I’ve long written how we should envision America as a continuing revolution against the failed feudal model that crushed human hope in 99% of human societies, across 6000 years. Indeed, our major issues today have little to do with the hoary, lobotomizing “left-right axis.” Not when Enterprise, markets, entrepreneurship and national defense all do vastly better across Democratic administrations, and the state gathers more power into its hands, across Republican ones.
First items you all have probably heard by now - news that Donald Trump’s senior staff all use the same RNC email server that mysteriously disappeared 22 million messages during George W. Bush’s administration and one that U.S. intelligence services believe was compromised by the Russians at the same time as the DNC’s. The Trump campaign hammered Hillary Clinton for her using a private email server, during her tenure as Secretary of State. Also five members of DT’s staff turn out to have been registered to vote in more than one state. Ah, consistency.
All nationalists have the power of not seeing resemblances between similar sets of facts. A British Tory will defend self-determination in Europe and oppose it in India with no feeling of inconsistency. Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage—torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians—which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by ‘our’ side.
~ George Orwell
(I keep intending to return to my existential concerns about the meaning of life, but the troublesome situation in my home country keeps bringing me back to politics.)
In today’s New York Times conservative columnist Ross Douthat penned, “How Populism Stumbles.” Douthat argues that movements like Trump’s fail because of bigotry, extremism and, especially, hubris. With this in mind Douthat dismisses my worries about authoritarianism:
I’ve called for this since way back in the last century, illustrating it in The Transparent Society and in novels like Earth. We must unleash whistleblowers on the world. Envision Edward Snowden and the Panama Papers revealer, only far more extensively, with protections and rewards that lure secrets out of shadows.
The folks at Davos this week are trying to behave as if everything is normal. Sure, England is Brexiting from Europe and the United States appears to be retreating from the global stage altogether. But somehow the word from Switzerland is that a mix of the right interest rates, investment strategies, and business optimism will keep free trade and globalization on course and safe from this boorish surge of populism.
Corporations give the appearance of buckling under pressure from Donald Trump to create more jobs in America. GM just announced it will be investing $1 billion more in US factories, and hiring as many as 7,000 workers over the next two years. Walmart claims it will add 10,000.
Given all the chaos and pessimism lately and in light of the fact that with the inauguration of Trump we will be walking into very dangerous times, it’s perhaps a good moment for a little bit of hope, though the progressive rallies over the last few days certainly make me feel hopeful.
We still have a responsibility to prevent the ethical misuse of new technologies, as well as helping make their impact on human welfare a positive one. But we now have a more fundamental challenge: to help defend the very concept and practice of the measurement and analysis of quantitative fact.
What does it tell us when leading Democrats are more upset about alleged Russian election-rigging than they are about proven Republican election-rigging? After all, American oligarchs like the Koch Brothers have no more right to undermine our democracy than Russian oligarchs do.
When it comes to Cabinet-level appointments, Donald Trump hasn’t lost his ability to astonish and dismay. At this point his staffing process has pretty much turned into an extended exercise in trolling, a test to see how much humiliation the American people will endure.
In his blog Erasmatazz, Chris Crawford recently published the thoughtful piece: “The Crisis of Legitimacy.” His main thesis is that the legitimacy of Trump’s forthcoming presidency is very much in question. First of all, Clinton received almost 3 million more votes than Trump so it is “reasonable to conclude that Mr. Trump won on a legal technicality …” In addition the legitimacy of the election itself is questionable, inasmuch as it was affected by Trump’s mendacity, fake news stories, FBI intervention, Russian influence, voter suppression targeting minority voters, flawed vote counting, and more. As Crawford puts it, the election hardly looks“free and fair”.
This is the time of year when people try to make sense of the preceding twelve months. It’s a fool’s errand, in one sense. A year is an arbitrary division of time. We decide what it means in retrospect, and we never get it exactly right. But the meaning we give it will guide our actions in the future, in thousands of conscious and unconscious ways.
“I’m also very much of a germaphobe, by the way, believe me.”
Try not to think too much about the story that led to this comment from the President-Elect of the United States. It’s not easy, I know. We’re only human, after all, and that story is so ... so out there. It’s hard to turn away.
Hi. I am Art Caplan from the Division of Medical Ethics at the New York University Langone School of Medicine in Manhattan.
We have a newly elected president, Donald J. Trump. He will be making many changes to the policies of the Obama years. What will his election mean for healthcare? What will it mean for ethical issues that come up in the context of healthcare?
“In an ever-changing, incomprehensible world the masses had reached the point where they would, at the same time, believe everything and nothing, think that everything was possible and that nothing was true. … Mass propaganda discovered that its audience was ready at all times to believe the worst, no matter how absurd, and did not particularly object to being deceived because it held every statement to be a lie …
The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power. Power is not a means; it is an end … The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power”~ George Orwell
“Is ours a government of the people, by the people, for the people, or a kakistocracy rather, for the benefit of knaves at the cost of fools?” ~ James Russell Lowell
For the past few weeks, I have been reviewing articles about the trend toward authoritarianism in the USA. Unfortunately, articles appear faster than I can read and review them, so I’ll have to stop and move on soon. With this in mind, I list a few of the pieces I won’t get to, followed by excerpts from some other good ones.
We’ll likely never touch the man, sit in the same room, or establish rapport with him. But he has nonetheless infected all of us quite intimately — some of us willingly, and some less so. That’s because he is less invasive as a person than he is as a virus. Yes, Donald Trump is a media virus, in the truest sense of the term.
“Orwell, Huxley and America’s Plunge into Authoritarianism,” Counterpunch, June 19, 2015, by Henry Giroux, the McMaster University Chair for Scholarship in the Public Interest in the English and Cultural Studies Department and a Distinguished Visiting Professorship at Ryerson University.
I venture the challenging statement that if American democracy ceases to move forward as a living force, seeking day and night by peaceful means to better the lot of our citizens, fascism will grow in strength in our land. ~ Franklin D. Roosevelt
In the era of information wars knowledge of the past is perhaps the only way we can remain anchored to reality. Such collective memory shouldn’t only consist of an accurate record of the facts, but would also include a sense of the history of knowledge and inforwar itself.
Our two previous posts showed how prospect theory in behavioral economics explains why so many gambled on Trump, and why the artificial intelligence and decision theory expert Eliezer Yudkowsky thinks that this was a mistake. In a post written the day before the election, Yudkowsky expanded on both themes, providing a simple explanation of how many of the gamblers reasoned: