Saturday, February 25, 2017

Revenge of the Deep State?

"Deep State" is a buzz phrase that's been around. It stands for the obstinate obstruction that political reformers may face - even when they win elections - from a nation's civil servants, bureaucrats, contractors, influential stakeholders and - especially - the security apparatus.  The term was used for many years on the left, citing the last moderate Republican president, Dwight Eisenhower, who warned of excess influence by a "military-industrial complex." But the term faded a bit into the worm-eaten woodwork of paranoid fringes.

Now, "Deep State" is back, big-time. Suddenly it's being pushed by the far-right to explain the hostility they face, not just from bureaucrats but from all of the security services and "entrenched elites." Or, as my neighbor, Jordan Greenhall put it recently, in a highly circulated posting, we find ourselves in a manichean struggle  between a conservative “Red Religion” vs. the liberal “Blue Church” globalist establishment -- our current “Deep State."


As Greenhall put it: "My assessment is that the Trump Insurgency has identified the Deep State itself as its central antagonist and is engaged in a direct existential conflict with it."

Now, to be fair, Jordan's chief points were about communications flaws in the blue side's messaging, that might have made members of the "red religion" and "Trump Insurgency" immune to hearing or seeing. Others who have critiqued flaws in Democratic/liberal messaging include the always-cogent George Lakoff, whose explanation for the election is most on-target. Still, right here and now, I am discussing some the underlying "givens" that Jordan and many others base their arguments upon. These givens -- like Deep State -- are powerful meme-bombs, in their own right. 

For a very different take on the Deep State meme, see: "How the Trump regime was manufactured by a war inside the Deep State," by Nafeez Ahmed, who traces how Donald Trump's Goldman-Sachs-Bushite (Skull n' Bones) cabinet may be at war against other elements in Washington. Ahmed's detailed listing of administration appointees and their ties is unmatched.  


(Note: The latest battle in the War on Science has shifted into high gear with administration efforts to muzzle science that make the Bushites seem subtle, by comparison. "Do we want America to mimic failed regimes of the past, where knowledge and science were suppressed to benefit a few or to funnel more profits into dying industries?")

== What underlies the under-lies ==

Of course, there is an element of basic human psychology, here. We all have been trained - by Hollywood - to view ourselves as heroic and insightful rebels against some authoritarian elite. The meme - and I talk about this a lot - is called Suspicion of Authority (SoA) and we were all raised, suckling its core premise.


But which authority? If those on the left dread Big Brother arising from conniving oligarchs and faceless corporations, conservative Americans fret over different "controlling elites," ranging from snooty academics to faceless bureaucrats. Alas, both wings ignore the plain fact, that they share an underlying reflex that is especially American. A very well-founded fear that - yes - freedom does have enemies.


This reflex has been manipulated though. Today's "Red Religion" (to borrow Greenhall's term) lumps together as hate-targets every profession in U.S. society that deals in facts and knowledge. Their narrative is that these professions -- maligned for decades in right wing media, from science, teaching, economics, skilled labor and journalism to the civil service, law professionals, medical doctors and judges -- have colluded to create a truth-bending, Orwellian cabal! Yes, all the people who know stuff ... those whom you trust to cure your cancer, teach your kids, keep the electricity running, investigate corruption, ask questions, explore the laws of nature, invent better phones, catch criminals, deliver honest justice, make or inspect your cars... they are all conniving haters of freedom and truth! They are all your enemies.


 And now, two of the last knowledge castes have been added -- members of the Intelligence Community (IC) and the U.S. Military Officer Corps (MOC).  See: Is Michael Flynn the first casualty of a 'deep state' coup? from Salon.


This Deep State - the story goes - has been responsible for both liberal tyranny and American decline from greatness.  

== Believe! By ignoring inconvenient facts ==

Never mind that these same professions empowered the great burst of creativity and invention and entrepreneurial drive that multiplied our wealth a hundred fold, since the Second World War.

Never mind that every metric of U.S. national health improved, across the spans of both the Clinton and Obama Administrations, while nearly all such metrics plummeted across both Bush regimes. That only makes statistical "facts" the enemy.

Moreover, the lack of any significant foreign-planned Islamic Terrorism on U.S. soil can only be explained by conspiracy among roughly a million highly competitive journalists, cops, jurists and security experts who all magically agreed never to mention the true, bloody rampage.

Never mind that American lives were statistically safer, under President Obama, than at any other time in the history of the republic. Or that blue cities take in most of the refugees, yet blue citizens don’t feel in much danger.

Or that Iranians have harmed U.S. lives or interests far, far less than the graduates of Saudi-financed madrassas. So, why is almost every member of the Trump administration beating a drum for war (of some kind) with Tehran? Michael Flynn was a leading drummer. Indeed, if you want a more plausible “deep state” conspiracy theory, how about you start with the fact that no one in our military wants an Iranian War? 

I'll admit, when you compare the different ways that Democratic and Republican presidents wage war, any sage officer would loathe the idea of a GOP commander-in-chief, ordering our troops into battle. 

== Notice the trial balloons ==

Articles like this one – denouncing the “Deep State” – are trial balloons that test possible justifications. Sales pitches to rally the confederacy. They set the stage for actions against all the knowledge castes, but especially security professionals. And more harbingers have blossomed in recent days. 

President Trump is considering tapping billionaire friend and New York financier Stephen A. Feinberg to lead a broad review of U.S. intelligence agencies…. The appointment of Feinberg would send shock waves through the intelligence community, a frequent target of Trump’s ire both as a candidate and as president,” reports The Washington Post.

“Feinberg rarely gives interviews and once said of private equity executives, “We try to hide religiously. If anyone at Cerberus has his picture in the paper and a picture of his apartment, we will do more than fire that person,” Feinberg told shareholders in 2007, according to Rolling Stone magazine. “We will kill him. The jail sentence will be worth it.”

Even allowing for polemical exaggeration, the zeitgeist here seems chilling. Now look up the word: “Cerberus.” Dang, these guys aren’t even trying to be subtle, anymore.

The trumpists and other murdochians know it will be dangerous to try pulling Erdogan-style purges of the IC and the MOC. Those officers whom they fire will make lovely recruits for the Democrats to run in Red congressional and assembly districts. (I'll speak more about this, later.) 

Moreover those who remain will continue to be sources of leaks that (betrayal!) keep the public informed. And yet, what choice have the alt-righters, but to attack? Among all the despised fact-based professions, the IC and MOC are cadres who present the greatest obstacles to any oligarchic putsch. If forced to choose between the Chain of Command and their oaths to the Constitution, the People and the republic... a choice they desperately want to avoid... I put my money on their oaths.


Conservative by temperament, their resistance only drives home a key point that we all must remember: This civil war just isn't about "liberal-conservative" anymore. 


It is now blatantly revealed to be what it's always been. Culture war between an anti-knowledge Confederacy and the forward-looking, scientific and progress-seeking Union that it periodically betrays, about once per generation. Jordan Greenhall uses "Blue Church" cleverly, but he and others know that is a way of using the blue-scientific side's own fears against it. The implicit insult is as inaccurate as it is unfair... as it is devilishly clever. Like the "deep state" meme.

== The ("Evil") Empire Strikes Back ==

We should have no energy crisis, now that Ronald Reagan has joined Barry Goldwater, William F. Buckley, Dwight Eisenhower and Teddy Roosevelt, all spinning in their graves. But Ronnie is whirling at 50,000 rpm.  Why?

There is another buzz term that you'll get to know, promulgated in this article. "Anti-Russian hysteria." The notion being that the Deep State is rife with mongerers trying to re-ignite the Cold War, or worse. This despite the fact that a U.S.-Iran War is both a top administration goal and lusciously desired by the Kremlin. (And, in truth, it is desired by the Iranian mullahs, who see it as a rationale to crush moderate-secular elements in Persian society.) This catch-phrase -- along with "Deep State" -- will spew forth.  


(Oh, the richness of pleasure watching the silly confeds at CPAC waving little Russian flags with the word "Trump" on them!)


And yet…

…And yet, I have to figure that the murdochians have gone too far, this time.

Do you remember what finally brought down the equivalent of Steve Bannon, back in during the 1950s heyday of the Greatest Generation? The sceeching firebrand Joe McCarthy? It was when he attacked the U.S. Military Officer Corps. But, weaned on stereotypes, movie clichés and pop-paranoid philosophers, I doubt that Bannon has a clue who he's leveling his lance against. The best-educated, most-pragmatically grownup and loyal clade of men and women in American life.

(You lefties, if you reflexively spit on these crewcut men and women, then you will be the fools. We need them, now, more than at any point in the last human lifetime.)

Moreover, whenever I think of those folks, I can sleep at night, and so should you, knowing that they are -- deep in their guts and bones -- on our side. 


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Trump's Divided America

This  reporter tried hard, for a week to live life with no reference to the President (read Farhad Manjoo in The NY Times).  But this mother of storms exceeds any combination of known attention storms. Sci fi offers a simple explanation.  He is an attention vampire. However many hate him... however little he actually accomplishes... an attention vampire will flourish as ever-more humans look at him, feel emotions about him, say his name.

== Crit that added weight to the other side ==

Hillary Clinton thought that the things that 55% of Americans and all the smart people found deeply offensive would pile up on scales against Donald Trump.  What could not enter her mind or other Democratic leaders was how many American saw Donald Trump's outlandishness not as a bug, but as a feature. The fact that all the smart folks were offended is what turned every outrageous Trumpism into a point added to his side. Indeed, they wound up being the only things necessary. The angrier and more upset we got, the better the reflexive response from what can only be called the Confederacy.

No other theory can explain why fundamentalist Christians rallied behind the most unchristian and most opposite-to-Jesus candidate ever to run for high office in the United States.  None of those traits mattered! Not so long as he satisfied the one great, rallying criterion: "Trump hates the same wiseguy nerds and lectury chiders I hate!" A shared enemy is all it sometimes takes. Indeed, it is the only diagnosis and explanation that correlates, across the board.

Anyone who thinks it was a decline in white middle class incomes has paid no attention to statistics or studies showing that many Trump supporters are doing just fine and - in fact - have done vastly better across the spans of Democratic administrations than Republican ones.   

So let’s get back to those post-mortems of why so many of our fellow Americans feel such rage at all their smart or professional neighbors.

== Some of it may be simple ==

Aiming to understand what drives white-rural or white working class political fixation must include some understanding of pain. Not so much financial or social, but physical. Pain of the organic-body kind. So writes Vinnie Rotondaro, in The science of white working class pain on Salon. And at one level or another, this should be considered. 

The underlying tensions, urban vs rural, liberal vs conservative, are covered in the Associated Press release: Divided America: The Fracturing of a Nation.

Sarah Pulliam Bailey, in the WaPost, talks of how nostalgia for white Christian America drove so many Americans to vote for Trump

“In Andy Griffith’s rural North Carolina home town, people wish life were more like the Mayberry of TV… Seventy-four percent of white evangelicals believe American culture has mostly changed for the worse since the 1950s — more than any other group of Americans — compared with 56 percent of all whites, according to a 2016 survey by the Public Religion Research Institute. In sharp contrast, 62 percent of African Americans and 57 percent of Hispanic Americans think the culture has changed for the better, the survey said.  With his promise to “Make America Great Again,” Trump appealed directly to this sense of dispossession, and 81 percent of white evangelicals voted for him, according to exit polls.”

Recall last time how I referred to George Lakoff’s advice – ignored by the snooty Democratic Establishment – to pay heed to the “strong father” reflex that underlies so many of those who are rejecting the western enlightenment’s emphasis on a nurturing civilization.

== Oh, but there are other monsters ==

What stunning hypocrisy – one among hundreds – that the Republicans, having blocked for 8 years an infrastructure bill that would have stimulated economic growth, now, suddenly, are abandoning their commitment to fiscal responsibility and embracing this Keynsian notion. 

Why? Because they know it would work. They always knew infrastructure spending would work, which is why they did not want it happening during a democratic administration.

Is climate denialism a “pillar” of conservatism? It would seem so. And every day you wonder when the crazy will reach limits. Example. The polar vortex is slipping south again as our climate changes. Record cold will strike middle America, even as the Arctic thaws, under unprecedented high temperatures, without sunlight. If you are curious and sapient, read this informative article. If not? If you are a member of the hate-science cult? Welcome to the world you helped create.

No, everyone has it backwards.  They are not attacking science (and every other knowledge/fact profession) in order to undermine action on climate change. Rather, they have spread and pushed climate denialism as a cudgel for their main pillar and agenda: attacking science. And every other knowledge/fact profession that might dare to question a feudal oligarchic putsch.

Representative Mick Mulvaney, who was recently selected as the Trump administration's nominee for director of the Office of Management and Budget, posted “Do we really need government-funded research at all?” Yep, the one thing that doubled all U.S. productivity since World War II. Heck, the thing that enabled us to win World War II. We do not know the balance yet between the two traits most telling for Trump appointees. But those two chief traits are becoming clear. 

So… what’s gonna happen? Singer/thinker/SciFi reader Janis Ian suggests that Trump and Putin will join forces against China.  A tasty story… and unlikely, I think.  I doubt very much that the oligarchy wants anything like the super recession that a major tiff with China would cause. Though they do know they need something symbolic for the rallies.

I do expect some Potemkin "trade War" in which some tits for tat will be traded in pre-arranged ways that make both countries leaders look tough to the home audience. It will be tightly choreographed.  Those who dream of a Russo-U.S. coalition against China are dreaming.  Indeed, Putin is probably selling off Siberia as we speak.  We, too, will be sold. Alack.

AM I saying there won't be hot war? Are you kidding? Republican presidents always do war, big time. Democrats too, only their doctrine is to go surgical, as Clinton did in Bosnia. Republicans like pushing whole divisions around, and to hell with the cost.  Hence, I would put money on some scheme - some Gulf of Tonkin provocation - that triggers some shooting between the US and Iran. It would serve the needs of both Trump and the Iranian Mullahs, and especially Vladimir Putin. Heck, even the Saudis would foolishly want it. Though our own military wants anything but!

Highly apropos of which:  Day of the Oprichnik is a 2006 novel by the Russian writer Vladimir Sorokin. The narrative is set in the near future, when the Russian Empire has been restored, and follows a government henchman, an oprichnik, through a day of grotesque events. Notably, it foresaw a future when Russia’s only income would come from selling off natural resources including – piecemeal to China – most of Siberia. 

== AmericanNewsX ==

I sometimes cross-post to this brash site. And on occasion they get a bit melodramatic for my taste.  Still, their eagerness to fight back is evident and approval-worthy. For example:

  


And video shows a right wing provocateur with Breitbart connections as she tries to manipulate a liberal group into accepting bribes for acts of violence and disruption. Maass has previously been caught trying to infiltrate three liberal campaigns; those of Russ Feingold, Bernie Sanders, and Hillary Clinton.  Memorize that face. Next time, do a reverse sting.

== Oh, lest we forget ==

Just in case you imagine I have forgotten the loony left, here’s an example of why that direction remains a very real (albeit much smaller and less immediately lethal than the mad right) danger to our enlightenment civilization. Are STEM Syllabi gendered? The syllabi for college-level STEM courses—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—are "gendered" because they promote the idea that knowledge can be ascertained through reason. This is a masculine concept that hurts women's feelings and makes it difficult for them to succeed…. that certain stylistic choices—command words like "will" and "must"—are inherently masculine and anti-woman, and then sets out to determine whether these words show up in STEM syllabi.”

Mind you, these indirect quotations of "Are STEM Syllabi Gendered? A Feminist Critical Discourse Analysis" are taken from an article in REASON, a libertarian journal, sure to take a mocking response.  Still, this is exactly the sort of thing that is used by Hannity & company a bludgeons to imply that “both sides are just as subjectively biased” (i.e. crazy). 

No, they are not equivalent. The FAR left CONTAINS some dogmatic crazies. Your ENTIRE American right CONSISTS of such.

There is a difference between FAR and ENTIRE.  As there is between CONTAINS and CONSISTS.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Anticipating upcoming Sci Fi Movies of 2017

Here are my quick takes on 31 sci fi movies to expect in 2017 (as selected by Bobby Bernstein on NerdMuch):

1. Underworld: Blood Wars: Kate Beckinsale is very watchable and there are moments of irony in the Underworld series, and action. But it betrays the essence of the lycanthrope - wolfman - mythos, making them just smellier vampires. If vampires are the aristocratic monsters, and zombies the proletarians, then wolfmen have always been the bourgeoise, middle class monsters! With a mortgage to pay, a lawn to mow, kids who don’t understand him, and now the full moon is approaching and “I don’t have time for this!” Hence, I bear a grudge. Feh, but very watchable.

2. Death Race 2050: Geez, a cliché take on the cliché ripoffs of a cliché.

3. “The Discovery movie will follow a love story set one year after the existence of an afterlife is scientifically verified.” Oh, so now you listen to science? Sounds like Robert Sheckley’s classic Immortality Incorporated. (Get it.) Otherwise, it sounds interesting.

4. The Space Between Us - already bombing in theaters - follows a youth “raised by scientists on Mars who returns to Earth to find his father, falling in love with a street smart girl.” 90% of you know which Heinlein classic this steals from.

5. Life: Astronauts find life on Mars that tries to eat them.  I suppose an eightieth interpretation of this hoary cliché might click.

6. The Ghost in the Shell movie with Scarlett Johansson (based on the Japanese manga series). Likely to be mindless garish great fun.

7. The Circle is based on the international best-seller by Dave Eggers.  Eggers’ use of reverse-voice propaganda is almost as skillfully effective as Orson Scott Card at getting you to despise average citizens and hate the only thing that ever gave us privacy in the first place, or kept us free.  So sure. Just watch the method of this propaganda, having the villains self-righteously rant and rant and rant and rant how virtuous they are.  Once you notice the technique, it will never work as well on you, again.

8. Alien: Covenant  will continue the garish, utterly illogical, but vividly watchable Prometheus alien cycle.

9. Transformers, directed by Michael Bay. The most vivid way to go deaf. The aliens who are stealing our media without paying a dime in royalties probably love this stuff and as long as we produce it, there’ll be no first contact.  There’s your Fermi Paradox explanation. ETs are all 12 year old boys.

10. I don’t know why I did not want to like this series, but its sheer intelligence won me over. War for the Planet of the Apes, continues a version of this fable, this time meant for people with some thoughtfulness. Oh, but expect this round to be way overly-preachy.

11. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets: based on the Valerian and Laureline graphic novel series, is being helmed by Luc Besson. That is all you need. Luc Besson is the Zemeckis of our time. I will watch anything he does. This one looks to be way fun.

12. The Dark Tower. I like Stephen King. This adaptation of King's book The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger stars Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey. I may wait for the DVD though.

13. Iron Sky: The Coming Race. A follow up to Iron Sky, in which Nazis plot world dominance from their base on the moon. I’ll wait for the DVD. Then lock the doors, pull the blinds and wear a paper bag over my head so no one will ever be able to confirm I sat there, munching popcorn and laughing my ass off.

14. Blade Runner 2049, directed by Denis Villeneuve, starring Harrison Ford, Ryan Gosling and Robin Wright. They listed this down at 14? Seriously. You had me at “Bla-” 

15. Geostorm & 16. God Particle…. yeah… well…

17. Steven Spielberg’s filming of Ready Player One, starring Simon Pegg and Mark Rylance, based on Ernest Cline’s best-selling novel should be terrific.

18. Star Wars: Episode VIII The Last Jedi: Disney’s takeover of the Star Wars series meant that the films no longer relentlessly preach evil messages in almost every scene. That plus enabled me to sit, zone out, soft-reboot at very low IQ, and thus enjoy the vividness of Episode VII: The Force Awakens

I expect more the same from Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Little ships diving to blow up hapless big ships - or really big ships… or really, really, OMG you won’t believe how big ships! This is not what I happily expected after first seeing the magnificent Empire Strikes Back, back when I thought we’d be gifted art, fun, beauty, wisdom and more fun, all at the same time, in an epic truly worthy of our time. Instead we got years of outright propaganda for evil -- described in Star Wars on Trial -- followed by a recent return to harmless bubblegum. Sure, bubblegum is far better than evil. One learns to take one one can get.

19. The Six Billion Dollar Man. Yep, inflation. There may be fun. Indeed, the number of remakes on this list is lower than expected.

20. Replicas with Keanu Reaves.  Hm, well.

21. The Blob. What was I just saying about reboots? I shouldn’t scribble these lists in real time.

22. Come on. Nowadays, movies should be counter-cyclical. And with real apocalypse looming…shouldn't we get a respite on screen?  The Last Broken Darkness is a post-apocalyptic sci-fi film that follows the story of Sam, one of the last surviving human beings left on Earth who teams up with a small community of survivors who are suddenly faced with a new impending danger threatening to wipe out mankind’s existence forever. Zzzzzzzzzz.

23…. okay I am outta steam… I cannot slog to 31. There look to be some good things. Still. Come on. We can do way better.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Post-election: picking up the pieces

Okay, back to a general post-mortem: let’s focus on the election itself, starting with two quick dismissals.  This was not about working class pain, or racism.

Yeah, yeah, I hear your howls. And sure, maybe a third of Trump voters have some justified sense of grievance over jobs. Unemployment dropped dramatically under Obama and his near-record departing-popularity reflects this. But changes in the U.S. industrial landscape have resulted in fewer workers getting the high-class and highly-paid manufacturing billets their dads had. Sure, automation is far more to blame than outsourcing, and Republican oligarchs did far more to outsource than democrats. Still, there’s real pain there. Clinton should have addressed it better…

…and yet, less than a third of Trump voters were even remotely in that category. The rest are doing fine, economically. Many of them even know, grudgingly, that Democrats manage the economy better than Republicans do. Always.

No, their rage was cultural and psychological, not economic.

The same holds for racism. Yes, sure, it plays a role! And I hate it. And we need to fight it. And sure, maybe a third of Trump voters are affected by that poison. And many of the rest suffer from the new version -- lazy racism -- that has replaced much of the overt kind. White people who sit back, envision the scores of black and latino personalities they like, and the biracial couples they enjoy on TV, and conclude that means racism doesn’t apply to them. It gives them excuse to shrug and declare “racism is dead!” With the real, underlying complaint: “stop nagging me!”
        
Look, I accept all of that and again declare that we must fight it, as we fought, earlier, more overt forms of this disease. And we need to accelerate the trend that already began under Obama, of bringing manufacturing home. But let’s be clear… neither of these explanations for Trumpism correlate with all Trump voters.

I believe I know a better correlation. One that has an almost 100% overlap. But let’s hear from some others, first.

== Psychological theories – starting with Good vs evil ==

Why Rural America Voted for Trump: Robert Leonard, a New York Times reporter who grew up in rural Iowa offers perspective on the cultural divide between red and blue counties in the United States: 

Political analysts have talked about how ignorance, racism, sexism, nationalism, Islamophobia, economic disenfranchisement and the decline of the middle class contributed to the popularity of Mr. Trump in rural America. But this misses the deeper cultural factors that shape the thinking of the conservatives who live here.”

This piece is flawed, missing several crucial aspects of “culture war,” such as the growling resentment that’s been spurred against all professions of knowledge. But some of the narratives that confederates tell each other do go back a long way, even to pre Civil War times, and we need to listen – in order to refute.

He quotes one Baptist minister: “The difference between Republicans and Democrats is that Republicans believe people are fundamentally bad, while Democrats see people as fundamentally good,” said Mr. Watts, who was in the area to campaign for Senator Rand Paul. “We are born bad,” he said and added that children did not need to be taught to behave badly — they are born knowing how to do that. We teach them how to be good,” he said. “We become good by being reborn — born again.” He continued: “Democrats believe that we are born good, that we create God, not that he created us. If we are our own God, as the Democrats say, then we need to look at something else to blame when things go wrong — not us.”

This drivel is an example of the many narratives that are used, to justify a hate that boils and overwhelms any attempt at negotiation or conversation.  Nor are facts - such as pragmatic outcomes - able to penetrate. If we subtract outliers like Utah and Detroit and Chicago, name a metric of moral and healthy living that is not worse in Red America, from teen sex, STD and pregnancy rates to obesity, dropouts, divorce and domestic violence, gambling and so on. Name... one... exception. Other than abortion which is a disagreement over fundamentals. See also: Strangers in their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right, by Arlie Russell Hochschild.

The NYT report implies that vast sums of money flow from red to blue America, when in fact it is largely the other way around. Indeed, as my family watches Bryan Cranston’s riveting depiction of LBJ, in “All The Way,” I am reminded of images from the America I knew, back when Trumpists claim America was great, when the South and Appalachia were synonymous with grinding, hillbilly poverty. Images that should embarrass those now screaming that “government never does any good.”

No, the source of Red America’s trauma runs deeper. 

What hurts is the annual brain drain. The fact that every June, at the local high school - the center of all life in rural towns - the brightest kids weep and hug and swear to keep in touch… then scoot as fast as they can to the universities and bright cities that thereupon, at a deep, psychic level, become associated with blandishment and the stealing of hope. The stealing of your children. But we’ll get back to that

Another claim is that the problem is generational. If only America could return to the 1950s again. The romantic personality is always drawn to wistful homesickness for a past that never was. See How nostalgia for white Christian America drove so many Americans to vote for Trump by Sarah Pulliam Bailey in The Washington Post. 

These romantic yearnings for a fabled fifties are insidious and it is vital to answer them. You’ll make little progress by talking about the racism and sexism of that period, not when some of these folks yearn for an era when everyone knew his or her place.  What you can do is tear to shreds their every assertion, as I did in my posting: Was 1957 America Better Than Today? 

Even better, point out that the Greatest Generation of that era voted for high taxes on the rich, joined strong unions, and adored, above all living humans, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

== The power of metaphor: dad vs. mom ==

Earlier I mentioned the brilliant master of language, George Lakoff, who tried to tell the Clinton campaign they were combatting Trump in all the wrong ways. 

The Clinton campaign decided that the best way to defeat Trump was to use his own words against him. So they showed these clips of Trump saying outrageous things. Now what Trump was doing in those clips was saying out loud things that upset liberals, and that’s exactly what his followers liked about him. So of course they were showing what actually was helping Trump with his supporters.

“I tried to convince people in the Clinton campaign — early on, I wrote a piece called “Understanding Trump,” in March 2016, and it was sent to everybody in the Clinton campaign. Everybody at the PAC, for example, got a copy of it. It didn’t matter; they were doing what they were told to do.” says Lakoff.

Lakoff continues: “All progressives and liberals have a moral worldview, what I described as the nurturant-parent worldview. (But despite his many anti hispanic statements,) many Latinos voted for Trump. Why? Because “strict father” morality is big in Latino culture. The campaign was not looking at values. They were looking at demographics, and they missed the role of values.”  

Lakoff urged liberals to sell the notion that the “father” such voters need is the one composed of our common will, in fairly negotiated government, not a strongman caudillo, like Bush or Trump.  It is more abstract, but it could be sold, if Democrats would only try.  That would mean actually standing up for science and journalism and all the other knowledge professions. And yes, even the civil service.

Another psychological factor should be obvious, from the core character trait of the man these folks elected president. Pride is indeed key, and it takes a weird form, in Red America. Watch some of the riffs of the "Redneck Comedy Tour"… later re-named “Blue Collar Comedy Tour.” Seriously, rent some of the videos, in order to better understand. The humor is excellent! Endearingly self-effacing and self-mocking... only…

Only, after a while you realize, with a shiver, that all the self effacing jokes amount to a form of bragging. There's an implication, underlying every jest about good-ol' boy dumbness, that their fervidly passionate simplicity is more genuine, and "real," and vastly preferable over being a smartass college boy.

Indeed, I assert that this is what won Trump the election.  And I’ll explain next time.

== We coulda used a bit more Luther, or rather Lyndon ==

While we’re thinking about the most under-rated president of the 20th Century... for those of you needing solace: watch Bryan Cranston's spectacular portrayal of LBJ in "All The Way." If he doesn't get an Oscar, there's no justice.

For decades I have fumed that no one would tell the story of Lyndon Johnson and all he did for our nation, refuting pathetically vile depictions by the likes of Oliver Stone. LBJ's loyalty to JFK's dreams was carried out with dispatch, passion -- and yes the ruthless political cunning this film so accurately showed. If you are shuddering over today's transition, imagine the majority of parallel worlds without the combination of JFK's assassination and LBJ's relentless push, where the 1964 Civil Rights Bill and the '65 Voting Rights Act did not happen. The flames that would have consumed us, as our souls would likely have deserved.

Sure, there are red states where those rights are undermined by foul tricks, like gerrymandering. Indeed, we could certainly have done even better. But the playing field shifted, because of Johnson, to a better and more fair nation. And but for Vietnam, he would have crushed Nixon in '68 and we'd all have been the wiser for it.

Oh, is there an award for casting? Seriously, I never saw an array of actors who so looked like their historical counterparts! I recognized Humphrey, Dirksen, McNamara, Hoover and so on, at first sight, and the Martin Luther King role (played by Anthony Mackie) was perfection! Alas, this is all the movie that Hubert Humphrey will ever get. But most of us don't get movies. 

== Is that pertinent to today? ==

Maureen Dowd interviews Peter Thiel: "When I remark that President Obama had eight years without any ethical shadiness, Mr. Thiel flips it, nothing: “But there’s a point where no corruption can be a bad thing. It can mean that things are too boring.”  

Want irony? I kinda agree. I do wish Barack Obama had been slightly more like LBJ, with just a tad better instincts for the jugular and political knife fighting. His relentless attempts to negotiate with a cult whose central code — the Hastert Rule — was and remains to never, ever negotiate with Democrats, even for the good of the nation, seemed foolish and kinda pathetic after a while…

…though endearing, as the Democrats provided us with two 8-year presidencies that saw not a single administration high official convicted or even indicted for malfeasance of office. Dig that.  not one. Only the first and second times that happened in U.S. history.

That utter proof of honesty, combined with the utter fruitlessness of a 24 year, half-billion dollar endless search for something to pin on the Clintons, ought to affect any rational mind, especially in comparison to the endless lists of calumnies and crimes committed by both Bush regimes and (even before entering office) by the Trump Administration.

Oh, but the cult is immune to facts or irony. 

Here’s a test: any GOP lurkers out there, can you name one of the apocalyptic predictions about president Obama that came true? That even got broached or proposed by him? DHS internment camps? UN black helicopters? Swarms of henchmen confiscating guns? Forced abortions?

What none? Zero? And there's no embarrassment over there? None at all?

This is culture war. And the Confederacy is ahead. But Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory….

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