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Thread: Will America Break Up?

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    California’s New Feudalism Benefits a Few at the Expense of the Multitude

    October 5, 2013

    California has been the source of much innovation, from agribusiness and oil to fashion and the digital world. Historically much richer than the rest of the country, it was also the birthplace, along with Levittown, of the mass-produced suburb, freeways, much of our modern entrepreneurial culture, and of course mass entertainment. For most of a century, for both better and worse, California has defined progress, not only for America but for the world.

    As late as the 80s, California was democratic in a fundamental sense, a place for outsiders and, increasingly, immigrants—roughly 60 percent of the population was considered middle class. Now, instead of a land of opportunity, California has become increasingly feudal. According to recent census estimates, the state suffers some of the highest levels of inequality in the country. By some estimates, the state’s level of inequality compares with that of such global models as the Dominican Republic, Gambia, and the Republic of the Congo.

    At the same time, the Golden State now suffers the highest level of poverty in the country—23.5 percent compared to 16 percent nationally—worse than long-term hard luck cases like Mississippi. It is also now home to roughly one-third of the nation’s welfare recipients, almost three times its proportion of the nation’s population.

    Like medieval serfs, increasing numbers of Californians are downwardly mobile, and doing worse than their parents: native born Latinos actually have shorter lifespans than their parents, according to one recent report. Nor are things expected to get better any time soon. According to a recent Hoover Institution survey, most Californians expect their incomes to stagnate in the coming six months, a sense widely shared among the young, whites, Latinos, females, and the less educated.

    Some of these trends can be found nationwide, but they have become pronounced and are metastasizing more quickly in the Golden State. As late as the 80s, the state was about as egalitarian as the rest of the country. Now, for the first time in decades, the middle class is a minority, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.

    The Role Of The Tech Oligarchs

    California produces more new billionaires than any place this side of oligarchic Russia or crony capitalist China. By some estimates the Golden State is home to one out of every nine of the world’s billionaires. In 2011 the state was home to 90 billionaires, 20 more than second place New York and more than twice as many as booming Texas.


    The state’s digital oligarchy, surely without intention, is increasingly driving the state’s lurch towards feudalism. Silicon Valley’s wealth reflects the fortunes of a handful of companies that dominate an information economy that itself is increasingly oligopolistic. In contrast to the traditionally conservative or libertarian ethos of the entrepreneurial class, the oligarchy is increasingly allied with the nominally populist Democratic Party and its regulatory agenda. Along with the public sector, Hollywood, and their media claque, they present California as “the spiritual inspiration” for modern “progressives” across the country.

    Through their embrace of and financial support for the state’s regulatory regime, the oligarchs have made job creation in non tech-businesses—manufacturing, energy, agriculture—increasingly difficult through “green energy” initiatives that are also sure to boost already high utility costs. One critic, state Democratic Senator Roderick Wright from heavily minority Inglewood, compares the state’s regulatory regime to the “vig” or high interest charged by the Mafia, calling it a major reason for disinvestment in many industries.

    Yet even in Silicon Valley, the expansion of prosperity has been extraordinarily limited. Due to enormous losses suffered in the current tech bubble, tech job creation in Silicon Valley has barely reached its 2000 level. In contrast, previous tech booms, such as the one in the 90s, doubled the ranks of the tech community. Some, like UC Berkeley economist Enrico Moretti, advance the dubious claim that those jobs are more stable than those created in Texas. But even if we concede that point for the moment, the Valley’s growth primarily benefits its denizens but not most Californians. Since the recession, California remains down something like 500,000 jobs, a 3.5 percent loss, while its Lone Star rival has boosted its employment by a remarkable 931,000, a gain of more than 9 percent.

    Much of this has to do with the changing nature of California’s increasingly elite—driven economy. Back in the 80s and even the 90s, the state’s tech sector produced industrial jobs that sparked prosperity not only in places like Palo Alto, but also in the more hardscrabble areas in San Jose and even inland cities such as Sacramento. The once huge California aerospace industry, centered in Los Angeles, employed hundreds of thousands, not only engineers but skilled technicians, assemblers, and administrators.

    This picture has changed over the past decade. California’s tech manufacturing sector has shrunk, and those employed in Silicon Valley are increasingly well-compensated programmers, engineers and marketers. There has been little growth in good-paying blue collar or even middle management jobs. Since 2001 state production of “middle skill” jobs—those that generally require two years of training after high-school—have grown roughly half as quickly as the national average and one-tenth as fast as similar jobs in arch-rival Texas.

    “The job creation has changed,” says Leslie Parks, a long-time San Jose economic development official. “We used to be the whole food chain and create all sorts of middle class jobs. Now, increasingly, we don’t design the future—we just think about it. That makes some people rich, but not many.”

    In the midst of the current Silicon Valley boom, incomes for local Hispanics and African-Americans, who together account for one third of the population, have actually declined—18 percent for blacks and 5 percent for Latinos between 2009 and 2011, prompting one local booster to admit that “Silicon Valley is two valleys. There is a valley of haves, and a valley of have-nots.”

    The Geography of Inequality

    Geography, caste, and land ownership increasingly distinguish California’s classes from one another. As Silicon Valley, San Francisco, and the wealthier suburbs in the Bay Area have enjoyed steady income growth during the current bubble, much of the state, notes economist Bill Watkins, endures Depression-like conditions, with stretches of poverty more reminiscent of a developing country than the epicenter of advanced capitalism.


    Once you get outside the Bay Area, unemployment in many of the state’s largest counties—Sacramento, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino, Fresno, and Oakland—soars into the double digits. Indeed, among the 20 American cities with the highest unemployment rates, a remarkable 11 are in California, led by Merced’s mind-boggling 22 percent rate.

    This amounts to what conservative commentator Victor Davis Hanson has labeled “liberal apartheid,” a sharp divide between a well-heeled, mostly white and Asian population located along the California coast, and a largely poor, heavily Latino working class in the interior. But the class divide is also evident within the large metro areas, despite their huge concentrations of affluent individuals. Los Angeles, for example, has the third highest rate of inequality of the nation’s 51 largest metropolitan areas, and the Bay Area ranks seventh.

    The current surge of California triumphalism, trumpeted mostly by the ruling Democrats and their eastern media allies, seems to ignore the reality faced by residents in many parts of the state. The current surge of wealth among the coastal elites, boosted by rises in property, stock, and other assets, has staved off a much feared state bankruptcy. Yet the the state’s more intractible problems cannot be addressed if growth remains restricted to a handful of favored areas and industries. This will become increasingly clear when, as is inevitable, the current tech and property boom fades, depriving the state of the taxes paid by high income individuals.

    The gap between the oligarchic class and everyone else seems increasingly permanent. A critical component of assuring class mobility, California’s once widely admired public schools were recently ranked near the absolute bottom in the country. Think about this: despite the state’s huge tech sector, California eighth graders scored 47th out of the 51 states in science testing. No wonder Mark Zuckerberg and other oligarchs are so anxious to import “techno coolies” from abroad.

    As in medieval times, land ownership, particularly along the coast, has become increasingly difficult for those not in the upper class. In 2012, four California markets—San Jose, San Francisco, San Diego, and Los Angeles—ranked as the most unaffordable relative to income in the nation. The impact of these prices falls particularly on the poor. According to the Center for Housing Policy and National Housing Conference, 39 percent of working households in the Los Angeles metropolitan area spend more than half their income on housing, as do 35 percent in the San Francisco metro area—both higher than 31 percent in the New York area and well above the national rate of 24 percent. This is likely to get much worse given that California median housing prices rose 31 percent in the year ending May 2013. In the Bay Area the increase was an amazing 43 percent.

    Even skilled workers are affected by these prices. An analysis done for National Core, a major developer of low income housing, found that prices in such areas as Orange County are so high that even a biomedical engineer earning more than $100,000 a year could not afford to buy a home there. This, as well as the unbalanced economy, has weakened California’s hold on aspirational families, something that threatens the very dream that has attracted millions to the state.

    This is a far cry from the 50s and 60s, when California abounded in new owner-occupied single family homes. Historian Sam Bass Warner suggested that this constituted “the glory of Los Angeles and an expression of its design for living.” Yet today the L.A. home ownership rate, like that of New York, stands at about half the national average of 65 percent. This is particularly true among working class and minority households. Atlanta’s African-American home ownership rate is approximately 40 percent above that of San Jose or Los Angeles, and approximately 50 percent higher than San Francisco.

    This feudalizing trend is likely to worsen due to draconian land regulations that will put the remaining stock of single family houses ever further out of reach, something that seems related to a reduction in child-bearing in the state. As the “Ozzie and Harriet” model erodes, many Californians end up as modern day land serfs, renting and paying someone else’s mortgage. If they seek to start a family, their tendency is to look elsewhere, ironically even in places such as Oklahoma and Texas, places that once sent eager migrants to the Golden State.

    Breaking Down the New Feudalism: The Emerging Class Structure

    The emerging class structure of neo-feudalism, like its European and Asian antecedents, is far more complex than simply a matter of the gilded “them” and the broad “us.” To work as a system, as we can now see in California, we need to understand the broader, more divergent class structure that is emerging.

    The Oligarchs: The swelling number of billionaires in the state, particularly in Silicon Valley, has enhanced power that is emerging into something like the old aristocratic French second estate. Through public advocacy and philanthropy, the oligarchs have tended to embrace California’s “green” agenda, with a very negative impact on traditional industries such as manufacturing, agriculture, energy, and construction. Like the aristocrats who saw all value in land, and dismissed other commerce as unworthy, they believe all value belongs to those who own the increasingly abstracted information revolution than has made them so fabulously rich.

    The Clerisy:
    The Oligarchs may have the money, but by themselves they cannot control a huge state like California, much less America. Gentry domination requires allies with a broader social base and their own political power. In the Middle Ages, this role was played largely by the church; in today’s hyper-secular America, the job of shaping the masses has fallen to the government apparat, the professoriat, and the media, which together constitute our new Clerisy. The Clerisy generally defines societal priorities, defends “right-thinking” oligarchs, and chastises those, like traditional energy companies, that deviate from their theology.

    The New Serfs: If current trends continue, the fastest growing class will be the permanently property-less. This group includes welfare recipients and other government dependents but also the far more numerous working poor. In the past, the working poor had reasonable aspirations for a better life, epitomized by property ownership or better prospects for their children. Now, with increasingly little prospect of advancement, California’s serfs depend on the Clerisy to produce benefits making their permanent impoverishment less gruesome. This sad result remains inevitable as long as the state’s economy bifurcates between a small high-wage, tech-oriented sector, and an expanding number of lower wage jobs in hospitality, health services, and personal service jobs. As a result, the working class, stunted in their drive to achieve the California dream, now represents the largest portion of domestic migrants out of the state.

    The Yeomanry:
    In neo-feudalist California, the biggest losers tend to be the old private sector middle class. This includes largely small business owners, professionals, and skilled workers in traditional industries most targeted by regulatory shifts and higher taxes. Once catered to by both parties, the yeomanry have become increasingly irrelevant as California has evolved into a one-party state where the ruling Democrats have achieved a potentially permanent, sizable majority consisting largely of the clerisy and the serf class, and funded by the oligarchs. Unable to influence government and largely disdained by the clerisy, these middle income Californians are becoming a permanent outsider group, much like the old Third Estate in early medieval times, forced to pay ever higher taxes as well as soaring utility bills and required to follow regulations imposed by people who often have little use for their “middle class” suburban values.

    The Political Implications of Neo-Feudalism

    As Marx, among others, has suggested, class structures contain within them the seeds of their dissolution. In New York, a city that is arguably as feudal as anything in California, the emergence of mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio reflected growing antagonism—particularly among the remaining yeoman and serf class— towards the gentry urbanism epitomized by Mayor Michael “Luxury City” Bloomberg.

    Yet except for occasional rumbling from the left, neo-feudalism likely represents the future. Certainly in California, Gov. Jerry Brown, a former Jesuit with the intellectual and political skills needed to oversee a neo-feudal society, remains all but unassailable politically. If Brown, or his policies, are to be contested, the challenge will likely come from left-wing activists who find his policies insufficiently supportive of the spending demanded by the clerisy and the serfs or insufficiently zealous in their pursuit of environmental purity.

    The economy in California and elsewhere likely will determine the viability of neo-feudalism. If a weaker economy forces state and local government budget cutbacks, there could be a bruising conflict as the various classes fight over diminishing spoils. But it’s perhaps more likely that we will see enough slow growth so that Brown will be able to keep both the clerisy and the serfs sufficiently satisfied. If that is the case, the new feudal system could shape the evolution of the American class structure for decades to come.



    The end-game when Liberals run the show and import millions of Third Worlders.

    Some reinforcement of the above...


    Where Even the Middle Class Can't Afford to Live Any More

    High-cost cities tend to have higher median incomes, which leads to the simple heuristic that, sure, it's costlier to live in San Francisco than in Akron, but the people who pay bills there make enough money that they can afford it.

    In reality, yes, the median household income in metropolitan San Francisco is higher than it is in Akron (by about $30,000). But that smaller income will buy you much, much more in Ohio. To be more specific, if you make the median income in Akron – a good proxy for a spot in the local middle class – 86 percent of the homes on the market there this month are likely within your budget.

    If you're middle-class in San Francisco, on the other hand, that figure is just 14 percent. Your money will buy you no more than 1,000 square feet on average. That property likely isn't located where you'd like to live. And the options available to you on the market are even fewer than they were just a year ago, according to data crunched by Trulia. To frame this another way, the median income in metro San Francisco is about 60 percent higher than it is in Akron. But the median for-sale housing price per square foot today is about 700 percent higher.

    The gulf between those two numbers means that the most expensive U.S. cities aren't just unaffordable for the average American middle-class family; they're unaffordable to the relatively well-off middle class by local standards, too.

    To use an even more extreme example, the median income in metropolitan New York is about $56,000 (including families in the surrounding suburbs). If someone making that much money wanted to buy a home on the market this October in Manhattan, the most expensive home they could afford would cost about $274,000. A mere 2.5 percent of for-sale housing that's available in Manhattan now costs that little. Oh – and those properties are averaging 500 square feet.

    Trulia ran these numbers based on the assumption that a family shouldn't spend more than 31 percent of its pre-tax income on housing (and that it must pay local property taxes and insurance). This data also assumes that a family makes a 20 percent down payment on a home – a daunting feat even on a six-figure income in somewhere like Los Angeles or New York.

    By those calculations, these 10 metros are the least affordable, using Census data on median incomes (note that the data refers to metros, not cities):



    In San Francisco, a household making $78,840 a year can top out buying a home worth about $409,000. 24 percent of the homes for sale in the area were below that threshold last October. Now it's just 14 percent. In fact, in every one of those 10 metros, a smaller share of homes are considered affordable now to the middle class than last year.

    The same trend is true even in those metros where the vast majority of housing is accessible on a local median income:



    Affordability is effectively declining as home prices are rising (and at a much faster rate than median incomes). Within the most expensive metros, the most affordable housing is also located in the areas that require some of the longest commutes. In metro New York, for instance, the Bronx and Nassau County are home to the bulk of the most affordable housing in the region.

    Or, there's always a move to Akron. Here is the full data from the 100 metros that Trulia examined:


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    42% Identify with Obama Politically, 42% with the Tea Party

    October 29, 2013

    Voters are evenly divided when asked whether they agree more politically with President Obama or with the average member of the Tea Party. But an enormous partisan gap colors virtually all opinions of the Tea Party.

    A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 42% of Likely U.S. Voters think the president’s views are closest to their own when it comes to the major issues facing the country. But just as many (42%) say their views come closest to those of the average Tea Party member instead. Sixteen percent (16%) are not sure. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

    This marks a small setback for the Tea Party from April 2010 when 48% felt closest to the average Tea Party member, while 44% said they had more in common with the president.

    Thirty-four percent (34%) now believe their personal views are closest to those of the average member of Congress when it comes to the major issues of the day. But slightly more (36%) say their views are closest to those of the average member of the Tea Party. A sizable 30%, however, are not sure.

    Opposition by Tea Party Republicans to the president’s national health care law has been blamed for the recent government shutdown, and just 30% of voters now have a favorable opinion of the Tea Party. That’s back to the level seen in January and down from a high of 44% in May after it was disclosed that the Internal Revenue Service was targeting Tea Party and other conservative groups. Fifty percent (50%) regard the small government grass roots movement unfavorably, while 19% are undecided.

    But 32% feel the Tea Party has become more influential over the past year, up from 25% in late August before the shutdown began.Twenty-eight percent (28%) say the Tea Party is less influential now. Thirty-three percent (33%) say the group’s influence is about the same.

    One-in-three voters (34%) considers the Tea Party movement good for the county, but 43% describe it as bad for America. Thirteen percent (13%) say neither is the case. These findings have changed little since early January.

    The survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted on October 26-27, 2013 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

    Even prior to the shutdown, voters who approve of the president’s job performance were slightly more likely to consider the Tea Party a bigger terrorist threat to the United States than radical Muslims. At the same time, 78% of Republican voters think it’s important for their party leaders to work with the Tea Party, with 45% who consider it Very Important.

    But then 57% of GOP voters have a favorable opinion of the Tea Party movement. Seventy-seven percent (77%) of Democrats and a plurality (47%) of voters not affiliated with either major party view the movement unfavorably.

    Sixty-three percent (63%) of Republicans think the Tea Party is good for the country, but 72% of Democrats see it as a bad thing. Among unaffiliated voters, 42% say it’s good for the country, 37% say bad.

    When it comes to the major issues facing the nation, 77% of Democrats say Obama’s views are closest to their own. Seventy-six percent (76%) of Republicans and 51% of unaffiliated voters identify more closely with the average member of the Tea Party.

    Fifty-nine percent (59%) of voters in the president’s party say the views of the average member of Congress are closest to their own. Sixty-seven percent (67%) of Republicans say the views of the average member of the Tea Party are closest to what they think. Unaffiliated voters are more likely to identify with the Tea Party, but 38% of these voters are undecided.

    The partisan gap is a lot narrower when it comes to the influence of the Tea Party these days. Republicans and unaffiliated voters tend to think the movement is more influential, while Democrats are more inclined to see it as less influential.

    Overwhelming majorities of Mainstream voters identify more with the average Tea Party member than with either the president or the average member of Congress. Pluralities of the Political Class agree more with Obama and Congress.

    Interestingly, while voters are more critical of the Tea Party, they continue to identify with the movement’s smaller government/lower taxes message. Sixty-two percent (62%) think cutting spending rather than increasing it is the best thing the federal government can do to help the economy.

    Fifty-four percent (54%) want a long-term federal budget that cuts spending
    , but 64% think Congress is unlikely to reach such a deal in time to avoid another government shutdown in January.

    For the third week in a row, Democrats lead Republicans on the Generic Congressional Ballot. But 47% of voters believe neither party represents the American people.

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    42% Identify with Obama Politically, 42% with the Tea Party

    ...which means 58% of the population have the IQ of common garden vegetables.
    "Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."
    -- Theodore Roosevelt


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    ABC's Matthew Dowd Pines for Revolution Against American 'Apartheid'

    December 8, 2013

    Last week, former George W. Bush strategist Matthew Dowd offered up an archetypal example of what Harvard literature scholar Philip Fisher terms "nightmare envy," calling for the U.S. to face an Arab Spring-style uprising against economic inequality--or, as he called it, "our own version of apartheid here." He laments that Americans are not worthy of the same revolutionary spirit, perhaps because we "are preoccupied with video games."

    Dowd, who spent Sunday morning echoing Michael Eric Dyson's complaints about inequality, has fallen for one of American liberalism's most enduring fantasies--the celebration of what novelist Norman Rush called the "moment of insurrection," the fallacy that revolutionary zeal represents real change. In service of that moment of "forceful" yet "non-violent" change, Dowd hopes Americans will rise up outside the democratic process.

    That sort of hopeless romanticism is what animated the mainstream media's interest in the Occupy movement. It is quite common among liberal commentators, yet rather jarring coming from a self-styled conservative. Of course there has been a populist uprising already in the U.S.: namely, the Tea Party, which resisted the unequal "justice" of President Barack Obama's redistributionist agenda. Somehow, Dowd seemed not to have noticed.

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    "Your grandchildren will live under communism."
    “You Americans are so gullible.
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    Gaining Steam? Nearly 100 Lawmakers Descend on Mount Vernon to Talk Convention of States

    December 9, 2013

    Close to 100 legislators from 32 states met in Mount Vernon, Va., Saturday to discuss the possibility of adding amendments to the U.S. Constitution through a convention of the states.

    Such a convention, as outlined in article five of the Constitution, would allow state legislatures to vote on amendments to add.







    No constitutional amendment has been added this way, but some say the Constitution specifically allows for states to use the convention as a means to push back against the federal government.

    Two-thirds of the state legislatures, or 34, must approve an application for a convention to occur, according to the Constitution’s article five. State legislatures would then send delegates to the convention, each state getting one vote on proposed amendments. For an amendment to pass and become a part of the Constitution, it would have to be approved by three-fourths, or 38, of the state legislatures.





    Lawmakers on Saturday discussed term limits on U.S. lawmakers and certain limits on federal taxation and spending as possible amendments, Red Millennial noted.

    State legislators stressed Saturday the bipartisan nature of support for the discussed amendments, citing a recent poll that shows 74 percent of Americans support a balanced budget amendment while another 75 percent support congressional term limits.

    Saturday’s Mount Vernon meeting was organized by Indiana state Sen. David Long and Wisconsin Rep. Chris Kapenga.








    There has been growing support for the idea of a convention, but there is also healthy skepticism.

    Still, regardless of whether one thinks it’s a realistic idea, Virginia and South Carolina have both pre-filed applications for a convention, meaning some are taking the idea very seriously.




    Saturday’s meeting represents the most recent attempt by legislators to discuss seriously the possibility of adding amendments to the Constitution through a convention.

    You can see more lawmakers’ tweets here.

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    What are the odds that we will have enough of them standing up to this government finally to actually do something?

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    Are you a gamer?

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/201...ft-second-life

    Xbox Live among game services targeted by US and UK spy agencies

    NSA and GCHQ collect gamers' chats and deploy real-life agents into World of Warcraft and Second Life

    Read the NSA document: Exploiting Terrorist Use of Games & Virtual Environments
    Beta






    World of Warcraft: the NSA described games communities as a 'target-rich network' where potential terrorists could 'hide in plain sight'.



    To the National Security Agency analyst writing a briefing to his superiors, the situation was clear: their current surveillance efforts were lacking something. The agency's impressive arsenal of cable taps and sophisticated hacking attacks was not enough.

    What it really needed was a horde of undercover Orcs.


    That vision of spycraft sparked a concerted drive by the NSA and its UK sister agency GCHQ to infiltrate the massive communities playing online games, according to secret documents disclosed by whistleblower Edward Snowden.


    The files were obtained by the Guardian and are being published on Monday in partnership with the New York Times and ProPublica.


    The agencies, the documents show, have built mass-collection capabilities against the Xbox Live console network, which has more than 48 million players. Real-life agents have been deployed into virtual realms, from those Orc hordes in World of Warcraft to the human avatars of Second Life. There were attempts, too, to recruit potential informants from the games' tech-friendly users.


    Online gaming is big business, attracting tens of millions of users worldwide who inhabit their digital worlds as make-believe characters, living and competing with the avatars of other players. What the intelligence agencies feared, however, was that among these clans of elves and goblins, terrorists were lurking.


    The NSA document, written in 2008 and titled Exploiting Terrorist Use of Games & Virtual Environments, stressed the risk of leaving games communities under-monitored, describing them as a "target-rich communications network" where intelligence targets could "hide in plain sight".


    Games, the analyst wrote, "are an opportunity!". According to the briefing notes, so many different US intelligence agents were conducting operations inside games that a "deconfliction" group was required to ensure they weren't spying on, or interfering with, each other.


    If properly exploited, games could produce vast amounts of intelligence, according to the NSA document. They could be used as a window for hacking attacks, to build pictures of people's social networks through "buddylists and interaction", to make approaches by undercover agents, and to obtain target identifiers (such as profile photos), geolocation, and collection of communications.


    The ability to extract communications from talk channels in games would be necessary, the NSA paper argued, because of the potential for them to be used to communicate anonymously: Second Life was enabling anonymous texts and planning to introduce voice calls, while game noticeboards could, it states, be used to share information on the web addresses of terrorism forums.


    Given that gaming consoles often include voice headsets, video cameras, and other identifiers, the potential for joining together biometric information with activities was also an exciting one.


    But the documents contain no indication that the surveillance ever foiled any terrorist plots, nor is there any clear evidence that terror groups were using the virtual communities to communicate as the intelligence agencies predicted.


    The operations raise concerns about the privacy of gamers. It is unclear how the agencies accessed their data, or how many communications were collected. Nor is it clear how the NSA ensured that it was not monitoring innocent Americans whose identity and nationality may have been concealed behind their virtual avatar.


    The California-based producer of World of Warcraft said neither the NSA nor GCHQ had sought its permission to gather intelligence inside the game. "We are unaware of any surveillance taking place," said a spokesman for Blizzard Entertainment. "If it was, it would have been done without our knowledge or permission."


    Microsoft declined to comment on the latest revelations, as did Philip Rosedale, the founder of Second Life and former CEO of Linden Lab, the game's operator. The company's executives did not respond to requests for comment.


    The NSA declined to comment on the surveillance of games. A spokesman for GCHQ said the agency did not "confirm or deny" the revelations but added: "All GCHQ's work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework which ensures that its activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate, and there is rigorous oversight, including from the secretary of state, the interception and intelligence services commissioners and the intelligence and security committee."


    Though the spy agencies might have been relatively late to virtual worlds and the communities forming there, once the idea had been mooted, they joined in enthusiastically.


    In May 2007, the then-chief operating officer of Second Life gave a "brown-bag lunch" address at the NSA explaining how his game gave the government "the opportunity to understand the motivation, context and consequent behaviours of non-Americans through observation, without leaving US soil".


    One problem the paper's unnamed author and others in the agency faced in making their case – and avoiding suspicion that their goal was merely to play computer games at work without getting fired – was the difficulty of proving terrorists were even thinking about using games to communicate.


    A 2007 invitation to a secret internal briefing noted "terrorists use online games – but perhaps not for their amusement. They are suspected of using them to communicate secretly and to transfer funds." But the agencies had no evidence to support their suspicions.


    The same still seemed to hold true a year later, albeit with a measure of progress: games data that had been found in connection with internet protocol addresses, email addresses and similar information linked to terrorist groups.


    "Al-Qaida terrorist target selectors and … have been found associated with Xbox Live, Second Life, World of Warcraft, and other GVEs [games and virtual environments]," the document notes. "Other targets include Chinese hackers, an Iranian nuclear scientist, Hizballah, and Hamas members."


    However, that information wasn not enough to show terrorists are hiding out as pixels to discuss their next plot. Such data could merely mean someone else in an internet cafe was gaming, or a shared computer had previously been used to play games.
    That lack of knowledge of whether terrorists were actually plotting online emerges in the document's recommendations: "The amount of GVEs in the world is growing but the specific ones that CT [counter-terrorism] needs to be methodically discovered and validated," it stated. "Only then can we find evidence that GVEs are being used for operational uses."


    Not actually knowing whether terrorists were playing games was not enough to keep the intelligence agencies out of them, however. According to the document, GCHQ had already made a "vigorous effort" to exploit games, including "exploitation modules" against Xbox Live and World of Warcraft.


    That effort, based in the agency's New Mission Development Centre in the Menwith Hill air force base in North Yorkshire, was already paying dividends by May 2008.


    At the request of GCHQ, the NSA had begun a deliberate effort to extract World of Warcraft metadata from their troves of intelligence, and trying to link "accounts, characters and guilds" to Islamic extremism and arms dealing efforts. A later memo noted that among the game's active subscribers were "telecom engineers, embassy drivers, scientists, the military and other intelligence agencies".


    The UK agency did not stop at World of Warcraft: by September a memo noted GCHQ had "successfully been able to get the discussions between different game players on Xbox Live".


    Meanwhile, the FBI, CIA, and the Defense Humint Service were all running human intelligence operations – undercover agents – within Second Life. In fact, so crowded were the virtual worlds with staff from the different agencies, that there was a need to try to "deconflict" their efforts – or, in other words, to make sure each agency wasn't just duplicating what the others were doing.


    By the end of 2008, such efforts had produced at least one usable piece of intelligence, according to the documents: following the successful takedown of a website used to trade stolen credit card details, the fraudsters moved to Second Life – and GCHQ followed, having gained their first "operational deployment" into the virtual world. This, they noted, put them in touch with an "avatar [game character] who helpfully volunteered information on the target group's latest activities".


    Second Life continued to occupy the intelligence agencies' thoughts throughout 2009. One memo noted the game's economy was "essentially unregulated" and so "will almost certainly be used as a venue for terrorist laundering and will, with certainty, be used for terrorist propaganda and recruitment".


    In reality, Second Life's surreal and uneven virtual world failed to attract or maintain the promised mass-audience, and attention (and its user base) waned, though the game lives on.


    The agencies had other concerns about games, beyond their potential use by terrorists to communicate. Much like the pressure groups that worry about the effect of computer games on the minds of children, the NSA expressed concerns that games could be used to "reinforce prejudices and cultural stereotypes", noting that Hezbollah had produced a game called Special Forces 2.


    According to the document, Hezbollah's "press section acknowledges [the game] is used for recruitment and training", serving as a "radicalising medium" with the ultimate goal of becoming a "suicide martyr". Despite the game's disturbing connotations, the "fun factor" of the game cannot be discounted, it states. As Special Forces 2 retails for $10, it concludes, the game also serves to "fund terrorist operations".


    Hezbollah is not, however, the only organisation to have considered using games for recruiting. As the NSA document acknowledges: they got the idea from the US army.


    "America's Army is a US army-produced game that is free [to] download from its recruitment page," says the NSA, noting the game is "acknowledged to be so good at this the army no longer needs to use it for recruitment, they use it for training".

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    Posted that under the NSA thread yesterday. Day late there Phil. LOL!

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    Florida Becomes Third State to Pre-File

    December 10, 2013

    Good news from the Sunshine State! Florida State Senator Alan Hays (R-Umatilla) filed SM 476 on Friday petitioning Congress to call an Article V Convention of States.

    Senator Hays stated, “Everywhere I go, people ask me what can be done to reform Washington, D.C. This petition to Congress to convene the Article V convention is the first step toward that reform. This ‘runaway’ Federal government is of great concern to Americans of all political parties and of all the states.”

    In filing the legislation, Senator Hays continued, “In their wisdom, our Founders knew the Federal Government might one day become too large and too powerful, so they specifically inserted a mechanism that gives states a lawful and orderly instrument to restrain a runaway federal government; it’s Article V, Section 2 of the Constitution.”

    So far, Florida, Virginia, and South Carolina have officially pre-filed our application in their state legislature. We have many more representatives interested in sponsoring our application, so be looking for your state as we announce more pre-filings in the next few weeks!

    These are huge steps towards calling a Convention of States, and we’re taking them right on schedule!

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    MARK LEVIN: Do Republicans not understand that the WHOLE DAMN THING IS GOING TO COLLAPSE?

    December 11, 2013

    Mark Levin reminds Republicans that while they are worried about preventing another government shutdown, the whole thing is going to shutdown and collapse because there isn’t enough money in the world to pay for the kind of spending that is going on right now:

    We have over a 90 trillion dollar unfunded liability… And ladies and gentlemen, soon it’s 100 trillion dollars. You know what that means? That means our kids and their kids and every future generation is going to be destroyed. Because there’s not enough currency on the face of the earth to address that.

    Then we have what’s called the fiscal operating debt. And I distinguish that from the unfunded liabilities, the entitlements, the fiscal operating debt built up from one budget after another – not even counting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. It’s almost 17.3 trillion dollars. When my book came out in August it was 17 trillion. 17.3 trillion dollars.

    And as a nation, we’re focused on 23 billion dollars over 10 years which is never going to happen? And the media running around talking about ‘wow, Washington actually works‘ and the Republicans saying ‘anything but a government shutdown.’

    Do they not understand that the whole damn thing is gonna shut down and collapse? And it won’t just be 17 percent of the government. It’ll be your savings. It’ll be your mutual funds. It’ll be your pensions. It’ll be the value of your paycheck. It’ll be your college fund. It’ll be EVERYTHING. Because once the spiral occurs there’s no undoing it. Because man makes a situation that cannot be fixed until there’s an ultimate collapse. It’s called the laws of economics and they are as serious and real as the laws of physics.

    There is much more and you can listen to the full clip below:

    (Video at the link)

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    Ryan, I'm not sure about this. Can you explain it?
    Good news from the Sunshine State! Florida State Senator Alan Hays (R-Umatilla) filed SM 476 on Friday petitioning Congress to call an Article V Convention of States.
    Are we talking a Constitutional Convention?

    I mean, this is what we're talking about, right?

    Article Five of the United States Constitution describes the process whereby the Constitution may be altered. Altering the Constitution consists of proposing an amendment or amendments and subsequent ratification.[1]
    Amendments may be proposed by either:


    To become part of the Constitution, amendments must then be ratified either by approval of:


    Any amendment so ratified becomes a valid part of the Constitution, provided that no state "shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the senate", without its consent.
    Because if true, then how the HELL are we going to get 38 states to do shit together?

    We're not. The only way this will happen is if revolution and shooting start. THEN they might (they being Senators and Congressassholes) might consider it.... not before.

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    here's the text:

    The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress.
    I just don't see how this is going to happen.

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    Yes, it would be an Article 5 Convention, what many people refer to as a Constitutional Convention.

    And you're right, getting 38 of the states to do anything will be a challenge but, it is really one of the few avenues left to solve the problems we are faced with short of bloodshed.

    That 38 state hurdle is also a good thing. It helps keep the Convention from "running away" like many people claim to fear.

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    Cuomo: ‘Extreme Conservatives … Have No Place In The State Of New York’

    January 17, 2014

    Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the current “schism” in the state Republican party is a smaller version of the split causing so much damage in Washington, D.C., and that “conservative Republicans … have no place in the state of New York, because that’s not who New Yorkers are.”

    In conversation with Susan Arbetter on “The Capitol Pressroom” Friday morning, Cuomo said:

    You have a schism within the Republican Party. … They’re searching to define their soul, that’s what’s going on. Is the Republican party in this state a moderate party or is it an extreme conservative party? That’s what they’re trying to figure out. It’s a mirror of what’s going on in Washington. The gridlock in Washington is less about Democrats and Republicans. It’s more about extreme Republicans versus moderate Republicans.

    … You’re seeing that play out in New York. … The Republican Party candidates are running against the SAFE Act — it was voted for by moderate Republicans who run the Senate! Their problem is not me and the Democrats; their problem is themselves. Who are they? Are they these extreme conservatives who are right-to-life, pro-assault-weapon, anti-gay? Is that who they are? Because if that’s who they are and they’re the extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York, because that’s not who New Yorkers are.

    If they’re moderate Republicans like in the Senate right now, who control the Senate — moderate Republicans have a place in their state. George Pataki was governor of this state as a moderate Republican; but not what you’re hearing from them on the far right.”

    The governor’s suggestion that, for example, those who hold anti-abortion views have no place in the state prompted Dennis Poust, spokesman for the state Catholic Conference, to observe on Twitter, “My governor thinks there’s no place in NY for people like me. Can I get a state grant to relocate?” (And where to — New Hampshire, maybe?)

    Cuomo also defended his immense campaign haul of more than $33 million.

    “Somebody can come in with personal wealth and just win the office because they can outspend you,” before alluding to Donald Trump’s boast that he could pour up to $200 million into a gubernatorial run: “You see some of the names brag about (how) they have unlimited wealth and can spend anything and could dwarf my spending, significant as my fundraising has been … and they’re proud about it, or they have family money, or daddy gives them money or whatever the case may be.

    ” … And I need to be in a position where I can explain to the people of the state what we’ve done and what we plan to do, and that’s why we raised the money in the campaign.”

    If you were waiting for a full-throated reiteration of the governor’s call for public financing of campaigns, he eventually got there, but mainly as “a matter of appearance.”

    “I think a lot of this conversation is baloney, frankly,” he said of concern over the wealth of many of his donors, insisting that the real question was one of character.

    “Some politicians out there can be bought for $10, and some politicians can’t be bought for $10 billion, you know? It’s a question about the person,” he said. ” … It’s not how much does it cost to buy a politician, it’s that a politician can be bought.” (Which is, as Newsday’s Yancey Roy noted on Twitter as the interview was going on, very similar to arguments that opponents of public financing have been making.)

    Cuomo said his ultimate test was whether or not he could sleep well at night.

    “I believe in my heart and I believe the people of this state believe that — forget the money and the campaign contributions and what people give — I’m going to do what I believe is right for them, I’m going to make the decision that I’m proud of,” he said.

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    Another Matt Bracken prophecy in the works to fulfillment?

    Latinos Set To Surpass Whites In California In March

    January 16, 2014

    California is growing older and more diverse.

    The Latino population is projected to surpass that of whites in California in March to become the single largest "race or ethnic group," according to a report on shifting demographics in Gov. Jerry Brown's 2014-15 budget proposal. Also, the number of residents 65 and older will jump by 20.7 percent over the next five years, the report said.

    State demographers expected Latinos to surpass the non-Hispanic white population seven months earlier, but Latino birth rates were lower than anticipated. Now, officials say, by March Latinos will make up 39 percent of California's population, edging out non-Hispanic whites at 38.8 percent. Nearly 25 years ago, non-Hispanic whites made up 57 percent of the state, while Latinos made up 26 percent.

    The state's Department of Finance includes the projections in the governor's budget proposal because of the potential economic impact, such as the increase in retirees affecting the scope of services needed for an aging population, or income disparities among minority groups increasing the need for social or educational programs.

    Reshaping the electorate


    "Demographic changes that are coming will reshape the electorate, and in turn that will likely have impacts on policies and issues that decision makers focus on in the coming decades," said Mindy Romero, director of the California Civic Engagement Project at the UC Davis Center for Regional Change.

    Geographic data for the state's 58 counties show the Bay Area is leading the state in economic and population growth, said Bill Schooling, chief demographer for the state Department of Finance. Statewide, coastal cities are growing faster than the Central Valley.

    As a state, California experienced modest growth in the past fiscal year, with estimates pegging the population at 38.2 million residents. By July, demographers anticipate the state's population will grow by 300,000 people.

    More old, fewer young

    Growth rates vary drastically between age groups, with retiring Baby Boomers projected to reshape the labor force in the next 15 years as more than 1,000 Californians will turn 65 years old each day. At the same time, lower birth rates have resulted in fewer young people, with the 18-to-24-year-old group experiencing a 4.5 percent decline and 5- to 17-year-olds increasing just 0.2 percent.

    "A big question mark is about what that means for policy for youth," Romero said. "Older voters often aren't as supportive of youth-specific policies."

    Schooling said the median age for Latinos - 28 - shows many are in their childbearing years, which will drive future growth among the group.

    "Considerably more births are Latino, even though the birth rate is not particularly high," he said.

    Schooling said new data suggest the current trend won't continue to the point of Latino groups becoming a majority. State demographers previously projected the Latino population to reach more than 50 percent in 2042.

    "In our projections, they get higher and higher, but not reaching a majority," Schooling said.

    Asian groups, which currently make up 13 percent of the state, are also projected to see strong growth, mostly through immigration.

    "It's less about one group being a couple tenths more of the population than another group, but more about a continuing trend for California being a majority-minority state," said Bruce Mirken, spokesman for the Greenlining Institute, a Berkeley nonprofit that advocates for communities of color. "Everything that government does, that private industry does, needs to react to that reality."

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    Thomas Sowell talking about the real possibility of race war and now Walter Williams talking about the need for the US to peacefully split. Hell of a way for him to start the new year...


    Parting Company

    Walter E. Williams
    January 1, 2014

    Here's a question that I've asked in the past that needs to be revisited. Unless one wishes to obfuscate, it has a simple yes or no answer. If one group of people prefers strong government control and management of people's lives while another group prefers liberty and desires to be left alone, should they be required to enter into conflict with one another and risk bloodshed and loss of life in order to impose their preferences on the other group? Yes or no. My answer is no; they should be able to peaceably part company and go their separate ways.

    The problem our nation faces is very much like a marriage in which one partner has an established pattern of ignoring and breaking the marital vows. Moreover, the offending partner has no intention to mend his ways. Of course, the marriage can remain intact while one party tries to impose his will on the other and engages in the deviousness of one-upsmanship and retaliation. Rather than domination or submission by one party, or domestic violence, a more peaceable alternative is separation.

    I believe our nation is at a point where there are enough irreconcilable differences between those Americans who want to control other Americans and those Americans who want to be left alone that separation is the only peaceable alternative. Just as in a marriage where vows are broken, our rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution have been grossly violated by a government instituted to protect them. These constitutional violations have increased independent of whether there's been a Democrat-controlled Washington or a Republican-controlled Washington.

    There is no evidence that Americans who are responsible for and support constitutional abrogation have any intention of mending their ways. You say, "Williams, what do you mean by constitutional abrogation?" Let's look at the magnitude of the violations.

    Article I, Section 8 of our Constitution lists the activities for which Congress is authorized to tax and spend. Nowhere on that list is there authority for Congress to tax and spend for: Medicare, Social Security, public education, farm subsidies, bank and business bailouts, food stamps and thousands of other activities that account for roughly two-thirds of the federal budget. Neither is there authority for congressional mandates to citizens about what type of health insurance they must purchase, how states and people may use their land, the speed at which they can drive, whether a library has wheelchair ramps, and the gallons of water used per toilet flush. The list of congressional violations of both the letter and spirit of the Constitution is virtually without end. Our derelict Supreme Court has given Congress sanction to do just about anything for which they can muster a majority vote.

    James Madison, the acknowledged father of the Constitution, explained in Federalist Paper No. 45: "The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce. ... The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives and liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement and prosperity of the State." Our founder's constitutional vision of limited federal government has been consigned to the dustbin of history.

    Americans have several options. We can like sheep submit to those who have contempt for liberty and our Constitution. We can resist, fight and risk bloodshed and death in an attempt to force America's tyrants to respect our liberties and Constitution. A superior alternative is to find a way to peaceably separate into states whose citizens respect liberty and the Constitution. My personal preference is a restoration of the constitutional values of limited government that made us a great nation.

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    Famed SciFi author Orson Scott Card wrote the following essay sometime after his 2007 book Empire as an afterword. There's no date attributed to it so I have no idea when it was written.

    I don't agree with his drawing an equivalency between left and right. On its face, the left seeks to impose its will on the nation while most all on the right want nothing more than to be left alone to their pursuits.

    Keeping Things Civil

    Afterword to the novel Empire

    by Orson Scott Card

    The originating premise of this novel did not come from me. Donald Mustard and his partners in Chair Enterainment had the idea for an entertainment franchise called Empire about a near-future American civil war. When I joined the project to create a work of fiction based on that premise, my first order of business was to come up with a plausible way that such an event might come about.

    It was, sadly enough, all too easy.

    Because we haven't had a civil war in the past fourteen decades, people think we can't have one now. Where is the geographic clarity of the Mason-Dixon line? When you look at the red-state blue-state division in the past few elections, you get a false impression. The real division is urban, academic, and high-tech counties versus suburban, rural, and conservative Christian counties. How could such widely scattered "blue" centers and such centerless "red" populations ever act in concert?

    Geography aside, however, we have never been so evenly divided with such hateful rhetoric since the years leading up to the Civil War of the 1860s. Because the national media elite are so uniformly progressive, we keep hearing (in the elite media) about the rhetorical excesses of the "extreme right." To hear the same media, there is no "extreme left," just the occasional progressive who says things he or she shouldn't.

    But any rational observer has to see that the Left and Right in America are screaming the most vile accusations at each other all the time. We are fully polarized -- if you accept one idea that sounds like it belongs to either the blue or the red, you are assumed -- nay, required -- to espouse the entire rest of the package, even though there is no reason why supporting the war against terrorism should imply you're in favor of banning all abortions and against restricting the availability of firearms; no reason why being in favor of keeping government-imposed limits on the free market should imply you also are in favor of giving legal status to homosexual couples and against building nuclear reactors. These issues are not remotely related, and yet if you hold any of one group's views, you are hated by the other group as if you believed them all; and if you hold most of one group's views, but not all, you are treated as if you were a traitor for deviating even slightly from the party line.

    It goes deeper than this, however. A good working definition of fanaticism is that you are so convinced of your views and policies that you are sure anyone who opposes them must either be stupid and deceived or have some ulterior motive. We are today a nation where almost everyone in the public eye displays fanaticism with every utterance.

    It is part of human nature to regard as sane those people who share the worldview of the majority of society. Somehow, though, we have managed to divide ourselves into two different, mutually exclusive sanities. The people in each society reinforce each other in madness, believing unsubstantiated ideas that are often contradicted not only by each other but also by whatever objective evidence exists on the subject. Instead of having an ever-adapting civilization-wide consensus reality, we have became a nation of insane people able to see the madness only in the other side.

    Does this lead, inevitably, to civil war? Of course not -- though it's hardly conducive to stable government or the long-term continuation of democracy. What inevitably arises from such division is the attempt by one group, utterly convinced of its rectitude, to use all coercive forces available to stamp out the opposing views.

    Such an effort is, of course, a confession of madness. Suppression of other people's beliefs by force only comes about when you are deeply afraid that your own beliefs are wrong and you are desperate to keep anyone from challenging them. Oh, you may come up with rhetoric about how you are suppressing them for their own good or for the good of others, but people who are confident of their beliefs are content merely to offer and teach, not compel.

    The impulse toward coercion takes whatever forms are available. In academia, it consists of the denial of degrees, jobs, or tenure to people with nonconformist opinions. Ironically, the people who are most relentless in eliminating competing ideas congratulate themselves on their tolerance and diversity. In most situations, it is less formal, consisting of shunning -- but the shunning usually has teeth in it. Did Mel Gibson, when in his cups, say something that reflects his upbringing in an antisemitic household? Then he is to be shunned -- which in Hollywood will mean he can never be considered for an Oscar and will have a much harder time getting prestige, as opposed to money, roles.

    It has happened to me, repeatedly, from both the Left and the Right. It is never enough to disagree with me -- I must be banned from speaking at a particular convention or campus; my writings should be boycotted; anything that will punish me for my noncompliance and, if possible, impoverish me and my family.

    So virulent are these responses -- again, from both the Left and the Right -- that I believe it is only a short step to the attempt to use the power of the state to enforce one's views. On the right we have attempts to use the government to punish flag burners and to enforce state-sponsored praying. On the left, we have a ban on free speech and peaceable public assembly in front of abortion clinics and the attempt to use the power of the state to force the acceptance of homosexual relationships as equal to marriages. Each side feels absolutely justified in compelling others to accept their views.

    It is puritanism, not in its separatist form, desiring to live by themselves by their own rules, but in its Cromwellian form, using the power of the state to enforce the dicta of one group throughout the wider society, by force rather than persuasion.

    This despite the historical fact that the civilization that has created more prosperity and freedom for more people than ever before is one based on tolerance and pluralism, and that attempts to force one religion (theistic or atheistic) on the rest of a nation or the world inevitably lead to misery, poverty, and, usually, conflict.

    Yet we seem only able to see the negative effects of coercion caused by the other team. Progressives see the danger of allowing fanatical religions (which, by some definitions, means "all of them") to have control of government -- they need only point to Iran, Saudi Arabia, the Taliban, or, in a more general and milder sense, the entire Muslim world, which is oppressed precisely to the degree that Islam is enforced as the state religion.

    Conservatives, on the other hand, see the danger of allowing fanatical atheistic religions to have control of government, pointing to Nazi Germany and all Communist nations as obvious examples of political utopianism run amok.

    Yet neither side can see any connection between their own fanaticism and the historical examples that might apply to them. People insisting on a Christian America simply cannot comprehend that others view them as the Taliban-in-waiting; those who insist on progressive exclusivism in America are outraged at any comparison between them and Communist totalitarianism. Even as they shun or fire or deny tenure to those who disagree with them, everybody thinks it's the other guy who would be the oppressor, while our side would simply "set things to rights."

    Rarely do people set out to start a civil war. Invariably, when such wars break out both sides consider themselves to be the aggrieved ones. Right now in America, even though the Left has control of all the institutions of cultural power and prestige -- universities, movies, literary publishing, mainstream journalism-- as well as the federal courts, they feel themselves oppressed and threatened by traditional religion and conservatism. And even though the Right controls both houses of Congress and the presidency, as well as having ample outlets for their views in nontraditional media and an ever-increasing dominance over American religious and economic life, they feel themselves oppressed and threatened by the cultural dominance of the Left.

    And they are threatened, just as they are also threatening, because nobody is willing to accept the simple idea that someone can disagree with their group and still be a decent human being worthy of respect.

    Can it lead to war?

    Very simply, yes. The moment one group feels itself so aggrieved that it uses either its own weapons or the weapons of the state to "prevent" the other side from bringing about its supposed "evil" designs, then that other side will have no choice but to take up arms against them. Both sides will believe the other to be the instigator.

    The vast majority of people will be horrified -- but they will also be mobilized whether they like it or not.

    It's the lesson of Yugoslavia and Rwanda. If you were a Tutsi just before the Rwandan holocaust who did not hate Hutus, who married a Hutu, who hired Hutus or taught school to Hutu students, it would not have stopped Hutus from taking machetes to you and your family. You would have had only two choices: to die or to take up arms against Hutus, whether you had previously hated them or not.

    But it went further. Knowing they were doing a great evil, the Hutus who conducted the programs also killed any Hutus who were "disloyal" enough to try to oppose taking up arms.

    Likewise in Yugoslavia. For political gain, Serbian leaders in the post-Tito government maintained a drumbeat of Serbian manifest-destiny propaganda, which openly demonized Croatian and Muslim people as a threat to good Serbs. When Serbs in Bosnia took up arms to "protect themselves" from being ruled by a Muslim majority -- and were sponsored and backed by the Serbian government -- what choice did a Bosnian Muslim have but to take up arms in self-defense? Thus both sides claimed to be acting in self-defense, and in short order, they were.

    And as both Rwanda and Bosnia proved, clear geographical divisions are not required in order to have brutal, bloody civil wars. All that is required is that both sides come to believe that if they do not take up arms, the other side will destroy them.

    In America today, we are complacent in our belief that it can't happen here. We forget that America is not an ethnic nation, where ancient ties of blood can bind people together despite differences. We are created by ideology; ideas are our only connection. And because today we have discarded the free marketplace of ideas and have polarized ourselves into two equally insane ideologies, so that each side can, with perfect accuracy, brand the other side as madmen, we are ripe for that next step, to take preventive action to keep the other side from seizing power and oppressing our side.

    The examples are -- or should be -- obvious. That we are generally oblivious to the excesses of our own side merely demonstrates how close we already are to a paroxysm of self-destruction.

    We are waiting for Fort Sumter.

    I hope it doesn't come.

    Meanwhile, however, there is this novel, in which I try to show characters who struggle to keep from falling into the insanity -- yet who also try to prevent other people's insanity from destroying America. This book is fiction. It is entertainment. I do not believe a new American civil war is inevitable; and if it did happen, I do not believe it would necessarily take the form I show in this book, politically or militarily. Since the war depicted in these pages has not happened, I am certainly not declaring either side in our polarized public life guilty of causing it. I only say that for the purposes of this story, we have this set of causes; in the real world, if we should ever be so stupid as to allow a civil war to happen again, we would obviously have a different set of specific causes.

    We live in a time when people like me, who do not wish to choose either camp's ridiculous, inconsistent, unrelated ideology, are being forced to choose -- and to take one whole absurd package or the other.

    We live in a time when moderates are treated worse than extremists, being punished as if they were more fanatical than the actual fanatics.

    We live in a time when lies are preferred to the truth and truths are called lies, when opponents are assumed to have the worst conceivable motives and treated accordingly, and when we reach immediately for coercion without even bothering to find out what those who disagree with us are actually saying.

    In short, we are creating for ourselves a new dark age -- the darkness of blinders we voluntarily wear, and which, if we do not take them off and see each other as human beings with legitimate, virtuous concerns, will lead us to tragedies whose cost we will bear for generations.

    Or, maybe, we can just calm down and stop thinking that our own ideas are so precious that we must never give an inch to accommodate the heartfelt beliefs of others.

    How can we accomplish that? It begins by scorning the voices of extremism from the camp we are aligned with. Democrats and Republicans must renounce the screamers and haters from their own side instead of continuing to embrace them and denouncing only the screamers from the opposing camp. We must moderate ourselves instead of insisting on moderating the other guy while keeping our own fanaticism alive.

    In the long run, the great mass of people who simply want to get on with their lives can shape a peaceful future. But it requires that they actively pursue moderation and reject extremism on every side, and not just on one. Because it is precisely those ordinary people, who don't even care all that much about the issues, who will end up suffering the most from any conflict that might arise.

  19. #519
    Expatriate American Patriot's Avatar
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    Default Re: Will America Break Up?

    I don't agree with him equating both sides - not now, not in this decade. Perhaps in the 1960s or 1970s. Not now, no way, no how.

    What I see him doing is trying to take a neutral, middle ground. Unfortunately, he is too late. He pointed out there are certain things that will happen - and he's right about fanaticism.

    The fact is that the Right has HAD to be more like the left, and I even advocate it to balance the scales. Escalation has it's points. Eventually one side has to back down or the consequences become too great - and war starts. Or worse, the side in power (in the government) will use the arm of the government to squelch the other side.

    That's what's happening NOW.

    So - the civil war has begun.

    No one has fired the shots yet.
    Libertatem Prius!


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  20. #520
    Super Moderator and PHILanthropist Extraordinaire Phil Fiord's Avatar
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    Default Re: Will America Break Up?

    American Patriot,

    A shotless civil war has started, you say? It is 2013/2014 as one dodgey online persona stated as when this may start, where in hindsight we could point to what happened. Just a thought, as that dodgey persona was likely just well thought out.

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