Technology, Government, and Poverty

digigovThe Guardian article Digital dystopia: how algorithms punish the poor addresses the impact of technology on government, and specifically on the apparatus of the welfare state. I’m going to comment on what I think is driving these changes, and on the article as a whole.

All around the world, from small-town Illinois in the US to Rochdale in England, from Perth, Australia, to Dumka in northern India, a revolution is under way in how governments treat the poor. Only mathematicians and computer scientists fully understand the sea change, powered as it is by artificial intelligence (AI), predictive algorithms, risk modeling and biometrics. But if you are one of the millions of vulnerable people at the receiving end of the radical reshaping of welfare benefits, you know it is real and that its consequences can be serious – even deadly.

It is certainly true that AI and cloud computing are driving changes in many industries as well as in the government. In industry this change is disruptive. These changes, like nearly all changes, are being driven by cost reduction. If you want to compete with Amazon in retail, you will be competing against a technology powerhouse that uses state of the art AI and hosts the worlds largest computing platform, Amazon Web Services (AWS). Companies that don’t adopt new technologies can’t compete head to head.

The Guardian has spent the past three months investigating how billions are being poured into AI innovations that are explosively recasting how low-income people interact with the state. Together, our reporters in the US, Britain, India and Australia have explored what amounts to the birth of the digital welfare state.

What is the digital welfare state? More importantly, what is bringing it about?

Their dispatches reveal how unemployment benefits, child support, housing and food subsidies and much more are being scrambled online. Vast sums are being spent by governments across the industrialized and developing worlds on automating poverty and in the process, turning the needs of vulnerable citizens into numbers, replacing the judgment of human caseworkers with the cold, bloodless decision-making of machines.

Here then is the definition: “vast sums are being spent on automating” the welfare apparatus to replace “human case workers” with machines. Why are governments doing this, given that, at least in the short term, benefits are being “scrambled” by the new systems?

Listen to governments, and you will hear big promises about how new technologies will transform poverty as a noble and benign enterprise. They will speed up benefits payments, increase efficiency and transparency, reduce waste, save money for taxpayers, eradicate human fallibility and prejudice, and ensure that limited resources reach those most in need. But so often, those pledges have fallen flat.

Do you ever believe the government when they say they will transform anything for the better? I don’t. I believe the truth is that governments are going digital to “increase efficiency…, reduce waste, and save money”. I don’t believe that governments give a crap about transparency. Are you surprised when government pledges fall flat? I’m not.

At a time when austerity dominates the political landscape, millions have had their benefits slashed or stopped by computer programs that operate in ways that few seem able to control or even comprehend. Mistakes have become endemic, with no obvious route for the victims of the errors to seek redress.

Austerity does not dominate politics. The US is running record deficits, and Canada’s Liberal’s have been on a four year spending spree and are promising even more spending if we reelect them. The fact is, you can’t continue to spend beyond your means indefinitely. Saving costs by eliminating waste and replacing expensive government employees with machines has become a necessity as debts have grown to the point where governments are no longer able to borrow money at favourable rates.

This week, the automation of poverty will be brought on to the world stage. Philip Alston, a human rights lawyer who acts as the UN’s watchdog on extreme poverty, will present to the UN general assembly in New York a groundbreaking report that sounds the alarm about the human rights implications of the rush to digitalize social protection.

The benefits of a society are not a human right. If the society lacks resources, it cannot simply print money. Even the US, which for decades has controlled the de facto world currency, can’t keep up quantitative easing (AKA printing money) forever. If the value of the US dollar reduced by the US government, other countries won’t want to hold it and, eventually, they will stop using it as the common currency of trade.

In Illinois, the Guardian has found that state and federal governments have joined forces to demand that welfare recipients repay “overpayments” stretching back in some cases 30 years. This system of “zombie debt”, weaponized through technology, is invoking fear and hardship among society’s most vulnerable. As one recipient described it: “You owe what you have eaten.”

Governments are incompetent. In my opinion, they should focus on fixing their systems to prevent overpaying in future. Recouping money from welfare recipients is unlikely to be successful, and will probably waste even more money.

The [UK] government is rushing forward with its digital mission despite the pain already being inflicted on millions of low-income Britons by the country’s “digital by default” agenda. Claimants spoke of the hunger, filth, fear and panic that they are enduring.

More government incompetence.

In Australia, where the Guardian has reported extensively on robodebt, the scheme that has been accused of wrongly clawing back historic debts through a flawed algorithm, we now disclose that the government has opened a new digital front: using automation to suspend millions of welfare payments. Recipients are finding their money cut off without notice.

More government incompetence.

The most disturbing story comes from Dumka in India. Here, we learn of the horrifying human impact that has befallen families as a result of Aadhaar, a 12-digit unique identification number that the Indian government has issued to all residents in the world’s largest biometric experiment. Motka Manjhi paid the ultimate price when the computer glitched and his thumbprint – his key into Aadhaar – went unrecognised. His subsistence rations were stopped, he was forced to skip meals and he grew thin. On 22 May, he collapsed outside his home and died. His family is convinced it was starvation.

More government incompetence.

The Guardian investigations illuminate the shared features of these new systems, whether in developing or developed countries, east or west. The most glaring similarity is that all this is happening at lightning speed, with hi-tech approaches sweeping through social services, work and pensions, disability and health, often with minimal public debate or accountability.

I think this speaks to the desperate straights governments are in with years of overspending on bloated, inefficient programs. They must come up with ways of saving money or be forced to initiate real austerity measures like the ones the EU forced upon Greece. Since doing so virtually insures being voted out, automation offers cost savings that will let the current system continue to operate, at least for a while.

Within that revolution, the human element of the welfare state is being diluted. Instead of talking to a caseworker who personally assesses your needs, you now are channeled online where predictive analytics will assign you a future risk score and an algorithm decide your fate.

Since governments are not motivated by profit, they are likely to try to make their algorithms as fare as possible. On the flip side, governments are less competent, so the systems are likely to have more flaws and be far more difficult to change. In the US, systems that can be sold to the US government have to be certified by the FedRAMP (Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program), a complex process that adds cost to government systems.

In the new world, inequality and discrimination can be entrenched. What happens if you are one of the five million adults in the UK without regular access to the internet and with little or no computer literacy? What if the algorithm merely bakes in existing distortions of race and class, making the gulf between rich and poor, white and black, college-educated and manual worker, even more pronounced?

Welfare already does this.

There is also a chilling Kafkaesque quality that spans the globe. As Manjhi so tragically discovered, mistakes are made. Machines glitch. If there is no one within reach who sees you as a person and not as a 12-digit number to be processed, the results can be fatal. The computer says “No payments”. Now what do you do?

There is a rule in software development: you can have any two of cheap, fast, and good, but not all three. Since the reason the government is implementing these systems is cost savings, they will want them cheap. As stated above, they are rushing them into production. Therefore, expect their quality to be poor.

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Men and Women Smeared as Red Pill

Red pill men are used to being criticized by the mainstream media. What’s surprising about the Telegraph article “Welcome to the Red Pill: The angry men’s rights group that ‘knows what women want'” is the amount of vitriol author Rebecca Reid reserves for women who identify as red pilled. This article is about 4 years old, but I haven’t seen attitudes toward men’s rights activists (MRAs), men going their own way (MGTOW), and pick up artists (PUAs) change very much since then.

If you haven’t heard of the “red pill” theory then you might want to look away now. But if you’re a glutton for punishment read on.

Right away, Reid attempts to poison the well. Not a good start.

Red pill theory is based on film The Matrix, (remember that?) in which Keanu Reeves’s character Neo is offered a blue pill to stay plugged in where everything is nice, or a red pill where everything goes horribly wrong but makes a much better movie. Rather than languishing in the early 2000s where it belongs, the premise has now been adopted by a group of men’s activists or “meninists.”

Four years later, we can say that the “meninists” smear didn’t stick. Reid doesn’t even understand the matrix. Taking the blue pill doesn’t mean “everything is nice”, it’s an authoritarian hell hole controlled by vicious secret police, the agents of the system. The red pill shows Neo reality, where everything has gone horribly wrong, but without seeing reality, there is no way to fight the authoritarian matrix. The idea that this brilliant metaphor “belongs” in the early 2000s shows the author’s cluelessness.

The movement has gained traction over the past couple of years, even leading to the production of a controversial film The Red Pill, which saw feminist film maker Cassie Jaye explore the men’s rights movement and is due for cinematic release in 2016, following a Kickstarter campaign.

And Jaye went on to be smeared by the mainstream media.

These men’s activists use the term ‘blue pill’ to refer to conventional dating practices. According to (a life coach who claims to ‘help you attract your wife, beat affairs and breakthrough relationship blockages’), the blue pill is “what women say they want from a man.”

MRA’s are at the periphery of the red pill community. They believe in egalitarianism, whereas MGTOW tend toward libertarianism and PUAs to androsuperiority. The “life coach” quoted sounds more like a PUA than an MRA. Pointing out that what women say they want is different from what they actually want isn’t new. The phrase “nice guys finish last” has been applied to men in relationships since the eighties.

But, as we all know, our tiny lady brains aren’t capable of deciding what they want. We might think we want to be treated with kindness and consideration – but we’re wrong.

Actions speak louder than words. The actions of many women show that they do not want to be treated with kindness and consideration. This is why the stereotypes of the nice guy who finishes last and the bad boy who gets all the girls exist. Not understanding your subconcious urges is a problem common to both sexes.

Enter ‘red pill’ theory. This is the belief that what women really want from men is a bit of good old-fashioned subjection.

This is certainly a position held by PUAs, but it misrepresents red pill philosophy in general, which states that women want a man who can provide for them and protect them when they are pregnant and caring for young children. This generalization of female psychology is backed up with real data. For example, see my post Study Blames Hypergamy for Low Marriage Rate.

Rather than focussing on the very real issues affecting men today such as mental health stigma, suicide and the under reporting of sexual abuse, the activists focusses on how women ‘should’ behave instead.

MRAs and MGTOW do focus on male suicide. No red pill men focus on how women ‘should’ behave, though they have strong opinions about how women do behave, and how they should behave if they want to be happy. Big difference.

Red pill aficionados, who mostly hang out on Reddit boards, really believe that women are wrong when they claim that they want respect and equality. Apparently what we really want is dominance and traditional gender roles. We’ve just been brainwashed by feminist propaganda.

Red pill men do not “mostly hang out on Reddit boards”. There is a large community on YouTube, FaceBook, and Twitter, as well as on the alternative technology platforms. Not all red pillers claim that women want to be dominated, though the fact that Fifty Shades of Grey has sold over 125 million copies does seem to support the theory. Traditional conservatives, who are not red pilled, are the ones who believe that women want to return to traditional roles. Nearly all red pillers believe that feminists are lying when they claim that they want equality, and that they actually want supremacy. Judging from their actions, I find it hard to disagree.

Men on the internet who claim that women are lying about wanting equality are nothing new. What’s far more disturbing is the presence of another board within the online red pill community, titled ‘Red Pill Women’. This is a discussion space for women who believe that they are biologically programmed purely to procreate, and see being single in your thirties as an actual tragedy.

Women are biologically programmed to procreate, as are men. Being single in your late thirties can lead to tragedy if you want to have children. Women who have never had a child become infertile much more quickly that those who have. Given that, if you are single, you’re likely to take some time to find a partner, you increase the odds of infertility.


According to there’s a list of 20 characteristics that define a red pill woman; from keeping herself physically attractive to her partner (at no point is it suggested that he might do the same) to understanding that she should never deny her partner sex.

It is important to remain physically attractive if you want to maintain a healthy relationship. Since women place less importance on appearance, it’s less important for a man to maintain his physique, but red pill men, especially PUAs, do focus on doing so. Women are free to deny their partner sex, but if you deny that sex is an important part of a relationship between a man and a woman, you are a fool.

“Red pill women spend their time sharing tips on being ‘better’, including a lively debate about how to improve your man’s morning routine”.

I fail to see a problem with women discussing how to please men, assuming that they want to.

The forum itself goes further in to explaining how a red pill woman is expected to deport herself. For instance the importance of not being too bright: “You do not have to act less capable than you are to be feminine. Men are not sexually attracted to intelligence, and are put off by argumentative know-it-alls.”

Except this doesn’t say that a woman shouldn’t be bright. It merely points out that intelligence won’t attract most men. Who isn’t put of by argumentative know-it-alls?

Or the essential ability to put yourself second: “Don’t keep score of who is doing what for whom, simply focus on the ways you can enhance his life. Expectations are nothing more than future disappointments.” What a brilliant life hack. If you stop having any expectations from your partner, he can never disappoint you. Sorted!

Not keeping score is good advice. Keeping score is petty. Expectations are fine if they are communicated and agreed on.

The red pill women of Reddit spend most of their time sharing tips on being ‘better’, including a lively debate about how to improve your man’s morning routine (get up an hour before him, look pretty, make his breakfast is the general consensus). It’s toe curling stuff.

If you have found a man you love, what’s wrong with trying to determine how best to make sure he remains with you?

The women who populate the forum were unsurprisingly loathe to discuss their involvement with me (perhaps realising that publicly stating unmarried 35-year-old women had ‘failed at life’ wouldn’t make them any friends).

Why would they want to discuss anything with someone who is hostile to them?

“Be compassionate. Be honest. Be nurturing. Be sweet. Be gentle. Be positive. Be meek. Learn how to cook and clean”.

Compassion, honesty, sweetness, and positivity all seem like good attributes to strive for. Someone who is going to raise children should be gentle. Personally, I don’t see much value in being meek. Cooking and cleaning are useful life skills.

But the posts they share are unguarded. Take this painful contribution: “I’m 19 year-old college student and even though I’m currently looking for a part-time job I still have a lot of free time. I was wondering how I could spend my time to become a better woman and a better partner for my future boyfriend/husband”.

A woman wanting to learn how to be a better match so that she can marry the best man possible is smart, but Reid classifies this as “painful”. Sad.

“Sex and physical intimacy is not a choice, so stop thinking of it as a voluntary endeavour. Make it your mission to spoil him rotten. Every day you should have some kind of sexual interaction with him. Make an effort to flirt and have

Garbage tier journalism. The paragraph actually just cuts off like this. As I said previously, you can’t have an intimate relationship without sex. You can choose not to have sex with your partner, but you can’t then expect him to remain with you.

That’s right ladies. Consensual sex is not a choice. We’ve got it twisted with all our silly feminism. Our vaginas should be freely available to our partners, at all times, regardless of what else is going on.

If you choose to become unavailable, don’t be surprised when your relationship ends. You have choice, but choices come with consequences.

Aside from how painful it is to see ‘meekness’ praised as a character trait in 2015, the the salient question is why on earth any young woman would find herself aligning with this view?

To each her own I guess. If you are attracted to the kind of man who likes meek women, I suppose valuing meekness makes sense. As I said above, it ain’t my thing, but calling these women out as “painful” seems controlling.

In the 1980s, along with the rise of power suits and career women came a rise in the sales of Mills and Boon books. In the 2000s, 50 Shades of Grey out sold Harry Potter and the Bible. The correlation between the emancipation of women and the increased popularity of the dominant male in fiction is often used by red pill theorists as proof that women don’t actually want power; they want to be controlled.

And there is some truth in this. Women admire assertiveness, and want a man who can provide for and protect them. Millions of years of evolution have made hypergamy instinctual.

What red pill people seem to misunderstand is that they deal exclusively in theory and further than that, in fantasy.

When a theory has the ability to predict reality, it is not fantasy.

Women might well lust after a Christian Grey type, who forces us to forget about climbing the career ladder with blindfolds and wrist ties. But it’s a fantasy. It’s not real. And for these women who haunt Reddit, discussing how to be a better surrendered wife? It’s all part of the same fantasy. And really? Fantasy is exactly where it belongs.

But is it? Women have the right to pursue happiness. If they decide that “climbing the career ladder” is not for them, that’s their right. How would Reid feel if they told her that climbing the career ladder was fantasy?

Yes, a powerful, assertive man is a sexy prospect. But what red pill theory misunderstands is that women might want that, but they certainly don’t want that all the time.

So do you or don’t you want a powerful assertive man? Because a powerful, assertive man is unlikely to want a woman who doesn’t want him all the time, and if there is a red pill woman who does, I suspect that she will be the one to land him.

Ultimately, the adoption of the red pill by women is about fantasy. While the movement is buried in forums like Reddit – so the posters could be anyone, male or female – it seems likely that they are truly women. Unhappy women who want their lives to be better, and who have been taken in by a false promise.

Is it a false promise? How do you know? If it makes them happy, more power to them.

I don’t deny that if one partner is capable of being totally selfless, self-sacrificing and never complaining when they’re unhappy, then it’s likely going reduce the number of arguments a couple has. But that doesn’t make things better. It just makes women quieter.

If you are getting what you want, you aren’t being selfless. If you are getting what you want, hopefully you won’t be unhappy. Reducing the number of arguments a couple has does make things better. If you don’t want this kind of relationship, don’t engage in one, but don’t preach to those who do.

Aggressively maintained gender roles don’t make for happy relationships. Compromise, sharing and love do that. And that’s why, despite all the thousands of words written about it on the internet, red pill theory will remain exactly that. A theory.

Compromise does not make for a happy relationship. The strongest relationships are win/win relationships, where each partner gives what is easy for them to give and gets what they want.

For millions of years, traditional gender roles were necessary for survival, and because of this, behaviors like male dominance and female hypergamy have become hard wired instincts. Red pill theory attempts to explain human sexual behavior through evolutionary psychology.

Reid shows here that she doesn’t understand what a theory is. A scientific theory is constantly evolving as new facts come to light that contradict it. Over time, when the theory consistently matches reality, it comes to be accepted as fact. The red pill community is certainly full of pop psychology, but there is also insight to be found there. Discarding a theory because it doesn’t fit your ideology doesn’t make it wrong. If you want to discredit a theory, you need to find facts that disprove it.

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The Mainstream Media Sides with Its Tribe

peachmintEzra Klein, editor at large of Vox, is calling for the Democrats to Impeach him, anyway, even if they can’t oust Trump, echoing Democratic house leader, Nancy Pelosi.

Alexander Hamilton, the Constitution framer, writes [that impeachment is] meant for offenses “denominated POLITICAL, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself.” Political offenses are, by nature, politicized. They “agitate the passions of the whole community” and “divide it into parties more or less friendly or inimical to the accused.” The danger, Hamilton says, is that the impeachment process will be decided “more by the comparative strength of parties, than by the real demonstrations of innocence or guilt.” If that proves either the perception or the reality of impeachment, the process loses its legitimacy, and America loses critical protection against tyrants and criminals.

In other words, if the Democrats use their majority to impeach despite an inability to demonstrate real guilt, they delegitimize impeachment.

Everything, then, rests on the independence and authority of the body charged with impeachment. Hamilton admitted that there was no tribunal capable of “the most exact standard of perfection,” but the best possible hope lay with the Senate. He believed that no “other body would be likely to feel CONFIDENCE ENOUGH IN ITS OWN SITUATION, to preserve, unawed and uninfluenced, the necessary impartiality between an INDIVIDUAL accused, and the REPRESENTATIVES OF THE PEOPLE.”

An who better? The house of representatives are the ones bringing the case for impeachment, so clearly they cannot impartially judge it. The supreme court might be candidates, but since they are appointed by the president (in this case, two of them by the man they would be judging), they too are subject to bias. This may be a case of the Senate being the best of a bad lot.

He was wrong. President Donald Trump faces impeachment after repeatedly asking the president of Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, Trump’s chief domestic political rival, a week after Trump froze the country’s military aid. When Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky brought up the aid, Trump responded, “I would like you to do us a favor though” and turned the conversation to Biden. All of this is confirmed in a call record released by Trump’s own White House.

In the actual transcript of the call, Trump calls for investigation into the Clinton email server (page 3). He then calls once for investigation of Biden’s interference in the investigation of a Ukrainian company of which Biden’s son was a board member (page 4). Military aid is only hinted at by Zelensky, and is never mentioned directly by Trump.

Hamilton wrote in defense of a political system he thought would resist organized political parties. Today, the Senate makes no pretense to impartiality. The modern Senate, like the House, is controlled by a political party — and it is the political party Trump leads.

And yet this seems like a good thing, requiring the House of Representatives make the case for “high crimes” beyond a reasonable doubt. If they do and the Senate does not act, the people can punish their Senators in the next election. If the house’s case is weak, it may be seen as a partisan witch hunt and backfire on them in the next election. If they don’t have a strong case, they should not proceed.

“If this is the ‘launching point’ for House Democrats’ impeachment process, they’ve already overplayed their hand,” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Politico. “The Senate will never convict President Trump,” his longtime No. 2, Sen. John Cornyn, said before even reading the whistleblower’s report.

Yes, this is partisan posturing. However, if there really is a case for impeachment, the senate knows that they are risking everything is they fail to act.

Impeachment was meant to be a political remedy for political offenses. But over time, it has mutated into something quite different: a partisan remedy for political offenses. And partisan remedies are subject to partisan considerations. If Trump falls before an impeachment trial, the Republican Party will be left in wreckage. The GOP’s leaders can’t permit the destruction of their own party. They will protect Trump at all costs.

That may be true, but if they do so and the people believe that they are, they will be voted out in the election.

“I think we have seen the total collapse of this very basic obligation of Congress under the weight of partisan polarization — particularly on the right — and it is dramatic,” says Julian Zelizer, a presidential historian at Princeton University. “Trump has exposed it rather than triggered it.”

Seems the Democrats are more guilty of partisan behavior, given their three year Russiagate nothing burger investigation.

There have been only three serious presidential impeachment efforts in American history. Every single one of them came when Congress was controlled by the opposition party. “Impeachment has essentially never been effective, except maybe as a deterrent,” says Matt Glassman, who is a senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Government Affairs Institute.

Effective as a deterrent seems to be reasonable. Impeachment is a nuclear option: if you don’t have a case that can completely take out your target, you risk a retaliatory strike. So don’t use it unless you have a rock solid case.

But deterrents matter. Rather than focusing on what impeachment cannot do, it’s worth looking at what it can. The impeachment process, as it stands now, is broken. It almost certainly will not lead to Trump’s removal, no matter how damning the investigation’s findings. But that doesn’t make it useless. It can act as a sanction to Trump and his successors, unearth information voters will need when deciding whether to reelect Trump, and provide a warning to foreign countries that would seek influence over our politics. That is not sufficient, but it will have to be enough.

But will it be? The Democrats are running the risk of impeachment backfiring. See Tim Poole’s video Leaked Documents Implicate Joe Biden in Ukraine Scandal, New Report Backs Trump’s Claims.

Impeachment acts as a form of public disgrace. To be one of only four impeached presidents in American history, even if you are not convicted by the Senate, is to know an asterisk will be forever attached to your presidency, your offenses prominently recorded. It’s a humiliation for you and a warning to your successors.

After being called a Russian puppet and a racist for 3 years, is it really going to be any more humiliating?

In impeachment, the House’s role is to bring and try the case, while the Senate’s role is to judge the accused. The problem facing the country right now is that Senate leadership has flatly stated that it would never, under any circumstances, convict the accused. Given the two-thirds supermajority required for removal, McConnell and Cornyn’s guarantees hold weight.

I’d be surprised if even a majority voted to impeach Trump unless there was a very solid case that he had committed a crime.

But the Senate isn’t the only possible judge of an impeachment case. In 2020, Americans will go to the polls to vote for the next president. If the House conducts a serious, thorough impeachment investigation, the revelations of that inquiry will inform their choice. Indeed, if Senate Republicans are stonewalling accountability for a clearly corrupt president, it may affect Americans’ choices in Senate elections, too.

Then again, if there is no clear evidence of corruption and the House goes ahead with impeachment, it may affect American’s choices in House elections, not to mention taking the media’s focus off the democratic presidential candidates.

A well-constructed impeachment inquiry will harm Trump’s reelection bid. Of course, the flip is that an ill-constructed impeachment drive will boost it. But House Democrats seem intent on building their case carefully. Speaker Pelosi resisted impeachment after the Mueller report, in part because the absence of collusion made it a weak case for impeachment.

Is the Ukraine “case” any stronger, or did Pelosi cave to pressure from house Democrats who are desperate to find an issue they can win on?

Now Trump has attempted collusion in the plain text of a call record released by his own White House, and the case for impeachment is markedly stronger.

Read the transcript. There is no clear attempt at collusion, and no evidence at all of quid-pro-quo.

Where Democrats were split on the impeachment question after Mueller, Republicans are the ones who are beginning to split, with Vermont’s GOP governor backing impeachment.

This is hardly a split. There are still far more Democrats in the house who still aren’t on board with it that Republicans who are.

Trump wanted to run for reelection atop a booming economy. Now he will run as the candidate arguing that his demands of Ukraine did not quite rise to the level of quid pro quo. It’s not a great bumper sticker.

I think he will run on the economy and paint the impeachment as a witch hunt and a hail Mary attempt to unseat him.

In 2016, Russia reached into the US presidential election to help elect Donald Trump. Its investment was returned in spades. Trump, perhaps pleased by the result and emboldened by the wan aftermath of the Mueller investigation, subsequently asked Ukraine to launch an investigation on his behalf, in an effort to undermine one of his most formidable domestic political rivals.

After 3 years, Mueller found no evidence of Russian collusion, so spare me the conspiracy theories. I think Trump is taking a calculated risk that the Ukraine affair will hurt Biden more than it hurts him. After all, Biden was the one caught on tape admitting to using his position as VP to have the man investigating his son’s company fired, which is far more damning than anything said in the transcript of Trump’s call.

The spotlight of impeachment makes the costs clearer, too. A foreign country that is asked to intervene in an American election may see its activities exposed, much to the fury of the other political party and the public. Ukraine may want Trump’s goodwill, but it doesn’t want the Democrats’ ill will or the distraction and infamy of this investigation.

No doubt true. I’m sure they weren’t thrilled when Biden admitted to pressuring them into firing one of their prosecutors either. And now, with the alternative media on the case, the Democrats are no longer able to keep their own activities from being exposed.

In his farewell address, President George Washington spoke against “the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party.” In particular, he warned that partisan infighting “opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions.”

Seems prescient now.

We live now in the world Washington feared. Party polarization has broken the American political system’s mechanisms of accountability. Republicans have fallen in line behind Trump, placing their loyalty to him, and to each other, above any sense of public accountability. And in doing, they have opened American politics to foreign influence and corruption — both from opportunists, like Russia, and enlisted allies of Trump’s, like Ukraine.

And Democrats and their allies in the media fell in line behind Clinton and, to a degree, behind Biden. Clinton’s state department famously approved the sale the company holding the extraction rights to 20% of America’s uranium to the Russians. See The Facts on Uranium One. And Biden is implicated for using his own political influence to coerce the Ukrainians.

A system of partisan accountability often means no system of accountability at all. It creates eras in which corruption flourishes, so long as that corruption is to the benefit of the party in power. That American politics has no answer for official wrongdoing in periods of unified government is chilling. Elections are not, on their own, sufficient — without rigorous systems of oversight, investigation, and accountability, the public often doesn’t know of the wrongdoing it should punish.

This was the purpose of the media: to act as a watchdog. The problem has been that the media has become more and more biased toward the interests of their corporate masters. But now, the internet has opened up opportunities for a new, alternative media to expose truths that go counter to the interests of the big media conglomerates. Unsurprisingly, they attempt to protect themselves by smearing the alternative media as “fake news”.

Klein seems unaware that he is projecting onto the Republicans the very things his own political tribe and the very organization he leads is doing. One has to wonder if this is legitimate naivety, or calculated deception. Regardless, the evil behavior he ascribes to the Republicans is exactly the behavior of the Democrats. As Jesus said, before you try to remove the mote from your brother’s eye, remove the log from your own.

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Salon Calls Climate Skeptics Sexist

Salon proves the point that Greta Thunberg is being elevated as an expert on climate change–testifying before the US congress–because she can’t be criticized. According to Salon, criticizing Thunberg or Ocasio-Cortez is sexist: Misogyny, meet hypocrisy: Climate deniers go after AOC, Greta Thunberg with sexist attacks.

Climate change may not seem like a gendered issue, but leave it to conservatives to inject sexism into everything they do.

It is Salon and other defenders of Thunberg who are making this a gender issue. The climate doesn’t affect men and women differently.

That much was made evident on Thursday, when the right-wing Media Research Center tweeted out a video of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., talking about the need for rapid decarbonization to prevent catastrophic environmental changes due to climate change. The video is labeled “Shallow Thoughts” and treacly music is played behind it, in order to indicate how viewers are meant to read this video, which is as an indictment of Ocasio-Cortez’s intelligence.

Ocasio-Cortez does have an incredibly simplistic and ludicrously alarmist take on global warming. If her stated opinion is not a carefully crafted political maneuver, I would agree that it reflects poorly on her intelligence. How that is evidence of sexism is unclear. Men certainly don’t hold a monopoly on stupidity.

Despite the heavy-handed presentation, if a viewer actually listens to what Ocasio-Cortez is saying, it’s quite clear she’s making a cogent and intelligent case, and understands the actual scientific evidence far better than her detractors.

Given that she predicted that global warming would lead to the end of the world in 12 years, I’d say her understanding of the actual scientific evidence appears to be nonexistent.

It’s equally clear that Media Research Center doesn’t expect its conservative audience to actually listen to what she’s saying. Instead, sexist stereotypes are doing the heavy lifting here. Ocasio-Cortez is young, female and pretty, and as such, the target audience for this video is predisposed  to think of her as a bimbo, and is ready to write off anything she says as dumb lady yapping, without bothering to absorb the actual contents of her speech.

Why would anyone listen to what this former bartender has to say about global warming? At least listen to Bill Nye, who as an aeronautical engineer has a science background. Better yet, go read the IPCC reports.The fact that Salon assumes that people think Ocasio-Cortez is stupid because she’s young, female, or pretty shows that they are sexist. No reason beyond her ignorance is needed.

Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist, arrived in New York Wednesday for a speech at the United Nations greeted by a wave of misogynist nastiness, largely coming from allegedly grown men in both Europe and the United States. The attacks on Thunberg were in the same vein as those on Ocasio-Cortez, accusing her of being too stupid to know what she’s talking about and denying that her voice is one worth honoring.

Thunberg seems only to urge that politicians listen to scientists. This is a mere appeal to authority. Given that she doesn’t have a Ph.D. in climate science, why is she worth listening to? Arguing that we shouldn’t listen to a 16 year old political activist is not sexism.

A writer for the conservative Washington Examiner claimed that Thunberg is a victim of “child abuse” and that her mother “pimps their kid out,” explicitly drawing a line between forced sex work and climate activism.

What? Clearly pimping a child out for attention has nothing to do with forced sex work.

These kinds attacks have no basis in fact. Thunberg’s views on climate change align with those of better than 97% of climate scientists.

Ah, the old 97% of scientists chestnut. It’s like the wage gap. No matter how many times it’s debunked, morons still repeat it. For its full debunking, see climate scientist Richard Tol’s article Global warming consensus claim does not stand up.

Thunberg is no helpless puppet, but a sharp and remarkably passionate young person who has sparked an international youth movement of climate activism with millions of participants. In order to give weight to these attacks, these critics rely on stereotypes painting women, especially young women, as infantile and idiotic. Without this kind of misogyny, they’d have nothing.

Thunberg is not a credible authority on climate science, whatever her achievements as an activist. Pointing this out is not misogyny. Calling anyone who disagrees with you a misogynist shows the world that you don’t have a valid argument, and must stoop to ad hominem attacks.

“While these examples might feel like mere coincidence to some,”  Martin Gelin at the New Republic argues, “the idea that white men would lead the attacks on Greta Thunberg is consistent with a growing body of research linking gender reactionaries to climate-denialism.”

Smearing climate skeptics as “gender reactionaries” is a low tactic. Real scientists are skeptical. We look at evidence. If you don’t bring any, you don’t get a seat at the table.

Indeed, the evidence Gelin cites shows that sexism is probably fueling climate denialism. Researchers Jonas Anshelm and Martin Hultman of Chalmers found that sexists saw climate change activism as part of a larger group of social changes — including feminism — that threatens “a certain kind of modern industrial society built and dominated by their form of masculinity.”

Feminist neo-marxist social “scientists” complain about masculinity. What a shock.

There’s another reason that climate-change denialists so readily turn to sexism: They don’t really have anything else to work with.

There’s a reason that climate activists so readily turn to ad hominem attacks: They don’t really have anything else to work with.

The scientific evidence is overwhelmingly clear: The climate crisis is real, and mostly caused by human activity. Morally, the position of denialists is indefensible, because their chosen path — to do nothing or worse yet, increase greenhouse gas output — will harm not just future generations, but ordinary people around the world who currently suffering from increasingly extreme weather events.

Global warming is real. Some of it is natural, some of it man made. We do not know that it is “mostly caused by human activity”. As Moody analytics found (see Global Warming: Crisis? What Crisis?), the worse climate change is, the better off Canada will be, and even in the worst case, the economic impact on the US will be nearly break even. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in 2019 (in Global Warming and Hurricanes), it is premature to conclude  that human greenhouse gas emissions have had a detectable impact on hurricane activity.

To be certain, it’s not just women who have been targeted with these tactics. For a long time, former Vice President Al Gore, who was the strongest and earliest advocate for fighting climate change during his time in Congress, was a regular target of ad hominem attacks from climate denialists looking for any reason to talk about something other than science and morality. They’d call him fat. They’d call him crazy. They’d suggest he was just making it up to get attention.

It’s hard to defend Gore when on January 26, 2006 the Washington Post stated Al “believes humanity may have only 10 years left to save the planet from turning into a total frying pan.” 10 years on, in 2016, the earth had warmed slightly, but it hardly seems to have reached the “point of no return tipping point” that Gore predicted.

But those attacks on Gore, it’s worth noting, all involved feminizing him to some degree. Which is to say that “fat,” “attention whore” and “crazy” are all standard ways for sexists to dismiss the opinions of women. The ur-attack on Gore, going back to the ’80s, has been to call him effeminate.

The ur-attack on Gore is that he claimed to have invented the Internet.

Having cast Gore in the role of a woman, it was easy for right-wingers to lean heavily on sexist stereotypes to dismiss Gore’s serious, evidence-based and morally urgent crusade to do something about climate change before it’s too late. Now they’re shifting those same attacks onto actual women who are increasingly becoming the face of climate change activism.

Sexism is not required to dismiss Gore’s overblown claims, as they have refuted themselves. Gore has also shown his hypocrisy in 2010 by buying a $8.9 million ocean-view villa.


But no matter who the right attacks, the premise remains the same: Environmentalists are female and/or effeminate, and therefore can be dismissed out of hand as stupid or crazy or driven by irrational emotion — in other words, not worth listening to. Women are so worthless in their eyes, it appears, that no amount of evidence will ever make women’s arguments hold merit.

A woman’s arguments hold merit the same way a man’s do. Arguing that climate skeptics are sexist and therefore we shouldn’t listen to them is not an argument that holds merit, whether you are male or female. If you make ad hominem attacks on those you oppose, why are you surprised when they do the same in return?

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Environmentalists Continue to Lie and Cry Wolf

When we’re faced with threats of inundation, our reaction has traditionally been to build walls. Sea-level rises, storms and floods have been held back with solid barriers, seawalls and dykes. We have used walls to keep out people, too: the fact that this has failed throughout the ages has not stopped its recent revival in the United States.

And yet Hungary’s Border Fence Was Built Fast, Cheap, And It Works.

The climate crisis threatens global sea-level rises of well over half a metre if we fail to act, while tidal storm surges will reach many times that height.

According to the UN’s International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2013 (What the new IPCC report says about sea level rise), under scenarios where emissions stabilise by the end of the century (RCP4.5) or soon after (RCP6.0), sea levels are projected to rise by between 32 and 62 cm (47cm on average). If If governments achieve drastic emissions cuts from 2020 onward (RCP2.6), sea levels are projected to rise by between 26 and 54 cm

Fiercer and more frequent hurricanes will batter us.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s Global Fluid Dynamics Lab (GFDL) in 2019 (Global Warming and Hurricanes), in the Atlantic, it is premature to conclude with high confidence that human activities–and particularly greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming–have already had a detectable impact on hurricane activity.

Millions of people who live in areas where crops have failed and wells run dry will be forced to flee their homes.

We’ve heard this before. In 2005, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) warned that imminent sea-level rises, increased hurricanes, and desertification caused by “man-made global warming” would lead to massive population disruptions. By 2010, some 50 million “climate refugees” would be frantically fleeing from those regions of the globe. Not only did the areas in question fail to produce a single “climate refugee,” by 2010, population levels for those regions were actually still soaring. In many cases, the areas that were supposed to be producing waves of “climate refugees” and becoming uninhabitable turned out to be some of the fastest-growing places on Earth.

But walls will not work with the climate crisis, even if the temptation to try to keep out the consequences, rather than dealing with the causes, is as strong as ever.

And yet the Hungarian border wall (see linked article above) successfully diverted economic migrants from Africa and the middle east around the country.

The prospect of a “climate apartheid”, in which the rich insulate themselves from the impacts of the climate emergency while the poor and vulnerable are abandoned to their fate, is now real. According to the UN, climate-related disasters are already taking place at the rate of one a week, though only a few of them – such as Hurricane Dorian – get reported.

As quoted above, the NOAA, who are the experts, have yet to find a statistical correlation between global warming and increased severity of hurricanes. Those who connect hurricanes to global warming without evidence are propagating fake news.

Nowhere on Earth will be untouched, with the number of people facing water shortages set to leap from 3.6 billion today to 5 billion by 2050. At least 100 million people will be plunged into poverty in the next decade, and in the decades following that, rising sea levels will swamp coastal cities from Miami to Shanghai, wiping $1tn a year from the global economy. Agriculture will become increasingly difficult, with more people displaced as a result, searching for liveable conditions elsewhere.

According to the NOAA, large areas in the west and southwest U.S. have experienced abnormally dry to exceptional drought conditions that stress water resources and present challenges to farmers, ranchers, water resource managers, and energy utilities. These water deficits appear to be part of a long-term trend toward drier conditions in the west and southwest.

Currently, 20 times more is being spent on reducing emissions than building resilience to the effects of rising temperatures and extreme weather, according to the Commission on Adaptation. That seems patently unbalanced, and neglecting adaptation is putting millions of people and their livelihoods in danger now, as well as storing up problems for the future.

Preventing the problem seems more valuable than preparing to live with it. That said, Richmond, a low lying city just south of Vancouver in British Columbia, has already begun preparing for higher sea levels.

What’s more, money invested today will pay dividends in the near future. Spending less than $2tn by 2030 would result in more than $7tn saved in damage avoided and better economic growth. These sums sound huge, but are a fraction of the amount the world will spend on infrastructure in the next decade.

Money “invested” in government programs has a poor track record in paying any dividends, far less yielding “better economic growth”. On the other hand, pure capitalism will lead, as it has been doing, to a tragedy of the commons.

And modern adaptation means more than building seawalls. Restoring natural features, such as mangrove swamps and wetlands, can do far more to protect coastal regions, as well as nurturing biodiversity and tourism. New technology will play a key role, as early warnings of extreme weather give people time to take shelter or protect their property. Engineering climate-ready infrastructure encompasses everything from porous pavements to urban trees to provide shade.

And, as pointed out in this article, such adaptation tactics are affordable in affluent countries, but not in their poorer cousins.

What’s clear is that we need to adapt and build resilience now, because climate change is no longer a comfortably faraway problem. The predicted ravages have come sooner than expected: heatwaves over much of the northern hemisphere last year, floods and extreme weather in south-east Asia, Arctic ice melting at unprecedented levels this summer, and Hurricane Dorian, one of the strongest ever recorded. Worse still, some of these effects are likely themselves to increase temperatures further, in a series of feedback loops. The fires in the Amazon are destroying a vital “carbon sink”.

It’s hard to take this article seriously when this last claim has been debunked by the New York Times (What Satellite Imagery Tells Us About the Amazon Rain Forest Fires): “Scientists studying satellite image data from the fires in the Amazon rain forest said that most of the fires are burning on agricultural land where the forest had already been cleared.”

It is tempting, in the face of these events, to suggest that the game is up for trying to prevent climate change. The emissions reductions needed to stop it are so vast, and the changes to our way of life so total, that it may seem like all we can do is adapt to the consequences. The hastening prospect of a “climate apartheid” is morally revolting as well as politically alarming, and could lead to a kind of paralysis.

The challenge of reducing CO2 emissions can only be solved by the biggest emitters.


Trying to adapt to the consequences of climate change while continuing to burn fossil fuels is like trying to mop up an overflowing sink while the taps are still running. As long as we continue to pump CO2 into the air, we are fuelling rises in temperature. We cannot outrun global heating any more than we can hold back the rising sea with dykes. And the fires blazing through the Amazon show that without action, things could easily get much worse.

As stated above, the fires in the Amazon are largely unrelated to global warming. Also, we can hold back the rising sea with dykes, as the Netherlands has been doing for centuries.

It can seem that in a world of finite resources, we need to make a binary decision about where to put our efforts. That is an illusion. The truth is that dealing with the climate emergency requires an across-the-board approach, for the simple reason that all of our resources – economic, physical, social – are at stake. If we do not throw everything we can at the problem, there won’t be much left anyway. In short, there is no wall high enough to keep out the consequences of inaction on emissions.

In a world of finite resources, we absolutely must choose where to expend them. All of our resources are not “at stake”. In fact, for much of the world, the more climate change there is, the better off we will be. See Global Warming: Crisis? What Crisis? where I discuss a Moody’s Analytics report that says that Sweden, Canada, and Germany will all benefit from global warming, and that the US will have negligible harm done to it’s GDP.

This article is typical of news articles about global warming in that it mixes facts with overblown predictions and downright falsehoods. As stated above, even the UN has been caught crying wolf. If you want to convince people that we should spend tax money on fighting or adapting to global warming, stop promulgating fake news about hurricanes and forest fires.

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Canadian Election Polls

A great site for polling information for the upcoming federal election can be found at – Poll Analysis and Electoral Projections. The main page has seat (number of ridings won) projections as well as popular vote. You can drill in to see provinces and then the projected vote in individual ridings.

As of the day the election was officially called, September 11, 2019, the projected popular vote is:


Of course, as in the US, popular vote doesn’t mean much. The projected number of seats each party will win is:


Note the huge error bands around these projections.

Go check the projections for your riding and see if one of the parties you support has a chance of winning, or if you might as well just protest vote.

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End of Democracy Due to Loss of Elite Control?


Everything was unfolding as it usually does. The academics who gathered in Lisbon this summer for the International Society of Political Psychologists’ annual meeting had been politely listening for four days, nodding along as their peers took to the podium and delivered papers on everything from the explosion in conspiracy theories to the rise of authoritarianism.

A group of entitled academics use government grants funded by our taxes to fly to Portugal.

Then, the mood changed … 68-year-old Shawn Rosenberg, … a professor at UC Irvine, was challenging a core assumption about America and the West. His theory? Democracy is devouring itself—his phrase — and it won’t last.

Interesting. Is he referring to the anti-democratic European Union? To the Oligarchs of Russia? To the totalitarian Chinese? Let’s read on.

As much as President Donald Trump’s liberal critics might want to lay America’s ills at his door, Rosenberg says the president is not the cause of democracy’s fall—even if Trump’s successful anti-immigrant populist campaign may have been a symptom of democracy’s decline.

OK, at least he is not simply Trump bashing.

Democracy is hard work. And as society’s “elites”—experts and public figures who help those around them navigate the heavy responsibilities that come with self-rule—have increasingly been sidelined, citizens have proved ill equipped cognitively and emotionally to run a well-functioning democracy. As a consequence, the center has collapsed and millions of frustrated and angst-filled voters have turned in desperation to right-wing populists.

So people are turning to populists like Trump because they’re dumb? Yep, this sounds elitist. Why does Rosenberg think the so-called “experts” have been sidelined?

A brief three decades after some had heralded the “end of history” it’s possible that it’s democracy that’s nearing the end. And it’s not just populist rabble-rousers who are saying this. So is one of the establishment’s pioneer social scientists, who’s daring to actually predict the end of democracy as we know it.

What populist is saying this? Populists rely on democracy to give them power.

Rosenberg, who earned degrees at Yale, Oxford and Harvard, may be the social scientist for our time if events play out as he suggests they will. His theory is that over the next few decades, the number of large Western-style democracies around the globe will continue to shrink, and those that remain will become shells of themselves. Taking democracy’s place, Rosenberg says, will be right-wing populist governments that offer voters simple answers to complicated questions.

It seems more likely that populists will preserve democracy from antidemocratic globalist institutions like the European Union and the United Nations.

Citing reams of psychological research, findings that by now have become more or less familiar, Rosenberg makes his case that human beings don’t think straight. Biases of various kinds skew our brains at the most fundamental level. For example, racism is easily triggered unconsciously in whites by a picture of a black man wearing a hoodie. We discount evidence when it doesn’t square up with our goals while we embrace information that confirms our biases. Sometimes hearing we’re wrong makes us double down. And so on and so forth.


Our brains, says Rosenberg, are proving fatal to modern democracy. Humans just aren’t built for it. People have been saying for two millennia that democracy is unworkable, going back to Plato. The Founding Fathers were sufficiently worried that they left only one half of one branch of the federal government in the hands of the people. And yet for two centuries democracy in America more or less proceeded apace without blowing itself up.

A democracy established by a bunch of libertarian farmers has persisted for two centuries, but today people are just too stupid for it to continue.

He has concluded that the reason for right-wing populists’ recent success is that “elites” are losing control of the institutions that have traditionally saved people from their most undemocratic impulses. When people are left to make political decisions on their own they drift toward the simple solutions right-wing populists worldwide offer: a deadly mix of xenophobia, racism and authoritarianism.

Elite control is not democracy. It is oligarchy. Because people are escaping the matrix of the government/media elites, they are making democratic political decision to say no to their “betters”. For this, the elites call them out as xenophobes and racists. It is the age old call of “Back to the plantation!”

The elites, as Rosenberg defines them, are the people holding power at the top of the economic, political and intellectual pyramid who have “the motivation to support democratic culture and institutions and the power to do so effectively.”

Yet they don’t listen to the will of the people. They support a false idol of democracy where corporations, the political establishment and the military industry grow ever richer, and the average citizen grows slowly poorer as the elites devalue the world’s currencies with endless debt and quantitative easing.

But today that is changing. Thanks to social media and new technologies, anyone with access to the Internet can publish a blog and garner attention for their cause—even if it’s rooted in conspiracy and is based on a false claim, like the lie that Hillary Clinton was running a child sex ring from the basement of a Washington D.C. pizza parlor, which ended in a shooting.

But they can also point out the hypocrisy of the main stream media who produced endless reports of Russian collusion that turned out to be the ultimate conspiracy theory. Yes, the elites largely controlled the narrative before the internet. No, that was not a good thing.

While the elites formerly might have successfully squashed conspiracy theories and called out populists for their inconsistencies, today fewer and fewer citizens take the elites seriously.

Why would they? Academia spouts socialist propaganda. The media promotes their own conspiracy theories and biased viewpoints relentlessly, hardly bothering to even pretend that they are impartially covering the news.

Now that people get their news from social media rather than from established newspapers or the old three TV news networks (ABC, CBS and NBC), fake news proliferates. It’s surmised that 10 million people saw on Facebook the false claim that Pope Francis came out in favor of Trump’s election in 2016. Living in a news bubble of their own making many undoubtedly believed it. (This was the most-shared news story on Facebook in the three months leading up to the 2016 election, researchers report.)

NBC and CNN’s 2 year promotion of the Russiagate conspiracy theory is surely much worse.

The irony is that more democracy—ushered in by social media and the Internet, where information flows more freely than ever before—is what has unmoored our politics, and is leading us towards authoritarianism. Rosenberg argues that the elites have traditionally prevented society from becoming a totally unfettered democracy; their “oligarchic ‘democratic’ authority” or “democratic control” has until now kept the authoritarian impulses of the populace in check.

This is only true if you define democracy as authoritarianism. Oligarchic democratic authority is an oxymoronic word salad. The desire of the populace for leaders who aren’t bought and paid for by the elites is hardly an authoritarian impulse.

Compared with the harsh demands made by democracy, which requires a tolerance for compromise and diversity, right-wing populism is like cotton candy. Whereas democracy requires us to accept the fact that we have to share our country with people who think and look differently than we do, right-wing populism offers a quick sugar high. Forget political correctness. You can feel exactly the way you really want about people who belong to other tribes.

Democracy is government for the citizens, not for non-citizens. You can feel exactly the way you really want about people, because we don’t (yet) have thought police.

Right-wing populists don’t have to make much sense. They can simultaneously blame immigrants for taking jobs away from Americans while claiming that these same people are lazy layabouts sponging off welfare. All the populist followers care is that they now have an enemy to blame for their feelings of ennui.

If you have more than one immigrant, surely one can take a job, and the other can sponge off welfare. How does this not make sense? Denying that uncontrolled immigration won’t take jobs from our poorest citizens and put additional strain on the welfare system makes less sense.

And unlike democracy, which makes many demands, the populists make just one. They insist that people be loyal. Loyalty entails surrendering to the populist nationalist vision. But this is less a burden than an advantage. It’s easier to pledge allegiance to an authoritarian leader than to do the hard work of thinking for yourself demanded by democracy.

Except that they don’t. Trump didn’t get elected on a promise to reward loyalty. He got elected on the promise to bring back jobs, rebuild infrastructure, and secure the border. You can argue whether his goals make sense, and you can argue whether he is sincere. But you can’t believably claim that he’s an authoritarian leader.

“In sum, the majority of Americans are generally unable to understand or value democratic culture, institutions, practices or citizenship in the manner required,” Rosenberg has concluded. “To the degree to which they are required to do so, they will interpret what is demanded of them in distorting and inadequate ways. As a result they will interact and communicate in ways that undermine the functioning of democratic institutions and the meaning of democratic practices and values.”

This merely sounds like an elitist bemoaning the fact that the majority have finally realized that the demands of the elite are harmful to them. As Michael Moore said, Trump’s election was a huge F— You to the establishment.

I should clarify that the loud whispers in the crowd in Lisbon weren’t a response to Rosenberg’s pessimism. This was after all a meeting of political psychologists—a group who focus on flaws in voters’ thinking and the violation of democratic norms. At the conference Ariel Malka reported evidence that conservatives are increasingly open to authoritarianism. Brian Shaffer related statistics showing that since Trump’s election teachers have noted a rise in bullying.

The left seems far more interested in authoritarianism than the right.

Andreas Zick observed that racist crimes shot up dramatically in Germany after a million immigrants were allowed in.

How does this have anything to do with authoritarianism? This is a reaction of average people having to live with the consequences of elites who made decisions on their behalf.

What stirred the crowd was that Rosenberg has gone beyond pessimism into outright defeatism. What riled the crowd was that he’s seemingly embraced a kind of reverence for elitism no longer fashionable in the academy. When challenged on this front, he quickly insisted he didn’t mean to exempt himself from the claim that people suffer from cognitive and emotional limitations. He conceded that the psychological research shows everybody’s irrational, professors included! But it was unclear that he convinced the members of the audience he really meant it. And they apparently found this discomforting.

This is exactly what Scott Adams claims. Most people are irrational most of the time.

There were less discomforting moments in Lisbon. The convention gave an award to George Marcus, one of the founders of the discipline, who has dedicated his career to the optimistic theory that human beings by nature readjust their ideas to match the world as it is and not as they’d like it to be—just as democracy requires.

Yes, and the way the world actually is is being revealed. Populism is the readjustment. Will it be all good? Not likely, but bowing to the elites certainly wasn’t either.

But this isn’t a moment for optimism, is it? What is happening around the world shows that the far-right is on the march. And when it comes to the U.S., the problem might be larger than one man. Liberals have been praying for the end of the Trump presidency, but if Rosenberg is right, democracy will remain under threat no matter who is in power.

Winston S. ChurchillTrump is not far-right. By constantly calling him alt-right Hitler, the media gives coverage to the real far-right. Trump was democratically elected. Stop whining and put forward a candidate who the majority recognize as a better alternative. In the words of Churchill, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.” One of its greatest properties is that, when the wheels of power have been bent to the will of the elites, the people have the power to throw your asses out.

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