Category Archives: Irrationality in public debate

My public talks currently scheduled for 2018

Public Talks for 2018

“American Philosophy: it’s originality, and practicality, from progressive education to science, law, and democracy.” Gold Coast Library, 1/17 7pm.
There is much that is unique about the development of the United States of America, as well as much that is not. Original visions have struggled with quite traditional values and attitudes throughout our history. American Philosophy, in giving voice to the possibilities of America has made original contributions to Western Philosophy, developing our ideals while critically analyzing our limitations. Touching on a wide range of areas, from education and politics, to religion and science, we will provide a perspective on this development, and suggest some of the fault lines that mark contemporary experience.

“Making Sense of Recent Elections: what can we learn from the unexpected election results in America, Britain, and elsewhere?” South Huntington Library, 1/24 7pm
First the British vote to withdraw from the European Union, then the American election of Donald Trump startled experts and deranged established political expectations and institutions. Similar forces have seemed to be at work at other European countries, though with modified results. What are we to make of these election results, and what do they portend for the future of Western liberal democracies? These are the kind of issues we will seek to address.

“Trump’s America: what is its vision, program, and the nature of its support.” Gold Coast Library, 2/7 at 7pm
We will explore the significance for America of the election of Donald Trump. What were the conditions that laid the groundwork for his election? Who voted for him, and why? And what are the possible consequences?

“Fantasyland: Reflections on America’s Character and Culture”
3 lectures at Hutton House, LIU Wednesdays 2/14-28 from 1-3pm.
In these Reflections on America’s Character and Culture, we will explore:
Who we are. The cultures, ethnicities, and belief systems that have built the U.S. How we developed. Some of the major challenges we have faced, and how we addressed them. Our growth, expansion, and Manifest Destiny. The emergence of the “cultural Cold War” that has come to dominate our politics. The Trump phenomena. And the divergent paths now before us.

“Manifest Destiny and the Meaning of America: thinking about our history and its contemporary relevance.” Syosset Library, 3/1 at 2pm.
Americans have always believed that we are an exceptional people. From the Puritans landing at Plymouth Rock, seeking to build “a city upon a hill” that all the world would view as an example of how all should live, through the 19th Century notion that we had a “manifest destiny” to occupy the entire North American continent “from sea to shining sea.” As a nation, we continue to believe “that God shed his Grace on thee.” We joined WW1 “to save the world for democracy,” and continue to believe that we are the beacons of “The Free World,” with an obligation and responsibility to preserve the values that have made us great. What is that belief system? What are its origins? How has it operated to guide our history? And what are its implications for us as a nation today? These are the issues I hope to address.

“The American Dream: what it means and what are its prospects.” Elmont Memorial Library, 4/6 12:30 pm
Since its inception, one of the central meanings of America has been the opportunity to make something of one’s life. America offered the promise, and quite often the reality, of a continually improving standard of living for oneself and for one’s children. This sense of individual possibility, rooted in personal freedom and basic human rights became a beacon for people across the world. That became the wider significance of the claim that we were « as a city upon a hill » for all the world to see what life could become. In recent times, however, this vision has become increasingly uncertain. What has been happening to the American Dream? Why is that? And what can we do about it?


Reflections on the Current State of US politics

Reflections on the Current State of US politics

As the 2016 election process begins in earnest, I thought it would be helpful to review the following selection from my chapter on “The American Enterprise”, from my most recent book, Critique of Western Philosophy and Social Theory. While the book was published a few years ago, the basics of the chapter were written in the early 70s. I think they were fairly prescient — and I believe their analysis sheds light on the current state of US culture and politics.

…from the middle of the nineteenth century onward the United States became “the most thoroughly Reformed Protestant Christian Commonwealth the world has ever known” To be an authentic Christian in America thus comes to require each individual to personally undergo a “re-birth” experience–to be “born again”–which, as time tends to institutionalize religious experience, seems to demand that every few generations need to carry out their own “revivalist” movement in order to challenge that inevitable sedimentation of religious practice through a “great awakening.”

Is it any wonder that such physical and psychic exuberance and material success were often experienced as practical signs of God’s favor, and taken as evidence that the successful had been so blessed by God that they could feel confident they were among God’s elect–that, in fact, God had shed his grace on them, literally crowning “thy (collective) good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea.”? Nor is it any wonder that this entire process was understood and found articulation through the language of the religious tradition out of which it emerged–thus seeing material accomplishments in trade, commerce, and conquest as divinely sanctioned.

The “divine election” that resulted from each individual’s success in working out their personal salvation through dedication and hard work–the freedom of enterprise to choose one’s life style and to bear the burden or reap the success of one’s individual effort–increasingly becomes the operative meaning of freedom and democracy, with Harry Truman even replacing Roosevelt’s “freedom from want and fear” with “freedom of enterprise.”

Thus private enterprise marginalizes Christianity’s communal spirit as well as classical Republicanism’s concern for the polity and civic well-being.

Tensions were ever-present, however, between the collective nature of the initial undertakings, without which none of them could have succeeded, and both the unlimited and uncontrollable opportunities for individual initiative that were offered by a practically unlimited frontier and the overwhelming pre-occupation of Reformed Christianity with the individual’s sense of guilt for his/her own sinfulness and the deep need of each person to work out their own salvation. Thus Habits of the Heart nicely contrasts the vision of collective and communal salvation of Winthrop’s “city upon a hill” with the more individual and down-to-earth turn that Benjamin Franklin gives to the moral program of Cotton Mather, what was then called the “Protestant ethic”, re-baptized as the American “work ethic”, however much now more honored “in the breach than in the observance thereof.”

Although, by the mid-20th Century, Americans had become far less enamored of the requirement of actually working to earn their wealth and power, they still felt the need to defend its possession in the name of its having been earned. Americans both justify those who “have it made” as having earned their success by personal hard work and ability–developing those “god-given” talents to their fullest so as to excel in the competitive struggle that is the condition of human life–and hold those who have failed to realize the opportunities provided by the free market and democratic society as individually responsible and implicitly morally culpable. Such individuals can only be “saved” from the condemnation their failure justly sanctions by both assuming full personal responsibility for it, and turning themselves over to the power of spiritual rebirth that will make them new individuals. It is but one more irony of American Protestant individualism, that not only is it given birth, sustained, and even nurtured by the collective culture, but the spiritual re-birth possible for the failed and fallen can only come to be within the context of a sustaining community, whose role is to both encourage self-abasement and to nurture individual responsibility. But whoever said that cultures are thematically linear and dramatically un-ambivalent and coherent.

It is here that we must situate the emergence in the last quarter of the twentieth century of the “New Right”, the “Moral Majority”, and the election first of Ronald Reagan, then of George W. Bush. The “politics of nostalgia” bemoans the fading of “The American Dream.” The psychic loss roots in the disintegration of local communities and traditional moral values, themselves the casualties of the unbounded faith of Americans in individual initiative and the “free market.” Meanwhile, Corporate America, legitimized by a faith that it itself has in fact long given up, uses these movements as cover for its efforts to recapture the economic and political initiative at home and abroad. This revitalized imperial mission in the service of private accumulation calls for military expansion to protect the free world from the “threat” of the “demonized”, first the Russians, then the Chinese and the Arabs. Who knows what others will have to be (con-)scripted to play the role of the “Evil One”.

But the contradictions are pervasive. As the unconstrained free market search for profitability undermines settled community life and traditional values, the latter gives expression to its attendant and increasing anxiety with more fervent support for expansion of the imperatives of corporate profitability. As the public sphere increasingly deteriorates under the push of unbridled corporate expansion, individuals retreat ever more into the privatized worlds of home and church, themselves ever more subject to the vagaries of a corporate power less and less understood and controllable. Meanwhile, the home becomes a bastion of security under continual threat from a public world, dominated by the corporations, but increasingly experienced as the locus of potential criminal assaults from them–themselves but the most pervasively exploited segments of a deteriorating social order in which it is every man or woman for him or herself. Thus the home (or church) as refuge is felt to be under constant attack. Similarly with the psyche, in this marketing world of idealized individualism, where every one is encouraged to compete for success at the expense of others, and to market him or herself in order to present the most attractive package. Americans can no longer know whether others are sincere, or simply more clever in the way they present them­selves in order to seem so. Not only is the home and family disintegrating under the impact of competitive individualism, but personal relations cut loose from the ties of sustaining communities, and increasingly from settled, not to say extended, families, tend to be reduced to short term contracts in which one must withhold one’s deeper feelings for fear of their being used against one. In any case, since moving is so pervasive, and human relations of such short duration, to get too involved risks a personal suffering to which only a masochist would look forward.

The home as refuge roots a “new feudalism” which is the social counterpart of the emerging “new colonialism” of the world of transnational corporations. In the contradiction between private accumulation and public decay–each feeding the other in a descending spiral–the “American Dream” withers, giving place to a resentful, revenge-prone, frightened psyche, seeking redress from them for what they are doing to it. At home, they are blacks, gays, women’s libbers, radicals, druggies, and aliens of various sorts. Abroad, they are bandits, Commies, Russians, drug lords, Arabs, Ayatollahs, terrorists, and those who “front” for them. All of this fits well with the economic imperatives of transnational corporations for a world free of political impediments to their search for profit, and free of those who would resist the life style which bureaucratic organization imposes upon its workers. (Of course, there are imperatives of behavior different for the ruling elite than for the rest of us, but that is another story.) At the center of this dynamic resides the twin axes of privatization and growth, as the ideological and psychic poles of attraction which seem to draw forth the energies of all Americans.

Section 4: Privatization and Growth: the universal elixir

America’s psychic needs have been coordinated with its cultural and institutional dynamic. Privatization and growth have thus been dialectically linked. Privatization has nourished and been nourished by the continual growth of the American Enterprise. The “American Dream” is the idealized expression of an unfettered individualism riding the crest of the wave of enterprise as it flowed across the continent, then washed onto alien shores, drowning under military arms and libratory rhetoric communities, nations, and peoples with the temerity to resist. Growth has made privatization possible, both by expanding the space for action and by providing the reduplicative commodities that might be individually possessed and privately used. Privatization, in turn, has fed growth through the creation of multiple needs, thus expanding the market for a practically unending series of “necessities”. What better marketing possibilities than those provided by the proliferation of suburban residences whose ideal was to be the self-sufficient refuge from the storms of public life. From dish-and clothes-washer and dryer, to swimming pool, tennis court, personal stereo, TV, games, toys, books, and, hopefully, cars — to each his own. In fact, middle class suburban Americans tend to apologize if they are not able to provide each of their children with their own room. Of course, such privatization helps avoid the need to share, to learn to accommodate one’s personal aspirations to the desires of others, and to develop the skills to constructively respond to conflictual interpersonal situations in an equalitarian fashion. The motto for group interaction has become “Lead, follow, or get out of the way,” as one poster so aptly puts it. The nuclear family has been the paired down social infrastructure whose light baggage was well suited to follow the dictates of the market in the search for advancement, while promising to each member both emotional support and personal space. Whether it can deliver on either is another question; as are the related concerns of the extent to which a family needs wider community roots in which to flourish, and whether psychic health is sustainable in the long run when grounded in such a narrow range of personal relations, themselves without historical depth.

Behind the nuclear family, however, and the twin dynamics of privat­ization and growth that have vitalized it, resides the institutionalized requirements of capitalism, both for expanding markets and a fluid labor force. As transnational corporations have consolidated their competitive position–horizontally, through the conquest of producers of similar commodities; vertically, through control of the process of production from raw material to marketed final product; and through diversification of product line and range of profitable endeavors–they have become quasi-autonomous empires, operating across political boundaries. Owing allegiance to no community, nor, increasingly, to any country, they are less and less geographically locatable. They exist rather as a network of operations. Localities are reduced to sources of exploitable raw materials, sources of cheap or skilled labor, markets, or tax havens. Transnationals shift resources around to take maximum advantage not only of climate, geography, and natural and human resources, but also to maximize political, economic, and military leverage. The world-wide scale of their operations facilitates the subtle, and often not so subtle, blackmail which seeks to insure a “favorable climate for business investment.”

Neighborhoods, localities, and even nations, thus become but manipulable instrumen­talities within the world-wide empires of transnational giants. The corporate network is replacing the nation state, instituting a New Colonialism, or, perhaps better, the Re-colonization of the New World and Retro-colonization of the Old World. Of course, these new colon­izers are no longer small expeditionary forces carrying the national flag, but transnational conglomerates controlling market forces and inter­national movements of capital, backed up by the “legitimate” military might of the “home” country–as well as its not so legitimate secret police with their subterranean alliances with the secret services of the “client” states. Increasingly, their power is being given transnational legal expression through purported “free trade” agreements that guarantee the free movement of capital at the expense of local or national autonomy and democratic self-government.

This New Colonialism can thus destroy jobs and relocate factories, or blackmail communities into accepting lower wages, granting extraordinary tax benefits, weakening environmental and health and safety regulations, and allowing the deterioration of social and human services; in short, the community is held hostage to the power of international capital. A vicious spiral is set in motion, as the lack of effective local control furthers the process of neighborhood deterioration, which itself increases the individual’s urge to withdraw from public in­volvement in community affairs. The retreat to the privacy of the home offers itself as a refuge from the impotence, disillusion, and social dis­integration, of which rising crime rates and growing juvenile delinquency and drug use become the symbolic expressions. (With wages being driven down by corporate globalization, and the social wage being progressively undermined through competitive disadvantage, and more and more families needing to have more than one wage earner, and for each of them to work ever longer hours, the process of withdrawal from civic engagement is still further exacerbated.) Of course, the less one is attached to one’s community, the easier it is to pack up and move on. Such mobility, while quite suitable to corporations, only serves to re­inforce the same descending spiral. Thus the world-wide market under corporate domination furthers the disintegration of communal bonds and collective morality.

As for the privatizing retreat of individuals into the refuge of their home–fleeing from an alien world felt to be out of their control–it is motivated by a growing resentment at the failure of personal expec­tations. The resultant anger tends to be directed not at the corporate forces responsible, but rather toward the major victims of exploitation. Those reduced to ghettos, poverty, and the violent struggle to keep their head above water–whether through disorganized crime or organized rebellion–tend to become targeted as the primary threats to the “American way of life”. Thus the legitimately engendered experience of vulnerability is easily and effectively translated at a conscious level into a pre-occupation with crime. Merging with the reality of a disintegrating social world that tends to increase actual criminal activity, the public portrayal of domestic dangers conveniently focuses upon “alien” minorities, themselves the major victims of transnational capitalism, effectively directing public attention away from systemic corporate evils toward individual criminality where such criminals tend to be young, male, poor, and black or hispanic. Middle America is led to believe that the major internal threat to its health and well-being comes from “the black,” “the poor,” or the immigrant, those “below them” in the socio-economic hierarchy, rather than from those above them, the wealthy and the corporate establishment. And why should they question those at the top? They are the ones who have made it, and deserve what they get. If we, on the other hand, have not made it as well, and if those below have not made it at all, well it’s simply our or their fault. Perhaps we will make it yet. Such, at least, is the “conventional wisdom”.

Thus TV programs often treat one-on-one crime by such individuals as the major dramatic problem in life. Local TV news is generally little more than sen­sationalized reporting of crime and disasters, interspersed with sports, weather, and commercials. Discussions of work-place hazards, contamination of air and water, deterioration of the “public sector” (except as an expression of “bureaucratic” indifference or union corruption), are covered at best in passing, with reference to individual failures without consideration of institutional factors–except, that is, for the occasional swipes at government bureaucrats, corrupt union officials, or greedy and lazy workers. While “bureaucrats” are fair game, “executives”–certainly as a class–seem to be almost beyond reproach, regardless of the few “rotten apples in the bunch.”

No wonder that the retreat into the private home is increasingly offered as an idyllic refuge from a “dog eat dog” public world. If the American’s home is his or her castle, improved electronic security systems are rapidly becoming the moats by which they seek to protect themselves from unwanted intruders, not to speak of the increasing development of gated communities. This process of re-feudalization constitutes a desperate attempt to avoid the inevitable effects of a world market, dominated by the profit requirements of transnational corporate empires, whose subtly disintegrative impact is completely undetectable by even the most sophisticated home burglary alarm systems.

A further and quite pervasive effect of these disintegrative forces that is almost invariably missed is their impact on youth. Members of the last two generations of the Twentieth Century were probably the first in American history that could not reason­ably expect to achieve a better material standard of living than their parents. Sensing, though not yet clearly grasping, the closing door of material advancement, they had at the same time to confront a culture that no longer offered a believable sense of historical mission. Americans will not “make the world safe for democracy”, however much its leaders proclaim that as their mission. The innocence and hope that was the meaning of the journey into the New World has given way first to a post-Vietnam, post-Watergate cynicism and disillusion, then to a fear of terrorism and the alien other. Americans have turned inward in increasing preoccupation with narrow and short-range personal goals. This self-centeredness has been encouraged by corporate advertising that, driven insatiably to increase sales, has expanded needs–often through the generation of anxiety about personal inadequacy, as trivially as that with bad breath or the lack of white teeth–and then justified immediate satisfaction of them. The traditional Protestant work ethic has been an inevitable victim of advanced capitalism’s “consumer society”, as the ethic of “self-indulgence” replaces that of self-denial and constructive effort. (It has even been provided with an economic rationale in the need to continually expand consumer demand in order to sustain economic growth.) Youth are thus invited to partake in the “celebration of commodities” at a time when it is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain a satisfying job.

Meanwhile, as the future becomes shortened and narrowed, the demands of discipline and hard work are less impressive. Then there is terrorism and the bomb, as both symbol and reality–not to speak of “global warming” and the depletion of the ozone layer. Lurking on the horizon of our future, placing everything in doubt, is the sense that collectively we may have no future. What can long-term commit­ments mean in the face of this patent and uncontrollable reality? What can call youth to serious and sustained effort in such a world? Joined to the loss of history consequent upon the disintegration of extended family and settled community life, renewed each day by the narrowed vision and condensed time frame of commercial media, contemporary youth must make sense of their life and its possibilities confronting a world whose future is temporally shortened and culturally narrowed almost to the point of irrelevance. Cut loose from ties that can bind, sustain, and vitalize, many, with practically unlimited choices before them, drift purposelessly before the abyss, prey to each succeeding fad, caught up in an unending series of heightened moments leading nowhere.

If this analysis correctly portrays the dynamic forces currently tearing apart the “American Dream”, an exploration of possible alternative responses is all the more urgently called for. The strategies of Corporate America are fairly clear. With “The American Enterprise” being so pervasively squeezed, corporate strategy vacillates between trying to placate, channel, or repress dissatisfaction on the home front, and efforts to buy out, intimidate, or destroy challenges to its world supremacy internationally. From the “benign” managed capitalism with some welfare emoluments of the “Eastern Establishment” to the militant, proto-fascistic urgings of the Far Right, Christian fundamentalism, and the Military-Industrial-Security apparatus, the logic of trans-national ascendancy and corporate profitability remains the same. It is, however, beyond the scope of this chapter to explore these con­flicting strategies, their institutional foundations, and ideological expressions. Whatever these may be, one thing remains clear: business as usual is no longer possible, and the powers that be know it well. We need only recall the 1975 report of their Trilateral Commission to the effect that the world is suffering from “an excess of democracy”, not to speak of the “failure” of the Welfare State upon which the entire Reagan program was explicitly predicated.

On the other hand, this analysis suggests the need for an effective strategy to counter the growing imperial corporate offensive. It should be obvious that any such strategy requires both the development of an organized political opposition and the creation on an alternative world view that would make such an opposition credible. Such an opposition would have to be rooted in those social groups and institutions whose essential interests conflict with the imperatives of the transnational conglomerates. Further, any such attempts to effectively mobilize a political alternative must also come to terms with the psychic dynamics of American character, which is so deeply wedded to the myth of personal success through aggressive domination of the alien other–whether it be nature or other human beings–that it experiences material accumulation and social domination as essential psychic needs, (Not to mention the way in which this dynamic tends to be glossed in terms of America’s divine mission to bring freedom and democracy to the world.) If Americans are not “Number One” they tend to feel themselves to be failures. With­out a concrete strategy to effect affect, to transform a concern with quantity into one for quality, a preoccupation with exclusive goods into a concern for inclusive goods, any such constructive strategy is bound to fail. And such a strategy must be rooted in a compelling narrative that makes sense of personal effort by placing it in a wider and ennobling worldview, which worldview must disabuse itself of any claims to a divine world mission or providential destiny for America.

The depth of the challenge now facing America should thus be clear. Torn between frontier and garden, between individual and community, the American psyche is easily whipped into action against mythological enemies at home and abroad. If we fail to combat the America of executive supremacy, national secrecy, capitalist audacity, and imperialist penetration–almost always in the name of promoting freedom and democracy–America will be unable to avoid the disaster of benign fascism toward which it has been more than creeping.

The revitalization of America thus requires both the breaking of the power of the large corporations and the remolding of the psyche of Americans. Unless the success orientation rooted in the competitive accumulation of material wealth and personal privilege is transformed into a more modest communal attitude, the growing hostilities now tearing at the fabric of America’s personal and institutional life will not be able to be controlled. Save, that is, for the imposition from above of an increasingly repressive techno-bureaucratic order by those established bureaucracies of power and wealth. Such an order will protect the hierarchy of privilege of the controlling establishment while maintaining the class-based social antagonisms that permit the re­direction of middle Americans’ latent hostilities at the pressurized under­-classes at home and the Evil Enemy overseas.

America’s choices are at least relatively clear. Either it develops a moderately decentralized social system that, in coming to terms with its natural and social environment, revitalizes public life, or it faces the growing institutionalization of a mass society rooted in hierarchic privilege and repressive social control, coming, no doubt, in the guise of “national security” and in order to protect “the American Way of Life”.

Creeping Fascism is no longer creeping

For years now, many, myself included, have warned of creeping fascism in the United States. We have seen it: with the growth of a Radical Right Evangelical movement; with the violent attacks on women’s health clinics; with the growth of Radical Right talk radio, and the neo-fascist Fox News; with the vast transfers of wealth to the corporate establishment and the 1/10th of 1%; with the increasing disenfranchisement of the poor and minorities; with the use of gerrymandering to insure Radical Right control of the electoral process, vastly augmented by outrageous Supreme Court decisions that unleash corporate money while restricting the ability of the populace to reign in corporate abuse; and with the use of a radicalized class of increasingly economically threatened white working class as quad-storm troopers to threaten or harass those who do not support this Radical Right agenda. We have effectively seen a coup d’etat by which this corporate funded, talk radio motivated Radical Right has taken over the Republican Party, and installed an American version of neo-fascism. And yet the political and media establishment, for by far the most part,  does not recognize and describe this neo-fascist takeover, but  continues to treat our electoral process as if its politics as usual — just more of the same two party competition. They still insist on referring to the Radical Right as conservative, when they are anything but!!! And this only plays into the hands of those on the Radical Right who wish to present themselves as a legitimate democratic alternative. We must stop treating the Radical Right — and that means almost all contemporary Republican leaders, as if they are conservative. We must begin to call them what they. And respond to them as the danger to American democracy that they most certainly are!!!! And no one better exemplifies this American neo-fascism than Ted Cruz. Though the rest of the Republican Presidential field are not mush better — though, clearly driven by their need to appeal to the corporately mobilized “storm troopers” of talk radio and the Evangelical Radical Right — all, with the partial exception of John Kasich, who is just a very conservative rightwing Republican — someone who should be a marginalized right winger in any normal democracy. We must see the Republican Party for what it has become, and recognized that we are no longer dealing with politics as usual, but with a straight forward attempt to take over what is left of American democratic institutions. That’s the challenge before us. From now on, I will regularly comment on what is happening to our democracy — and what we can do about it. Let me hear your thoughts — and stay tuned.

“Deflategate” and the Invasion of Iraq

As Roger Goodell prepares to hear the appeal of Tom Brady, it is perhaps appropriate to reflect on the parody that is so-called deflategate, and to ask ourselves how and why this happened. And what I mean is not how and why the Patriots deflated some footballs, but why and how this manufactured reality was brought about. And it is also to reflect on the lessons to be gleaned from a fabrication of evidence and the media’s rush to judgement that characterized both the football world’s condemnation of the New England Patriots for its purported inflation of footballs and the Bush Administration’s orchestration of the invasion of Iraq due to its supposed possession of weapons of mass destruction. In both cases, I believe, vested interests were able to play on public biases to manipulate a gullible and biased media to create a fabricated reality with significant policy and personal consequences. Of course, so-called “Deflategate” pales in comparison with the significance of the Iraq invasion. That fiasco was probably the worst foreign policy disaster in U.S. history, the destructive consequences of which will almost certainly be with us for the indefinite future. And that, without even considering the human cost in lives killed or mangled, whether American or Iraqi, and civilizations and cultures across the Middle East deranged and devastated. But we can better appreciate the way in which the media can be used to create such a manufactured “reality” by seeing how it was able to manufacture the reality of “Deflategate”.

Let me make clear that my beliefs are based on the facts as so far revealed. A full and independent investigations — should we ever have such, which I doubt — may bring forth new facts that would show that I am in error. Further, I confess to not being a completely impartial observer, since I am a Patriots fan, and would like the evidence to support their innocence. But I have been outraged from the very inception of this situation, by the pervasive bias that led to the Patriots being convicted and almost universally condemned before any investigation even began. And the “evidence” was regularly constructed and presented in such a way as to reinforce that pervasively desired conclusion. We can speculate why that was the case. It is my suspicion that it results from a combination of resentment at their years of success and an orchestrated pre-existent public belief that they are cheaters, as expressed by those who have renamed their coach Bellacheat. But the evidence that is so far available not only does not support that conclusion of their guilt. Far more astounding still is the fact that it suggests that actually NOTHING at all unusual really happened. That the entire “crisis” was fabricated. So let’s look at the facts.

The 12 footballs prepared before the game by the Patriots were measured by the Referee to be at 12.5 PSI, while the Colts footballs were found to be between 13 and 13.1 PSI. (By regulation, they are required to be between 12.5 & 13.5 PSI at game time.) At halftime, the Patriots footballs were measured again, by two different gauges. One found 11 out of 12 to be excessively deflated, being up to 2 PSI below the 12.5 legal limit, while another gauge found 3 out of the 12 to be significantly under-inflated. And then 4 of the Colts footballs were measured, and all were found to be within acceptable limits.

BUT, there were two gauges used, and there was a significant difference in the measurements by the two gauges, with one clearly giving a reading approximately .4 PSI less than the other. The referee who did the initial measurement believes (but is not certain) that he used the gauge that gave the higher reading before the game.

In addition, physics tells us that for every 10 degrees cooler the ambient temperature there is a reduction of air pressure about .4 to .5 PSI. These two facts on their own are quite sufficient to account for the purported “under-inflation” of the Patriots footballs, particularly if you take seriously the Referee’s statement (which the Wells Report discounted) that he used the gauge that gave the higher reading before the game. (Since combining the use of the higher reading gauge before the game with the expected pressure drop due to the outside temperature would be expected to have given a reading at half-time of between 1.5 and 2 PSI below the legal limit.)

But many people claim that the “smoking gun” of Patriot malfeasance is the fact that none of the Colts footballs tested at half-time were found to be under-inflated. But only four of the Colts footballs were in fact tested, and that was because the second-half of the game was about to begin, and the balls were needed for the game. But that fact makes clear that the Colts footballs were only tested toward the very end of the half-time, which means they were sitting inside for almost 15 minutes — far more than enough time for them to regain their original internal pressure, which is only what should have been expected. While the Patriots footballs were obviously tested right at the beginning of half-time, when they would have still been much colder.

In fact, if there’s a real smoking gun, it points in the reverse direction. For a Colt player did intercept a Brady pass in the first half. He then brought the ball to the sidelines and said that he thought it was under-inflated. That ball, taken directly from the cold playing field, was immediately tested, and it was found to have a PSI clearly within an acceptable range. If any ball should have been excessively under-inflated, it would have been one taken directly out of play. But it was not!!

In sum, there is NO evidence that anything unusual happened!!! Only that a reality was contrived to convict the Patriots of cheating for reasons about which we are all free to speculate. But the ability for a manipulable and/or gullible media to create such a false reality in order to promote vested interests should certainly be an object lesson to us all.

Let my last words be those of the recent and highly credible American Enterprise Institute independent investigation of this situation and their highly critical evaluation of the Wells Report. They write in “the Summary of (their) Findings”: “The evidence we present points to a simple—and innocent—explanation for the change in pressure in the Patriots footballs. The Patriots balls were measured at the start of halftime, whereas the Colts balls were measured at the end of halftime, after sufficient time had passed for the balls to warm up and return to their pregame pressure. There is no need to consider the alternative hypothesis—that the Colts illegally inflated their footballs—because a simple physical explanation is available.

The fact that the average pressure of the Colts balls was significantly above the prediction of the Ideal Gas Law, while that of the Patriots balls was not, is inconsistent with the findings of the Wells report. Our conclusion that the warming of the balls during halftime is the key factor overlooked in the Wells report is supported by the observation that the readings of the intercepted Patriots football, measured separately from the other Patriots balls, came in almost precisely at the prediction of the law. Under the hypothesis asserted by the Wells report, the odds of this Patriots ball matching the Ideal Gas Law prediction were between 1 out of 3 and 1 out of 300. It is therefore unlikely that the Patriots deflated the footballs.”



Confronting Left-wing ideologues

An interchange on electoral strategy for progressives. The problem of self-defeating left-wing delusions about politics.

Richard Curtis, Seattle offered the following comment, beginning a typical radical left-wing strategy for American Politics, beginning the following interchange on Bernie Sanders’ campaign.

As you may have heard Bernie Sanders is prepared to announce his candidacy for president tomorrow.  He is evidently going to run as a Democrat and obviously if he were to get the nomination would radically change American politics.  That seems unlikely but what is possible is his running as an Independent on a groundswell of support gathered during the primary.  If he gets sufficient support he will be motivated to try the independent route, and if polls in Europe are any guide, voters are getting fed up with established parties.  This could be a historic moment.

Sanders is not perfect but we cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good.  He is much better on almost every issue than any other candidate or possible candidate with any possibility of going anywhere.

This may be a historic moment where electoral politics shifts.  Sanders needs as much support as can be given.  America needs this.

My reply:

I am excited about Bernie’s running in the Democratic Primary. But I am glad that he will never pull a Ralph Nader, and run as an independent. Nader’s destructive action in 2000 has already cost us greatly, not the least of which has been the destructive decisions of the current Supreme Court. If you want to build a third party — and the WFP is already effectively doing that, and other might well try — you have to build real power at the local and state levels. Let us not be self-destructive leftist — enough damage has already been caused by such behavior.

Richard responds:

David, that makes absolutely no sense.

We are in the position we are in now because so many people were too cowardly to vote for Nader when they should have.  It is lesser evil thinking in elections that has allowed the Democratic Leadership Council to take over the Democratic Party and to move it farther and farther to the right.  To suggest that Nader was wrong or that Sanders ought not run as an independent when the times comes is simply laughable.  That thinking shows complete Ignorant of current political reality and the history that produced it.  Ever since I was old enough to vote alleged progressives have said we have to support Democrats and all that has produced is a Democratic Party that is now to the right of the Republican Party of 30 years ago.

If the last presidency has not taught us the folly of lesser evil politics I don’t know what would.  Establishment Democrats support TPP and drones — drones killing US citizens without trial we should note.  And you want us to vote for them?  Are you insane?

The only hope for the world is for Sanders to become an independent on a wave of progressive Democratic support and win as a result of Americans acting like actually informed people (like Greeks) and vote out the establishment.

Richard C

My next reply:

Saying that the only problem is that enough people didn’t vote for Nader is about as practical as saying the only problem in the world is that enough people don’t follow Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Wishing a reality doesn’t make it so. The reason the Dems are further to the Right than 30 years ago is because the Right HAS ORGANIZED and built an effective base and public campaign that changed the dynamics of our society. You want a short cut, instead of doing the hard on the ground organizing that can really make a difference — and that the Working Families Party is now doing in at least 6 states. We would not have had a DiBlasio administration in NYC and a very progressive Citiy Council — or two very progressive statewide officers (NOT including the Governor) — if it wasn’t for that grassroots, detailed effort. Contributing to the victory of a far Right Republican in the name of ideological purity would be worse than self-defeating. Stop waving an intellectual wand, and build an effective progressive alternative from the bottom up. That’s what Bernie wants to do — there is NO WAY he will run as an independent — and so does Elizabeth Warren. These are our best hopes at present — long with a few others at the national level, and many more locally and in the media.

Richard Curtis’s 2nd response:

To suggest that Nader was wrong or that Sanders ought not run as an independent when the times comes is simply laughable.  That thinking shows complete Ignorant of current political reality and the history that produced it.  Ever since I was old enough to vote alleged progressives have said we have to support Democrats and all that has produced is a Democratic Party that is now to the right of the Republican Party of 30 years ago.

And then,

Paul Zarembka added:

I agree with you, Richard.  Further, Gore did not lose.  Even if he did, it would be GORE’s fault.  I actually remember that Gore told Nader that it was his, Gore’s fault, not Nader’s.  Gore shows more respect for Nader than the person to whom you are responding.

More fundamentally, lesser of evil’s politics, gets us deeper into evil politics.

To which I replied:

More pathological wish fulfillment and inability to actually confront the world we face.

If this self-destructive Left-wing fringe ideological was not so impotent and politically marginal, an intelligent wealthy Right-wing funder would do well to fund them in order to split and further undermine any effective progressive alternatives. But that is clearly not necessary, as these “radical” Leftist (as opposed to significant radical Leftists such as Syriza in Greece or Podemos in Spain, who are actually seeking to build effective political power and confront the power of the international corporate establishment — and confronting the real challenges of actually doing so) have completely self-marginalized themselves. Though the experience of Ralph Nader in 2000, in part supported covertly by Republicans,  show how dangerous they can become as a tool of the Right. That’s why they need to be confronted.





Is “Deflategate” Just a Lot of Hot Air?

Is “Deflategate” Just a Lot of Hot Air?

The more this “deflategate” issue proceeds, the more it looks like another examplee of ideological thinking at work — where a person becomes committed to a set of beliefs for essential emotional reasons, and then will not let it go no matter what the facts are. Rather, the committed ideologue will twist the facts to conform to his/her pre-conceived belief system. It’s just like the Bush Administration and the commitment to remove Saddam Hussein and “liberate” Iraq.

As information trickles out that increasingly places in doubt the initial conclusion of Patriot deception about the under inflated footballs, many of those who were certain of their “guilt” from day one, are now developing a protective rationale — with the WFAN’s “football guru” Mike Francesa in the lead. His current position is: 1) it’s beyond doubt that the Patriots broke the rules; but 2) the NFL has no intention to adequately investigate the issue, and simply wants the issue to go away; therefore, 3) they will produce a vague report with no finding of guilt, some minor procedural modifications for the future, and that will be the end of that. Thus, by Francesa’s reasoning, the Patriots reman convicted of cheating, the NFL of covering it up, and “case closed.”

Francesca’s reasoning — as well as that of the many others following the same path — reminds me of the Medieval approach to trying witches. If someone was accused of being a witch, the trial might involve tying a heavy weight to the person, throwing them in the water, and then seeing if they floated or drowned. If they floated, they were obviously guilty of being a witch, in line with the devil, and were then put to death, often by burning at the stake. If, on the other hand, they drowned, that would attest to their probable innocence. But in either case, they would be dead.

Similarly with Mike Francesa and those who think like him. Convinced of Patriot guilt they have it set up as follows: If the NFL finds the Patriots gulty, then Francesa is vindicated; If the NFL finds that there is no proof of guilt on the Patriots’ part, then the NFL is itself guilty of a coverup. In either case, the Patriots remain condemned and Francesa vindicated. Heads I win, tails you lose. That’s a nice deal if you can get — but there is no honesty and nor any room for an impartial evaluation of the facts. Just a self-justifying rush to judgement and a public lynching.