manners of citizens to our republican form of government," writes Epstein. [18] Because they built one to accommodate "human nature in a rawer, purer form," one more enduring than what was strived for in strict virtuous republics of old. [19] "Virtue, they judged, was too corruptible to be the main foundation [of government]." [20] Elections were the most obvious way of interesting representatives in preserving the rights of the people.

Though elections could not secure the people in every instance. Corrupt representatives might engage in "harvest as abundant as it was transitory," [21] employ "concocted deceptions that an inattentive people fail to detect," [22] or baldly usurp powers. And as John Locke puts it, "for the same Persons who have the power of making laws, to have also in their hands the power to execute them, whereby they exempt themselves from contrary to the end of Society and Government." [23] So the rule of law would be divided in its execution among the 3-branches of Congress, Executive, and Judiciary.

But even this can be abused by the encroaching nature of power. Witness America's Executive today as it lauds over a compliant legislature betraying their Constitutional oath to check the president. Hence, the Founders added supplemental separations: the bicameral legislature (each house checks the other); Executive veto over Congress, which can fail if Congress is united enough; impeachment for any public official; and judicial review (see revocation of Trump's first two Shia Muslim bans [24]).

Judicial review is done with a twist: by deliberation of judges not elected, so not directly subject to the people's popular, often passionate, will. "Indeed," reports Epstein, "the people's original intent can even be enforced against their own later inclinations..." [25] Which implies the written Constitution meant something fixed. (Is this support for originalism?) James Madison and James Wilson even proposed a veto power for the Court, but it was defeated on "grounds that it would make statesmen out of judges, corroding their impartiality" and role as interpreters of law. [26]

"The Founders expected the president to defend his power because he is ambitious, not because he understands or loves the Constitution." [27] Hence, judicial review was not merely another competitor in power, but an enforcer of primary law. Yet again, this technique fails to corner every offense. Presidential powers exist that do not depend on legal guidance or judicial review. "As commander in chief of the armed forces, he could suppress an insurrection..." [28] Those killed have no legal recourse. "Corruption or treachery could be quite consequential in the time before the next election, and he might corruptly contrive his reelection, even his initial election." [29] For such cases, control by election is after the fact. (Recall, this book was written 28 years ago about insights 202 years before that.) So, impeachment allows an auxiliary precaution against slow and vulnerable elections without resort to "the Right of Revolution," thus channeling passions of the people with a rational option. [30] Impeachment gains force by focus on one person. He cannot reasonably blame a council (though we'll expect it). And to avoid a president beholden to a Congress that can impeach the Executive, the Founders divided this process between the House (impeachment), Senate (conviction), and the Supreme Court's Chief Justice presiding.

How would all this be tied together to protect people's rights in an effort to stabilize unstable humans? Anti-Federalists believed the people's interests would best be secured by small-republic state institutions to defend against national encroachment. But impotence of the Articles of Confederation showed Federalists that states could not be corralled even to pay their own bills. "By denying states the power to issue paper money, impair the obligation of contracts...and allowing the national judiciary to enforce those prohibitions, the Convention reflected Madison's view that the nation should protect individual rights against the states." [31] Not the other way around. Natural rights and resulting stability would serve the purposes of prosperity, once again revealing prosperity's practical utility. The Founder's structure would encourage "Public attachment by a train of prosperous events," gaining the people's trust and thereby consent to federal powers. [32] The enjoyment of rights and prosperity would be "a valuable crutch for government that protects those rights." [33]

The Constitution is a blend between two opposing political theories: autonomous small-republic state governments as obstacle to national overreach, and a central authority whose components are checked and balanced in arrangements of a large-republic. Though as Epstein cautions, among many other distortions, the state / federal equilibrium has been imbalanced by the 14th Amendment's 1868 expansion of federal powers in response to Civil War, and by the 1913 17th Amendment that makes senators popularly elected, edging the Senate closer to the populist House.

When Benjamin Franklin was asked, "What have we got, a Republic or a Monarchy?" he replied, "A Republic-if you can keep it."

Until next time, November 5, 2018.

[1] Allan Bloom Ed., Confronting the Constitution, AEI Press, 1990. According to this George H. W. Bush era 1990 text, "David F. Epstein is a deputy director of net assessment, Office of the Secretary of Defense. He has taught political science as a member of the Graduate Faculty, The New School for Social Research, and is the author of The Political Theory of The Federalist.." Beyond that, he appears invisible.

[2] ibid, pg. 128

[3] We see this in our most recent election, amplified by America's absence of civics education. From political Right-wing vilification of constitutional guarantees to a free press (what Edmond Burke called the Fourth Estate), to cries from the Left for apportionment of Senate seats by population in response to Trump's cabinet appointments. Regardless of population, each state gets two Senators, tilting in disproportionate favor to small states, diluting the voice of large ones. The Founders tangled with this question, prioritizing the two seat model because it protected the rights of minority states from majority abuse. Isn't it precisely this idea championed by our modern Left? This Connecticut Compromise was seen by some Founders as protection of minority population states, while others saw it as a "triumph of extortion by the small states." Ibid., pg. 117

[4] Ben Franklin is credited with founding electrical sciences. Thomas Jefferson was a naturalist and inventor. Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and Jon Jay enrich their Federalist Papers with good governance analogies to science. John Locke, who from Jefferson inherited the delineated rights for his Declaration, was a chemist.

[5] Scientific thinking engaged in by the Founders is now rare in politics. While science and its technology are the basis of wealth creation, science is a frequent annoyance to business when it finds negative outcomes of various products, processes, etc. Excluding Trump and Bush-2, the EPA is an example of science obstructing the dollar's desire for profit over environment.

[6] Bloom, pg. 78

[7] ibid., pg. 78

[8] Federalist 51

[9] Bloom, pg. 84

[10] ibid., pg. 84

[11] ibid., pg. 96

[12] ibid., pg. 96

[13] ibid., pg. 97

[14] ibid., pg. 93

[15] Further examples can be found in actions of Senate Democratic Majority Leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, when in 2013 he and the Democrat majority reduced confirmation requirements from 60% to a mere majority. Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky now confirms Trump loyalists without check from Democrats. Mitch McConnell and Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa also violated their oaths to the Constitution by their denial of confirmation proceedings for Supreme Court nominee Judge Merck Garland in 2016 because it was a "contentious election year."

[16] ibid., pg. 97

[17] ibid., pg. 94

[18] Bloom, pg. 98

[19] ibid., pg. 98

[20] ibid., pg. 98

[21] Federalist 72

[22] Bloom, pg. 106

[23] John Locke, Second Treatise, Peter Laslett Ed., revised edition, New American Library, 1965, pg. 410

[24] Note that Trump's so called "Muslim ban" was in fact a Shia Muslim ban. Only Shia countries were on his list. No Sunni countries were included. Trump established 8 new businesses in Saudi Arabia during his campaign, has a golf course and resort in UAE, and does business in Lebanon, all home to 9/11 hijackers that killed almost 3000 people in the US. No Shia countries have killed Americans on US soil.

[25] Bloom, pg. 109

[26] ibid., pg. 110

[27] ibid., pg. 110

[28] ibid., pg. 110

[29] ibid., pg. 111

[30] Wikipedia on Right of Revolution.

[31] Bloom, pg. 120

[32] ibid., pg. 100

[33] ibid., pg. 100

July 2, 2018: Confronting the Constitution. Part 1: Did the Founders get it wrong?

Around about 1980, Robert Goldwin and Walter Berns persuaded a group of philosophers to celebrate the US Constitution's bicentennial through an examination of its philosophical origins and eventual detractors. With Allan Bloom as editor of the project, the result was 16 chapters, each with a different author and perspective for Confronting the Constitution. [1] As Bloom puts it, "The Framers challenged the world to meet them on the field of reason. To test their conviction is to honor them." And so, for that and the thrill of learning, this new themed series of blogs is based.

The text begins with "Philosophic Understandings of Human Nature Informing the Constitution" by Thomas L. Pangle. [2] He reveals that 17th century Enlightenment philosophy was obsessed with governance. After millennia of trial and error civilizations, finally the idea of human dignity, potential for all, coalesced as the purpose of society. Pangle examines the hierarchy of political philosophy that emerged from this realization. Starting with the simple but critical question, What is a human being? What are its motivations, needs, requirements? In short, what is human nature? Once defined, successive levels in the hierarchy are addressed. How do these creatures live as individuals? What is the best way for them to live in groups? How should a state be organized? In what way should a nation be governed? Each answer up the ladder depends on the last one. Since the definition of the human being is the most fundamental, it's also the most important because from this will rise the hierarchy of social machinery.

Like the mathematical definition of a machine, if you get that definition wrong, whatever you build from it, no matter how carefully, won't work, at least not well. Consider the sixty year experiment in Berlin, one side capitalist, the other communist. Despite its careful planning, communism was such a mismatch for the human psyche they had to build a wall to keep people in. Marx's "alienation" turned out to be more like "incentive."

With Europe's Enlightenment, the human definition got a new answer just in time for America's Founding. A human being is, philosophers claimed, a creature that seeks first and foremost to preserve itself from death. Self-preservation is the central human interest. Humans are thus creatures with vital interests. From this emerged human rights to protect those interests for a just society in service to human dignity. "A fundamentally different character from the various sorts of local, traditional, and divinely revealed rights men invoked since time immemorial," writes Pangle. [3]

From this philosophical foundation America's Founders determined the Constitution would not be a covenant of devotion and obedience to a tribal god of a chosen people. Pleas to supernatural powers for justice fall outside the realm of reason. In other words, gods are fickle, who knows what they'll do? And while people worship different gods, they all have a common capacity for reason. Reason became the tool for society building, in Aristotelian terms, because of what it could do verifiably in the here and now material world. Leave that other personally stabilizing force of religion, and a right to it, up to the individual, but don't run a country with it. History was replete with this folly on national scales, hence the need for separation. [4] By granting a right to religious freedom, without state sponsorship, our Founders reduced religion from fact to opinion. In doing so they sought to defang consequences of the converse.

Likewise, in tailoring our social fabric the Constitution would not repeat the classical Greek notion of a small republic. The ancients believed only small republics could hope to keep every citizen like-minded and virtuous enough to maintain cohesion. It didn't work. America was already large by comparison, and expected to get larger. Without state religion or patriotic virtue, how could stability be maintained in a large country?

Using the right to interests, Madison would embrace a large republic over the small because different environments spread over an expansive country would generate different interests. Farmers of the land have different interests from fishers of the sea. Different factions spawned from these different interests would then check and balance each other to stabilize the whole.

Furthermore, this idea of interests formed the basis for David Hume's remark that "modern political economy [showed] natural ends of humanity require active promotion of avarice, private commerce, and extensive manufacture." [5] "Trade was never esteemed an affair of the state till the last century..." [6] Suddenly economics as an expression of interests would support dignity, and become part of the philosophy of reason. Economics became a route to social justice. Private vice became public virtue.

This new social model was a practical one. Needs of the body came first. Ego second. Character was no longer explicitly part of the plan. But while the government was expected to be morally neutral in private matters, no one expected the people themselves to be morally neutral. With no state faith, George Washington warned, "Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion." [7] Unfortunately, Enlightenment philosophers had not found a reasoned argument for people to be moral. At least not as compelling as an ever watching God with promises of heaven or hell. They also knew the watchful eye of communities could yield to individualism's trajectory. The best they could do was the Golden Rule beginning at least with ancient Egypt, and implied in the "social contract" (which isn't social [8]). The Founders realized the new definition and government structure to accommodate it put civilization on fragile footing, just not as fragile as the ancients.

As Pangle notes, Enlightenment's vision of the human was based on what they called "a state of nature." A non-historical abstraction as a place to start the study. [9] But since the machinery of civilization emerges from this-from what defines human beings, to interests, to rights, all the way to the structure of nations-are we certain we got the right definition to begin with? What if it's wrong, or incomplete, or incapable of addressing unforeseen change in the future?

It was the inventor Thomas Jefferson who received from John Locke the chemist his definition of the human being, and Locke's rights to life, liberty and property, which Jefferson converted to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. (He didn't say amusement.) But what happens when the right to property threatens the right to life for those on the other side of the planet? What happens to rights in support of interests when the 600 million humans alive in 1700 approach 8 billion in 2018? Interests require resources. A simple fact of nature is that there is no infinite material anything. [10] For the industrialized world, self-preservation is no longer threatened by scarcity, but abundance. Are rights narrowed by fundamental changes external to human nature? Does this require modification of the human definition in terms of what's emphasized and included?

Like the machine defined by math above, what Enlightenment defined as human was necessarily an approximation. In mathematics there's something called a "series." The first term in a series is most important. Successive terms have diminishing impact, but as each one is included, their inclusion makes whatever the series describes come closer to reality. Did Enlightenment philosophers fail to include enough terms in their series description of human nature? [11] Could it be the first-things-first material perspective should have included our ethical, communal, and spiritual aspects?

If Enlightenment's description was truncated, after three centuries of social experiment shouldn't we see the effects? It's difficult but doable to isolate cause in laboratory experiments of physical phenomena, much harder to provide more than inference when it comes to human society. The infinity of human foibles suggests cause and effect are not linear, often not even sensible.

That said, if a society is built on self-interest, demoting morality and religion that once promoted it, at least according to Washington, might we expect an eventual excess, even perversion of self-interest? [12] While not universal, examples in Washington DC, corporate America, Wall Street, and the masses who seek to emulate them enunciate this perversity. But can it really be traced to Enlightenment's definition? The ancients had despots, abuse, and corruption too.

Enlightenment was a remarkable moral leap forward. But every human measure creates new problems requiring counter-measures to compensate. Does the old definition of humanity need an upgrade? In future posts we'll ponder an extended series approximation of human nature.

Until next time, September 3, 2018.

[1] Allan Bloom Ed, Confronting the Constitution, AEI Press, 1990. Robert Goldwin (1922 - 2011), Walter Berns (1919 - 2015, Allan Bloom (1930 - 1992).

[2] Thomas Pangle.

[3] ibid, pg. 10, italics added

[4] "We've believed a lie for so long that the church and the state be separated," said Pastor Elias Lorera of Fresno's Christian Temple Assemblies of God. In "The Christian Right Adopts a 50 State Strategy," NYTimes, June 20, 2018. As Trump's GOPP tries to unify religion and politics.

[5] ibid, pg. 19 David Hume (1711 - 1776)

[6] ibid, pg. 19

[7] George Washington's Farewell Address

[8] The social contract is not social. It's an agreement people are born into, then conform to without express agreement. A practical arrangement made for strangers. A requirement for large populations.

[9] Confronting the Constitution, pg. 71

[10] Technology pushes the carrying capacity of nature. In 1940, average US bushels of corn per acre was 40. Today it's 150, at the expense of the Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone, and the Great American Prairie. Once 370 million acres of natural habitat and its inhabitants, now 370 million acres of biodiversity desert. North America's Serengeti lost in the length of one lifetime. Factory floor of an agri-planet and the greatest transformation of our natural world by mankind anywhere on earth. (I'm going to enjoy some of its produce for lunch today.) Like the physical limit to the number of transistors on a circuit chip, there's a limit to how many bushels an acre can be forced to produce.

[11] See the remarkable and useful Taylor Series.

[12] Michael Shermer disagrees with Washington. In his Moral Arc he makes a case for religion producing the opposite of moral action. Scientific thinking and the Enlightenment, he claims, deserve most of the credit for advances in morality and justice, at least since they arrived.

May 7, 2018: America could never become a totalitarian State... Right?

When I was a boy, our home was divided by a sibling in the US Marine Corps and another in marches against the Vietnam War. Significantly younger than both, differences were a mystery to me. But I wasn't the only one confused. As pressures grew, my parents tried to adjust, though not always sure to what. To many it was a mystery how the Heartland could find itself centered in a firestorm ignited by National Guard murders at Kent State, our university closed by riots and burned buildings. [1] But what was clear even then, and persists to this day, was that our close nit family was a casualty of hostile ideologies that hardened with time. That core of community, where I felt a sense of family belonging with its attendant meaning for the only period in my life, never recovered.

When Ronald Reagan arrived on the scene during my high school years, I was inspired to hear a public figure with a positive message. Finally, I thought, I can stop feeling bad about Vietnam. Whatever Reagan's policies, irrelevant to a kid, I felt pride in my country instead of disgust. This was Reagan's talent, the opposite of Trump. Which is not to say Trump's rhetoric is always wrong.

Stepwise since Reagan, his GOP mutated into neoconservatives powered by Vice President Cheney's corruption, then the forgotten austerity of an obstructionist Tea Party, and finally absolutist populism with a fondness for America's enemy and murderer, the Dictator of Russia. [2] All the while as what economists Autor, Dorn, and Hanson label The China Shock inflicted "underestimated adjustment costs and distributional consequences." [3] Translation: mass unemployment, dislocated families, and "rusted out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation," as Trump rightly put it. [4] After Reagan, Republicans ceased to think creatively. [5] Intellectuals who can argue for conservative ideals from the perspective of reason have been vilified by their own Right as not visceral enough. Conservatism is in ruins, but for much bigger reasons than mere incompetence.

Each of these steps was a signal that Arnold Toynbee's diagnosis was correct: "Civilizations disintegrate when leaders stop responding creatively, [sinking into] nationalism, militarism, and tyranny of a despotic minority... death by suicide..." [6] Because all civilizations are self-destructive. The boon and bane of our species - innovation - is what humans do. But technical and social innovations hurl civilizations apart as they struggle to hold themselves together. Society is a giant machine that humans build. It then acquires a power of its own. A kind of artificial intelligence of invisible hands that will strangle its maker. It takes creative thinkers with counter-innovations to save us from it. To adjust, when most aren't sure to what.

This devolution of leadership has left the Right with no inspiration beyond their constant revival of evils committed by the Left as sanction for their own. Hence the refrain of Barack Obama (not in office), Hillary Clinton (she lost), and Bill Clinton (gone 18 years). The litany of largely imaginary crimes are the daily fodder of our Joseph Goebbels imitators. As Eric Hoffer showed, true believers first and foremost must deny reality or reinvent it to protect their fragile dogmas, which is all the Right has now. [7]

I'd prefer to label our newsworthy Right and Left as "fringe," but the fringe has come to dominate America. Thank our Joseph Goebbels imitators; self-reinforcing echo chambers; internet amplification of otherwise unheard cranks; simplistic application of motivated-reason accepting only evidence that makes us feel better, and motivated-morality applying morality only to the other tribe. Add to this, structural flaws like Gerrymandering and primaries, both inciting the least reasoned / most radical to lead the way, and it's no wonder America is rotting in absolutism laced with its many pathogens. [8]

Absolutism nurtures ignorance, because truth lowers the fever. Our propagandists have fortunes to make by boiling the blood to rally the troops. Inhaling this infected atmosphere produces a kind of delirium that's easily steered with false promises of salvation. Among the most powerful is something I once had: belonging and its attendant meaning. As a disconnected nation of strangers, more than anything we yearn for belonging. In this Clan Age, absolutism offers an emotionally charged lure: Swear to the creed and your emptiness is filled with a simple act of free will. Choose well the new God.

All this has people asking, could America become a totalitarian state? Like the failed democracy of Athens, the failed Republic of Rome, or today's Hungary, Poland, Turkey, Egypt, and The Philippines. As Freedom House reports, "For the 12th consecutive year freedom has declined, with 71 countries suffering... This democratic recession is global." [9] Or as one Latin American so familiar with their many despots put it, "We've seen this movie before, just never in English." [10] The legal scholar Cass Sunstein argues American authoritarianism has commenced. [11] Consider the dictatorial nature of Trump's actions, or antics, cover up, and institutional assaults by boot likers in Congress like Devin Nunes, Mike Conaway, Mark Meadows, and Jim Jordan. [12] Loyalists are in place. The propaganda arm well established.

Hannah Arendt recalled her own witness to Hitler, Stalin, and Mao, when supporters of totalitarian regimes treated evidence "as line with the totalitarian contempt for facts and reality..." [13] This, and the rampant conspiracy theories she chronicles prepared the mental ground for action. Like Stalin's Great Purge with millions of his own people murdered. "Post-factuality is pre-fascism," writes Yale historian Timothy Snyder. [14] "When Mr. Trump calls journalists 'enemies of the people,' he's quoting Joseph Stalin." And trashing our Constitution his supporters pretend to love.

Absorbing the brunt of The China Shock and incompetent leadership, the Right's anger is as understandable as the giddy thrill of Trump's assault on political correctness. What's not consistent is their moral conversion. The new God is not the old God.

Against Trump, one in four Christian evangelicals have been true to the moral teachings of Jesus, while 3 in 4 betray every major verse we know. [15] Trump's supporters cheer at his pep rallies when he claims to hit back ten times harder, while Jesus counsels, "Turn the other cheek." Trump and his sycophants blame everyone but himself for his own failings, rejecting "Pull the plank from your own eye first." For Trump and his followers, only winning matters, no matter how shameful the means. But, "What good is it to win the world and lose your soul?" And while Trump and his propagandists share and defend his liar's addiction, Jesus said, "Seek the truth to set you free." [16] Such duplicity is all the more grotesque for the Right's deception of their own Savior.

Does this make Trump's Christian supporters, hypocrites? Not to them. For many, Trump is a "gift from God." [17] Like Cyrus, King of Persia, who freed captured Jews from Babylon, Trump will free Christian conservatives from liberals. [18] King David was a beast too, but God used him as a tool for good. [19] (Recall, Paul condemned this notion as reprehensible. [20])

Similar excuses are given by the morally vacant Flight 93 Election, [21] and those many email viruses the Right bathes in, like the call to arms penned by Livermore, CA Mayor Dr. Marshall Kamena. [22] Except, of course, per usual, it was written by a Right-wing blogger with poor Kamena's name attached. But never mind. It's the ignition of emotions that matter, not truth. As Thomas Paine wrote, when a man so "prostitutes the chastity of his mind...he has prepared himself for commission of every other crime." [23]

And yet, if a Trump supporting Christian could win a foot race and its million dollar prize for his church to feed the poor, would he cheat? Ride a horse, perhaps, drive a car? Isn't winning for some greater good what matters? Do immoral means to moral ends pervert those ends? Is this why our Founders gave us the Constitution they did, because process is a moral matter?

So far, that Constitution has stopped Trump's quest to cure his septic inferiority with dictatorial power. But can that document tame the passion of millions, called by their new Idol and his media lairs to destroy the Founder's creation? Will it be that immoral fraction of once moral Christians who betrayed their God and our Constitution that lead us to tyranny if it happens? If we American's ever so fancied ourselves to believe this Republic could never become a totalitarian state, we now see how wrong that is.

America is in the grip of hostile ideologies, hardened with time. As the Right continues its tailspin, their yearning for authoritarianism rises. [24] But eras like this are educational tools. For history, for political philosophy, human psychology, and that all-inclusive topic, the rise and fall of civilizations. Which will it be?

Until next time, Monday July 2, 2018.

[1] Student Protests of the 1970s, Library News, University Of Iowa, 5/4/2010

[2] James Kirchick, How the GOP became the party of Putin, Brookings Institute, July 27, 2017

[3] David H. Autor, David Dorn, Gordon H. Hanson, The China Shock: Learning from Labor-Market Adjustment to Large Changes in Trade, Annu. Rev. Econ. 2016.8:205-240

[4] The Inaugural Address, January 20, 2017

[5] One example of Reagan's creative thinking came out of his response to MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction). Instead of the assurance of destroying both sides in a nuclear exchange as a deterrent to war, why not seek to eliminate the threat through a defensive shield: his Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). Even still, pundits claim this was a failure. And yet, the remarkably successful anti-missile missile PAC-3 (in production and fielded for 20 years), and its follow-on THAAD are products of SDI. The PAC-3 scenario was said to be impossible because "It's like hitting a bullet with a bullet." Except bullets don't travel nearly so fast, nor are they self-guided with pinpoint precision onboard radars. Reagan then leveraged SDI with Mikhail Gorbachev at Reykjavik, resulting in a successful Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in 1987 at Geneva.

[6] Wikipedia: Arnold Toynebee

[7] Eric Hoffer, The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements, Harper Perennial Modern Classics, January 19, 2010

[8] JONATHAN RAUCH, How American Politics Went Insane, Atlantic Monthly, JULY/AUGUST 2016

[9] STEWART PATRICK, Global democracy retreats as authoritarianism marches forth, The Hill, 03/04/18

[10] Gideon Rose, Is Democracy Dying, Foreign Affairs, pg. 8, May/June 2018

[11] Cass Sunstein, Can It Happen Here?: Authoritarianism in America, Dey Street Books, 2018

[12] BRENT BUDOWSKY, Mueller marches on, while the House GOP covers up, The Hill, 3/13/18

[13] Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism, Harcourt, pg. xxxii, 1985

[14] Timothy Snyder, Donald Trump and the New Dawn of Tyranny, TIME, March 3, 2017

[15] Not all Christian evangelicals support Trump. One in four do not. Some are vociferously opposed and practice the teachings they hold dear. Eric Sammons, Christians' Support For Trump Undermines Their Public Witness, The Federalist, October 12, 2016

Neil J. Young, Dear Evangelicals, A "Begrudging" Vote for Trump Is Still a Vote for Trump, Religion Dispatches, October 4, 2016 Russell Mooresept, Have Evangelicals Who Support Trump Lost Their Values?, New York Times, September 17, 2015

[16] Mathew 5:39, Mathew 7:5, Mark 8:36, John 8:32

[17] Wayne C. Anderson, Reader's view: Trump a temporary reprieve, gift from God, Duluth News Tribune, Jan 13, 2018

[18] Ed Kilgore, Bibi and the Christian Right Agree: Trump Is the New Cyrus the Great, New York Magazine, March 5, 2018

[19] DAVID FRENCH, Imagining Trump's Evangelicals in King David's Time, National Review, March 22, 2018

[20] Paul: Romans 3:8, Bible Hub

[21] Publius Decius Mus, The Flight 93 Election, CRB, September 5, 2016

[22] Publius Decius Mus, Democratic Livermore Mayor Marshall Kamena on Donald Trump, Snopes, November 22, 2017

[23] Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason, pg. 8, Prometheus Books, 1984 (1794)

[24] Charles Kaiser, Can it Happen Here? review: urgent studies in rise of authoritarian America, The Guardian, April 8, 2018 Thomas B. Edsall, The Contract With Authoritarianism, New York Times, April 5, 2018

Revised 2/12/19. Added the tasty description of "boot lickers" for the likes of Nunes, Jordan, Meadows, and Conaway. Individuals we should bronze for their exceptional talents.

March 5, 2018: The light, the power, the glory: kids. But Ooo... what we did to them.

During the close comet encounters of Hyakutake and Hale Bopp in 1996 and '97, I had the good fortune of working at Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. The word "work" I use here loosely for two reasons. There was nothing work-like about it, and the pay was $3.12/hour. [1] Hence, we on the staff labeled ourselves Griffith's Volunteers, and we relished the mission-to teach.

Built in 1935 on funds bequeathed by Welsh-born industrialist, philanthropist, and attempted murderer (of his wife) Griffth J. Giffith (1850 - 1919), the Observatory is among the two most remarkable Los Angeles attractions including the Getty Museum. The reason Griffith attracts 1.5 million annual visitors is because it appeals to children. [2] More precisely, to child-like curiosity that resides in each of us if we give it a chance to breathe. Griffith Observatory provides the oxygen. When people discover the place you can see color return to their cheeks.

As "Telescope Demonstrator" I held the most coveted position. An endless talker, thrilled to excite others with science, I could not have found a better setting. The dark confines of a 60 foot diameter dome, punctuated by eerie red lights, and a 200-inch streak of telescope lunged at the sky through a gash in the roof. A telescope more people have peered through than any other on earth, 8 million so far.

Both Hyakutake and Hale Bopp, were back-to-back once-in-a-century events. Even the national media descended when I found myself before PBS Newshour cameras. A three minute interview and address to crowds wrapped around the roof was boiled down to a five second sound bite. I called to the people and pointed at the sky, "That comet tail you see now is sixty times longer than a full moon is wide!" Eighteen hundred miles away in Iowa, my mother saw this with sudden expectations for her son in Hollywood.

Visitors set record attendance with up to 1500 per night through the dome. More could have passed, but it was hard for people to leave that small space once they glimpsed their place in the universe. The leading enthusiasts were children. It was kids who provoked adults to remember what it was like to wonder, be amazed, and thirst for more. Be they elderly, romantically obsessed, or gangs who strived to impress their brothers, I remember not one to leave without a sense of urgency. Like they'd just that instant, quite unexpectedly, discovered where the real stars were, and they wanted a piece of it.

Throughout the night to each fresh group of minds, I'd return from answering questions, sharing enthusiasm, or the regular wrestling match with Creationists, to a reprise of my intro, "Tonight we travel back in time! We'll do that because even at 186,000 miles per second-or one foot per nanosecond-it takes time for light to travel space. So you see me now as I was 15 or 20 nanoseconds ago. But 1500 light years that way is Orion Nebula. What you'll see there, right now, happened about the time the Maya invented zero, Barbarians burned Rome, and Christianity became official in Constantinople. But in astronomical terms, Orion's in your pocket. The universe is so big you can go back in time 14 billion years and not take a step. So come see the sky. It's yours. Who else could it belong to? Now questions! I love questions."

As adults hesitated, children raised their hands in unison like salutes to the sky. "Why is the moon round?" "How long would it take to walk to Jupiter?" "What do you put on a hotdog with mustard and onions?" This last question came from a shy four-year-old whose father responded to my laughter with, "You asked for questions. You didn't tell him they had to be about astronomy."

On one special occasion, a small boy raised his hand. I bent my 6'2" frame over the little fellow to say, "A question! I love questions. What's your question?"

"I know something about astronomy," he said. And rattled off a series of facts as though read from a book.

"Wait. Stop," I said. "Follow me."

I walked to the center of the dome. I pointed at him, and then the space beside me. With a quick check of his mother, he left her in line to take his station.

I turned to the crowd and said, "I have just been outdone by a five-year-old."

"Five and one-half," the boy said.

After the slightest pause, I responded, "Then five and one-half it is."

"Am I going to be your helper?" he asked.

"No. You stay here. I'll stand in line with your mom. You're the astronomer. This is show town. This is your show. Take it away."

I stood by his mother as he scanned a long line of people, many much larger than he. He said nothing.

I shrugged and said, "We just want to know what you know. Go."

And he did. With perfect enunciation, but so tenderly, people in the dome fell mute to listen. The only other sound was that quiet hum of German motors still turning their telescope 60 years on.

As he told his story about galaxies that eat each other, suns that blow up so hard they fall down, and stars so heavy a little bit weighs a lot, patrons huddled about him as though sustained by heat of some cosmic campfire. All as that 200-inch tube scooped light from other worlds with no eyes to catch them. That little boy was center of the universe. [3]

After three or four minutes he was done. He walked to his mother's side. He held her hand for his turn up stairs to the eyepiece. An elderly woman began to clap. As the audience responded, he looked about to see what they were applauding for.

I shook my head, amazed at yet another of Griffith's many wonders. In the most hedonistic environment on this planet and beneath that ovation I whispered to myself, "It's not what you show, it's what you know."

I hope the remarkable curiosity of that little boy survived these last twenty-plus years. In that time America has cheated our young people through dogmatic doctrines and negligence. Creationists have long sought to invade science education with religion because they're unsettled by the facts of nature, and fear skeptical thinking about their beliefs. As China builds its economy on science, Americans seek to "teach the controversy" between biological evolution and biblical creation. There is no controversy. Other than in the fertile imaginations of Creationists and their Intelligent Designers, yet to understand the first fundamental rule of science enunciated 2600 years ago by Thales: only natural causes allowed. Supernatural powers, miracles, and magic bear no testable predictions, provide no reasoned models of nature, and cannot be refuted. Try building telescopes, radios, or aircraft with that.

Likewise, we now find the science of manmade global warming off limits to parents who prefer their children conform to creeds defined by liars. States across the country are in another battle of the books to sanitize them of science. In Idaho's battle, Representative Scott Syme recently said, "I don't care if the students come up with a conclusion that the earth is flat-as long as it's their conclusion, not something that's told to them." [4] Math and science demand independent verification and proofs by the student as standard practice. Barred from man-centuries of effort completed before us until every finding is personally validated would freeze all advance. I needn't prove Newton's calculus or mechanics to use both in engineering with accurate results. Syme would rather children be wrong than know the truth so long as they got the wrong answer on their own. Remember, Syme is a legislator of laws. Such utter ignorance of science is not a disqualification for office in Idaho, or anywhere else, but rather a badge of honor.

But math and science aren't the only thing we've neglected to teach our young people. According to the Educational Commission of the States, only 17 US states are accountable for civics education. [5] Americans graduate high school with no understanding of self-governance. Is the Constitution superior to statue law? Why are there individual rights to begin with? Why are courts and the legal process so slow? So vacuous is our grasp of self-governance that in 2017 Newsweek reported a quarter of Millennials find democracy a bad or very bad form of government; a third support authoritarianism; one in six favor military rule. [6]

Simultaneously, an embarrassing fraction of campus students have been taught so little of history, philosophy, and the examination of ideas they're terrified of adult issues easily defeated with open debate. They yearn for intellectual sanitation of "safe spaces" where they can hide from imagined "micro-aggressions" as they shed tears for cameras and university administrators petrified of violating politically correct McCarthyism.

Kids are one of the stellar powers in this universe. They're born curious. It takes years of training to kill that. Now that we have, will they have the tools to save America and Western civilization as it crumbles under ignorance? As Thomas Jefferson said, "A nation that believes it can be ignorant and free is a nation that never was and never can be."

Until next time, the first Monday in May.

[1] I have my last check from Rick Tuttle, the Controller of the City of Los Angeles under glass on my desk for one hour at $3.12. Void after 2 years, I'll not be able to cash it if times get tough.

[2] Griffith Observatory, Griffith Observatory. MISSION: Griffith Observatory inspires everyone to observe, ponder, and understand the sky.

[3] It is quite literally true, that little boy was the center of the universe as is every other location. So fond of this little fellow I was that I incorporated this real life experience into my first novel.

[4] Betsy Z. Russell, Rep. Syme: Don't care if students conclude earth is flat - as long as it's their own conclusion, The Spokesman Review, 2/1/18

[5] Jackie Zubrzycki, New 50-State Analysis: Most States Don't Include Civics in Accountability, Newsweek, 12/13/16


Nudged 2/17/19. Added a paragraph break, and indulged myself with one tagline for Idaho politician Scott Syme.

January 1, 2018: Why America's anti-science movement is a moral matter: Part II, The Left

This time we look at the assault on science from America's political Left, concluding with consideration of equivalence between Left and Right in this crusade.

Back in March with Part I of this post we looked at several aspects of America's assault on science from our political Right. We saw the self-contradiction of denying scientific facts while dependent on them in our daily lives. Even broadcasting denials of science over radio built by it. We looked at the coupling between science and morality through their shared requirement for reason, linking these factors with democratic government. When science is rejected, reason goes with it. Without reason, morality is crippled and capacity for self-governance dependent on moral justice cannot last-the moral matter. "Scientific values of reason," writes Michael Shermer, "are not the products of liberal democracy, but the producers of it." [1] Science denial is not merely about defiance of the other Party, or lying in order to regain a sense of control over experts labeled as elites. The American Right does now what Islam did in the 11th century when they found rational thought a threat to the Koran. [2] That anti-rational movement won, and Islam lost their place as cultural light of the world for the last 700 years. Sometimes, social movements, no matter how apparently inane, destroy whole civilizations.

But America's anti-science struggle didn't start with the Right. It began with 1950s / 60s French academics on the Left who decided after two world wars that reason was to blame, and to be abandoned. With human senses near bottom in the animal world, how and by what means could the very tool that enabled our survival possibly be jettisoned? The answer came in their creation of postmodernism and the relativism it was based on. Michel Foucault argued that rationality was a coercive regime of oppression. Jacques Derrida sought a non-philosophical philosophy. And Jacques Lacan seized a bit of scientific cachet while debasing it with his declaration of equivalence between "the erectile organ and the square root of negative one." [3]


But nonsensical ideas require protection. So like any fragile belief, quasi-supernatural powers had to be established to build a space free from rational challenge. As Ferry and Renaut write in their French Philosophy of the Sixties, this was done by "accustoming readers and listeners to the belief that incomprehensibility is a sign of greatness,...that the thinker's silence before incongruous demands for meaning was not proof of weakness but indication of endurance in the presence of the Unsayable." [4] Humans were to be freed "from any dependence on the concept of objective truth." [5]

Once done, as David Stone's critique is titled, Anything Goes. [6] And it did. Foucault claimed: 1) "There are no facts, only interpretations," 2) what matters most is not what is said or written, but what is not, and who says it, and 3) with the help of Heidegger, the idea that any truth, "is at the same time and in itself a concealment." [7] Recalling the argument of the cube which hides three sides no matter from where it's viewed. Analogous to the violation of physical laws and common sense in the question, "If a tree falls in the woods, does it make a sound?" With previous examination, we needn't simultaneously see the cube's other sides to know what's there.

Of course there's an element of truth in all three of Foucault's attempts to relativize reason, but in the hands of absolutism, "the democratic project," writes Ferry and Renaut, is reframed as "ideology...or metaphysical illusion." [8] Eventually, not only were postmodernists to expunge rational thought, logic, and science, but all Western "bigotries," including Western traditions, philosophy, religion, and history. Particular hostility was harbored for the majority, as we recall the US Constitution strives to tame its potential ills, but seen by postmodernists as an innate evil. Instead, they favored a "tyranny of the minority," victims of a majority, real or imagined.

While this movement colonized American universities in the 60s, it seems to have become significant or dominant in sectors of the humanities by the early '90s when Marxism's flaws finally doomed it as a useful ideology against the West. By 1996 Lawrence Levine could brag that Berkeley reversed white student populations from 68% in 1974 to 37% by 1994, while 75% of America was white at that time. [9] Racism as racism's cure. As Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. elaborates in his Disuniting of America this new mindset lauds a redefinition of multiculturalism with its preservation of ethnic identity, hostile to the old idea of a melting pot. [10] Where dignity becomes a posture of opposition and self-segregation. From the beachhead of our universities these ideas spread to achieve what in part the Klan failed at after a century of intimidation. Since all movements are counter-movements we shouldn't be surprised to find a majority of US conservatives now view college education as a national threat. [11]

To show how much venom the Left has for science and scientists, consider the award winning UCLA feminist theorist, Sandra Harding. In her popular university Women's Studies text she writes, "The best scientific activity and thinking about science are modeled on men's most misogynistic relations to women-rape, torture, [and] choosing mistresses." [12] For Harding the equations of Newton and Einstein-F=ma, E=mc2-are gender-laden sexism. [13] Echoing Right-wing talk radio host Rush Limbaugh's "wizards of smart," Harding dismisses "practices of science [as]...sacred commandments." [14] But if this were so, those cell phones, TVs, ships, satellites, and vaccines wouldn't work as science predicts they will. One wonders if Harding has access to the fruits of science in her daily drive, work, and healthcare. Like Creationists to Harding's right, she wants a science indifferent to the way nature really is, exchanged for a creed to make her feel better. And for Harding's support? "Mainstream thinkers," she writes, like "Derrida, Foucault, Lacan..." [15] In the end, Harding demands science conform to political, social, and gender-based passions (forget realities of nature) to forge a masculine-free "feminist science," through what she calls "a painful world-shattering confrontation." [16] It has a familiar ring.

Like Nazi Science made free of Jews. [17] Stalin's Proletariat Science that led to Mao's Great Leap Forward, starving 30-40 million people. And Islamic Science, where Pervez Hoodbhoy reports, papers are "accepted for the Scientific Miracles Conference...of the International Islamic University at Islamabad for their theological correctness." [18] We won't build working devices with that, or solve global warming, or combat next year's flu strain, any more than we would with Harding's feminist science. There is but one science, revealed in the book of nature. And just as we see on the Right, when science is ditched, reason and morality dependent on it, go down with it.

Christina Hoff Sommers documents one thread of this in The War Against Boys. [19] Sommers showed how irrational dogmas become government policies wrecking human lives when she investigated the Women's Education Equity Act (WEEA) Publishing Center. With $70 million in tax payer funds, this almost 20 yearlong effort pushed postmodernist policy to education departments across the country. [20] Its critical need was enunciated by then director Katherine Hanson when she claimed that in the US alone: Every year nearly four million women are beaten to death; violence is the leading cause of death among women; the leading perpetrators are men at home. [21] Such numbers were used to prod policy makers to take action against the dangerous nature of boys in school.

But instead of pathologizing boys, a bit of the scientific method and simple math could have avoided a lot of wasted money and terrorized children. Divide 4 million by 365 days in a year and that's almost 11,000 murders per day in just one country. Based on Hanson's claim, as of 2014 with 125.9 million women in the US, almost none of them would exist. And as reality would have it, in the year she divined these numbers, heart disease was the leading cause of female death (370,000), followed by cancer (250,000). According to the FBI, the number of female victims of homicide that year was 3,631. [22] Without question a tragic number, but short of 4 million by a multiplicative factor of over 1000.

Such anti-rationalist, anti-science doctrines in their varied forms are taught as Cultural Studies, Women's Studies, branches of literary criticism, sociology, and revisionist history in university humanities departments across this country. Their credibility garnered from campus proximity to science and engineering where they actually test claims against reality, unprotected by pseudo-religious rules of political correctness. For postmodernist liberals, application of critical reason to their self-contradictions is defended against through accusations of insensitivity. Harding explicitly makes this point, as do campus speech-code-supporting students unprepared for exposure to adult life. Thus creating another victim with, as Bertrand Russell noted, "superior virtue of the oppressed." One dare not challenge that, like they dare not challenge "the Lord thy God." [23]

Hence the French root of postmodernism, and its upkeep in America as politically correct McCarthyism. This movement is largely why less than half of the American electorate voted for a well-known thief, draft-dodger, and want-to-be despot for 2016 president-as a counter-movement. They hated the Left more than they feared betrayal of their Savior's teachings. And doing so has revealed the Right's embrace of Foucault's ideas that helped build our modern Left. Administration advisor Kellyanne Conway's now infamous remark that lies are "alternative facts" is a restatement of Foucault's first point. Foucault's second, with truth-as-concealment, feeds the Right-wing's conspiracy fetish and propaganda machine. While both sides the other thanks to Foucault's prioritization of who makes any truth claim.

Little did our modern Right realize how liberal (and 11th century Islamic) they are. And despite their acceptance of manmade global warming as a scientific fact, little did the Left realize how hostile they are to science, and how similar they are to the Right.

So, who's more radically anti-science, anti-reason, and thus morally compromised, the Right, or the Left's intellectually sounding assault on the West? It's a close contest. Considering the current status of our Culture Wars, I wonder if the Left can see the cost of their assault on science and reason now?

Until next time. The first Monday in March, the 5th, 2018.

[1] Michael Shermer, The Moral Arc: How Science Alex Humanity to Truth Justice and Freedom, Henry Holt and Co, 2015, pg. 135

[2] Pervez Hoodbhoy, Islam and Science: Religious Orthodoxy and the Battle For Rationality, Zed, 1991

[3] Sokal & Bricmont, Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectual's Abuse of Science,, Picador, 1998, pg. 27, the quote shown is a truncated summary

[4] Ferry & Renaut, French Philosophy of the Sixties: An Essay on Antihumanism, University of Massachusetts Press, 1990, pg. 14

[5] Sokal & Bricmont, pg. 234

[6] David Stone, Anything Goes, Origins of the Cult of Scientific Irrationalism, Macleay Press, 1998

[7] Madsen & Madsen, 1990, Science & Culture, 56, pg. 471-472, appearing in Sokal & Bricmont, pg. 234. From the Sokal's hoax itself, making his successful attempt to be published in one of the premier sociological journals by imitating their gibberish.

[8] Ferry & Renaut, pg. xvi

[9] Lawrence Levine, Opening of the American Mind: Canons, Culture, and History, Beacon, 1996, pg. xviii

[10] Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. The Disuniting of America: Reflections on a Multicultural Society, Norton, 1992, pg. 16, 43, 80, 92, 116, 118.

[11] Chris Riotta, Majority of Republicans Say Colleges Are Bad For America (Yes, Really), Newsweek, 7/10/2017

[12] Sandra Harding, The Science Question in Feminism, Cornell University Press, 1986, pg. 112

[13] ibid pg. 42

[14] ibid pg. 39. And as this weren't bad enough, "Those wedded to empiricism," claims Harding, "will be loath to commit...that the social identity of the observer [makes a difference] in research results." Pg. 26 Imagine observers making different numeric measurements based on their social identity.

[15] ibid pg. 27

Italics added.

[16] ibid pg. 39

[17] Wikipedia, Deutsche Physik

[18] Pervez Hoodbhoy, Islam and Science: Religious Orthodoxy and the Battle For Rationality, Zed, 1991, pg. 180. Italics added.

[19] Christina Hoff Sommers, The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism is Harming Our Young Men, Touchstone Simon & Shuster, 2000

[20] WEEA funding

[21] Sommers pg. 48

[22] ibid pg. 49

[23] Exodus 20:2

Tweaked 2/17/19.Clarified identity between Left & Right in their crusade against science with separate paragraph.

November 6, 2017: Down in the dark, beneath the American psyche, some of it's not so bad

In the September 18 issue of New York Magazine, Andrew Sullivan asks what it must be like to live in a tribal society like Syria, Iraq, or the Balkans where the smallest difference defines friend or foe. [1] But we already know, he claims, as we live in America. Where the 18th century hope was that emotion could be tamed by reason, and deep divides "bridged by a culture of compromise," he writes. For Sullivan we have regressed to more primitive origins of our evolution. "Tribalism, it's worth remembering," Sullivan notes, "is not one aspect of human experience. It's the default human experience."

Sullivan maintains this wasn't a problem, until recently. "Tribalism only destabilizes a democracy... when it rivals our attachment to the nation as a whole; when it turns rival tribes into enemies." It's also easy. "One of the great attractions of tribalism, is that you don't actually have to think very much. All you need to know on any given subject is which side you're on." A condition that Animal Farm and 1984 author George Orwell characterized as a propensity for self-contradiction and indifference to reality. [2]

Today, American tribes are much more about "what we stand against," than "what we stand for." As a naturally superstitious species, our polarization is accentuated by a conspiracy theory mindset nurtured by the internet. As Walter Quattrociocch notes, this mindset is a kind of "quasi-religious mentality." Where we again occupy a mental space, "a bit like the dawn of humanity, when people attributed divinity to storms." What he characterizes as our Age of Credulity. [3] Fodder for tribes.

In an On Being podcast, The Righteous Mind author, Jonathan Haidt takes the tribal notion a step deeper into the realm of Richard Dawkin's selfish gene. [4] But with one of two expressions, each having been essential for human survival. Elsewhere differentiated by selection of individual traits favored by Dawkins, or selection of community traits as offered by E. O. Wilson (much to Dawkins' irritation). For Haidt, liberal or conservative is a function of one or the other of these encoded behaviors. Haidt has even revealed two of their most defining differences with simple tests of imagery. When viewing dots on a screen, his conservative subjects preferred the dots be cast in an orderly fashion. Liberals preferred a variety of distributions. Order for them, it seemed, was equivalent to confinement, hierarchy, and potential abuse of authority.

For Haidt, the more freedom and prosperity people have with markets that cater to wants, including bias-reinforcing media echo chambers, the more our two personality traits will be self-segregated like some chemical distillate. "So progress," host Krista Tippet remarked, "leads to incivility."

Haidt's hope for remediation is a revival of civics education on America's long history of Left and Right with the pairings each is most concerned with: order or reform; stability or change; belonging or autonomy; freedom or equality; responsibility or rights. Having abandoned civics education, these are mysteries of the dark arts in America.

From the same classical-liberal camp of Europe's Enlightenment we can dig beneath the psyche's surface to a time when these competing priorities became hostile thanks to divisions created by the 1789 French Revolution. Which allows for an interesting implication: that America's culture wars are the extension of a 220 year conflict without (fortunately) a winner. Such are the implications of Yuval Levin's Great Debate: Edmond Burke, Thomas Paine, and the Birth of Right and Left. Per Levin, "If political ideas are applications of philosophical ideas-of some understanding of what is true and good in life-then serious political debates must be rooted in different philosophical assumptions." [5] Arguments between Burke and Paine that set our modern stage were about the priorities those assumptions warrant. Balance was and remains the hard part. Too much order is authoritarian. Too much change is destabilizing.

While Paine courses through my blood, I found Burke more convincing. Burke is not opposed to reform, but to save tradition he wants change to be gradual. A pace the community psyche can absorb over slow time so as not to threaten personal bonds. Society for Burke is about people living with others, indebted and responsible, not demanding and entitled. Society has been a centuries-long experiment to find the best way to live. (See the evolution of law commencing with Ur Nammu 2100 BC.) For Burke, we should not dispose of that learning for a return to square one based on some abstract proto-society of the individual alone in a hostile wilderness that so enamored Paine.

But if we're to reference the earliest living state as "natural man" from which to extrapolate society, as Paine seeks to do, then based on what we now know, isn't the first proto-society mother and child? Before Hobbes, Locke, and Paine were individuals in a struggle with nature, they were utterly dependent on mother for survival. To the infant, she must be something like God, providing not only sustenance for the body, but some form of meaning through the infant's own value reflected from the mother. Does this fundamental arrangement lead the growing child to a sense of entitlement and rights, or debt and responsibility? With foreknowledge that individualism's evolution would lead to the former, and a stronger view of indebtedness, our Founders might have given us a Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.

While Burke is too tolerant of transgressions by those in power, Paine is anything but. And not without cause. Paine's witness to corrupt power makes justice and equality his central concern with perpetual reform a requirement of moral societies. If government fails to be the guardian of rights, Paine's urge is to burn it down, reboot from that time before social relations and hierarchies. As though such a clean slate could exist in reality without a multitude of leftover alliances. Paine seeks to apply the scientific method to civilization, but it can seem like a surrogate for an axe to grind. Like the scientist's mathematical model, idealized by perfect spheres and unperturbed parabolas, in the field the scientist finds his model an approximation. A myriad of unmodeled phenomena, from the winds of change to irrational human behavior, yield a different answer. While the scientist adds those phenomena for a more precise solution, Paine seems little concerned for lessons learned that Burke would rather preserve. Both sides have valid arguments, and each goes too far. But we're better for having both than only one or the other.

And richer still for the great debates between Plato and Aristotle over many of the same Western dichotomies. While this ancient duo roams over wider terrain and they crisscross with Burke and Paine, their disputes elucidate "what is true and good in life." Their philosophical ideas converted to application-as-politics were the West's first contest between pairs of opposing priorities for the same cause: the best way to live.

In Arthur Herman's The Cave and the Light we find Plato's Republic " all about raising that collective order to the highest... [making] the individual's health and happiness dependent on the larger political community." [6] Like Burke, "Plato's philosophy looks constantly backward, to what we were, or what we've lost..." While, like Paine, Aristotle's is "a philosophy of aspiration." "Steadily looking forward, to what we can be, rather than what we were." [7]

And yet, for Plato, now crossing paths with Paine, our existence is a cave of illusions to be escaped from for higher principles. Plato's politics was a quest for "a foundation more elevated and certain than custom, public opinion, and majority rule." [8] But for Aristotle the pragmatist, as for Burke, what's so bad about the cave? It's what we have, where we are, in the here and now that matters most. Let's work with that.

For over 2000 years the West has debated what is true and good in life, and ultimately from this, speculations about the best way to live. I'm struck by the repeating theme of duality, and I wonder, is this an inflection of the old mind-body problem? And is the mother and child its first biological expression? What the body needs as material; what the mind needs as meaning.

Fundamentally different, the two require different things. Our bodies are in constant competition with the world outside, or think they are. Our genes don't know there's another meal in four hours, they want to gorge. Hence, America's obesity epidemic. Our body's concern is with the material world. But the mind has other worries. Especially once age and experience with The Great Reality is recognized for what it is. When despite our myriad of distractions it finally dawns on us that each is biodegradable. Who wants an early start in the recycle? As pastor Forest Church once said, religions are a result "Of being alive and having to die." [9] Our mind knows this and demands a solution. Competition between the material world with existential realities, clouded by hormones, and tamed by age is bound to have different outcomes for different people over time, and thus, which tribe they swear by. While America's current, perhaps permanent political vulgarities could convert the Pope to a nihilist, fortunately, we have the treasures of Plato, Aristotle, Burke, and Paine. Down in the dark, beneath the American psyche where foundations of substance lie, some of it's not so bad.

Until next time, Monday, January 1, 2018

[1] Andrew Sullivan, America Wasn't Built for HumansSeptember 18, 2017, New York Magazine

[2] George Orwell

[3] Walter Quattrociocch, Inside The Echo Chamber, Scientific American, April 2017

[4] On Being

[5] Yuval Levin, Great Debate: Edmond Burke, Thomas Paine, and the Birth of Right and Left, Basic Books, 2014, pg. 43

[6] Arthur Herman The Cave and the Light: Plato Versus Aristotle, and the Struggle for the Soul of Western Civilization, Random House, 2014, pg. 62

[7] ibid pg. 52

[8] ibid pg. 28

[9] Bill Moyers, A World of Ideas, Doubleday, 1989

Revised, 2/17/19. Grammar, and mixed up references.

September 4, 2017: Has America become a nation of liars? [1]

In Kurt Anderson's September 2017 Atlantic article, How America Lost Its Mind, he argues that 1960s Postmodernist relativism served as an assault on conservatives who did not view their religion, traditions, and values as mere subjectivity. [2] Anderson writes, " the 1970s [Michel Foucault] was arguing that rationality itself is a coercive 'regime of truth'-oppression by other means." [3] Coupled with what Anderson calls ultra-individualism this became pick-your-own-reality and free choice morality. This relativism also served as training-by-example for Right-wing "alternative facts" used to disempower what they view as liberal elites in science, academia, government, and the press. A construction of the Left which years later would invite Rush Limbaugh, global warming denial, and the Creationism of Intelligent Design from the Right. In a society where so many feel they have lost control, lies are one way to get it back.

Stuart Rachels wrote, "Moral thinking begins when we try to see things as they are... Morality is the effort to guide one's conduct by reason." [4] But relativism dismisses "things as they are" as unknowable. Originally a Left-wing perception, both sides now embrace it. Compare the Left's dismissal of moral judgments - as the communal construction of morality became a matter of individual free choice - with the New Right's dismissal of morality in their affinity for lies. Or the Left's embrace of "blank slate" all-nurture-no-nature claims that make gender purely a social construct open to choose, with the New Right's rejection of evolution and the Big Bang - both in violation of science. [5] Morality and science are now matters of political convenience. Conservatives feel they've thrown relativism back in the face of liberals. Ironically, with tools of Enlightenment reason the postmodernist Left warped reason. Soaked in technology we approach a pre-Enlightenment Middle Ages mindset through imitation of the Left by the Right. [6]

Per Rachels' warning, crippled moral standards release restrictions on immorality. As Anderson's article implies, this topic has become something of an American obsession. My own observations of this trend began early. Part "loss of innocence," part witness to history, my starting point commenced with parents who were products of the Great Depression and WWII. Born later in their lives I was raised like an only child. Not privileged by middle-class standards of the time, I was also not penalized by society at large. Well cared for, never hungry, I wanted for little, in part because I didn't know there was more outside our 900 square foot home among so many others like it.

At ninety-one, my mother still recalls her embarrassment among other girls at school when each day she revealed the quarter stick of butter for lunch her mother wrapped in newspaper that morning. The sole provision all eight children in her home received after a stale slice of bread with coffee poured over it for breakfast. Yet about the same age in my own life I was convinced the reason I received what I did was because I deserved it.

One evening as a 4 year old I stood in the checkout line behind my mother at the local grocer as she and the clerk made small talk. Loitering, I spied 1-cent Tootsie Rolls displayed quite obviously for me. I casually inspected the most desirable of these identical treats and put five in my pocket. Back home I presented my gift to the family: one Tootsie for each. After the inquisition I was marched to convene with the grocer's manager. He hovered above me. Head down, I thrust out that tiny hand I had then to expose five kidnap victims as proof of my crime. I cried and apologized before an audience of shoppers. Unsure of further consequences, I begged the punishment not be too severe. Not merely at bedtime, but before the Lord himself in his house I had work to do at church on Sunday-pray for forgiveness.

So it was I received my first lesson that I was not deserving, but lucky. Lucky my parents had the hardships they had without having them myself. As Chantel Delsol wrote, "A people are made by hardship. They are also made by its absence." [7] Hardship provides moral perspective, a kind of conscience fetched from suffering that is anything but relative. When it comes to morality, abundance can be a curse. Such are the teachings of Buddha and Jesus.

My parent's pointed me toward what the word morality meant. Such lessons notified me of a standard. They instilled a trust of others, high expectations of their moral stance, and mine. Except for the occasional typically-boy fistfight, I remained under this impression well into adulthood. I'm grateful for that upbringing. I consider it healthy, wholesome, and entirely naive for the America we live in now.

One adult lesson came from a woman with no higher education. It was from her I formally recognized motivated-morality. Wrongs done by her, her friends, family, or political party were excused. Only other tribes received moral judgment. Values were a matter of utility. After she had an affair with a married man, which she held not to be adultery (she too was married), I severed ties and never saw her again. She was a Christian woman. The kind of Christian with four-square-gospel jubilation for every word of Christ, and paradoxically, the Ten Commandments. By then, I'd left the faith unable to square the Bible's self-contradiction of love and slaughter in violation of its own morality.

My second adult tutorial came from a man I worked with, educated to the highest level with a PhD. He was not a religious man. Our field is one in which the peer review process makes mistakes public, and not infrequently, embarrassing. This man recast those public embarrassments as conquests. He'd then wait to see if I would endorse his lies to patch his ego and satisfy his required loyalty. For a time I practiced diversion. I changed the subject or complemented something else he did. I began to question my own morality in exchange for peace. The work was fascinating, surroundings like an idealized Lyceum, the minds of others in our group, exceptional. But one by one they peeled away because they knew something I didn't: rarely are we faced with big events to reveal our moral fiber. Minor transgressions are portentous. Midway among the exodus, jolted by external events, I quit, and moved to California. Years later I heard of an international scandal that made headline news of the Houston Chronicle, centered on the man and place I left behind as it imploded.

About this time Bill Clinton was lying about his sexual escapades to a Grand Jury and inquiring about the definition of "is." Truth revealed, followers rallied: "We all make mistakes," "Bill and Monica are in love," "But he's our first feminist president." More irony, and motivated-morality as Senator Packwood from the other party was pursued for his own infidelities. Intensified by my experience I recoiled from these people and their excusers. Immorality and its supporting lies were not confined to my small arena, but played on a national stage.

Then came Iraq. I was back in Texas, part of a research group headed by one of the most devout, moral, honest, and truly good men I've ever known. But nationally, lie leaders spun a willfully complicit public, yearning for retribution after the 9/11 terrorist attack. [8] Working for the world's largest defense contractor I was staggered by how many of the most educated people on earth refused to see blatant violations of reason in our march for Saddam. I made it my duty to correct them. Furious and outspoken I felt the need to tell my supervisor I was not a security risk, and did. All this culminated in a realization that childhood lessons were compromised. Not recognizing I had one, I divorced my Right-wing tribe and stopped lying for it. [9] Evolving fantasies, from 500 tons of invisible yellowcake uranium to WMDs never found before or after the ruse were a crash course in worldwide lying, and most Americans embraced it. Then, we gave birth to ISIS, doomed 4500 US troops, 150,000 Iraqis, $2T, and with zero connection to 9/11, Saddam Hussein, a favor for Osama bin Laden who'd been hoping to kill him for years. [10] The power of lies.

Now, fueled by political correctness, valid populist anger perverted by talk-radio propagandists, and horrid political opposition, 63 million Americans preferred a lifelong liar and thief for what historian Tom Ricks notes as, "certainly the worst president in America history." [11] After seven months of Trump's attacks on the Constitution his followers claim to love, the stench of Russian money laundering, Trump's vulgarity, ignorance, incompetence, and clear mental derangement, who are his most ardent supporters? Three quarters of Christian evangelicals who cheer when Trump hits back "ten times harder;" who relish Trump's caustic blame of others for his own failures; who endorse his lies in order to patch his fragile ego, parading their loyalty because only winning matters. [12] And yet their Savior urged to "Turn the other cheek," [13] "Pull the plank from your own eye first," [14] "The truth will set you free," [15] not the lie, nor the liar, and "What good is it to win the whole world and lose your soul?" [16] Such people failed to ask if Jesus would embrace such an unrepentant beast. Another adulterer, like Bill Clinton whom these people despise for his adultery.

Before our evolution of relativism, lies, and immorality, the presidency came with expectations of moral character. [17] But Trump was never required to return what he'd stolen. [18] With his mental perversions born to excess, our own Caligula has no moral bearing. [19] Nor does his cult, applying motivated-morality only to others. And it's these people, not Trump, who matter most. We've seen to what ends Trump will go to mend his bottomless complex of inferiority. When Trump is impeached or expunged by the 25th, will this minority whom Trump schools at his rallies retain any decency? If, after impeachment, to hoist his ego Trump makes a call to arms under guise of 2nd Amendment protection from tyranny, will they? History shows, zealot minorities trigger revolutions.

With these examples spanning the political spectrum, the gamut of education, gender, class, believers and non-believers, I ask the obvious question: Has America become a nation of liars?

Of course there are millions of Americans who strive to live honest and moral lives. Among the many examples of courage and compassion as I write this, my friend in Houston tries to rescue dogs belonging to a stranger, trapped by hurricane Harvey. While simultaneously from my radio Rush Limbaugh establishes the day's false premise: humans don't create hurricanes (ignoring exacerbation), thus any association of Harvey's record rainfall with the "global warming hoax" is also a hoax. Conflating storm category with rainfall, Harvey "is not unprecedented," he says. "Everything in America's been politicized, folks." [20]

Harvey beat the old record by 4 inches. Liars make every circumstance conform to their distorted morality.

Until next time, the first Monday in November the 6th.

[1] Such a question demands the question, Does this apply to the claimant?

[2]Kurt Anderson, How America Lost Its Mind, The Atlantic Monthly, September, 2017

[3] Relativism might be said to begin with David Hume (1711-1776) who claimed that "reason is slave to passions." A fact that apparently did not apply to him.

[4] Stuart Rachels, The Elements of Moral Philosophy, 6th Ed. McGraw Hill, 2010

[5] Brett Williams, Why America's anti-science is a moral matter. Part I: The Right, March 6, 2017

[6] Of course, rejection of reason is selective for both sides, depending on convenience and party creed.

[7] Chantal Delsol Icarus Fallen: The Search For Meaning In An Uncertain World, ISI Books, 2003

[8] For a fascinating tour of Iraq War immorality, see PBS FRONTINE, The Secret History of Isis. Corrupted mostly by Vice President Dick Cheney, the scandal took a large step when Cheney swapped a CIA report destined for Collin Powell's UN speech with a fabricated report more incendiary. CIA consensus was that Saddam Hussein had no connection to Al Zarkawi in Iraq whom Osama bin Laden himself disavowed. What Powel read instead was the lie that Saddam and Al-Zarkawi-as-Al-Queda were affiliated, 21 times. As Treasury Secretary and required security meeting attendant Paul O'Neil said, "Taking down Saddam was Topic A ten days after inauguration." CBS News, Bush Sought 'Way' to Invade Iraq, Jan 9, 2004. As the Al Queda connection frayed the mission became to cleanse Iraq of WMDs. But if we wanted to remove such weapons, why not pay a visit to China, Russia, India, Pakistan, or Israel? One: because they can fight back. Two: because that was not Topic A. All to compensate for the humiliation of a desert tribe's success against the world's superpower.

[9] As noted in a previous post, my work and its search for truth in nature was the backdrop. Iraq was in the foreground.

[10] Daniel Benjamin, Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda Are Not Allies, September, 30, 2002

[11] On Point with Tom Ashbrook, A Historical Perspective On Trump's White House, August 26, 2017

[12] Not all Christian evangelicals support Trump. One in four do not. Some are vociferously opposed and practice the teachings they hold dear. Eric Sammons, Christians' Support For Trump Undermines Their Public Witness, The Federalist, October 12, 2016 Neil J. Young, Dear Evangelicals, A "Begrudging" Vote for Trump Is Still a Vote for Trump, Religion Dispatches, October 4, 2016 Russell Mooresept, Have Evangelicals Who Support Trump Lost Their Values?, New York Times, September 17, 2015

[13] Mathew 5:39

[14] Mathew 7:5

[15] John 8:32

[16] Mark 8:36

[17] With five Vietnam deferments, Trump claims to have been a "brave soldier" in his "personal Vietnam" for not acquiring sexually transmitted diseases. He now awards the Medal of Honor.

[18] Except, so far as we know, $25M returned to students defrauded by his fake University. For which he remarked, "I got a great deal." Either he did and thus defrauded more money than he lost, or this is it another of his automatic lies to patch his inferiority complex. See more here.

[19] Nicholas Kristof, There Once Was Great Nation With an Unstable Leader, August 26, 2017. People Magazine, Trump Boasted of Avoiding STDs While Dating: Vaginas Are 'Landmines ... It Is My Personal Vietnam', October 28, 2016

[20] Rush Limbaugh, Monday August 28, 2017. Notice how Limbaugh conflates storm category 4, which the 1900 Galveston hurricane reached, as have others, in order to say there's no global warming influence on Harvey. Hurricane category is defined by wind speed, not rainfall. Harvey is the current record. Galveston is not in the top 10 Texas hurricane rainfall maximums.

Revised 2/17/19. Changed ASCII quote type, and added Mark 8:36. CanNOT believe I missed that opportunity to skewer my old tribe for their betrayal and hypocrisy. And to imagine I once thought this my best written post. Horrifying.

July 3, 2017: I just can't shake that dual nature thing

Sometimes, like today, I ask myself, "Did I do the right thing?" My cats and dogs now own me. My house and yard enslave me. Hundreds of books call me day and night from the shelves for attention. Before that thing happened, I let these matters go. While pressed by schedules, rushed by deadlines, comrades rang my home office to ask, "Does that design work, or not?"

I had excuses for an unkempt house, an unmowed lawn, and why I failed to give Scooby and Tiger their walk as they sat side by side staring at me. And just for emphasis, Cooty, the cat who managed house affairs, sat behind them, adding a pair of eyes to the plea. But I was busy being responsible. They wanted daddy to make money for food and treats, "Right, kitty, kitty?"

But then, a few years ago, that thing happened. It was a decision. Some neurons in my head activated somehow. They began to form new connections, and all sorts of biochemical things commenced that I've yet to read about. This lead to new networks that generated new ideas, and those ideas stimulated emotions, and those emotions told my body to start moving in the outside world.

Now, I'm not so sure those neurons are really my own, but whoever they belong to, here's what they said, "Leave a good paying, highly respected position, where you know and enjoy what you're doing, and go do things that pay nothing, garner no respect, where you know very little." As a founder of artificial intelligence, Marvin Minsky, once said, "Its so thrilling not to know how to do something." My neurons reminded me of that. And so it was, from this strange sequence of events I left my career behind to make time for one of the most impractical endeavors to the American mind: the pursuit of art and the humanities.



For one, art and science share the same transcendent experience. On those deep dives into reality when its laws become murky, one is filled with anticipation. Until those neurons link, and you're plugged directly into nature. It's electric. Ditto for art. For me it's painting, writing, and studies in history with the philosophy that attends it, as well written books are obviously fine art. Each time I hit that brush stroke that works, craft a line of my own that says it all, or discover history I never knew in a book, I want to jump to the window and shout to the neighbors, "Did you see that?"

"Art," Picasso said, "is the lie that tells the truth." About us. That's why myths work, great paintings, music, novels, sculpture, and high poetry that rhymes, like Pushkin. [1] Science is the avenue to Truth in nature. Art, the avenue to Truth in humans. And that's the other reason I decided to pursue it. It's that nature, human nature, that I decided to focus on because it's so murky, and odd, I can't stop staring at it, filled with anticipation, in wait of that connection that explains us.

At the heart of our oddity is this dual nature thing we pondered last time. Remember E.O. Wilson's hypothesis, that we evolved through natural selection of individual survival traits, and group (community) survival traits. If true, selfishness and selflessness are woven together in the genes.

This dichotomy in humans is reminiscent, only by analogy, of another in physics: wave particle duality in the atomic world. [2] Wave particle duality can be demonstrated by a common college experiment. Cut open two slits in an opaque card. Let the card intercept a laser beam so dim that just one photon of light at a time passes through the slits. Beyond the card place a photodiode array that clicks each time a photon strikes. Let this go on for a while and what shows up on the array? A pattern created by interfering waves. Like the interference of waves off the bow of two boats (by analogy, two slits in the card). If their wave peaks meet in phase, they produce a "freak" wave, added together, twice as big. If they meet out of phase, they subtract to flatten the water's surface. Yet the photodiode clicked each time a photon hit. It's a particle. But if so, how can an individual photon interfere with itself from the other slit as though it were a wave? Doesn't it have to pick one slit or the other to pass through? Dual nature in the quantum world-kooky. Like humans are kooky.

Through human history we see civilizations emphasize one component of human nature or the other, then battle back and forth between the two. The ancient Hebrews chose a stern and ridged spirituality that fostered belonging and survival in a harsh desert surrounded by hostile powers. At the same time, in their own rocky terrain, Greeks lavished their monuments with nude statues, worshiped the power of mathematics, and threatened their own belonging with philosophy that never stops asking if what we think is true is true. To the Hebrews, dogma was to be obeyed. For the Greeks, dogma was to be challenged. It's the problem of Athens and Jerusalem. Violent collisions between these outlooks are a repeating theme in history. We see this dual nature today in America's hyper-polarization: belongers vs. individualists, believers vs. skeptics, decisive-seat-of-the-pants-no-nonsense-doers vs. experts.

Michael Shermer and Chantal Delsol-whom we met last time-demonstrate this concerning that fundamental element of Western political philosophy, individual rights. "The Rights Revolution of the past three centuries," writes Shermer, "have focused almost entirely on the freedom of individuals, not collectives... The first principle of survival and flourishing of sentient beings is grounded in the biological fact that the discrete organism is the principal target of natural selection and social evolution, not the group... This drive to survive...and therefore freedom to pursue the fulfillment of that essence is a natural right." [3] While for Delsol, "We suffer from the illusion that democracy's destiny will be fulfilled if we apply its mechanisms on the widest scale possible. We cling to the illusion that this will happen if we expand its founding principles to the utmost...with no exceptions and no limitations, convinced any expansion of rights corresponds to progress." While religious man held each moment of this life as a mold for the next, ideological man thought his work for a "radiant future symbolically inscribed his an immortal future society," says Delsol. "Contemporary man no longer has at his disposal anything more than his own limited existence, of which his death constitutes the absolute end, not only biologically, but spiritually, socially, symbolically." [4]

I absolutely, positively agree with...


Central to political philosophy (which is what this blog is supposed to be about) stands the question, What is the right way for humans to live so we might flourish, as Aristotle urged. Two thousand years later with the same concern for our dual nature in mind, Alexander Hamilton asked if societies are capable of "establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend...on accident and force." [5] And still we don't know.

So on days like today, I wonder, should I have stayed with rocket science where problems are easy? Is the study of art and the humanities really going to help answer deeper questions about humans? Maybe that was a rogue neuron.

Until next time. The first Monday of September, the 4th, 2017.

[1] Michael Polanyi, Meaning, University of Chicago Press, 1975

Rhyme, says Polanyi, is the intentional separation of words from their factual use in information exchange, converted by rhyme to a transcendent state, toward that of music and myth. While modern poetry is a short story read in staccato cadence.

[2] Despite wild claims and fortunes made by Deepak Chopra, but for devices made from quantum laws, they apply only to the quantum world.

[3] Michael Shermer Moral Arc: How Science and Reason Lead Humanity Toward Truth, Justice, And Freedom, Holt and Company, 2015, pg.12-13

[4] Chantal Delsol Icarus Fallen: The Search For Meaning In An Uncertain World, ISI Books, 2003> pg. 121, 176

[5] Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist, #1, Random House Modern Library, (1787-1788), pg. 3

Word smithed for clarity, 1/27/19.

May 1, 2017: Shermer vs. Delsol, Liberation or Dispossession?

Rather than continue the examination of moral implications from America's anti-science movement, this time from the Left, I decided to first consider two books stark in their opposition. Their focus is one of two paramount issues of our age: the status of the human condition. Of course this reflects every human endeavor, including that other great issue: planetary assault causing earth's sixth great extinction now underway thanks to human overpopulation, myself included. [1] The books are Michael Shermer's The Moral Arc: How Science and Reason Lead Humanity Toward Truth, Justice, and Freedom, and Chantal Delsol's Icarus Fallen: The Search For Meaning In An Uncertain World. [2] This post serves merely as an introduction to their thought.

Though a very approximate summation, Shermer sees the world materially, practically, quantifiably, like Aristotle. Delsol sees the world spiritually, existentially, qualitatively, like Plato. While Shermer pays lip service to community, to him, we're a species of individuals. For Delsol, this outlook comes with negative consequences that permeate and threaten the West. While Shermer acknowledges we have problems, we now know how to solve them with science and reason. For Delsol, the way we solved our problems killed our humanity. For Shermer, reason has come far but remains in dreadfully short supply. For Delsol, the penetration of reason is radical and incomplete only in failing to recognize its own limits. For Shermer, Western civilization is more peaceful, stable, comfortable, knowledgeable, richer with more stuff, longer, healthier lives, and we have rights coming out of our ears, no longer under the thumb of a despot. We have Enlightenment to thank for a way out of humanity's long bondage to circumstance. While Delsol writes, "Why do people seem so dissatisfied when so many, in the West at least, have acquired everything they reasonably need to be happy?" Rather than bondage to circumstance, it is precisely ancient man's acceptance of both his ineluctable condition (mostly this means death) and his persistent need to escape it that gave meaning through acceptance and hope. Hope not of escape from that ultimate human fate as modernity attempted and failed, but a hope to cope with this first fact of life through traditions built non-rationally, not irrationally. Modernity's intolerance for the realities of life have made us tyrants of another sort, according to Delsol, determined to torch what gave us meaning because we've decided that conviction to concepts that granted significance are dangerous (religion, patriotism, heroism). Likewise, we have Enlightenment to thank for this mistake.

For Delsol, real life is full of contradictions, some of which are necessary as a state of existence. They cannot be made to universally vanish for utopia unless we do what we did: deny contradictions exist by relativistic means, where good and evil are merely matters of culture-bound opinion, or by creating social tyrannies of oppression like political correctness. Instead, traditional ways established over centuries of trial and error addressed these natural contradictions with countermeasures. "Religious thought," writes Delsol, "explained the permanence of temporal imperfection and thereby legitimized the necessity of a moral code, politics, and all the other structuring antinomies [i.e., contradictions between two apparently correct solutions]..." For Delsol, religion with its promise in the face of despair, politics with its command structure, not perfect equality, and economics with winners and losers are a bit like checks and balances in Constitutional governance. Each branch can step on the other's territory. Battles emerge over important issues as the victors ebb and flow. A messy, but organic, not analytical, leveling act that attenuates too much oscillation of naturally unstable humans.

I often challenge the blatant contradiction of those who simultaneously embrace capitalist selfishness and Christian selflessness, but Delsol says that's life. And for reasons modern arguments miss. For example, profit is capitalism's reward for hard work, innovation, and service. But along the way to profit, some are inevitably left with less. On a broad scale there will be rich and there will be poor, an apparent injustice. Isn't there some way to fix this? One is, "A kind of happy austerity," writes Delsol, "in which desires would be limited in proportion to available goods, imagining that people would be content with a bare minimum made palatable by the attainment of equality for all." A socialist solution - while far from the only option - that not only ignores the reality of imperfect existence but denies yearning for reward and recognition. It's a flawed definition of human nature, or an expectation that human nature will conform to a higher calling if only ideals of equality could override natural emotions. Here Delsol echoes Michael Polanyi who asserts that only if we manage to abandon moral perfectionism can we come to accept reality. [3]

But moral imperfection is hard for Enlightenment moderns to accept. Enlightenment thought has been so successful in providing solutions for everything from spaceflight to the Founder's Constitution, why would any stone be left unturned if justice is a fundamental human desire? Though patient, Shermer's vision seeks to turn those stones, expanding the moral sphere as dictated by reason wherever it leads. This includes those animals whose brain structure and emotional function science has found to be little or no different from our own. [4] To Shermer, Deslol's non-rational solution looks like a method without a plan, destined for that good-old time abuse. For him, our moral gains didn't come from tradition, least of all religion. "Most of the moral development of the past several centuries," Shermer writes, "has been the result of secular, not religious forces... The most important of these that emerged from the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment are science and reason... The moral universe bends not merely toward justice, but also toward truth and freedom... the product of societies moving toward more secular forms of governance..." His survey of the religious backdrop during the "witch" burnings of 60,000-100,000 women, and the disembowelment of heretics is enough to make even the Internet generation blanch. And must we be reminded of the abject immorality of a God who murders first-born toddlers and children of Egypt in Exodus? Even first-born livestock. Where's that external objective morality Delsol frees from the flimsy intrusion of reason? For Shermer, these examples show what doesn't work. And regardless of whether or not God exists, humans are not good at practicing what they preach. There's a better way, and Shermer says we know as fact what that is. Time to leave the Middle Ages behind, not go back to it.

Certainly, there seems support in Delsol's argument for contradiction in humans themselves. We want love and independence, belonging and autonomy, someone of extraordinary measure to look up to, often combined with insecurity about ourselves that relishes the image of seeing those people fail. If, as E.O. Wilson claims, natural selection filtered us by gene traits expressed through individuals and by group traits expressed through community and culture, then these contradictions are built-in. [5] Hardwired to express individualism and selfishness (greed), or community and altruism of selflessness (virtue). In that case, Shermer and Delsol argue for one side or the other of our dual nature. But which way is right for the world we're in? Or is there a solution waiting to be discovered that unifies both? Do humans have a capacity for balance?

Until next time. Monday, July 3rd, 2017.

[1] Elizabeth Kolbert, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, Picador, 2015

[2]Michael Shermer Moral Arc: How Science and Reason Lead Humanity Toward Truth, Justice, And Freedom, Holt and Company, 2015. Chantal Delsol Icarus Fallen: The Search For Meaning In An Uncertain World, ISI Books, 2003

[3] Michael Polanyi, Meaning, University of Chicago Press, 1975

[4] The Cambridge Statement on Animal Consciousness, in Marc Bekoff, Animals are conscious and should be treated as such, New Scientist, September 2012

[5] E.O. Wilson, The Meaning of Human Existence, Liveright, 2015

Added two word, 1/27/19. I know, it's crazy.

March 6, 2017: Why America's anti-science movement is a moral matter. Part I: The Right

For half a millennium the many varied nations of Islam were the greatest cultures on earth. Science, mathematics, architecture, and economics all thrived in Islam, while "in the West," says Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg, "Charlemagne and his lords, were dabbling in the art of writing their names." [1] As European tribunals sentenced sixty thousand "witches" drowned or burned at the stake, Islam shined through Europe's Dark Ages.

But Islam's Golden Age didn't last. Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg notes, by the 11th century, extremists opened the door "to complete destruction of science and scientists." [2] According to Pakistani historian and physicist Pervez Hoodbhoy some in Islam began to proclaim "a holy war against Rationalism... against the upholders of reason and advocates of philosophy and science." [3] Cultural suicide accelerated when "renewer of the faith" Al-Ghazali (1058-1111) provided political power needed to destroy rational thinking. [4] He won.

Or did he? By 1258 Mongols sacked Baghdad. By 1492 the Iberian Peninsula surrendered. Islam silenced itself when it abandoned reason and science, such as it was in the 11th century.

But could science really be that important? Or is it related to something more?

Fast forward 500 years to Rush Limbaugh's own holy war against science and scientists as "one of the four corners of deceit." [5] In Limbaugh's quest for class conflict we hear scientists belong to those "wizards of smart." The rest of us are "the hicks, the little people." [6] This vilification is broadcast to millions over radio waves discovered by science, on electronics built by science.

This hostile paradox is widespread and dominates powerful places. Oklahoma Republican Senator Jim Inhofe claims global warming is "the greatest hoax ever perpetrated against the American people." [7] He's chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee. Texas Republican Representative and science denier Lamar Smith has built his reputation on harassment of climate scientists and attorneys general with 25 subpoenas, from a committee that issued only one since its creation in 1958. [8] Smith is chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. The irony.

These are people who fly on jet aircraft, use smart phones, and light emitting diodes not candles to read by. They laud capitalism, innovation, and entrepreneurs dependent on science to create wealth. They favor a strong military, contingent on science and its technology to defend Amwerica. A nation they claim to love, most notably its Founders, all of them products of Europe's scientific Enlightenment. The founder of electrical sciences, Ben Franklin; naturalist and inventor, Thomas Jefferson; Hamilton, Madison, and Jay with scientific analogies to proper governance in their Federalist Papers. More irony.

Or is it? Tocqueville found Americans so busy that we're suspect of elaborate explanations. [9] We prefer quick, easily ingestible answers (sound bites). As a can-do nation from the Frontier onwards, Americans harbored an anti-intellectual posture from the beginning. Hence, America's science deniers hoodwink a scientifically naive public without much resistance. Such habit and influence opens the door for destruction of science and scientists because reality is more complex than an audio morsel. It's also more interesting. Consider that family of atoms in the form of a molecule called carbon dioxide. This greenhouse gas is made of one carbon, two oxygen: CO2. Atmospheric CO2 rose past 400 parts per million in 2016. [10] Sounds small. Until one calculates the total volume of earth's atmosphere to find an astounding 40 gigaton CO2 increase per year. [11] And a commensurate decrease in breathable oxygen combined with carbon that takes place when burned. [12]

But how do we know this atmospheric CO2 came from humans? Answer: the type of carbon atom found in that molecule. They're not all the same. There's a carbon atom with 12 particles in its nucleus, C12, and another with 14, C14. C14 is created in earth's upper atmosphere every day when C12 gets stuck with two extra particles it didn't want. [13] Half the C14 created today will cast out those visitors through radioactive decay in about 6000 years, its half-life. This division by half continues until after 60,000 years no C14 made today will remain. Were today's excess carbon dioxide from natural sources it would have todays C14 signature. It doesn't. [14] Under well understood chemistry, millions of years of carbon rich plant burials gave us coal, buried marine plankton gave us oil, and none of it has C14. Just like the dearth of C14 atoms in that carbon dioxide molecule measured from our atmosphere. And what's more, the weight of all that annually added carbon equals the weight of annual fossil fuel inventories burned the world over. [15] A human imprint on global warming. One of hundreds. On January 18, 2017, NOAA, NASA, and UK's Hadley Center announced from different data sets our hottest year since 1880 data gathering began. And 16 of our 17 hottest years were since 2000. [16]

If you didn't know any of this, does that make you "a hick," a "little person?" I didn't know it either, until I did. Now I do. So do you. Feel like a "wizard of smart?" I don't. But once known, plans can be made, policy, action, designs for new industries that turn engineers lose on global warming constraints as an invitation to innovate and get rich. The way China dominates solar markets while America drags its heels because science is evil and nature is a liberal. While Congress remains rooted in old technologies that fund their campaigns, China crafts the Asian Century the same way America crafted the last one-with science. In January 2017, China announced a $361 billion program to build clean energies and create 13 million new jobs. [17]

The same science used to build high-tech society is precisely the same that shows human caused global warming a fact: physics, chemistry, biology. The same science that put man on the moon, made iPhones, and pharmaceuticals. Yet many Americans think global warming science is different from other science. A fallacy facilitated by descendants of Islam's Al-Ghazali from our own conservative Right with their "alternative facts." As Voltaire (1694-1778) said, "Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities." [18]

As moral philosopher Stuart Rachels wrote, "Moral thinking begins when we try to see things as they are... Morality is the effort to guide one's conduct by reason..." [19] But rejection of science is rejection of reason. Without reason, moral judgment is crippled. And this is where America's anti-science movement links to larger issues.

The connection becomes apparent in the tight coupling between science and reason with morality and self-governance. From the reasoned basis for moral judgment comes a realization that not only must the ends be rational and moral but the means to an end must be rational and moral. Our Founders implemented a system that placed how we arrive at results on an equal, sometimes higher plain of morality than their ends, which may be merely practical, but no less critical for stable governance. This process depends on right-reason, not motivated-reason which is not reason as we saw last time. Likewise, on right-morality vs. motivated-morality which is not moral. Both require truth. Truth requires reason. But a sizable fraction of America has abandoned truth and reason, and thus the Founder's foundation that depends on it.

The evolving corruption of this moral package was bound to have effects on the ground. Thanks to the decimation of American manufacturing and threatened by politically correct assaults on tradition, Americans abandoned their traditions to choose the liar from a field of 17 Republicans for president. [20] The Republican conservative Right has defrauded everything they once stood for, from Reagan's capacity for compromise, to the Founder's scientific thinking, to Jesus Christ himself. For in John, Jesus did not say "Seek the lie and it will set you free." Nor "Seek the liar." [21] Trump's lies were a welcomed insult to facts and experts many Americans have come to hate. As Foreign Affairs contributor Tom Nichols puts it, "Americans have reached a point where seen as an actual virtue. To reject advice of experts is to assert autonomy...and insulate their increasingly fragile egos." [22] A fascinating confluence between the excesses of individualism and consequent yearnings for a tribe. [23] And should Christians among the conservatives reject our Founders method by deciding that any means justify the ends, they've conveniently forgotten it was Paul who condemned "Let us do evil, so good may come." [24] Trump's theft of other people's property, his decades association with the mafia, and his vulgar immoralities complete with the smell of treason were embraced because Trump appealed to emotional excess that irrational populism thrives on. [25] (Which is not to say Trump won't succeed materially. [26]) All of this exposes moral decay for a party that once referred to itself as the Moral Majority.

But the Right is not a monolith. Even Right-wing Glen Beck labeled Trump a sociopath. [27] And Bush Administration attorney Eliot Cohen wrote in his acid bath blistering of Republicans, they are engaged in "moral self-destruction." [28]

That Trump is a carnival barker or a hopeful dictator is less important than what this reveals about America. We've arrived at an historic moment when a beast is welcomed for leadership by almost half the voting public. The direction of governance that America now moves in is not what the Founders founded. As Scientific American contributor and Skeptic Editor Michael Shermer notes, they gave us a methodology, not an ideology. The opposite of what we now see as it was a method of scientific thinking. "Scientific values of reason," writes Shermer, "are not the products of liberal democracy, but the producers of it." [29]

With Congress already in pursuit, like 12th century Islam, Trump has commenced another witch hunt for scientists. [30] Intellectuals are first to be purged in all authoritarian regimes. A regime welcomed by America's Right because they have betrayed Western ideals they once championed. It should be no surprise they would imperil the Republic the way Al-Ghazali did his own. The Right's attack on science is symptomatic of moral bankruptcy, and part of a much larger depravity. If institutions and norms our science-minded Founders founded on reason, truth, and trust don't survive, it won't get better.

Until next time, Monday May 1, 2017.

[1] Steven Weinberg To Explain the World: The Discovery of Modern Science, Harper Perennial, 2016, pg. 105.

[2] Weinberg., pg. 120.

[3] Pervez Hoodbhoy, Islam and Science: Religious Orthodoxy and the Battle For Rationality, Zed, 1991, pg. 120.

[4] Hoodbhoy, pg. 126.

[5] Rush Limbaugh, "The Four Corners of Deceit are government, academia, science, and the media," in The Four Corners of Deceit: Prominent Liberal Social Psychologist Made It All Up, Apr 29, 2013. Heather Horn, Is the Right Wing Anti-Science?, The Atlantic, 9.10.2010.

[6] Rush Limbaugh, Wizards of Smart, Limbaugh Letter, January 1994.

[7] Brad Johnson, Inhofe: God Says Global Warming Is A Hoax, ThinkProgress, March 9, 2012. Wikipedia, Jim Inhofe.

[8] Lisa Rein, House science chairman gets heat in Texas race for being a global warming skeptic, Washington Post, November 7, 2016. Phil Plait, Scientists Stand Up To Congressional Attacks , SLATE, June 2, 2016.

[9] Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy In America, Mentor, 1984 (1840)

[10] Brian Kahn, The World Passes 400 PPM Threshold. Permanently, Climate Central, September 27, 2016.

[11] Note dates on data as measured CO2 increases over time. See links from this article for the deeper science: Phil Plait, Did I Say 30 Billion Tons of CO2 a Year? I Meant 40.,SLATE, AUG. 20 2014.

[12] O2 decrease with carbon combustion is given in this article which also addresses other proxies including ocean and plant absorptions with some basic accounting. What is causing the increase in atmospheric CO2?, Skeptical Science.

[13] Marshall Brain, How Carbon-14 Dating Works, How Stuff Works.

[14] Solomon et. al., PDF: Are the Increases in Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide and Other Greenhouse Gases During the Industrial Era Caused by Human Activities?, IPCC, 2007: Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Richard Hilderman, Fossil Fuel and Atmospheric Levels of Carbon Dioxide, Mother Earth News, 1/9/2011. Prentice et. al., Climate Change 2001: Working Group I: The Scientific Basis, IPCC, 2001. Note the accounting for volcanic and Mid-Ocean ridge CO2, quite natural and also without current C14 signatures. John Cook, Do volcanoes emit more CO2 than humans?, Skeptical Science, July 6, 2015.

[15] John Cook. See Figure 1 for graphical representation. The human fingerprint in global warming, Skeptical Science, July 2015.

Above references Carbon Information Analysis Center, breakdown by annual output worldwide and by nation. CIACA, Note to get CO2 weight from weight of carbon burned multiply by 3.667 for carbon's combination with O2.

[16] Chris Mooney, U.S. scientists officially declare 2016 the hottest year on record. That makes three in a row., Washington Post, January 18, 2017. Hottest Years: Instrumental temperature record, Wikipedia.

[17] Reuters, China to plow $361 billion into renewable fuel by 2020, GLOBAL ENERGY NEWS, Thu Jan 5, 2017.

[18] Voltaire , Miracles and Idolatry, Penguin, 2005 (1765).

[19] Stuart Rachels, The Elements of Moral Philosophy, 6th Ed. McGraw Hill, 2010.

[20] Donald Trump, Donald Trump's file, POLITIFACT. FRONTLINE, President Trump, PBS, January 3, 2017. Donald Trump, Transcript: Donald Trump's Taped Comments About Women, New York Times, OCT. 8, 2016.

[21] John 8:32.

[22] Tom Nichols, How America Lost Faith in Expertise: And Why That's a Giant Problem, Foreign Affairs, March/April 2017.

[23] We might wonder if a psychological feedback mechanism is at work between individualism and dogmas. Evolution of individualism has rendered American's ever more isolated, stripped of belonging, and hence of meaning. This hinges on an assumption that meaning comes from without, from the value we have to others reflected back at us in face-to-face relations of true communities which no longer exist. Individual purpose, on the other hand, comes from within - we make it up: work, tasks, acquisitions, displays. Purpose and meaning are not necessarily mutually exclusive, one can lead to the other. But with greater isolation, dogma gives us a sense of recovered belonging through a tribal affiliation. In modern America this does not lead to true communities, but to abstract affiliations, usually through the internet, occasionally a temporary interaction between strangers at a protest. So dogma fails to provide community, rigidifies our views, and increases individualistic isolation. Two books related to this matter are Louis Dumont's Essays on Individualism: Modern Ideology in Anthropological Perspective, University of Chicago Press, 1992 (1986), and Eric Hoffer's True Believer: On the Nature of Mass Movements, Harper Perennial, 1966.

[24] Romans 3:8.

[25] Michael Rothfeld and Alexandra Berzon, Donald Trump and the Mob, Wall Street Journal, Sept. 1, 2016.

David Cay Johnston, Just What Were Donald Trump's Ties to the Mob?, POLITICO, May 22, 2016.

David Corn, A Veteran Spy Has Given the FBI Information Alleging a Russian Operation to Cultivate Donald Trump, Mother Jones, Oct. 31, 2016.

[26] Should we suspend moral appraisal as we await Trump's material performance? After all, reckless abandon common to populism earns early, costs late as it did Hugo Chavez. Presumably another favorite of Trump, not through imitation alone, but by his stated admiration for despotic murders Saddam Hussein, Kim Jong-un, and Vladimir Putin, who has found no greater alley against the West. Such ethics make the Right no different from the Left they assail for claiming moral relativity as protection from conservative judgment. Despite his national budget surplus, Bill Clinton remains an exhibit for moral degeneracy according to the very conservatives ignoring Trump's adultery. Motivated-morality judges only the other Party, and gives our own a pass. For Trump's fondness for dictators see, MEGHAN KENEALLY, 5 Controversial Dictators and Leaders Donald Trump Has Praised, ABC News, Jul 6, 2016.

[27] Tre Goins-Phillips, Glenn Beck explains why he thinks Donald Trump is a 'sociopath', The BLAZE, Oct 24, 2016.

[28] Eliot Cohen, A Clarifying Moment in American History, The Atlantic, Jan 29, 2017.

[29] Michael Shermer, The Moral Arc: How Science Alex Humanity to Truth Justice and Freedom, Henry Holt and Co, 2015, pg. 135.

[30] Steven Mufson and Juliet Eilperin, Trump transition team for Energy Department seeks names of employees involved in climate meetings , Washington Post, December 9, 2016. Then Transition pulls back., Jan 24, 2017. Reuters, Trump administration seeks to muzzle U.S. agency employees , Washington Post, ???, 2016.

Alex Kirby, Trump seeks to gag US scientists, Climate News Network, January 26, 2017.

January 2, 2017: Revenge politics: America's Culture Wars just get hotter

America's November 8, 2016 presidential election was not a tectonic shift, it was a supernova. From years of wide-ranging observations, wondering where this would end, this essay descends from political philosophy to politics. One thing is clear, both Right and Left find right-reason an obstacle. We live in an age of emotion now, the Clan Age.

Last time we considered systemic flaws in America's political system. A system incrementally revamped toward direct democracy in opposition to what our Founders created: stable governance of, by, and for naturally unstable humans. Reason will always be in combat with passion because humans are first and foremost emotional creatures, not intellects. Yet we can check emotions with institutional barriers to block us when emotion takes over as we know it will. The Founders invented a system to save us from ourselves.

They knew the difference between right-reason and motivated-reason. Right-reason accepts evidence for reality, regardless of how it makes us feel. It accepts evidence conditionally, as new discoveries can modify understanding, or even upend it. This does not necessarily make what we know incorrect, but incomplete. Newton's laws were incomplete without Einstein. And yet we use Newton to build devices that work, more today than ever, because his laws apply to our everyday world. On the other hand, motivated-reason in such abundance today, accepts only that evidence supporting what we already believe, rejecting evidence that makes us uneasy. Devices engineered to this standard wouldn't function. But just such a design now dominates America. Welcome to America's revenge politics, a reflection of our Culture Wars.

Democratic forms of governance around the world are threatened for the same reasons. The Economist, headlined What's gone wrong with democracy, blames lost jobs to China, and economic upheaval of the 2007 crash. Since the Great Recession democracies have inched backward as the number of free people declines. [1]

Foreign Affairs journal multiplies our suspects with the rise of authoritarian populism. Populism further stimulated by incompetent leadership, mass multiethnic migrations (too many humans on earth), and destabilizing effects of Internet fake-news. [2] As Fareed Zakaria has it, "All [populist] versions [Left & Right] share a suspicion and hostility toward elites, mainstream politics, and established institutions." [3] Populism does not want that rational barrier to emotional excess. In the everlasting contest of political philosophies the world is watching. And the last time democracy fell in Athens, it lay dead worldwide for 2000 years.

Populism is the political face of our Culture Wars, with many of its battles over territory that doesn't exist: Republican President George Bush tried to fabricate an emergency in his waning term to seize dictatorial power, Democratic President Obama established elaborate programs to steal our guns and ammo. Our echo chambers and social media make the old Chinese saying current, "One dog barks at a shadow, and a hundred dogs respond to make it a fact."

Such thinking cannot survive right-reason, but it thrives on motivated-reason. With its central principle of revenge, populism appeals to our emotions, not our intellect. This is of particular interest to me, not only by its collective impact on the West, but because of the battle I fight with it daily. I come from what we Americans call the blue collar working class. We tend to be emotional about things we don't understand. Employing a great deal of what I label the 2/98 Rule: 2% knowledge 98% bluster, common in taverns. In argument our pitch elevates in uptalk, the finger wags, and we display what biologists designate the threat face, a snarl that mammals use to intimidate opponents. This behavior was on persistent display during our election, and served to communicate tribal affiliation. It's also a cover for self-doubt, a diversion as we try to bluff our way to certainty. Deep down it's a plea, to ourselves. Impossibly complex society makes us feel helpless. We're desperate to convince ourselves that we're in control when we know we're not. We are the targets of populism.

I committed to change through higher education, though upbringing is never distant, and much I'd not want to lose. I also got lucky with a career in science and engineering where abstract learning meets practical application. These disciplines require challenge, test, checks and rechecks of every detail, all day every day in search of Truth. Nature passes judgment. Get it wrong and what you build will fail. That career gave me the ability to confront every belief, especially my own, inside or outside the workplace. Eventually, I realized I had to divorce my tribe, because so long as I identified with it I couldn't stop lying for it. There are other ways to hone critical thinking, but I suggest none better than science. Unfortunately, America ranks near bottom in science education in the industrialized world, and poorly among all nations. [4] This makes us easy marks for emotionally satisfying answers.

Where do these answers come from? First, on the popular, not intellectual, Right: America's talk radio host, Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh has competition from the Left in MSNBC television, but Limbaugh is the best propagandist we have. Entertaining, endearing (when he talks about his cat), he sounds like a regular guy. His weave of revision, truth, and lie in a single paragraph is a thing of beauty. Punctuated with his signature, "Don't doubt me." Republican ex-presidents, ex-vice presidents, presidential candidates, and Speaker of the House have all called into Limbaugh's show. Certain not to face scrutiny, they curry his blessing and influence in what Limbaugh calls "Realville."

Realville is a place where good economic news was no thanks to ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act), and Limbaugh's nemesis, Obama, because ARRA money would not be spent for years. Same week, bad economic news. Realville's response? How could this be, now that we spent all that ARRA money? Frequently, we Americans care very little for truth, but we care very much about winning.

Limbaugh has a dogma to nurture. He knows paper defenses burn easy. Following our election, he provided the best characterization for populist motivated-reason I've ever heard him say: "The default reaction to any media story that has anything incredulously stupid, dumb or negative about Trump is to not believe it, folks... The default position has to be-if we're going to be intellectually honest with ourselves-is rejection." [5]

Yes, in this explicit self-contradiction, Limbaugh uttered the words, "intellectually," and "honest." He told listeners they dare not fact check negative stories they hear, a kind of blasphemy. And while this is listener prep for what's coming, there's more to it. As Eric Hoffer wrote in The True Believer, "Mass movements... interpose a fact-proof screen between the faithful and realities of the world... [The true believer] cannot be frightened by danger nor baffled by contradictions because he denies their existence." [6]

Limbaugh's job is to boil the blood, rally troops, define the creed. It's the National Conservative Crusade against the National Liberal Crusade. Any waver from purist absolutism wins the label of liberal from the High Priest. Per Hoffer, "All [mass movements] irrespective of doctrine... demand blind faith and singlehearted allegiance."

Populism is a mass movement, but it's not a policy. It's a tool for demagogues to manipulate those who can be. Energized by, "Whites ages 25 to 54 lost about 6.5 million jobs more than they gained [since the recession]." [7] Which explains some of the Right's enthusiasm for internet conspiracy, hoax, email viruses, and fake-news otherwise known as lies [8]; Christian hypocrisy according to some Christians [9]; embrace of Russia's hack of the American people, not necessarily their machines, with a Mid-Eastern perspective of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend," making Reagan's GOP read like GOPP, the Great Old Putin Party [10]; and of great significance we'll examine next time, a 12th-century-Islam-like science denial that's about more than adolescent defiance of authority. All this from what used to see itself as the "family values" Party.

Influence from the Left begins with some science-free sectors on campus. UCLA's Sandra Harding claims that Western technocracy is "modeled on men's most misogynistic relations to women-rape, torture, [and] choosing mistresses" [11]; university postmodernists asserted in 1950s France the persistent notion that the truth is, there is no truth [12], an assault on Western reason and tradition, now embraced by the Right [13]; and wailing students offended by micro-aggressions, soon to be nano, pico, and femto-aggressions serve as fodder for Limbaugh. [14] Where's the space between these and superstition?

On his last official tour through Europe, President Obama urged nations to resist "crude nationalism that drowns out dissenting views." Excellent. So too our political correctness. Racist, sexist, and homophobe are cast about with generosity to ostracize and muzzle.

Post-election, PBS Newshour's Judy Woodruff said to a guest, "I hear you saying we've missed a whole chunk of the county in our effort to be diverse." Steve Deace responded, lack of diversity was ideological, not ethnic. He added, "Those of us who think that we shouldn't have men in bathrooms next to our young daughters are called bigots, when we used to just call them parents." [15] Now, Bernie Sanders and others are at last voicing concerns over identity politics. In America's constant fear of the tyranny of majority, Democrats fell victim to a tyranny of minority. Modern identity under the flag of diversity looks a lot like tribal segregation with a posture of opposition, not inclusivity. As liberal Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. lamented, our once vaunted melting pot that strived to confer an American character is dead. [16]

Neal Gabler's assessment asked, "Who knew that tens of millions of white men felt so emasculated by women and challenged by minorities... in seething resentment..." [17] Enunciating utter blindness to liberal bias in popular culture, all the way down to television commercials. Consider the Boost ad as obese white men clothed only in bras, panties, and high heels stumble about to fuel Danica Patrick's Formula One race car. The white man seated on a bus blundering to make breakfast on a hot plate as a black woman stands over him, looks down, shakes her head, and enjoys her Kellogg's breakfast bar. Or those three white and one black man, frantic for food from their Honda hatchback, who smash chips in their face, pour beer in their eyes, as a white women records their primate behavior from a forest blind. Imagine gender and/or race swapped. Not about history, the boardroom boys club, or comic book heroes to the contrary, but what the common man who feels discarded by this society receives from it at every intermission. He just voted. Pop culture or politics, it's the message not the messaging.

Ever vengeful, our sides are now divided more by Culture War than income. After 8-years, 15% of Obama judge appointments remain unfilled by the now standard practice of Republican governance: obstruction. Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Chuck Grassley, denied even to hold hearings on Obama's final Supreme Court appointment of moderate, Judge Merrick Garland. [18] "These elections are just too contentious. The people should decide our next Justice." But they already had, in as much as our Founders wanted by distancing the Court from passions of the people, who elected Obama. Given we swap parties every eight years, do Republicans imagine Democrats will forget their blatant abuse of this Republic they claim so much to love? The way Republicans didn't forget Judge Robert Bork? Tit-for-tat is not governance for long.

So what have systemic flaws and this social miasma produced? The most untrustworthy candidates to simultaneously compete for office. In our hyper-individualist society creating creatures like these, has America finally lost its capacity to produce virtuous leaders? What does this say about us in that cycle of civilization's rise and fall, or do we even care? Can Americans divorce their tribe to remove that "fact-proof screen"? We are losing the system that saved us from ourselves.

Until next time. Monday March 6, 2017.

[1] What's gone wrong with democracy, The Economist, March 1-7, 2014, [2] Foreign Affairs, The Power of Populism, November/December, 2016, [3] Emphasis added. Fareed Zakaria, Populism on the March: Why the West In in Trouble, Foreign Affairs, November/December, 2016, [4] Pew Research Center , February 2015, [5] Rush Limbaugh November 15, 2016, [6] Eric Hoffer, The True Believer, Harper Perennial, 1966, [7] Eduardo Porter, We Tracked Down A Fake-News Creator In The Suburbs. Here's What We Learned, All Things Considered, NPR, November 23, 2016. Note also the man who read an Internet story that led him to drive all the way from North Carolina with his loaded rifle to Washington DC (300 miles). He did this based on fake news that children kidnapped by presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's pedophile syndicate were housed at a Pizza parlor, where the man fired one round into the floor to emphasize demands. In Washington Pizzeria Attack, Fake News Brought Real Guns, Cecilia Kang, Adam Goldman, New York Times, December 5, 2016. Shortly after this: "The son of retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Donald Trump's pick for national security adviser, embraced a baseless conspiracy theory about Hillary Clinton..." Incoming national security adviser's son spreads fake news about D.C. pizza shop, POLITICO, 12/4/2016, [9] Eric Sammons, Christians' Support For Trump Undermines Their Public Witness, The Federalist, October 12, 2016, Neil J. Young, Dear Evangelicals, A "Begrudging" Vote for Trump Is Still a Vote for Trump , Religion Dispatches, October 4, 2016, Russell Mooresept, Have Evangelicals Who Support Trump Lost Their Values?, New York Times, September 17, 2015, [10] AP, FBI chief backs CIA's conclusion Russia interfered with election, December 16, 2016, [11] Sandra Harding, The Science Question In Feminism, Cornell University Press, 1986, [12] Ferry & Renaut, French Philosophy of the Sixties, University of Massachusetts Press, 1985, [13] Erik Wemple, CNN commentator Scottie Nell Hughes: Facts no longer exist, Washington Post, December 1, 2016, [14] Lukianoff and Haidt, The Coddling of the American Mind, The Atlantic, September 2015, [15] How the mainstream media missed Trump's momentum, PBS Newshour, November 9, 2016, [16] Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. The Disuniting of America, Norton, 1992, [17] Neal Gabler, Farewell, America: No matter how the rest of the world looked at us on Nov. 7, they will now look at us differently, Moyers & Company, November 10, 2016, [18] Malvika Menon, The Republicans' Rash Rejection of Merrick Garland, Harvard Political Review, April 24, 2016 Revised for the joy of nit-picking word choise. 1/17/19

November 7, 2016: Is PCD an acronym for Programmed Civilization Death?

For some reason, I've always been interested in origins and endings, how something got started, why it stopped. Some years ago, I came across a magnificent book by UCLA's chair of Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology, William R. Clark: Sex and the Origins of Death. [1] As a kid, I asked why people die. The answer, "Because they get old," didn't suffice. My parents seemed old, still alive, and doing well. But Clark's book provided an answer that knocked me off my feet. "Death is not an obligatory attribute of life," writes Clark, and did not appear with the advent of living creatures. As he explains, cellular aging, which results in death, may not have occurred for more than a billion years after life's first entry on earth. Programmed cell death, PCD, displayed through wrinkles and forgetfulness, seems to have arisen about the time cells experimented with sex. As nature would have it, we die because of the many mechanisms built into us to ensure we do. Death does not just happen; it is worked toward with safeguards to assure our cells don't backslide into immortality as cancer cells do. Once our DNA realizes our reproductive years are over, the code executes, and one by one, our cells receive their command to commit suicide. All the while, as the cell decapitates itself, innocent organelles roam about its cytoplasm, performing their tasks, unaware of doom.

So, I began to wonder, by analogy, are humans in a society like cells in the body of civilization? Does each of us possess an inner program that commands contribution to a kind of social disorder once a psychological threshold is crossed? Do societies fail, not by chance or circumstance, but because decline is intended, without knowing it? Like William Clark said of our aging bodies, death is worked toward without wanting to. All the while, as we go about our busy lives, unaware of doom and the part we play in a different kind of PCD: Programmed Civilization Death.

There seems a similar kind of unintended intent to America's current trajectory, but only if we pause from our busy lives of work to contemplate our status. Otherwise, whatever's going on might seem like just another of the many oscillations we've experienced: 1968, civil rights riots, Vietnam, campus burnings. And maybe it is. Roman philosophers repeatedly claimed the end of Rome was near. Eventually, they were right. They engaged in that expansive topic of the rise and fall of civilization, which belongs to those origins and endings that fascinate me.

So, where is America in that rotation? There have been a great many advances in our time. Who can argue with the extension of what can be done through technology? Seated in the comfort of my library with two dogs on their couch and two cats on my desk, I poke keys destined for a worldwide distribution platform, pretty much for free. Starting with the creation of East African tools 2.5 million years ago, Australopithecus garhi showed that innovation is something humans naturally do (assuming they're on our lineage) and do well. Science and art are the crowns of our innovative achievements, with Newton and Einstein, Michelangelo, and Frederic Church as idols in their field. But given all societies eventually fail, that we've not been able to hit on a recipe that survives in perpetuity, and that humans are so unstable and self-destructive, the same cannot be said of societies that house these achievers-we don't do civilization very well. Why is that?

There are several hypotheses, not mutually exclusive. Spengler's ominous work, The Decline and Fall of the West, likens the life of civilization to that of a person. [2] Born with curiosity, enthusiasm, and growing strength, new societies forge ahead, refining themselves to become higher cultures with little concern for consequences. Cultures mature, lose strength, and begin to have regrets about their climb, a first step toward disintegration. Spirit that once animated society in the beginning can no longer be recalled as it becomes elderly and dies. Spengler's hypothesis is the trajectory of aging.

President John Adams' great-grandson, Brooks Adams, wrote a remarkable book titled The Law of Civilization and Decay; in it he reinforces the notion that all great ideas are killed by excess. [3] Adams' volume led Theodore Roosevelt to a 15-page review in which he wrote, "Few more powerful and more melancholy books have been written." [4] For Adams, a civilization's cycle begins in a superstitious, spiritual phase dominated by fear. There's also a strong artistic element as an outlet for spiritual impulse. This life of anxiety is tamed by incremental innovations that lead to economic advances with greater control over nature, people, and organizations. Eventually, life becomes confined to work in service to that organization with laws and massive economic demands dominated by competition and greed. Complexities of society sap humans of their humanity, and art dies as a nonessential. People become desperate for salvation. Descent begins with growing fear and a deep sense they have lost control as the inevitable revolution rolls over them. Adams' hypothesis is a cycle of yearning, consumption, and evisceration.

Will and Ariel Durant emphasize the incompatibility of intellect and soul. [5] "As education spreads, theologies lose credence," they write. "The moral code loses aura and force as its human origin is revealed and as divine surveillance and sanctions are removed... An age of weary skepticism and epicureanism followed the triumph of rationalism over mythology in the last century before Christianity and follows a similar victory today. An unmoored generation surrenders itself to luxury, corruption, and the restless disorder of family and morals in all but a remnant clinging desperately to old restraints and ways." Durant's hypothesis is a nosedive in belief.

If we in America could discover where we are and why, might we prescribe correctives? Comparison is complicated because ancient history suffers a paucity of information, while modern history provides too much. As we say in engineering, what is signal and what is noise?

There's a great deal of noise in America today. But from the hundreds of clattering factors, what better example of dysfunction than the state of our political system? A political system where not so long ago, conservative President Ronald Reagan and liberal Speaker of the House Tipp O'Neill's legislative acts were hard-fought works of compromise when compromise was not yet seen as treason. "The core idea of the Constitution was to restrain ambition and excess by forcing competing powers and factions to bargain and compromise," writes Jonathan Rauch. During Reagan's tenure, he held a dinner to raise $1 million for Boston College and its O'Neill Library. And one day, Reagan found Tip O'Neill at his bedside, praying for Reagan's recovery after an assassination attempt. Politics is adversarial by nature, but adversarial did not mean bellicose. In those days, opposing party members dined at each other's homes with their families. As one politician whose name now escapes me said, "It's really hard to hate your opposition when you know his wife and kids." Today, dinner with a political opponent is a violation of talk radio orthodoxy. In those days, the results of presidential elections were accepted by the loser, and no one dared speak on national television of a civil war if their candidate lost. Such vulgarity reveals abject ignorance of our own history when the last one we had mauled 750,000 men into their graves.

How could so much unravel so quickly if we didn't mean to unravel it? Turns out, we did. Jonathan Rauch lays out the process. [6] He notes our political machine's decline in capacity for self-organization by removal of intermediate systems of informal interaction. "For decades, well-meaning political reformers attacked intermediaries as corrupt, undemocratic, unnecessary, or all of the above," writes Rauch. "Americans have been busy demonizing and disempowering political professionals and parties... The middlemen could be undemocratic, high-handed, devious, and secretive. But they had one great virtue: They brought order from chaos."

As an example of unintended consequences from intended actions, the primaries were not always an election process with direct input from the people. Candidates were once decided by legislative conventions, caucus, and insider haggling. Our current system of primary elections is decided by a tiny fraction of the electorate most passionate, ideological, and consequently less reasonable for whom cranks running for office have the highest appeal. Our Founders tried to distance people from the process by implementing a representative republic to defang those passions, not a more direct democracy that exacerbates it. As Rauch puts it, "Political reform of the last 40 years [favors] amateurs and outsiders over professionals and insiders; by privileging populism over mediation and mutual restraint... All these reforms promote an individualistic, atomized model of politics."

Open dialogues behind closed-door sessions with anonymous votes where only final tallies are announced are now rare. We prefer transparency, sunlight as disinfectant, and gridlock because no one dare speak their mind when records show they said something to infuriate their most radical fringe. This fringe is of the deepest concern in Congress, thanks to an incumbent's gerrymandered district-something the UK, Canada, and New Zealand made illegal. Gerrymandering and primaries exacerbate the problem because same-party competition produces a more radical challenger pandering to fanatics, not to the country, not even to their own state, driving incumbents further left or right. A single square district would force politicians toward the center as it would include a variety of voter viewpoints. Even King Solomon "divided his kingdom into twelve districts which deliberately crossed tribal boundaries... to lessen clannish separation of the tribes." [7] That gerrymandering is a bad idea has been known for a while.

So, I come back to the question of why civilizations fail. There is cause, and there is noise. But if failure of self-governance in a Republic isn't a signal, what is? Could there be some fundamental source common to the causes noted above and woven into the psyche of humans that commands us to do our part in terminating civilization?

Until next time, the first Monday in January 2017, the 2nd.

[1] Williams R. Clark, Sex and the Origins of Death, Oxford University Press, 1996

[2] Oswald Spengler, The Decline of the West, Oxford University Press, 1991 (originally 1926)

[3] Brooks Adams, The Law of Civilization and Decay, Macmillan, 1916 (1st Ed. 1895)

[4] Theodore Roosevelt, Review: The Law of Civilization and Decay, The Forum, January 1897

[5] Will & Ariel Durrant, The Lessons of History, Simon & Shuster, 1968

[6] Jonathan Rauch, How American Politics Went Insane, The Atlantic, September 2016. The Atlantic article is here.

A PBS Newshour interview is here.

[7] Will & Ariel Durant, The Story of History: Our Oriental Heritage, Simon & Shuster, 1963

September 5, 2016: Murray Rothbard's strange and wild world

I sometimes amuse myself by gazing at the brilliant words of Murray Rothbard (1926-1995), framed and hung on my wall: "Every once in a while, the human race pauses in the job of botching its affairs and redeems itself by a noble work of the intellect." I liked the quote so much and had thought so long about becoming a libertarian that I bought Rothbard's book, The Ethics of Liberty. It turned out to be among the nuttiest books I ever read by one of the looniest minds I ever encountered - a champion of libertarians now in the U.S. Congress.


Hans-Hermann Hoppe introduces us to this volume as one that fills a gap between economics and ethics. Rothbard, he says, integrated the two by a concept of property that guides libertarian action. It was Rothbard's goal to create a "science of ethics." Without a science of ethics we are left to the whims of the State with its limits imposed on the individual. And yet, if ethics is about anything, it's about moral behavior in a world of more than one lone person. In other words, ethics and morality include the concerns of others, not ourselves alone. This smelled like a self-contradiction right from the start, but never could I have imagined what I was in for.

After Rothbard establishes his opposition to postmodern relativism (applause), his defense of natural law (applause), and support of reason (more applause), Rothbard digs into his libertarian thought. He claims legal principles can be established in only three ways, " slavish conformity to custom, by arbitrary whim [what he labels 'rule of the State'], or use of man's reason." But are these mutually exclusive? Aren't custom, the State, and reason all aspects of rational law? While Enlightenment philosophy treated the right to property "as one among a number of liberties that derive from, demonstrate, actualize, and reinforce the fundamental right to freedom from tyranny," only for Karl Marx, feudal lords, and Rothbard are rights subservient to property alone.

Repeatedly, Rothbard attempts to set the table in terms that satisfy his conclusions. In his chapter "Knowledge, True and False," we learn that Smith has reported that Jones is a homosexual. Again, there are only three possibilities allowed for this action. One reason Smith says this about Jones is because it's true. "It seems clear then that Smith has a perfect right to [report this fact]... For it is within his property right to do so," no matter where he is, writes Rothbard. "Current libel laws make Smith's action illegal if done with 'malicious' intent, even though [it] be true. And yet, surely legality or illegality would depend not on the motivation of the actor, but on the objective nature of the act." But aren't an accidental killing and a planned one of a different sort? Of course, they are, and for obvious reasons. In Rothbard's example, Jones has no right to privacy because there isn't one he can attach to property. What if Jones lives in a place where his homosexuality would lead to his being ostracized, assaulted, executed? What if Jones were a Jew in Nazi Germany and Smith simply told the truth that Jones is a Jew? Jones' body - property in Rothbard's view - would then be lost along with Jones. We needn't climb too far down the social hole Rothbard digs to find its walls about to collapse on any society using Rothbard's shovel. In this regard, the "force from disseminating" which Rothbard detests was once called virtue, attached to morality, both aspects of community, which Rothbard seeks to eviscerate for his individualist nightmare.

When it comes to those incapable of coping in Rothbard's property-centric world, we find little relief. "The parent may not murder or mutilate the child," writes Rothbard (what a swell guy!), "But the parent should have the legal right not to feed the child, i.e., to let the child die." Yes, that's a quote. This also applies to abortion and marks a departure from typical conservative platforms. Rothbard supports abortion because if the mother decides to abandon her "freely-granted consent...the fetus [then] becomes a parasitic 'invader' of her person...[with] a perfect right to expel the invader from her domain." As Rothbard teaches, the fetus, or any child, is incapable of a contractual agreement in any parental arrangement, so parents owe them nothing, and even an intended pregnancy can be aborted on a whim. Only the calculus of social contract, no moral responsibility in Rothbard's world. That the fetus is as dependent on the mother as Rothbard's idealized man is dependent on his sacred property is ignored.

Naturally, this thinking applies to animals. There can be no moral component to the extermination of eight billion passenger pigeons, the last Yangtze River porpoise, or anything else, because it's just our nature. "Animals [like children] cannot petition for their rights...," says Rothbard. While two hundred thirty years ago, Jeremy Bentham asked, "The question is not can they reason, not can they talk, but can they suffer?" In the case of children and animals, Rothbard defends his simplistic ideas by forcing requirements of contract and property on those incapable of meeting them and uses the wrong basis for consideration.

When it comes to the State, Rothbard sounds like talk radio with its invention of matters that don't exist or recasting issues in language of the zealot that makes slaughter seem righteous. Instead of a system that surrenders some individual rights to civil authorities, engaging dispassionate third parties such as courts separated from those involved in argument, for Rothbard, this is "the State's control of violence of the police, armed services, and the courts...." The "State