More on my fiction writing

« Phoenix 101: traffic | Main | Cautious signs of hope »

December 08, 2015


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

The romantic myth/civic religion notion of America's moral superiority (FREEDOM!), needs a bracing slap in the face. If we don't do it ourselves -- and the decimation of our education system doesn't bode well for people who care about historical accuracy being taught -- the rest of the world will do it for us. Oh wait - it's already happening. I am mystified by a public that seems to have forgotten we invaded the wrong country as a response to 9/11 and that there would naturally be consequences for doing so. Further, the miserable inaccuracy of Obama's drone warfare barely registers in the American media. It is especially ironic to see the "personal responsibility" crowd flummoxed by the rise of ISIS. Nothing is permanent, even the dominance of the "Greatest Country on Earth." Get used to it, folks. We're just beginning this era of payback.

As bad as it is, it's still not worth destroying our republic over. I know. I must be a peacenik/defeatist, a friend to cheese-eating surrender monkeys, and a libtard who put all his faith is hope, change, and Obummer.

What's happening in America is less about external threats and more about Fox News and the Republican Party stoking the home fires of insanity. It's this season's Ebola, full of dusky-hued others terrorizing us with Allah and beheadings. It's how they maintain power in a nation that is becoming steadily less white, Christian, and old.

To maintain the insanity requires ever-greater amounts of cognitive dissonance and misdirected rage. It means voting for candidates promising to take away your health care. It means cutting taxes on the 1% so even basic infrastructure is no longer funded. It means higher income inequality, lower social mobility, and a rejection of anything that seems even vaguely complex or - God forbid - scientific. We are now a nation in open revolt against the Enlightenment and rationalism.

Where does it all end? The Republican Party created this monster two generations ago. It has now escaped its leash. It's poised to nominate someone for president so far outside the mainstream of American politics that Dick Cheney himself is dismayed. The country is coming apart yet you murmur, this will not come to pass. We will wake up if real danger appears. Yet you hear a faint cackle as if from a Dantean depth, something like "I told you so" in Arabic, uttered by a man with a long, graying beards and a fanatical glint in his zombie eyes. You lurch forward, check your nightstand for the loaded Glock, fondle that freedom a few seconds before returning to the nightmare you can not wake up from.

Check approval rating for Congress and the White House.

The American people no longer trust our institutions to solve problems. With good reason.

So, they'll solve them themselves. And they'll buy guns to protect themselves.

Why do they hate us?

Why did the Germans? Why did the Japanese? Why did the Communists?

Because their vision of what the world should look like is a lot different than ours. And we're still the most likely to keep them from achieving their vision.

Great news about oil at $37 per barrel, though.

Maybe not....

Can the middle east get worse?


Since our government won't hold the House of Saud accountable for anything they do, I never get to see them suffer any consequences. It's amoral to do business with them, but since oil is traded on world markets, the most we could do is stop providing fighter jets and training the pilots; so, as much as I despise the shale oil boom and believe it's a community- wrecking environmental disaster, it's still funny to see them sweating bullets over their looming un-richness. Remember the shale oil boom back in the eighties that fizzled and died? I betcha they thought it would happen again, and so they never saw it coming. Now they think they can keep oil prices depressed until the domestic producers blink first. I wonder how long the other OPEC members are going to let it go before they ditch the Saudis?

I'm going to pick up INPHX's gauntlet here and ask him - and anyone - why Americans no longer trust their institutions. If we're at a Mad Max inflection point in our culture and polity, shouldn't we be doing everything we can to restore confidence in them? For example, cutting the umbilical cord between K Street and Congress? Or reining in the murky surveillance state and its symbiotic relationship with the military-industrial complex (aka, the Deep State)?

Bernie Sanders is essentially running on this platform. His is a bracing tonic given the level of both cynicism and sense of futility that most people have about the nation. It both explains his extraordinary appeal and near-apocalyptic requirement for "revolution". But this is a left-wing prescription, so what is the right's?

As near as I can tell from the right's presidential candidates, it's a mixture of fascism, voodoo, militarism, and culture-war bullshit. Most candidates seem completely insane while others seem modestly tethered to the real world (Bush, Kasich, e.g.).

I don't support Bernie because I think he would be a near-certain loser in a general election. But I respect and trust his analysis nonetheless. On the other hand, the right's constant drumbeat that the government can't do anything right has taken a toll on the institutional buffers and confidence that democracy requires. It's a slippery slope starting from the idea that government is basically like the DMV office to the more toxic ideas like armed groups targeting Muslims and shooting up family-planning clinics. Or that we better buy gold because the whole edifice of industrial civilization is about to collapse. Oh, and science can't be trusted, so forget about the climate.

I need to ask this question: in sacrificing democracy's buffers (science, reason, empiricism, tolerance, education, expertise, etc), haven't we already lost the war against ISIS? Are we gladly undermining our own civilization for the sake of tribal identity? It's not just black people and their demand that we think their lives matter. It's virtually the entire right and its preoccupation with skin color, religion, and culture.

It's a free country. If we want to devolve our complex civilization to anarchy or fascism, we're free to do so. Maybe our Mad Max future is hatching at this very moment. Can the US of A get worse?


Soleri asks why we no longer trust our institutions.

He and Rip Van Winkle, I guess.

Are you proud of the VA? Think the Chicago Police department is worthy of our trust? You suggest that lots of politicians are bought and paid for. Is that good? You proud of college tuition increases and costs? Think the Department of Defense is doing swell work? How's that comprehensive immigration reform coming along? Income tax reform? Wealth being shared pretty well, is it?
Middle class up to par?

The vote to invade Iraq was passed 2-1 in the House and 3-1 in the Senate. How'd that work out?

Remember when the Secret Service was the gold Standard? Guess again.

Federal and state finances in order? Race relations and the economic fortunes of blacks and other minorities sure have gotten better in the last decade, that's for sure.

I think we all know what you think of the GOP. But despite your view, they're generally supported by about 1/2 the population.

Do you trust the GOP as an institution?

Do you think I trust Hillary Clinton?

You're probably going to respond that your side can fix all those problems, which is another part of the problem. They can't. They don't have the mandate. Bernie's polling at less than 10%.

Free college for everyone? YOU might think that's a winner, but anyone with a lick of financial acumen understands the crazy inherent in that stance. And I do mean crazy. Like Trump crazy.

So, you asked. I tried to show examples on both sides.

As far as sacrificing liberties resulting in ISIS already winning, well, no. I don't know how ISIS wins if we increase surveillance. I don't think that's real high on their priorities. I think they're more in tune with carnage, the complete degradation of women, slaughtering innocent people, and taking us back to the 1600's in the name of religious fanaticism.

Nothing begs credulity like the U.S. pretending that those mean old evil Ay-rabs are picking on us out of the blue...

The siren song of ideology suggests that it would be good if we simply got rid of everything that "doesn't work", which in the minds of Know Nothing America is virtually everything involving the government that isn't the military or police. This is also known as Movement Conservatism. In states where this experiment is underway, the damage it's done is clear (see: Arizona). On the federal level, you see constant attacks on the independence of certain agencies like the EPA. If a Republican is elected president next year, that agency will be neutered for the benefit of the fossil-fuel industry. It also means a country that can no longer meet basic needs like new infrastructure. It means "privatizing" the care of veterans (i.e., less care). And when you consider how right-wing xenophobia and hysteria about ISIS dovetail with this ideology, the irony becomes unmistakeable: we are doing this to ourselves. The terrorists have already won.

ISIS is a challenge but it shouldn't be an excuse. If you think America is the enemy because of its government (see: INPHX), then perhaps it's time to simply declare yourself an enemy combatant. You love America to death.


You ask a reasonable question about the lack of trust of institutions in this country, and after an exchange, you conclude that the terrorists have already won, I guess, because there is no chance whatsoever of a carbon tax in this country.

And you don't see the problem?

The problem is that you're way too far left, and I'm way too far right. And everyone just blames each other.

And nothing gets done. Or fixed.

Spend some time and re-read all of the posts in this blog.

Is anyone satisfied with this country?

Back to the original post, I think one of the reasons they hate us is our explicit support of Israel.

Straight from bin Laden:

INPHX, ISIS doesn't hate just us. Remember Paris a few weeks ago? This "clash of civilizations" is opportunistic, nihilistic, and aimed at radicalizing the Sunni Middle East. It's a death cult whose effectiveness depends on polarizing opinion. It succeeds precisely in proportion to the insanity it creates in the West, which in turn alienates less fanatical Muslims. Want to radicalize the Middle East even more? Declare it a war on all of Islam, as too many members of your tribe fervently believe.

I do think Netanyahu and the Likud have a mirror-image relationship to the use of polarization. I even notice this with some of my Jewish Facebook friends who are angered by comparison of Syrian refugees to the plight of Jews in the 1930s. Tribalism never sleeps.

The loss of trust in our buffering institutions is a crisis of the first order. FDR confronted something similar during his first term. There were dangerous demagogues around then, too (Father Coughlin, Huey Long, Communists, et al). It's not hyperbole to note that FDR's interventions saved democracy. Without effective leadership, the vacuum could have filled with ideological extremists and revolutionaries.

Institutions constantly require reform but the damage people like you do is hardly reform since you're only burning down the house to spite the heating bill. Yes, there are huge carrying costs in a nation this complex. The need is for pragmatism, tolerance, and a willingness to compromise, which as your comments show gets lost completely in ideological fervor.

Republicans have been on their own fanatical pilgrimage over the past generation to create a free-market paradise that doesn't exist anywhere in the world. The lack of geographic and historic reference is telling. You simply know that your version of heaven is real, in contrast to that of people who maintain a real-world approach to problems. Are there lefties here who think America is going to hell in a handbasket and won't countenance any reform short of the Full Bernie? Indeed, but that doesn't mean the extremes are correct. It means the vital center has been under attack for so long that many Americans have given up.

There is no road forward that is both real and humane that involves revolution for its own sake. You either commit to compromise and trust in our institutions or you concede the fight to nihilism. ISIS threatens us more with its allure than its bullets.

Inphx and Soleri U all think "Freedom of Religion" was a good idea?

Infidel Cal and his faithful pal Savage Tonto.


"Hating us" does not exclude "Hating France".

You write:

"It's not hyperbole to note that FDR's interventions saved democracy."

Soleri, I have some bad news for you.

Today, this country is a functioning Democracy.

You clearly don't like the views of a lot of the voting populace, but believe it or not, there's a lot of folks who are pretty sure that free college, 70% plus marginal tax rates, insane fiscal policy and open borders are not good ideas.

Here's a pretty solid example.

Why might be the Obamacare Cadillac Tax on certain employee health plans be delayed??

Then there's this:

"The need is for pragmatism, tolerance, and a willingness to compromise, which as your comments show gets lost completely in ideological fervor."

Now, THERE'S an approach that will get problems fixed. Fast.

Golly gee.

Folks don't trust our institutions?

Can't imagine why. Must be Republican hate.

Our untrustworthy institutions include publicly traded banks, insurance companies, oil companies, pharmaceutical giants and others. Corporate America's oversized influence on public institutions through US Supreme Court protected massive payoffs to political campaigns and one sided rulings favoring corporate parties leaves little to wonder why so many US citizens have little faith that their vote has any effect on how the country is governed.

The warmonger Republican Party intentionally mislead the US into an unprovoked invasion of Iraq and to the consequences of the military adventure. No acceptance of responsibility by the Republican warmongers just a transparent excuse that it was "an intelligence failure".

It is Republican Party radicalization that has undermined confidence in US leadership.

Uh, it doesn't really matter much what "folks" trust or don't trust. As long as government continues to work for the rich, that's all that matters. Whether it works for the vast majority of us is immaterial.

We can trace this idea that "government is the problem" and "government doesn't work" back to the saintly Ronnie Reagan, who was a pitch man for GE, before he became the leader of the Free World. He was a very effective salesman and he sold a lot of people on the idea that the Federal government was incompetent. These people then elected the kind of candidates who ensured that government was incompetent...all the while making sure that the big government contracts kept flowing to their the same time that they cut taxes on the wealthy and services to the middle class and poor.

This has gone on, for the most part nonstop, for almost 35 years now. It is neither liberal, nor conservative. It is just balls to the wall unregulated crony capitalism. Trust me, the "folks" who have benefited the most are quite happy with the way things are going.

And if you keep electing people who don't believe in government to govern you, it is never going to change.

Government isn't bad. Just the Politicans pulling the trigger.

Electing people who believe government is bad is like taking sex advice from someone who thinks sex is bad.They probably aren't very good at it either.

Very good Mike. Another reason why I am not a good politician.

"The Final War saw the Concordiat of Man and the Melconian Empire end in fire and death. The light of civilization was extinguished across the Galactic arm and the scars of that war--the planets with no life to this very day--are grim and terrible reminders of the unspeakable things two highly advanced cultures did to one another out of hate and fear..... and stupidity"
Retired Major Keith Lamar in book four of "Bolos Last Stand"

The Front pages article on Trump vs the Founding Fathers speaks well to this column.

As a Christian, and an American, I find the calls to ban Muslim immigration, or monitor/restrict Muslims in America differently than other citizens, very alarming. It flies in the face of my strongly held desire to have the freedom to practice my religion -- which, logically to me at least, would seem to require affording everyone the same rights and privileges I would like to continue to enjoy.

Any member of any religion is shooting him or her self in the foot if he or she assents to or even encourages religious discrimination. It will be his or her turn soon enough, as pretty much all religions have been / are subject to persecution in various places at various times throughout their histories.

This country was literally founded partially upon the idea of free practice of religion. The idea that a presidential candidate from ANY party could propose to restrict religious freedom -- and apparently have many people agree with him -- is beyond alarming to me. After decades of shouting past each other, apparently some people on both sides of the political spectrum have decided they'd rather try to silence their enemies, rather than continue to allow open and free debate. It is no less problematic for our society when it comes from someone I agree with, than when it comes from someone I disagree with.

I am a militant agnostic and a citizen of the planet Earth (what’s left of it). Organized religion is the Tera of today and of yesterday. For centuries the “faithful” whether Muslim Warriors or Christian Crusaders have murdered millions in the name of a “god’. Even the Genghis Kahn’s, and the old and new Romans have come to be part of these two major groups (Muslims are 33 percent of the world population and 32 percent are Christians). The world’s cup has overrunneth with greed and murderous destruction of all life forms on this planet. I have no faith in religion as the savior of humanunkind.
As a side note I must admit my opinion is deeply scared by my experiences. At nine I was drug out of the basement of a Christian Church and beat for laughing at the Jonah the Whale, Tale. My life on a daily basis is impacted (particularly in AZ.) by the religious intolerance and hypocritical prejudicial actions and the conduct of organized religious beliefs imposed by “KOOKS.” The only mythical character I have benefited from is the tooth fairy.

Sorry to be out of rotation this week, gang. The book tour has taken more time than I realized.

Great works require time and effort.
Where would Asimov'a robots been without SUSAN CALVIN.

AND pardon me for being so limited in my eathly comments. Issac reminded me that the Foundation Series ongoing Galactic philosophical questions are still puzzling our children as in Dune the evangelists are still struggling for godly control against the sand worm dung sniffing lawyers and Sand Dune warriors outfitted in still suits.
May your god keep you safe.
John Calvin.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)