The United States of America is falling apart.

It is taboo to say such a thing publicly, of course, because it is the truth - and a truth that threatens the established interests of the rich and powerful. They will naturally prefer to keep harping on the need for 'unity' - whatever that means, when the divisions between Americans are now so obvious and persistent - and focus public attention on the reality TV show now occupying the Oval Office.

But the country is tearing itself apart, and the "delay-and-pray" tendencies evident in our power elite's handling of the situation is unlikely up to the challenge of handling the mounting crisis consuming Washington D.C.

America's disintegration goes well beyond simple politics, though the stranglehold of the two-party system in D.C. and the complete surrender of both the democrats and republicans to the lobbyists of the "swamp" is a major driver. But the truth is that the United States of America has never been as coherent a political entity as we'd like to think it. Our federal system of government has always papered over very different societies existing within the boundaries of the USA, societies that don't simply reduce to a simple dichotomy of right/left, conservative/liberal, rural/urban. The information revolution has made it impossible to ignore our differences, and is also making it easier than it has ever been to understand our federal government for the monster it has become, a creature capable of doing tremendous harm to those designated other by our elites, and yet wholly incapable of reconciling the different versions of "America" that exist in our pluralistic nation.

The truth is, that we are in an age where big, complex, bureaucratic federal governments are having more and more difficulty coordinating the various bits of society according to a common interpretation of universal principles - that itself being a prerequisite for a society that functions. While virtually all Americans believe in the idea that our nation is supposed to guarantee the conditions for the "pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness", but we can no longer agree on the essential question of how to get the job done. This will eventually result in the disintegration of the United States of America as we've known it. The question is, whether this disintegration takes a cancerous form, where we are held together by a governing system that looks out for the interests of a privileged few, or a trajectory more conducive to systematic reform, one that lets the different Americas that already exist take control of their political, economic, and social future.

If the United States is moving toward eventual disintegration, then setting politics aside to consider how this situation can be managed to minimize the harm experienced by the majority of Americans is absolutely crucial. The most essential step in salvaging something of the wreck that America is rapidly becoming is to determine how we can collectively "sidestep" the D.C. swamp, and make it accountable to our needs, however we define them, wherever we choose to live.

There is only one way I can think of to make this happen: pass a Constitutional Amendment that fundamentally restructures the federal government, essentially by breaking up the existing unitary federal government into several regional federal governments. These will have near-complete autonomy, including the right to interpret and amend the Constitution within their jurisdictions. Only a few powers expressly delegated to D.C. by unanimous agreement of the new autonomous federal regions (collective defense against invasion or nuclear attack, common currency ($), as examples) will remain in the hands of whatever supra-national establishment these regions choose to maintain - similar to the relationship between Brussels and the rest of the European Union.

Here is a simple map (apologies that it is a bit slapdash) of the six autonomous regions I think would 'work' under this scheme, including their basic population and GDP statistics (taken from the US Bureau of Economic Analysis).

SimpleUSbreakup

This division of the US into 6 autonomous regions is ad-hoc, done according to my own personal sense of the different social divisions that exist within the United States that are visible at the state level. For a county-level assessment rooted in recent voting records, over the summer I did a different version of the US Breakup scenario (with more references to other work in this area).

Still, with this caveat aside, this simple split (if you can imagine it being real in about a decade's time) would allow the different Americas to establish their own independent trajectories - political, economic, and social. Each group of states (they could/should choose their own names, of course) would establish a new capitol and federal infrastructure, inheriting all the rights and responsibilities of the existing federal government. They would remain permanently associated under the flag and supra-national leadership in D.C., but rather than trying to make one big federal capitol located at the far eastern edge of the country accountable to all 325 million Americans, each capitol would only have to manage the affairs of 25-75 million Americans.

It is worth imaging the degree to which this would shake up the D.C. swamp. Lobbyists would have to relocate, politicians would suddenly find that their pool of colleagues was both smaller and generally facing the same kinds of pressures from similar kinds of voters. Rather than having every one of the major issues confronting the next generation of Americans (Black Lives Matter. Healthcare. Gun violence. Climate change Foreign policy. Size of government. The list goes on) get tied up in D.C., there would be a chance to actually make progress in large enough swaths of America to matter, and allow different federal regions to learn from one another.

This split also allows the different American economies to choose their own path forward, while keeping enough states grouped together to make sure that all the resulting regions have a high degree of economic competitiveness with respect to the rest of the world. To illustrate, here's how the six autonomous regions would stack up against other world economies by GDP:

1. China - $11 Trillion

2. Japan - $5 Trillion

3. Atlantic Union - 4.4 Trillion

4. United Southern States - 3.6 Trillion

5. Germany - $3.5 Trillion

6. Federation of Pacific States - $3.4 Trillion

7. Great Lakes Confederation - $2.9 Trillion

8. Plains Federation - $2.9 Trillion

9. United Kingdom - $2.6 Trillion

10. France - $2.5 Trillion

11. India - $2.3 Trillion

12. Italy - $1.9 Trillion

13. Brazil - $1.8 Trillion

14. Canada - $1.5 Trillion

15. South Korea - $1.4 Trillion

16. Russia - $1.3 Trillion

17. United Western States - $1.3 Trillion

18. Australia - $1.3 Trillion

Even the US region with the lowest GDP (the Intermountain West) has as large an economy as Russia or Australia. Both the Northeast and Southeast would have independent economies larger than any of the nations of Europe. The Pacific States would be on par with Germany, not far behind Japan. The simple truth is that given the difficulties in coordinating a continental sized economy, the United States may actually make more sense and be more economically competitive than at present, because you'd eliminate the rent seeking that is now, frankly, the primary reason Washington D.C. exists. I mean, just compare the per capita GDP of the District of Columbia (highest, at $160,000) to the poverty rate (7th worst, at 18.4%) and consider what that means in terms of income distribution.

 

 

Published in Blog
Friday, 08 September 2017 18:04

Calling Bullshit on America

Calling Bullshit on America

Ten or so years ago, during a short stint on active duty with the United States Army, a group of medics taught me a phrase that has resonated ever since:

“I call bullshit on the entire operation!”

It's one of those timeless bits of military wisdom applicable to many, if not most, of the things soldiers are sent to do by their generals.

For these particular soldiers it encapsulated their experience of one mission in particular. Two years into the occupation of Iraq, some brilliant mind somewhere in the Baghdad Green Zone decided that a Vietnam-style air assault mission into some outlying Sunni town or other would be a fun idea. So a couple hundred soldiers get packed into a couple dozen helicopters, and off they go.

Fortunately, it was one of those days when nobody decided to shoot at the “Amriki Jundi”, and the soldiers searched the village for whatever insurgent leader or weapons cache “intelligence” thought was in the place, while the Iraqi residents did their best to stay out of the way.

Thing is, in all the planning and preparation, someone in the chain of command forgot to plan out exactly how they were supposed to get home in the event that the helicopters weren't available. For hours they sat around, avoiding the burning desert sun, surrounded by people who likely harbored at least one insurgent informant savvy enough to realize that an isolated group of soldiers makes for an excellent target.

Someone did eventually work out how to get a convoy of Humvees down to the village, and the soldiers made it back to base without casualties. Some had been ordered to simply start walking to the nearest Forward Operating Base (many miles away), with transport only showing up halfway through a hike that very nearly resulted in casualties not from insurgent attack, but dehydration in the bitter heat.

Naturally the mission was reported as a smashing success in the press - with that last bit conveniently forgotten. And so veterans of this absolutely typical military experience taught me that unforgettable and perpetually applicable bit of soldier's wisdom: “I call bullshit on the entire operation.”

It effectively sums up the way I feel about the United States of America in 2017.

There is no point in mincing words: America is dead. The 2016 election killed it as surely as an IED or a sniper's bullet. Nazis – Nazis – are now killing people. In America. with only lukewarm condemnation from the President and his loyal republicans, and another round of impotent verbal protests by the leadership of the democratic party.

The only question that truly remains is how the American corpse will be carved up at the end of the day.

This, of course, isn't something that you will hear from the Beltway elites, who day in and day out spare no effort in their ongoing campaign to shape our perceptions of the disaster that D.C. has become, always trying to convince us to keep playing the same old rigged game. The game that keeps them personally rich while preventing us from engaging in public debate about the real questions that matter. The kind of questions that, merely by being asked, violate the silent taboos that keep us locked in the futility of endless cycles of partisan warfare. Simple questions, like:

  • Can either of our existing ideological parties actually govern a huge, diverse nation?
  • Will their wars that now consume more than half of our federal income taxes ever end?

The answers are, of course (or why else would I write this?): No, and No. So, very much in the spirit of Thomas Paine: I call bullshit on the entire operation. I call bullshit on this version of America.

The two-party system is so empirically broken that if Americans on either side of the political spectrum had any decent leadership in the higher echelons of the party elite someone would have long ago figured out how to build a viable centrist party. The fact that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump became the presidential candidates for their respective parties is all the evidence anyone should need to realize that both parties are functionally dead on their feet. These were the two most unpopular presidential candidates in modern American history. Both parties had alternatives with far broader public appeal, both failed to notice or care.

They remain locked in their perpetual war of attrition. And, as typical in such a fight, continuation of the battle has long since become its own justification. It is useful to apply a biological view here: each party as an organism. While it appears that they are in constant and direct competition, in fact they've long since evolved a form of mutualism. Each party survives by extracting resources from a coalition of social groups held together mostly by fear of the consequences of the other major coalition winning in any given round of the endless game.

Consider the rhetoric of “resistance” the democrats have employed since the 2016 election. They call for it, but what do they actually do? One only has to look at Tahrir in Egypt and Maidan in Ukraine to see that people can defeat a standing government, by physically engaging in mass civil disobedience that directly impacts the government's ability to operate. Sure 2020 hopefuls like Terry McAuliffe can rattle off focus-group approved slogans to Trevor Noah, and Bernie Sanders is out there agitating for single-payer healthcare, but while they play the game by the old rules the Trumpists remain in total control of the federal government, hindered only by their own incompetence and disorganization.

The leadership of the democratic party does nothing but offer hope of change in 2018 and 2020. But the hard truth is that the democrats have learned nothing from 2016. If you want to understand why Clinton lost, simply look at her response to the poisoning of the water in Flint, Michigan. Look at how it was received by residents. Look at how many votes the democrats shed in Flint – and Detroit - between 2012 and 2016.

A sign of how little we can trust their judgment: there were clear signals in middle of summer 2016 that the democrats were extremely vulnerable in the rust belt. They completely failed to realize that polls in Iowa and Ohio – which Obama won handily in 2012 yet where Clinton was perpetually tied with or behind Trump throughout 2016 – reflected something important happening in neighboring Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan. That the post-recession “recovery” had only really happened on the coasts. That too many people in the “Blue Wall” didn't believe in the democrats any more.

The democratic party's track record in crucial elections is simply abysmal. Gore, in 2000. Kerry, in 2004. Clinton, in 2016. In all three the republican candidate made it into the White House after winning swing states where voter suppression efforts were observed. The democrats have however never made a serious issue out of the repeated incidence of voter suppression in crucial swing states, despite both the clear evidence that it is taking place, that is has terrible effects on turnout among non-white voters, and that the scale of the suppression is rapidly increasing.

With a man in the White House proclaiming that the popular vote was, in effect, illegitimate (after proclaiming during the campaign that he wouldn't necessarily respect the official outcome), with voter roll purges and federal funding shifts now underway that are designed to restrict voters' access to polling places in crucial 2020 swing states, it is for the first time in modern American history reasonable to assume a serious risk of a rigged election. Very possibly one where we see large-scale violence in places where the Nazi and KKK decide they can operate freely.

History does not show that the democrats can be trusted to mount an effective resistance.

Look at them at this very moment, months into this nightmare. Where are the calls for protestors to encircle the White House, Capitol Hill, the Pentagon, and Wall Street, to refuse to budge until the entire Trump administration – anyone having signed on to this administration sharing in culpability for his actions – resigns? Where are the plans for launching national strikes? You know, the things that people in the rest of the world have always had to do whenever their government has gotten out of control? The things that actually make the politicians accountable?

V for Vendetta put it best. People shouldn't be afraid of their governments - governments should be afraid of their people. Until the democratic party leadership can demonstrate the ability and will to organize an effective counterattack, I am done with them. I call bullshit on their entire operation.

America doesn't work anymore. The root cause is obvious. Vast sums of tax dollars are hoovered up by the federal government, which then manages to waste tremendous quantities of it while perpetually under-funding the programs needed to keep the most vulnerable Americans afloat. It is instructive to look at how much Americans spend per person on healthcare, education, and the military, and compare how much value we get per dollar compared to our counterparts abroad. Typically, we spend 2 or 3 times as much per person only to achieve worse results than other advanced economies like those of Germany or Japan or Canada.

Despite the fact that America is the world's largest economy with control over a disproportionate share of global wealth, despite our pointlessly massive military budget, despite the soft power that comes with having our currency serve as the world's replacement for the Gold standard, life for a rapidly growing subset of Americans has been getting harder for decades and is set to get much worse in the near future. We are rapidly moving towards a point where it takes almost as much energy to get the next barrel of oil as it required to obtain the last one. This “energy gain” crisis will produce inflationary effects that will disproportionately harm the most vulnerable. The first effects of climate change will likely be increased frequency of unusually intense weather events, which will create increasing pressures on the global food system, which will also be felt as inflationary pressure by those least able to bear it.

America's leaders have been playing history on easy mode for more than a generation, and yet have manged, since the 1990s to completely compromise America's international position.

Which, in the coming decades, will prove increasingly consequential. In the 20th Century, the United States became an empire. At the end of the Second World War, American diplomatic and military elites quite literally decided that America's borders ran through Germany and Korea. That we had the right and responsibility to police the world. That we would be the inheritors of the then (still?) crumbling British Empire, and pax Brittania would become pax Americana.

Sustaining that empire since the end of the Second World War has cost the lives of tens of thousands of American militarypersonnel and hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths. Sanctions and other foreign policy fiascoes have resulted in the death of millions more, in total absence of evidence that our national security has improved. Like the Germans who were forced to tour the concentration camps in 1945, all Americans should have to go through Wikipedia and count the dead. There is a strong empirical and legal case to be made that the United States of America has become the single greatest threat to global stability. And the rest of the world has noticed.

This is so desperately important for Americans to understand. Our empire's past prosperity is a result of the fact that it was originally far more benign than the one it replaced. The British Empire was willing to starve the people of India in two world wars. The American Empire, at least initially, emphasized a stable world economic order, where independent nations would be free from direct control so long as they were willing to trade with us. We became interdependent with the rest of the world, and this created the foundation for our prosperity. Then and now. By grace of our literally writing the rules of the global economy in the 1940s, we set the stage for our own ability to grow economically and provide for our citizens. We became less and less benign over time, because that is a consequence of the logic of empire – it always tries to expand. And destroys itself in the process.

But look at the world post-2016. The signs are everywhere. When a French president publicly states that “China leads”, when the US president is threatening military action almost at random, how long does it take until the uncertainty and fear starts to spill over into the economic sphere? What happens when US companies start to lose key contracts to competitors, when movements to divest and boycott the US gain steam, when China leads an effort to formally de-emphasize the dollar in international transactions? Flailing some cruise missiles at Syria won't solve those kinds of problems. Boosting the military budget by another one or two hundred billion dollars won't help.

Another truth that the Beltway establishment won't voice: America's military power is ephemeral. Vulnerable. Dependent on a network of alliances and bases around the globe. Our ability to threaten North Korea and Iran depends on willing allies who provide bases and transit for supplies. The idea that America can act alone is a total myth. So all this uncertainty, instability, and questioning of America's future that even our closest and oldest allies are now engaging in as a matter of self-preservation? There is only one way this can go: a slow, steady decline in America's influence, power, and capability to defend its interests abroad.

The root cause of this decline is two-fold: the “War on Terror” and the incestuous merger that has taken place between the Pentagon and the defense industry. How this works is well understood: to get promoted to a senior position, candidates are assessed by a board comprised of senior officers. Generals make generals, like Ph.D.s make Ph.D.s. But senior generals have a strong incentive to make sure they promote subordinates who won't threaten the status quo. A status quo where generals get to retire with a full pension, then work as highly-paid 'consultants' for the rest of their lives, regardless of their performance after promotion.

Anyone who believes that this isn't a fundamentally corrosive relationship is kidding themselves. Consider the case of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter project. Almost a decade behind schedule and nearly two hundred billion dollars over-budget, the aircraft costs two to three times (there's that ratio again) more to operate per-hour than aircraft it replaces and possesses truly dubious combat capabilities compared to the initial objectives set for the platform. But the way the program has been set up ensures that it is un-killable by either party, and will function until 2070 as a veritable dollar farm for Lockheed Martin – and, of course, the congressional districts where subcontracting for the program takes place.

At the same time, the US Army can't come with replacements for its aging fleet of vehicles and the US Navy continues to spend huge sums on massive supercarriers that may not even be able to operate close enough to the coast of a future adversary to be of any military use. Ever since US President Bill Clinton sent a threatening fleet through the Taiwan Strait, China has steadily built up the capability to physically prevent such a thing from happening again. They now possess hundreds, perhaps thousands of cruise missiles that can fly farther than combat aircraft operating from our supercarriers, and have deployed hundreds of ballistic missiles capable of striking US bases throughout the western Pacific. Other nations, like Iran, are also pursuing this strategy.

The truth of the matter is that major conflict between great powers is no longer a viable means of solving international disputes. It simply can't work anymore: too many key players have nuclear weapons. The risk to the global economy is too high. If another general conflict on the scale of the World Wars were ever to break out, everyone would lose, and humanity itself might never recover.

And yet, this is never acknowledged by America's political elites. Americans do not truly comprehend, because our leaders never admit, how much our inability to pursue defense reforms is damaging our economy. By definition, resources spent on defense are effectively wasted. Build a bridge, and that is embodied capital that can be productively used for decades. Build a tank, and it gets used up, then has to be replaced. Over and over, so long as there is another “threat” to scare people with. The Soviet Union failed to learn this lesson, and eventually defense expenditures consumed their economy from the inside.

Every American should take a moment, every tax season, and give some thought to that line on their W-2 that shows the amount of federal income taxes withheld. Take that number, and divide it in half. That's your direct monetary contribution to the base defense budget. Works even if you aren't an American, but pay taxes to the Internal Revenue Service. That's your share of the empire. Of all the bombs and all the blood. Year after year after year. Even as half of Americans would seriously struggle to deal with a $400 expense without falling into debt.

You'd think that after the past sixteen years we'd have risen up as Americans to demand that every general who has ever set foot in the Pentagon be fired for sheer incompetence. How many years do you give to a military establishment before deciding that enough is enough and that they've completely, totally failed in their fundamental mission?

I call bullshit on the entire operation.

To be frank, I write this in a spirit of absolute despair. And disgust. Our Constitution has been trampled, our flag and the sacrifices of our grandparents – many of whom died to defeat the Nazis of their time, have been dishonored. And yet our supposed leaders do nothing but keep playing the same stale partisan game. We are all colonized subjects of the American Empire. Some more than others, but to paraphrase Tolkien, writing of his time as a soldier in the service of his Empire in the First World War: We are all Orcs.

The only viable way forward involves a complete dismantling of our Imperial Capitol, Washington D.C. Probably by porting the entire thing down to a set of six or eight or nine regional federal governments, each with the right to interpret the Constitution as its citizens prefer. In essence, the same sort of process that resulted in Canada and Australia and the other members of the Commonwealth receiving political independence. I say, Let the Pacific States take over all responsibility for managing America's affairs in the broader Pacific. Let the Texas Republic go free. Make Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi their own republic. Free Miami (until it is swallowed by the Atlantic in 2053). Let Oklahoma be Oklahoma and Oregon be Oregon. Let us all pay taxes to a federal government over which we can actually exert meaningful control.

It will require a Constitutional Amendment to get the job done. But frankly, a Constitutional Amendment is probably what is required to take America back anyway. To make it happen, a non-partisan movement, or some sort of union of movements, will be necessary.

But now that neo-Nazis are on the march, and neither party is capable of producing a leader on par with a Roosevelt or even an Eisenhower, the fact of America's death should be obvious to everyone. The question is now how long the charade continues before some major crisis erupts and spirals totally out of control.

So I call bullshit on America, the two party system, and the military-industrial complex in general. We need to come up with a plan for fighting back. And we need a champion.

But not a white guy like myself. The leader we need is young, competent, and bold, and she is also a combat veteran, who has lost friends and possibly bits of herself in Iraq or Afghanistan or some other forgotten battlefield. She is probably some shade of brown, perhaps a child of immigrants. She may have served as an officer, though I personally hope that she hails from the enlisted side, because sergeants and other non-commissioned officers: they know how to get things done. She must be, in every way, the anti-Trump.

I don't know who she is. Or where she lives. But I hope she reads this, and hears the call. And I hope that she isn't alone. Because to win this war, to take our country back, we will need an army.

EDIT in 2019 - heh, so not only did Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez make it into Congress (I voted for her even though she wasn't running in my district, but to hell with Kurt Schrader), but Tulsi Gabbard is running for President, and Ilhan Omar continues to stand firm despite vicious attacks on her character by Islamophobic trolls. Progress is good to see. Unfortunately, the Democratic establishment is roaring down its usual self-destructive path, and will do all it can to silence their voices. But hey, at least I've got some people to root for.

Published in Blog
Monday, 30 November -0001 00:00

Building the Pacific National Party (1.0)

NOTE: This falls into the category of 'ideas I wish I had the time/money to chase down'. While I'd like to spend time making this happen, it ain't gonna happen unless someone with deep pockets happens to want to fund the thing. Or someone with a hell of a lot of ambition and time decides to take this on.

A couple weeks ago, I published an article laying out my vision for a new party - a Pacific National Party. capable of, you know, actually doing something to take America back. A non-partisan, centrist movement inspired by Macron's recent victory, that kept France out of the hands of its own set of petty-fascists, and the Scottish National Party's long-term success in forcing the UK national government in London to give the Scots a significant degree of autonomy to manage their own affairs.

Structure of the Pacific National Party

Objective: Build and sustain a movement capable of, in 2020, taking control of enough electoral votes and state congressional delegations to prevent any partisan political candidate from winning the 2020 election outright. By holding enough electoral votes in the right states and enough state of delegations in the House of Representatives, we can make sure that the Presidency can only go to a candidate who is willing to champion an Amendment to the Constitution that fundamentally restructures our federal government to permanently bypass the gridlock and partisan madness of Washington D.C.

Basically, under the reasonable assumption that the republican party can, by hook or crook, hold on to the states won in 2016, we need to be in a position to make this map happen:

The core of the Pacific National Party is the Executive Council. Four individuals from diverse backgrounds, each with responsibility for running (being, in the start-up phase) one of the four major departments. In diagram form:

LeadershipOrgan

The four departments function collectively as a sort-of organism, a "Leadership Organ". Information flows between departments in a perpetual loop, that John Boyd called OOD: Observe-Orient-Decide (There IS an A many people use, but I find it redundant. Decision must produce action, or what's the point?). In essence, the organization as a whole knows what it needs to accomplish in order to survive/thrive, but to manage that process day-to-day requires a constant rhythm of experiencing the "environment" and/or "landscape" (either metaphor works), evaluating opportunities and threats, then structuring and taking action on the environment, which itself alters the environment subsequently experienced, re-starting the cycle.

Each department has total autonomy within its own sphere, with a responsibility to apply resources given to it however they can achieve the maximum effect in pursuit of the organization's formal objectives. Departments inevitably step on one another's turf, the 4-member Executive Council is responsible for de-conflicting their efforts, however that is best done in the moment. This system is modeled after the German military doctrine known as 'leading by mission', which places a tremendous emphasis on individuals, whatever their functional role, taking the initiative wherever possible to take advantage of (all-too-often) fleeting opportunities.

I want to stress that when I say this organization will reflect the diversity of the Pacific States, I mean it. If the "reach" funding threshold is met I will write in a small, paid, part-time role for myself as a "research consultant", but regardless my primary role will be to manage the hiring process to make sure capable people are doing the job. I will look for women, immigrants, and veterans in particular. People who have demonstrated by some combination of education and experience that they can take the initiative and make things happen.

 

Phase 1: Start-Up (2018)

Necessary Funds:   $1,490,000   [$1.49 Million]

Core Tasks:

  • Obtain necessary funding committment and seek additional support if available
  • Identify and hire the four members of the Executive Council, who reflect the diversity of background and belief in the Pacific States
  • Publish White Paper outlining formal plan of action for achieving 2019 and 2020 objectives
  • Develop a network of supporters, allies, and donors in pursuit of Phase 2 funding requirements
  • Establish a presence on the web and the media to begin to make our voices heard

Department Tasks:

Signals - Public outreach and recruitment - find out what people are worried about and how we can focus our platform to address their concerns. Develop the web and media presence necessary to reach people. Identify potential partners and allies. Act as the conscience, making sure the party's actions are in accord with its ideals. Be the Gadfly to counter Groupthink, as needed.

Research - Map and understand the "Environment" and "Landscape" of the Pacific States political system and institutions. Develop strategic objectives and potential courses of action. Identify opportunities and threats. Be the Big-Picture-Thinker, the navigator, always trying to plot the best course that will achieve the collective objectives.

Logistics - Develop and maintain the institutional architecture that keeps the organization running. Convert evaluation and strategy into concrete objectives and plans of action. Monitors and manages technology and finances. Be the detail-oriented "Staff Officer" who works to determine what is feasible and what is not.

Operations - Engages potential allies and supporters, winning them over to our cause. Actively solicit involvement and assistance from public, private, and charitable sources. Goes out and meets people to represent the Pacific National Party and its mission. Be the face of the organization, the one who gets things done.

Budget [$1.49 Million]:

  • 4 Staff, 3 year contracts, $60,000 in base salary and 50% of that again in taxes and benefits: $1,080,000
  • Technology, basic supplies, office space (as-needed basis), administrative support: $210,000
  • Contingency Fund: $100,000
  • Fees to Crowsource platform and payment processor: $100,000

Reach Goal: $328,000(+)

  • "Research consultant" (me) for 3 years at ~1/2-time: $108,000
  • Technical consultant to help design/prototype digital app (for Phase 2): $120,000
  • Early outreach/media efforts via consultants (for Phase 2): $100,000-200,000

 

Phase 2: Expansion (2019)

*Phase 2 is inherently more of a ballpark estimate compared to Phase 1, as success or failure in Phase 1 will largely structure the course of Phase 2. However, Phase 1 will be conducted with Phase 2 always in mind, because that is where the PNP makes the jump from four people in an office to a fast-growing start-up in its own right. It is also important to note that the transition from Phase 1 to Phase 2 will depend heavily on when the organization can obtain the necessary funding committments.

Necessary Funds:   $9,700,000   [$9.7 Million]

Core Tasks:

  • Hire 12 additional staff, 3 in each department, allowing intensification and acceleration of all efforts
  • Contract for the development of an app, a digital platform for political engagement, a mashup of Duolingo, Politifact, and StackExchange (among others)
  • Pursue further funding partnerships with large donors to augment the crowdsourcing effort, to lay the groundwork for Phase 3
  • Develop a slate of candidates, new or established - but willing to make a binding agreement with respect to our main objectives, to run in the West 2020
  • Support the start of a compatible regional party in the Intermountain West, who will be needed as allies to control the outcome of the 2020 election
  • Publish widely in multiple media outlets to continue growing our support base and spreading the word of our alternative for America

Department Tasks:

  • Essentially the same functions, with added capacity. Original Executive Council remains, with members serving as liasion between department and council
  • A centrally-managed budget will be established and assets allocated to departments as needed to pursue opportunities

Budget: [$9.7 Million]

  • 12 Staff, 2 year contracts, $60,000 in base salary and 50% of that again in taxes and benefits: $2,160,000
  • Physical office space and administrative support for 2 years: $840,000
  • Operations budget/common resource pool for 2 years: $2,000,000
  • App development (contracted out to best bid): $3,000,000
  • Contingency budget: (10% of total): $800,000
  • Fees and Taxes (assume 10% of total): $900,000

Additional funds over and beyond this amount will either roll over to Phase 3 or be used to enhance Phase 2 efforts.

 

Phase 3: The Battle of 2020

* Phase 3 goes from ballpark to best guess. As with the Phase 1 to Phase 2 transition, Phase 3 will require an intensification of effort and an order of magnitude more cash on hand. Since raising $100 Million via crowdfunding would set a record, it is likely that to succeed in 2020 the Pacific National Party will need to secure significant funding support from public, private, or foundation sources to achieve our objectives in 2020. However, given the presence of numerous multi-billionaires and thousands of millionaires in the Pacific States, most of whom are as dismayed by what is happening in D.C. by the rest of us, all it really takes is one or two patrons willing to do their civic duty and help get this done, without trying to control the process.

Necessary Funds: $120,000,000 (for campaign offices and supporting infrastructure)

Needed Funds: Up to (and perhaps over) $1 Billion in fundraising from all sources to support candidates and compete in the presidential contest everywhere west of the Mississippi.

Core Tasks:

  • Establish offices in 80-100 counties throughout the Pacific States, each with 5 paid staff and a $1 Million dollar budget to work with
  • Coordinate outreach, fundraising, and turnout efforts by offering guidance and additional resources where needed
  • Maintain oversight and continuity with respect to message and platform, but allow local staffs maximum autonomy in achieving results
  • Run or endorse (in exchange for binding agreement of support) a comprehensive slate of candidates for all federal offices
  • Support the establishment of a formal party infrastructure eligible for public funding and the donor base necessary to support our candidates in the future
  • Pursue any and all opportunities to develop a coalition in 2020 capable of keeping any partisan candidate from winning the presidency

Budget: [$120 Million]

  • 80-100 offices totaling 400-500 staff on 9-month contracts at $50,000 total compensation each: $25,000,000
  • Operating budget for offices to recruit volunteers, purchase media time, and remain stocked up on supplied: $75,000,000
  • Common resource pool for operations, contingencies, and other additional expenses: $20,000,000

Again, this is $ spent solely on salary for staff and operations for the campaign we have to fight between 2017 and 2021. Any additional funds will be placed in a trust that will be managed by an independent foundation to provide a skeleton staff and structure on into the future, capable of providing a base for mobilizing subsequent efforts as needed. The size of this trust will depend on donor relations. But ideally, we could place $10-$20 Million in the trust, using the 3%-5% earned on annual interest to fund a reserve supporting infrastructure independent of whatever formal party governance model is ultimately chosen for the party going forward. That would be enough to support 4-8 staff dedicated to outreach, education, and advocacy.

 

Conclusion

It feels entirely silly to be proposing such a thing. But over the course of the past year, I have watched my country fall to fascism. It was always bad enough to look at my W-2, and know that half of the Federal Income Tax I pay ends up buying bombs that get dropped on literally thousands of innocent people, year after year. And now all that power is in the hands of people who continue to make it clear that they govern in the interest of a privileged, wealthy, white minority.

So I put this out there, in hopes that I can somehow, in some way, help to make a difference.

Published in Blog

Developing a "Federation of Pacific States"

It is a strange feeling, writing what amounts to a strategic plan for building a new country. But I can't shake the sense that unless something significant changes in the way the USA does politics, and probably only if the change comes soon, the country is on an inexorable slide towards a set of generally unpleasant outcomes.

So I write, in hopes of contributing to the discourse surrounding what is probably the most pressing question in America for the next 4-8 years: How do we fix this incredible mess we've inherited?

I want to be absolutely clear, up front, on several points:

This work is not:

 - An ideological manifesto, arguing for some narrow form of material or cultural revolution.
 - A conspiracy theory, laying sole blame for America's problems at any one group's feet.
 - Political diatribe, advancing the agenda of some special interest group or another.

If you are reading this in the hope of getting yet another short burst of dopamine from hearing someone confirm yet again your personal social, economic, or political bias, you should stop here. I'm setting aside most of my own political preferences in order to create this argument, so do the courtesy of reciprocating in-kind.

What this work is, at heart, is an attempt to articulate a comprehensive, viable solution for our present national crisis. It argues that the US states of Alaska, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington should politically unite under to a centrist, non-partisan, regional consensus platform, and create a shadow state with the express purpose of demonstrating to the rest of the United States and the global community that the Pacific States exist as a coherent political entity, a nation-in-waiting with the capability and moral right to demand and defend full devolution of the powers held by the federal government in Washington, D.C to a new federal capitol serving those states that wish to join. This would follow the model of the Scottish National Party's success in achieving significant delegation of powers from the UK federal government to a now nearly-independent Scottish government.

To achieve this, we will have to build a new, centrist political party - much as Macron's supporters recently accomplished in France - tasked with advancing our collective interest in D.C. by pressing for the adoption of a new Amendment to the Constitution, allowing 2 or more states the right to demand full devolution of federal authority.

While we will remain united as Americans, each region will have the right to form and sustain a federal government operating under its own version of the Constitution, holding full sovereignty to interpret it according to the preferences of citizens within their jurisdiction - save, naturally, the power to declare war or restrict citizens' right of free movement.

This is not a task that we ought to take on lightly. It is being forced upon us by the fact that the 2016 election represented a historic moment in American history, where foreign interference, widespread voter suppression, one candidate's threat to the integrity of the democratic process, and the undemocratic artifact of the 18th century that is the electoral college conspired to produce a fundamental threat to America's democratic system of government, and ultimately the Constitution that legitimizes it. It is now apparent that broad swathes of the American public can no longer agree on a common interpretation of the Constitution. 2016 demonstrated that the two major ideological poles cannot coexist in the same system of government. Separation is the only long-term solution that does not depend on a radical restructuring of the entrenched political power of the national democratic and republican parties, whose mutual dysfunction across multiple decades has largely produced the present crisis.

The disastrous election of 2016 has now given way to an even-more disastrous Trump presidency. Since taking office, this administration has committed one act after another that any objective observer must grant directly threaten the political, economic, and social future of the United States of America, and will particularly harm those living in the Pacific States:

Collectively, the states of Alaska, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington contain (as of 2010) 52 million Americans. 21 million voted in the 2016 election out of approximately 30 million who were eligible. Nearly 14 million - 2/3 - voted against Donald Trump. Almost as many voters stayed home in the Pacific States as voted for Trump and Pence. Therefore, it is fair to assert that a Constitutional Majority of Pacific Americans reject as immoral and counterproductive virtually the entirety of the Trump agenda. Collectively, we already subsidize the federal budget to the tune of about 30 billion dollars annually - almost $600 for every one of our citizens is sent to other parts of the United States. A tolerable subsidy when used to benefit Americans as a whole. However, because virtually all power is now in the hands of one party in D.C., we are functionally without representation for the near future due to the long term concentration of power in the hands of the US federal government, which is rapidly being restructured to represent the interests of a narrow interest group.

Worse, because of the Trumpists continued attacks against the integrity of the electoral process, it has now become thinkable that subsequent federal elections will not be held under truly free and fair conditions, representing a Constitutional Crisis of the highest order. Even if the Constitution and sanctity of the electoral process holds through 2020, the damage the Trumpists will certainly do to America's national interest at what is clearly a crucial moment in global history is absolutlely appalling. The economic rise of China, India, and the rest of the developing world, increasing scarcity of cheap energy, and global efforts to mitigate environmental impacts are all pressing challenges requiring global cooperation. At the same time the world needs the United States to lead, Trump and his administration have declared their intent to wall us off from our neighbors.

We in the Pacific will be the worst harmed by this effort, because we more than any other part of the United States are integrated into the broader Pacific economy. Our ports link North America to factories in China and Southeast Asia. Our companies collaborate every day with partners in India, Taiwan, Korea, and Japan. Hundreds of thousands of people cross our borders to do business, visit family, and spend money in our towns. Our wealth and capacity for long-term economic growth depends completely on our ability to trade with the Pacific. Worse, the Trump administration's provocations against North Korea and China, and its apparent adherence to a worldview that sees the West locked into a Clash of Civilizations, threaten to spark a war that will be waged on our doorstep, by people who in times of peace are our neighbors. And looming beyond that is the dark spectre of a future nuclear conflict, the nightmare of which would fall most heavily on our homes, given that we host most of the military infrastructure necessary to prosecute a war with China or North Korea.

The threat to our long-term survival is so stark, that we in the Pacific States are being forced to band together as a matter of simple political and economic self-defense. But we have morality on our side, as well. Because the Trump Administration has made it clear that its vision of America is one of social regression, a re-institution of a mythical golden era in America's past. A time before the Civil Rights movements, when America was a formal apartheid state. A generation fought and bled in hopes that the American Dream, so long proscribed to so many Americans based on the color of their skin or their gender, would one day be fully extend to all Americans regardless of the circumstances of their birth.

It is impossible to turn back time, and foolish to try. But America only truly began to live up to the original, noble promise of its Constitution when it, finally, materially embraced the reality that political legitimacy is conferred by the people, in order to preserve the common welfare. It is not privilege bestowed by heredity or wealth, but earned by fulfilling the expectations of the democratic community of citizens.

If Washington D.C. is incapable of fulfilling its moral role under the Constitution, then a new solution must be found. If the Trump Administration or a spiritual successor seeks to abrogate this role, then it must be considered to have abandoned its authority under the Constitution.

We of the Pacific States must therefore unite as one, and prepare to act as a de-facto or de-jure state, advocating for a Constitutional Amendment allowing us - or any other regional grouping of states, to do the same. We will inherit the Constitution and its legacy, and carry on America's global message of peace, prosperity, democracy, and tolerance in our own way.

I do not write this happily. Much the opposite. But to stop America's decline, someone must lead. If D.C. can't, then the Pacific States deserve the right to pursue an independent path. And to update Thomas Jefferson's (still unequalled) summarization in the Declaration of Independence:

"We hold these truths to be self evident: that all people are created equal, that they are endowed with certain unalienable rights, and that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. To secure these rights governments are instituted, deriving their powers from the consent of the governed. Whenever a form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundations on such principles and organizing its power in such form as to them seem most likely to effect these inherent rights."

Outline of the Argument

Conflicting Constitutions

  • Strong majority of Americans agree that the Constitution is awesome.
  • But an equally large majority agree that they can not collectively agree on how to interpret the thing to deal with the modern world.
  • We can no longer reconcile the differences in interpretation within the same system of governance.
  • This results in the two major ideological poles both escalating efforts to 'win' the game - ultimately, the right to 'rig' it to guarantee their interests are protected.
  • To avoid disaster, some means of deconflicting the two sides is necessary, or we risk a spiral into total and long-lasting political-economic dysfunction (metabolic crisis).

Regional Federal Governments

  • To minimize the negative impacts (uncertainty, confusion) of systemic reform on people's lives, a solution/treatment must be structural, starting from the top.
  • Given the peculiarities of our political system, the best long-term solution is a Constitutional Amendment allowing for full devolution of federal authority (save declaration of war).
  • Because the differences between ideological poles strongly correlates with geography, this enables natural regional divisions to be drawn, mimicking existing federal architecture.
  • Citizens would experience the shift as a change in location of the federal capitol (tax revenue destination) and participation in electing representatives/adopting constitutional reforms.
  • Increased federal-local proximity should make resulting system more responsive to democratic control.
  • Devolution should be accompanied by restructuring of state boundaries to reflect modern political and economic realities within the states.

Getting it Done

  • Achieving the conditions for such an amendment to be adopted at the federal level will require the ability to control seats in the legislature and electoral college votes.
  • This requires formation and growth of a new, centrist political party capable of successfully contesting seats throughout the Pacific States.
  • This party will need a digital platform capable of creating a new kind of political discourse, identifying viable candidates and platforms, and running a comprehensive slate of candidates by 2020.
  • Funding this effort will require coordination between public, private, non-profit, and citizen groups, who can commit to providing meaningful funding without requiring political concessions in return.
  • Return on this investment will accrue from a return of more than 30 billion dollars paid annually to D.C. to subsidize poorer regions of the US and politicians endless wrangling over 'pork' projects.

Author's Statement

I am writing this because my country is in obvious crisis, and I do not see the powers-that-be articulating a better (viable) non-partisan solution. This work represents my best argument for a different way forward, that operates within the bounds set by the Constitution to de-conflict our now-geographic division and end the long disaster that Washington D.C. has become.

My hope is that this will spark a debate among people in a better position than myself to actually effect this program. What I present here is at best a first draft, a rough sketch, rooted in data and history but also fundamentally incomplete. No one mind can conceive of the totality of the solution we require. All I can hope to do is provide an outline of a way forward, a path to systemic reform that I hope will offer us all a chance at a better future.

The first half (after this introductory diatribe) is an attempt to envision a viable scenario where in 2020 our electoral dysfunction forces a crisis that causes the Federation of Pacific States to follow a new Constitutional Amendment and establish an independent federal state under the authority of the Constitution. The second half contains a number of essays where I apply a systems-theoretic approach to, in broad terms, diagnose our collective dysfunction, put it in context with respect to events around the world, and defend a proposed plan of treatment.

I feel it important to stress that this work does not reflect an ideological or utopian vision of my own personal dream-state. Nor is it an intentionally political work. My own politics tend towards a left-libertarian view equally skeptical of market and state power. In my utopia, states and countries need not even exist, as we have all evolved into a community of communities.

Rather, this work is inspired by that of the Founders, who sought to produce a temporal document - our Constitution - which I, my father, and my grandfather all took an oath to uphold and defend, and which was intended to create conditions under which we could grow and develop more or less as we all independently pleased.

That the greatest threat to the integrity of the Constitution is now our own political elites' ongoing inability to collectively agree on a bipartisan interpretation of the document is something long foreseen, but that we all hoped wouldn't come to pass in our time. Well, it has. And we all have the choice of whether we adapt to the new situation, or declare the breach for what it is and take bold steps towards a new solution.

Published in Blog
Monday, 30 November -0001 00:00

2017 and 1933: Watching A Nation Crumble

What a somber 4th of July. It is difficult to enjoy what should be a celebration of freedom when the country is pretty clearly falling apart. As crazy as I know it sounds, the more I read and study and research, the more convinced I am that we're facing an unprecedented crisis. I'm fairly certain I'm not the only American who thinks there is a very real possibility that the USA won't make it through the next decade in one piece.

It is difficult to feel proud of something that is in the process of disintegrating. Beyond that, though, this 4th is reminding me the degree to which our collective desire to have pride in our country gets used to justify the terrible acts that our leaders commit, year in and year out. Pride in your nation should be a result of that nation living up to its promises, which, in America's case, I think best boil down to: everyone has a reasonably equal chance to experience a life of liberty and the pursuit of happiness, more or less however they personally define those things. 

So it is very hard to feel like a proud American when more than 50% of our federal income taxes go to the Pentagon to pay for more jets and bombs and nuclear weapons, while our actual national security diminishes as countries that feel threatened by our power build their own power to counter ours (um, classic security dilemma, anyone?).

It is hard to feel like a proud American when the color of your skin is a major factor in someone's risk of being killed by a police officer and even if they survive an encounter unscathed, they are more likely to be charged with a crime, which exposing them to being permanently barred from voting and subject to lifelong discrimination when trying to get a job.

It is hard to feel like a proud American when that ridiculous archaism that is the electoral college has yet again produced a fundamentally non-democratic outcome, when the electoral process itself has been compromised by foreign interference and widespread, racially-motivated domestic voter suppression, or the fact that the creature now occupying the Oval Office (when not on Twitter) was even allowed to stand for election after threatening the integrity of the outcome if it didn't go his way (how can such an act, a direct and unprecedented threat against the integrity of the Constitution, not constitute treason, by the way?).

Look, America, like any country is a land full of myths, something both good and bad. Good, because myths like the American Dream (making it in this country has never been just a matter of working hard enough) bring amazing immigrants who have, generation after generation, have fought to make it a better place. But the myths can go bad, and our collective national inability or unwillingness to hold our political and economic leaders accountable for their abuses has, generation after generation, enabled them to justify killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people.

From the genocide of the Indian Wars to the brutal occupation of the Philippines and right through the indiscriminate bombing campaigns our leadership waged against Germany (particularly Hamburg and Dresden), Japan (even with nukes), Korea, and Vietnam, to their 'precision' counterparts Iraq, Afghanistan, and wherever else we've started bombing between the time I hit 'publish' and you read this (hm, maybe I should start inscribing my rants on stone tablets? Hard copy, and survivable!). Actions that are as morally dubious as they are military ineffective. The United States has been on a roaring rampage of revenge for more than fifteen years now. We have tried to occupy and/or bomb more than half a dozen countries. Killing tens of thousands of civilians. Innocent women and children mostly caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. People our ideals (and basic human decency) tell us we are morally obligated to protect. And is there an end in sight? At least in World War II the thing had an end. One can almost accept the 'war is hell' argument if there's a definite end point to look forward to. Eventually, the refrain 'collatoral damage' or even 'we killed x more terrorists/insurgents' starts to look like bureaucratic self-justification for continuing to do the same pointless thing year after year after year.

That the United States of America is now seen as one of the greatest threats to world peace even by our allies is largely down to the fact that decade after decade America's military is deployed to annihilate one city or country after another. Our tax money at work, I guess, but I invite you to take a look at your W-2, and divide the amount withheld for federal income taxes by 2. That's your regular share of the 'security' budget. I hope you feel it well-spent! If not, I can tell you exactly how to reduce your tax bill by up to 25%, instantly...

This isn't down to the Trumpists alone, though. This is the result of at least 75 years of a country led by people who govern through manipulation of myths, yet despite their sophistication in that sense for some reason can't seem to get it through their thick skulls that annihilating Dresden, Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Hanoi, Fallujah, and most recently Mosul and Raqqah have in the end served mostly to annihilate the United States' claim to any kind of moral high ground. Every American president since Reagan has promised some variation of 'Morning in America'. Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II, Obama, and now 'Drumpf'. All of them. And all of them use that gap between our collectively saying 'alright, the last guy failed, so it's your turn now' and realizing that we've been betrayed yet again, to make their buddies richer and the rest of us poorer, while taking action after action that back in the days of the Nuremburg trials would have probably seen them convicted of War Crimes - hence, perhaps, why the US refuses to join the International Criminal Court.

Trumpism - the perverse ideology (reducing in the end to a cult-of-personality) shared by the 10-20% of Americans who actually believe in Trump, and not just people who voted for him because they feared a(nother) Clinton presidency - is a manifestation of very old, very dangerous currents in American society. A continuation of the old anti-immigration Know Nothings of the late 19th century, the McCarthy and Goldwater outbreaks of the mid 20th, and the pseudo-Libertarian Tea Partiers of the early 21st. A group of people who appear to truly believe that there is a 'correct' way to be 'American', and that some people either can't or don't deserve to be treated equally in society.

It is a poisonous ideology, a rejection of humanity that anyone who has studied early 20th Century European history should be familiar with, deeply informed by social darwinism and a cancerous social growtn that comprised the basic foundation of Nazi ideology. Fortunately, while it is fair to say that every society will harbor some groups who adopt this kind of poisonous ethical position, only rarely do any of these groups get in a position to actually control anything. Even though conservatives like the Bushes and Reagans naturally tapped into this ideology for their purposes, they never let it run anything too important.

Because when they do, things have a tendency to go very bad, very quickly.

The Trump = Hitler comparison has of course been (keeps getting) made, but as is so typical of the American media, it generally uses a completely mythological version of Hitler as touchstone. Seventy years after Adolf met with his well-deserved, sadly belated fate, we remember him as an odd mix of demon and clown. Where in reality he was more a mix of insane clown (that video shows a very accurate depiction of Hitler on one of his breakdowns towards the end of the war) and charismatic, narcisstic sociopath (it is likely that Hitler used his breakdowns strategically, when his usual methods of gaining compliance had failed). A complete opportunist whose actual positions would swing wildly depending on who he was talking to, who surrounded himself with incompetent subordinates and focused their energy on building little bureaucratic empires, using access to him as a means of controlling their power. 

If that sounds eerily familiar to 2017, it should. Because the Trumpists, as a pseudo-revolutionary minority interest, have been forced to follow a similar, particular path in order to gain power. Most people today don't realize that Hitler and the Nazis never won a majority in a free election, and were losing support when Hitler gained power. While they were the individually largest party in 1933 (in a country with several other major parties, almost as large), they were so viscerally hated by the majority of Germans that the leftist parties of the time, had they been able to unite, would have been in a position to launch a series of national strikes that would have crippled Hitler's government - something the Nazis were desperately afraid of. Hence, immediately after Hitler getting formal power, a campaign of repression was unleashed to bias the electoral process, culminating in a rigged election. And subsequently make the legislature vote itself out of any sort of meaningful existence.

That Hitler was given the powerful position of Chancellor - subordinate to the President, until his death in 1934 - was almost entirely down to a series of backroom political deals made between major players in the powerful German conservative parties, who thought they could control him. They completely underestimated his ruthlessness, and in a rapid period of power consolidation the Nazis simply spread into the fabric of the bureaucracy and essentially stole German society. Subsequent elections were rigged, a terrorist attack was used to grant the Chancellor emergency powers, and when the President died of old age a year later Hitler simply merged the offices of Chancellor and President.

We look back at 1933, and we tend to see Hitler's rise as inevitable, a fact of history. When in fact it was an accident, a confluence of different forces, that conspired to give a dedicated opportunist like Adolf a chance to translate that opportunity into power. Which he was able to do, in tragic fashion, by delivering the German people economic recovery via massive military spending, then solidifying his hold over their loyalty by a long bout of 'winning', in other words, achieving victories in foreign policy that let Germans feel like their nation was 'great' again... until the 6th Army died at Stalingrad in 1942, sending the Nazis down their long slide to total defeat.

Most observers thought it would be a short-lived thing, Hitler's Germany. And by all rights it should have been - Nazism didn't offer anything of long-term substance, it offered no realistic path for resolving the long-term geopolitical and economic problem of a powerful united German nation in the middle of Europe, and Hitler was in fact quite nearly overthworn multiple times by the Army, which was painfully aware that another Great War would mean the destruction of Germany. Most observers of the time seem to have expected that the thing would eventually collapse under the weight of its own illogic and dysfunction.

Turned out that Hitler, mad as he was, had a plan. And the capability to carry it forward through a deadly combination of willingness to topple any existing structure or institution that got into his way (there's a narcissistic sociopath for you!) and the rabid support of a minority interest within German society.

Both Trumpism and Nazism stem from the same basic misunderstanding of society: that it is a Darwinian struggle for survival, that only the fittest people (peoples) should lead, or even live if resources get too scarce. The Nazis were able to tap into the deepest fears of many Germans, rooted in their long history of playing host to other people's devastating wars, and merge them into more pressing contemporary fears of economic and political deprivation at the hands of foreigners. Once in formal power, there was nothing to stop them from carrying their ridiculous visions forward.

And much like 1933, while the international intellectual and political left is speaking the language of resistance, while seeming completely incapable of mounting an effective challenge to the threat. Reading the history of the German resistance from 1933-1945 is starkly illustrative: a resistance has to actually do something, actually defeat the ruling regime in some public way that matters - the quicker the better. Else the regime will use its position of power to reshape the terms of the game.

By matters, I mean something more meaningful and impactful than leading yet another protest or rally. Look at the behavior and words of America's leaders on the 'left' since November 2016, and one thing is clear: they have no intention of actually doing anything to stop the Trumpists, unless the 2018 midterm elections somehow go their way (but in all reality probably won't, given how badly gerrymandered Congress is), then we have a 'free and fair' presidential election in 2020 (and is that even a guarantee anymore?) where some people are already talking about Joe Biden, of all people, running against Trump. American liberals seem absolutely wedded to this idea that if they hope and believe hard enough, change will magically happen.

But that's all part and parcel of the sham American politics have become. We functionally have about as much 'representation' with respect to our collective taxation as the Founders did in 1776 (for those of us on the West Coast, DC. is about as far away as London, to boot). No matter who is in formal power, the average American loses. The country seems adrift for a reason: all of us bound to a federal system that is almost entirely dedicated to hoovering up tax dollars to benefit the military-industrial and bureaucratic-regulatory complexes. The national economy is in the midst of something akin to a metabolic crisis (was Marx on to something when he wrote about capitalism and metabolic rift?), with the growth in some sectors (like tech) masking the collapse of other sectors (like manufacturing), and if black or native people hold a protest about being murdered by the authorities or their land being poisoned it gets called a riot, but if white people armed with assault rifles hijack a federal wildlife refuge...

As Standing Rock and Ferguson demonstrate, violent political repression is a fact of modern American life, but it thankfully still remains implemented in an ad-hoc fashion. While the federal government has made it abundantly clear that it will do little to nothing to combat the epidemic of violence being directed at non-whites by agents of the state, and that it won't worry too much about their right to vote, still we haven't seen large-scale, organized violence in the mold of pogroms. No secret police units deployed against, to paraphrase that old bit of wisdom, first the communists, then the socialists, then the trade unionists, and so on down the line.

In part, because unlike Germany in 1933, the United States is a far larger, far more diverse, continent-spanning republic. The Trumpists are in power because they exploited our quirky electoral system, and because the powers-that-be in D.C. are so caught up in their own agendas that they are finding it easier to collude than counterattack. The Nazis needed a highly organized industrial society to work under their direction to accomplish their objectives, which was to culminate in Germany colonizing Russia exactly like the United States colonized the Indian Territories - this objective and logic were both explicitly articulated in Nazi ideology. They needed labor to build and power their machine of conquest. But the Trumpists have inherited the world's best-funded and increasingly automated war machine. They don't need our cooperation to build or deploy it. They can simply choose to blow up whatever (real or metaphorical) institutions wherever they wish.

And eventually, to accomplish their nutty objectives, they'll have to. The Trumpists want us to believe that they can roll us back to the mythical good old days of the 1950s when prosperity was the birthright of all hard-working (white, male) Americans. But to think that you can turn back the clock like that is a myth in and of itself.

In the age of the internet and cheap information, where the lies are so much harder to sustain, myths are already crumbling. It is doubtful that myths alone can sustain us through the turbulent decade or two that are ahead of us. The majority of Americans (particularly those of us under the age of 50, because we're the ones living it while trying to make lives for ourselves) are fully aware of how bad things are. And, given the inevitability of the Boomer generation passing on, we will be the ones ultimately be tasked with repairing the damage. But at present we collectively lack the means to engage in the meaningful, national-scale, moral resistance to oppression required to get started doing our part to surmount the challenges ahead. This isn't even a political position, in truth: we're beyond mere 'politics' now that it is empirically so clear that so many lives are at stake, that our leaders' claim to the moral legitimacy that is needed to hold this country together is so pitifully tenous, given what they do with it year after year.

Are we in a full-on redux of the 1930s? Very possibly. Certainly, at home and abroad, it is looking like history is at least rhyming in a very nasty way. If we ever start to see formal organized violence directed at political opposition, that will be a very sign that thing is on an inevitable slide to... who can say, for certain? Revolution, maybe, but revolutions are fraught with the risk of Counter-revolution and The Terror. Full-on Animal Farm style dystopic nonsense.

More likely, I suspect, is that things just drift, and drift, and get more tense, until the world system throws a crisis that an administration 'led' by a Twitter-addicted, 70-something buffon can't handle. Not a good thing, when that someone (plus a buddy) can literally decide to end the world as we know it in any given hour. (obligatory REM reference). Which probably would never happen.....probably. But even short of a nuclear catastrophe, there are many, many ways Trump can - and appears to be trying to - permanently destroy what remains of the United States of America.

Perhaps we'll just muddle through, and things will take a better turn without the regime flailing around until it finally breaks something too big to put back together (Vlad Putin, hi! Can you please remember we on the Pacific Coast didn't agree to any of this when you are targeting your many Mnogo nukes? Kthanx). At the conclusion of the Bush years, it looked like we would, despite how badly things went for America between 2000 and 2008. But the Obama-era promise of hope and change, which won him the support of people then under 40 and so the election (a voting group Clinton failed to turn out in as high of numbers, a big part of her failure in 2016), has run into a brick wall. And the world is roiling under the weight of so many compounding crisis that it seems doubtful that we have four years to watch the democrats screw up their task of resistance yet again - without missing some major opportunities to move forward as a society, even as the rest of the world moves on without us.

Because that is probably the one thing we can be sure about: like the Nazis, the Trumpists live in a world of ideological fantasy, and insist on doubling or tripling-down on already-crumbling national myths in order to justify what boils down to their attempt to take their metaphorical ball and run home - or, in political-economic terms, re-writing the rules of society to benefit their narrow vision of what it should look like. Which, given the fact that they are disproportionately older and white than the average American, will every passing year be more at odds with the vision of society held by the rest of us. The one, which kids from the 80s through the 00s are familiar with, where we all freaking get along. Not waste all our time fighting endless ideological struggles, shouting back at the talking heads on Fox and CNN.

The good news, if you can call it that, is that we're gonna need to recruit a lot of Sim City and Civilization players to figure out how to rebuild things once the nutters are finally gone. The trick is to try and collectively figure out, those of us who care, what we can salvage from the collapse and use to build something better out of the wreckage.

 

The History of the German Resistance 1933-1945, by Peter Hoffmann

  • Doesn't pay much attention to the more social and refusenik sorts of resistance, but it doesn't claim to be that kind of history. It focuses on documentary evidence and testimony of people who conspired to launch a coup against the Nazi regime, particularly certain cliques in the Naval Intelligence (Abwehr) and Army (Heer) communities, and culminates in a close look at the events surrounding July 20th, 1944, when Hitler was almost killed by a resistance bomb.

Hitler's Thirty Days to Power: January 1933, by Henry Ashby Turner

  • Comprehensive history, sets blame at the feet of those in a position to actually obstruct Hitler and the Nazis, that is, members of the bureaucratic-political elite, in proportion to their power to do so. And demonstrate the tangled knot of intrigue that led to Hitler's actual accession to the Chancellorship, and from there to Fuhrer.

The Racial State: Germany 1933-1945, by Michael Burleigh and Wolfgang Wipperman

  • Chilling look inside a genocidal regime inspired by a truly warped ideology. A reminder that logic applied without morality is as dangerous as justice applied without mercy.

Inside Nazi Germany: Conformity, Opposition, and Racism in Everyday Life, by Detlev Peukert (translated by Richard Deveson)

  • A fascinating (to me) insight into life in what must have been a crazy time to be alive. A good reminder at how human these people our grandfathers were sent to fight really were. How distant most of them were from the centers of power, and how many did in fact resist even in small ways. Just because they didn't (couldn't) win by small acts alone, doesn't negate the spirit of their rebellion. They were as much allies in the fight as the slave laborers who sabotaged up to 40% of German military production (in other words, guns that didn't get to be used against our grandfathers).

A People's History of the United States, by Howard Zinn

  • Classic. And under-read, because it isn't a mythological version of American history.

 

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