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Dark Times in American Politics
David Brin   Apr 20, 2017   Contrary Brin  

Oy!  Now the news suggests he is being eased out, to make way for Jared.  I had better talk about Steve Bannon while I can. Unless… he’s still the Dark Lord and I had better say it, while there’s still free speech… and electricity.

Before he got to the White House, Steve Bannon was first a Goldman-Sachs mogul, then a filmmaker. His polemical movies say a lot about what’s on his mind, and how he plans to use the power of the US presidency.  You need to watch this video summarizing the forceful and very clear meaning of Bannon's worldview. He not only believes we are diving into an existential crisis, he has openly stated his intention to provoke one and make it happen.
 
The scariest part? Bannon passionately believes in "cycles" of history" -- the book he frequently cites is The Fourth Turning.  No historian credits that solidly disproved nonsense. It's a meme-worm that takes over weak-silly minds, susceptible to 3rd-grade-level pattern-seeking and sends them charging, braying, toward catastrophe.

Bannon's firm belief that we must follow an 80 year "cycle" into hell is made extra-ironic by the fact that it is based upon hatred for the "self-indulgent" Boomer Generation (of which Bannon is a member and among the most self-righteous) along with idolization of the previous "Greatest Generation" which overcame Hitler and all that... while Bannon's cult seeks to reverse every single social contract and innovation put in place by the FDR-loving GGs!

Oh and the purported next hero generation? The Millennials?  They voted almost uniformly against everything Bannon stands for.

Oh, but while Steve Bannon stirs his alt-right mob with Straussian ravings (for Strauss & Howe, the Fourth Turning authors), he forgets the ungrateful way that earlier Straussians -- followers of Leo Strauss, like Wolfowitz, Perle, Nitze, Adelman etc - were all tossed aside once their manic cries no longer suited the Bushites' pragmatic, feudalist agenda. Cast out like used tissue. Because the real Masters don't want a "crisis," man.  They know that if one comes, the Millennials will bring tumbrels to collect the plantation lords.

No no, Steve.  You were useful to them.  But you are playing out of your league.

== The long knives ==

But meanwhile...
 
The purge commences.  Steve Bannon openly stated he plans to purge all dissent – or accountability to law, or even question-asking -- from within the most powerful government in the history of the world. “Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions asked Friday for the resignations of dozens of politically appointed U.S. attorneys held over from the Obama administration, the Justice Department said.   Sessions wanted "to ensure a uniform transition" to the Trump administration,” reports the Los Angeles Times

I've already reported on the extreme peril we're in from the War on Science, which is now wiping out the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and threatens to impose upon us a "science Advisor" of spectacularly weird credentials and beliefs. See "In defense of enlightenment: "science adviser"David Gelernter and the rise of anti-science intellectualism." 
 
Michael Hayden asks: “What role will facts and fact-bearers play in the Trump administration? Which of the president-elect’s existing instincts and judgments are open to revision as more data is revealed?”
 
Hayden was director of the National Security Agency from 1999 to 2005 and the Central Intelligence Agency from 2006 to 2009, And he specifically frets: “Trump is already antagonizing the intelligence community, and that’s a problem.” Read this. Then know things have gone from bad to worse, in the last month. 

But oh, there is a (possible) silver lining.  The last of the fact-reality-centered professions have now been forced to confront an existential threat to the Republic.  The Intel community and the US military officer corps are being treated as "deep state" enemies, just like the rest of us. 
 
== Discounting Expertise ==
 
Newt has gone hysterical. 

I hate to say it, since Gingrich has always been at least 30% “interesting” amid the overall insanity. Indeed, he’s written sci fi! And when he was Speaker, a brief miracle happened (in 1995) when the GOP actually negotiated with a Democratic President to get real things done. Moreover note this: at the recent Republican National Convention, only one major GOP leader, between Reagan and Ryan, was even mentioned!  So ashamed are they of their horrific record of governance.  That one: guess who? 

Oh, but now: Gingrich seeks to abolish the Congressional Budget Office... after a negative report about the Republican Health Care legislation to replace Obamacare.
 
Now, to be clear, the CBO makes mistakes in its estimates, sometimes big ones. Economics is hardly science. But there are three responses. Alas, the Democrats will only offer one of them:
 
1) The professional accountants and economists and statisticians got their jobs at CBO during a span when Republicans controlled the levers of power in Congress across 20 of the last 22 years, and 30 of the last 34 years. So how plausible is it that they are just a pack of liberal shills? Or “deep state” conspirators?
 
2) If they are “biased” against a Republican Party bill, after owing all their jobs to the GOP for almost two generations, then that “bias” is the same one that has made Fox & pals compile onto an enemies list scientists and every other knowledge profession  — including the intelligence communities and the US military Officer Corps. Yes, there is a bias. It is the bias known as “fact.” 
 
3) The GOP and Gingrich have a long tradition of banishing news they don’t want to hear. In 1995, Newt led the charge in demolishing the Office of Technology Assessment or OTA, the science and tech advisors who had been hired by earlier (mostly Republican) Congresses to render neutral advice on what’s pragmatic under physical and natural law. This advice proved irksome to dogmatists, who proclaimed OTA “biased.” Instead of correcting the “bias” by simply adding some conservative techies to OTA, for balance, they burned out the whole bureau, allowing GOP senators and representatives to declare anything they liked to be “true” without quibbles from mere boffins.
 
(Something similar is apparently in the offing at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) which had been dramatically boosted under Obama. Stay tuned for word on this.)
 
Proving yet again their myopia, Democrats will speak glancingly to #2 (above) and never mention #1 or #3, nor the grand pattern that now includes every single knowledge profession in American life— including the intelligence communities and the U.S. Military Officer Corps.  Proving that, if Republicans have gone malevolently insane, then Democrats are dumber than a bag full of rocks.

== Misce depressings ==

Masha Gessen on where Trump and Putin converge and diverge, and what it means for America.  

What? You think that the Syria events mean "Trump-Putin" is an obsolete meme? There is a word for this theater. "Potemkin." A Russian word for a completely faked sham. The entire "Syrian" thing is a put-on, staged to save Putin's biggest asset - D.Trump - from the growing consensus that he's under Moscow-KGB control. Come on! What other interpretation even remotely fits the facts? (See the asterisked "crackpot scenario" below... one which fits the facts better than the official story! *)
 
== Dystopic Visions ==
 
Which leads us to this article on Reader Supported News, by John Feffer and Tom Dispatch, Preventing the Triumph of Trump's Will, which illustrates in so many ways what is on-target and what is chillingly wrong with liberal media, as it flounders for some way to help us rise against this new outbreak of the American Civil War.  Do read the piece, as Feffer and Dispatch make cogent comparisons between the alt-right frenzy of illogical incantations and the creepily similar era of Leni Riefenstahl’s “Triumph of the Will.”  (Today it could be “Trump of the Will?”)
 
Alas, the two writers also reveal a stunning myopia that could be the death of all our hopes – by denigrating and lumping together with the mad confederacy all of the dedicated public servants in the U.S. intelligence community and the military officer corps.  They buy into the inane "Deep State" metaphor now spread by the right.
 
They actually – in profound, almost dizzying stupidity – fall into the trap of assuming those groups are inherent foes, rather than inherent friends of the Republic.  For decades, the manipulators of the Right could not believe their luck, that liberals would give in to an insipid reflex to spurn military and intel men and women because of superficialities like haircuts and rural hobbies, rather than recognize potential allies who share one crucial trait –
 
-- a belief in the overwhelming importance of fact. Of science and objective reality. The value of outcome appraisal, by which measure, any sane citizen would deem the GOP to be cosmically bad at rational governance.  The U.S. military has been at the forefront of civil rights, since Harry Truman desegregated it in the forties. It has pushed for sustainable tech and confronted climate change harder than any other part of government. And when – in a testosterone-drenched community – they find sexual transgression, the senior generals and admirals have come down harder than anywhere else in the nation. 
 
Is Trump proposing a hike in military spending?  Sure. As cover to let the Bannonite White House commence with a purge that could make Turkish President Erdogan look mild, by comparison. The stupidest thing we can do is fall for this. The military and Intel officer corps are in pain and will face much worse. If they find friends under our Big Tent, then western enlightenment civilization can be saved by a union of all fact-users.
 
If we spurn them, then kiss your enlightenment goodbye.

====

March for science and fact-centered maturity and for your children on April 22!

====

*  Asterisked "crackpot"but all-too plausible theory: Conspiracy theory time. But first a cavil: cautioning that I give this a 90 in plausibility but a mere 10 in likelihood that I would bet upon. So here it is.
 
Putin orders Assad to chemical-attack civilians, an atrocity that gives Trump an excuse to bomb some non-essential and Putin-selected Syrian targets, so that Trump can then yell "See? I'm no Russian puppet! I attacked Russian ally! So back off looking for puppet strings, leading from me to Moscow!”
 
Second benefit, it used up sixty (sixty!) Tomahawk cruise missiles. Jiminy. And gave the Russian military an excellent opportunity to pre-place intelligence gear to study (and practice messing with) our Tomahawks. Geez did anyone else notice that half of them performed …weirdly?
 
Those who doubt collusion could arrange this so-convenient distraction in Syria: “Blackwater founder held secret Seychelles meeting to establish Trump-Putin back channel. Erik Prince met with a Russian close to the Kremlin in a meeting brokered by the United Arab Emirates.”
 
Hey I am paid to do scenarios. As plausible as this one is - and it is - it also suits my prejudices too closely to be trusted. But  hope there are people looking very closely…
David Brin Ph.D. is a scientist and best-selling author whose future-oriented novels include Earth, The Postman, and Hugo Award winners Startide Rising and The Uplift War. David's newest novel - Existence - is now available, published by Tor Books."



COMMENTS

Gingrich has always been at least 30% “interesting” amid the overall insanity. Indeed, he’s written sci fi

Much of Gingrich’s nonfiction is SF as well.

“Honeymoons in space,’” he predicted in the ‘90s, “will be common by 2020.”

And we’re supposed to fall off our chairs and say,

“Wow, Newt, you are so futuristic,  NASA ought to bow down to you and say ‘how right you are, Newt Skywalker.’”

The main thing I’ve learned from IEET is that there’s an overlap between Science and SF. Unfortunately, Gingrich goes too far with it. The ‘90s was the Go Go decade, even more than the ‘60s; the ‘90s was also similar to the ‘60s in hype. “Honeymoons in space by 2020” was merely ‘60s future-hype in the ‘90s. It did encourage people who would not ordinarily be interested space-interested—and, again, this includes the overlap of science and SF.

What was grating was Gingrich’s mushy voice speaking on TV and radio, a very smart man preaching something he knows is junk futurism, to boost his bloated ego.

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