Art, Writing, and Learning: The Clerisy Quarter => Discussion and Debate - The Philosopher's Plaza => Topic started by: Jubal on January 07, 2021, 06:27:27 PM

Title: US Politics 2021
Post by: Jubal on January 07, 2021, 06:27:27 PM
Well, we start the new thread a few days into 2021 with the news that Democrats have gained control of the Senate by winning two seats in a state that's been red for decades, on the same day that a mob of fascist rioters broke into the Capitol building and forced both houses of Congress out of session as they were attempting to tabulate and confirm the election results. Just in case you thought that 2020 hadn't been busy enough from a political perspective!

He reminded me of what Penty said late in 2020...
TBH part of me would welcome some attempt at armed revolt by these "militia" groups, I imagine the reality of fighting against the world's most well funded military would probably cool their ardour rather swiftly. But I do hope these lunatics keep their tin foil hats on and stick to just playing soldiers.

Apparently he spoke too soon :(

Dear god yesterday was surreal. Not perhaps wholly surprising, but surreal. And I think it will be consequential if not in the way it was intended: it, along with the Georgia results, have totally upended any kind of Republican rhetorical strategy for disengaging from the Trump presidency and effect. A solid block of Republicans will now feel emboldedned in blaming Trump for the fact they're now out of office in all three branches of government, having held all of them in 2016. But the Trumpist block is still visibly there and hasn't gone away, and the total incompatibility of the viewpoints "we lost because dumbass conspiracist fascism isn't enough to win elections" and "we have to keep doubling down on the conspiracist fascism to stop the Trump base leaving the GOP" I think might really bite the party very hard in the next few years. (And honestly, devolving into factionalism couldn't have happened to a nicer bunch of people).

The Georgia result was heartening though. It's been a really Republican state all my life pretty much (and at the deeply racist end of Democrat ones before that), and having it put a black pastor and a young Jewish guy in its two Senate seats is genuinely nice to see.
Title: Re: US Politics 2021
Post by: dubsartur on January 07, 2021, 11:40:09 PM
When asked for parallels in US history, the r/AskHistorians folks (https://www.reddit.com/r/AskHistorians/comments/ks082p/meta_todays_sedition_at_the_united_states_capitol/) had to reach for things like the pogrom against the black population of Wilmington, NC and gunpoint removal of its government by a Red Shirt mob in 1898.  They could not find anything in the 20th century US.  Its also worth saying that this happened simultaneously in many different states and territories although the events at the Capitol got the most attention.

For the timidity and stupidity of our enemies may we be truly thankful.  Political violence is a strong tradition in the United States (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caning_of_Charles_Sumner).  But I do not know if the United States can go anywhere good from here.  The killing did not stop after Tiberius Gracchus' body was hauled out of the Forum.

Edit: To be tactical and journalistic (thinking about the next two weeks not two decades) the resignation of several US cabinet ministers makes it less likely that a majority will invoke section 4 of the 25th amendment (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twenty-fifth_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution#Text).  I think that cabinet ministers are the "the principal officers of the executive departments" in the text of the amendment.

Edit: The gang with the beards, the bullet-resistant helmets, the black tactical gear and the bundles of temporary handcuffs look like someone I knew in Alberta.  Jordan Guy MacDonald Goudreau, the wannabe conquerer of Venuzuela last May, was from Calgary.

Edit: I am also seeing allegations that at least six state legislators were in the mob which stormed the Capitol

If you are new to this world, David Neiwert, who has been studying the radical right in the United States for 20 or 30 years, has a new book Red Pill, Blue Pill: How to Counteract the Conspiracy Theories That Are Killing Us (Prometheus, 2020) Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/David-A.-Neiwert/e/B001K8Z4VQ/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0).   
Title: Re: US Politics 2021
Post by: Jubal on January 12, 2021, 12:19:52 PM
The man with the zip ties and very scary military looking uniform has been identified, largely because he went to the riot with his mother who was not wearing any sort of face covering.

The big thing at the moment still seems to be the threat of further violence mixed with the social media crackdown on US fascists (a term which I think, at this point, is eminently suitable). I am relieved the latter has finally happened, though I agree with those who think that in the medium run we do need better systems than the panic of big tech executives for dealing with fascist propaganda on social media. There's certainly an irony in seeing two of the graven idols of Republican politics - untrammelled power for big companies, including big companies who are in traditionally state roles like running marketplaces, and an increasingly extremist identarian white nationalism - finally smashing on the rocks against one another. Conversely to a lot of people hand-wringing over the social media blocks of Trump, though, I think the measure of the problem here is more that Trump wasn't reined in sooner on his propaganda outlets.

I've also seen a lot of concern being shared about collusion with Trump among security forces, which I think worries me far more than the rioters themselves.

I think the hope for the US going somewhere better from here is that the coming year or two essentially breaks the Republican party electorally for a cycle or two until there is a fundamental realignment in US politics to make it functional again, whilst equally hoping that the fascists don't destabilise things too much. I can see a very plausible path for that to happen, with bitter primary fights in the GOP basically shredding their ability to win elections for the next few years until there's a generational change towards less fascist-tainted candidates, but other paths definitely exist.
Title: Re: US Politics 2021
Post by: Pentagathusosaurus rex on January 12, 2021, 04:46:18 PM
The man with the zip ties and very scary military looking uniform has been identified, largely because he went to the riot with his mother who was not wearing any sort of face covering.
See I know this was a very serious situation but I'm still finding it hard to take it seriously because of just how comically stupid these people seem to be.

I am actually going to pay attention to the news for a while though, it's genuinely a worrying time.
Title: Re: US Politics 2021
Post by: dubsartur on January 13, 2021, 02:21:08 AM
Conversely to a lot of people hand-wringing over the social media blocks of Trump, though, I think the measure of the problem here is more that Trump wasn't reined in sooner on his propaganda outlets.
Remember that of all the voices he helped to silence, the one which made the CEO of Cloudflare cry "it is wrong for one company to have so much power to ban speech!" in 2017 was the Daily Stormer?

I think we are hearing the yelps of people who thought the purpose of corporate social media was to silence and impoverish women and foreigners and sex workers but not white men with money.  But fortune's wheel always turns and the revolution always eats its children.  Meanwhile 45 is welcome to send emails and texts and letters and to put anything he wants on his own web server (and to go on whatever TV or radio will have him).  If he is not yet in jail when the pandemic clears up, he could even pick a spot in Hyde Park!

US-Americans who get paid to share their opinions about politics love the phrase "rule of law."  What else but rule of law is a **** website banning a user for ToS violations who happens to hold public office, or refusing to be an accessory to incitement to riot?

I am hearing that metal detectors have been set up in the US Capitol and some representatives are calling this an atrocity.  Ladies and gentlemen, many children in their country have to pass through a metal detector just to go to school.  But those children tend to be poor, black, or immigrants and immigrants' children.
Title: Re: US Politics 2021
Post by: dubsartur on January 23, 2021, 07:19:57 PM
Jubal might be interested in this one: an interview with a statistician who works for Democratic campaigns in the USA lamenting that "effect sizes are dropping" and that in today's media environment it is hard to learn by experience which actions win votes and which lose them (transcript (https://statmodeling.stat.columbia.edu/2019/03/09/remember-that-paper-we-wrote-the-mythical-swing-voter-about-shifts-in-the-polls-being-explainable-by-differential-nonresponse-mark-palko-beat-us-to-this-idea-by-4-years/) and audio (http://rationallyspeakingpodcast.org/show/episode-248-are-democrats-being-irrational-david-shor.html)).  He has a suspicion that politicians who campaigned in the 1980s and 1990s have more practical wisdom than ones who entered politics in the smartphone era because it was easier to see what effects a speech or an ad had on the people and media in their district.  He mentions Vi Hart's Internet Votes problem without naming it; also context collapse (old and new media draw on everything someone from the Other Party says or does for its attack ads, so its hard to campaign one one set of issues and policies in Big Coastal City while members of your party campaign on different issues and policies in Ruritania, OK). 

He does not go into the deep problems with self-reported data ("how did you vote last election?" and "if the election was held today, who would you vote for as Senator?" are self-reported data) and the questions whether its plausible that substantial amounts of voters change parties based on headline news (https://statmodeling.stat.columbia.edu/2019/03/09/remember-that-paper-we-wrote-the-mythical-swing-voter-about-shifts-in-the-polls-being-explainable-by-differential-nonresponse-mark-palko-beat-us-to-this-idea-by-4-years/)  :caradilis:  He talks about the paradox of 20-something universitied campaign workers and active party members typically in their 40s and 50s and 60s (and in the case of the Democrats more varied in skin tone than those workers), he does not talk about the party leadership of rich white people over 70.  He also talks about the trouble that individual donors are no longer representative of the party's voting base, so policies which win donations don't always translate into votes.  This helps me understand why Maciej Ceglowski shifted his focus from getting tech workers to organize to getting tech workers to donate to Democrats.
Title: Re: US Politics 2021
Post by: Jubal on June 02, 2021, 10:18:27 PM
538 have a piece out on local news coverage which is quite interesting and echoes a lot of the things Dubs has said a few times on these issues: https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/local-news-coverage-is-declining-and-that-could-be-bad-for-american-politics/
Title: Re: US Politics 2021
Post by: dubsartur on June 03, 2021, 02:16:17 AM
In cities in Canada some new agencies are emerging, typically with 1 to 3 full-time or serious hobby staff and sometimes some short-term contractors.  Some of these are pretty good, but they don't have the resources of a local paper in the 1990s, and the ones I know of are all in metropolitan areas with at least a few hundred thousand people.  I wonder if some of these are appearing in the US states where there have been no old media reporters covering the state legislature since sometime last decade.

Just the southern 40% of Alberta (up to Edmonton or so) is the size of the UK but has a few million not tens of million residents.  The economics of local news in somewhere like South Dakota are really difficult.

I think the point that its easier to put the national horse race into a partisan framing than put local politics into the same frame is interesting.  Some of the Red-Green alliances in the USA have been on topics like "should homeowners be allowed to put up solar panels and feed electricity into the grid?"  Although there is the "A Libertarian Walked into a Bear" argument that some people will try to fit the place they live into Procrustes' bed.
Title: Re: US Politics 2021
Post by: dubsartur on June 19, 2021, 02:13:05 AM
I stumbled over an old blog post from December 2016 (https://scholars-stage.org/winning-the-popular-vote-while-losing-grip-on-reality/) by pundit Tanner Greer which talks about how in the 21st century, some bosses at the New York Times decided that their job was to create and spread a narrative not listen and observe:

the New York Times has always — or at least for many decades — been a far more editor-driven, and self-conscious, publication than many of those with which it competes. Historically, the Los Angeles Times, where I worked twice, for instance, was a reporter-driven, bottom-up newspaper. Most editors wanted to know, every day, before the first morning meeting: “What are you hearing? What have you got?”

It was a shock on arriving at the New York Times in 2004, as the paper’s movie editor, to realize that its editorial dynamic was essentially the reverse. By and large, talented reporters scrambled to match stories with what internally was often called “the narrative.” We were occasionally asked to map a narrative for our various beats a year in advance, square the plan with editors, then generate stories that fit the pre-designated line.

Reality usually had a way of intervening. But I knew one senior reporter who would play solitaire on his computer in the mornings, waiting for his editors to come through with marching orders. Once, in the Los Angeles bureau, I listened to a visiting National staff reporter tell a contact, more or less: “My editor needs someone to say such-and-such, could you say that?”

The bigger shock came on being told, at least twice, by Times editors who were describing the paper’s daily Page One meeting: “We set the agenda for the country in that room.”

Having lived at one time or another in small-town Pennsylvania, some lower-rung Detroit suburbs, San Francisco, Oakland, Tulsa and, now, Santa Monica, I could only think, well, “Wow.” This is a very large country. I couldn’t even find a copy of the Times on a stop in college town Durham, N.C. To believe the national agenda was being set in a conference room in a headquarters on Manhattan’s Times Square required a very special mind-set indeed.

It strikes me that this is the mirror vision of Dick Cheney's "we are an empire now and we create our own reality."  A lot of powerful people south of the border are invested in the belief that if they perform the right rituals it will always be 1989 or 1993
Title: Re: US Politics 2021
Post by: Jubal on November 19, 2021, 06:32:07 PM
Kyle Rittenhouse, who went as a vigilante "to protect property" then shot and killed several people during riots and protests, has been found not guilty on all charges.

Deeply, deeply broken mess of an outcome. Even if they decided there wasn't enough evidence for first degree murder, doing nothing about two people being shot and killed in those circumstances is frankly sickening (and frankly I think if you explicitly go with a firearm to "protect property" that isn't yours, you shouldn't get to use a self defence justification in court).
Title: Re: US Politics 2021
Post by: dubsartur on November 22, 2021, 03:49:59 AM
It also seems pretty clear that this congress does not feel that since a faction aligned with part of the opposition party tried to extort and murder them they should take prompt and decisive action in response.  For example, they are keeping their very generous schedule of holidays ("constituency days" when they don't have to be in Washington in the Capitol), and they have trouble passing legislation but no trouble offering the latest giant whack of money to the military.  If the previous president is alive and out of jail in November 2024, he will probably be his party's candidate for president, so  ::)  IIRC, the house or the Senate has less than 10 days (https://nitter.eu/pic/media%2FFEkelfRWUAwpGLq.jpg%3Fname%3Dorig) of meetings scheduled for the rest of the year.

According to Maciej Ceglowski, regressive tax cuts are the second biggest line-item in the version of the "Build Back Better" act which passed one part of congress.
Title: Re: US Politics 2021
Post by: dubsartur on November 22, 2021, 09:15:19 PM
Blogger Camestros Felapton in Australia has spent years reading the writings of hard and far-right science-fiction fans, and has this summary (https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2021/11/23/debarkle-conclusion/) of one of the ideologies which is deranging large parts of the US right:

In this imagined reality, the world is run by an unnatural alliance. The first part of the alliance we will simply call The Left. These people look and sound just like the left of our reality but instead of a disorganised and contentious spectrum of belief, the majority of The Left is only marginally different from Josef Stalin and the arguments and differences and rivalries are simply deceit designed to confuse observers.

The second part is the Ageing Establishment. This is nearly everybody in entrenched positions of power, authority or expertise, from senior politicians to college professors and scientific bodies.

The third and final part is Corrupted Corporations. This is not what the libertarians and conservatives would believe is capitalism but a strange (and incoherent) version that has become corrupted. That corruption means that while nominally capitalist and supposedly driven by profits, these corporations actually act in ways that will cost them profits. Almost any large commercial body can be somehow involved (e.g. pharmaceutical companies) but most of all the large software companies and the major media organisations are the most implicated.

Together, all three groups act in concert, with one determining the behaviour of the other. The Ageing Establishment directs the actions of The Left, The Left direct the actions of the Corrupted Corporations, and the Corrupted Corporations control The Ageing Establishment or perhaps the reverse of that. The neo-reactionaries call this The Cathedral, the overt anti-semites call it a Jewish conspiracy, while others blame it on “Cultural Marxism” or “political correctness”.

The idea that these groups that in our actual reality have competing interests or are actually ideologically opposed are all working together in this imagined reality provides a comforting explanation for an uncomfortable fact. Reality, actual physical reality but also the social reality of cultural change, keeps misbehaving and not conforming to ideological expectations. Whether this is climate change or the apparent rapid switch in popular opinion to favour marriage equality, the world that asserts itself over our imagined frameworks of it, keeps behaving in ways that run counter to the expectations of right-libertarians, social-conservatives, paleo-conservatives, right-nationalists, neo-fascists and white supremacists.

The people he studies are of little importance to anyone but their friends, but they do write a lot.

Since 2016, there has also been a burst of right-wing rhetoric in the USA that sinister leftist forces are going to force them to use guns and engage in violent resistance despite their best wishes.  If conservative presidents like Obama and Biden could not tone that down (shrugs).
Title: Re: US Politics 2021
Post by: Pentagathus on November 23, 2021, 06:46:41 PM
Wait I'm confused, if this is meant to be science fiction then where is the fiction?
Title: Re: US Politics 2021
Post by: dubsartur on November 23, 2021, 11:33:27 PM
Wait I'm confused, if this is meant to be science fiction then where is the fiction?
Cam talks about how the spread of these ideas in science-fiction communities may be related to worldbuilding and the ability to imagine things which are contrary-to-fact. 

And yes, the three actors in Cam's model reflect things which exist in the real world (the twelve US corporations which dominate the Internet like Nazis and don't like boobs; the two US parties are dominated by a few dozen rich people over 70; there is an eerie unspoken coordination between many kinds of thinky talky lefty people in the USA who try to bully anyone with different opinions) but they are followed to deranged conclusions.  Because the USA is so big and most people have such narrow social circles today, storytellers can give you a constant stream of reprehensible things someone in another faction is saying or doing, so you never stop and ask "hold on, what actual policies of president A are different from the previous president's?  not words, but actual actions?" or "what do young people with too much time on their hands and a twitter account have in common with elderly billionaires and senior party officials?"

One of the people Cam examines simultaneously believed that March 2020 was a sensible time to visit Italy because the Italians could just unleash their inner fascist and blockade off Lombardy, and that nothing bad would happen if he pushed through a closed security door onto the tarmac at an international airport in Italy (https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2020/03/17/perhaps-the-most-significant-story-from-a-former-sad-puppy-ever/) after it became clear that the pandemic was not just in the north.
Title: Re: US Politics 2021
Post by: Pentagathus on November 24, 2021, 03:42:45 PM
Just to clarify, my post was a joke.
Title: Re: US Politics 2021
Post by: dubsartur on November 24, 2021, 04:45:07 PM
Just to clarify, my post was a joke.
I was not sure, so first I answered it as if it were a joke, and then I answered it as if it were serious (zen smilie)