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The Jefferson-Madison Debates: HOW TO KILL THE CONSTITUTION (IN 3 SIMPLE STEPS…)

September 3rd, 2019 // 9:43 am @

A Review of 3 Books on the Future of Freedom

[*see titles below]

If you care about freedom, this article may be one of the most important things you ever read. If you care about the U.S. Constitution, it is definitely this important.

Some of the most significant proposals to drastically change our political system were recently outlined in several very interesting books. The first that we’ll address here is entitled It’s Time to Fight Dirty, and the stated purpose of this book is to show how Democrats can fully beat Republicans by circumventing the Constitution, or in some cases just the current political system—within the lines, of course, not by coup or overthrow.

Part I: Gaming the Constitution

To get a sense of the scale and scope of the suggestions, consider the specific proposals in question. Whether upon reflection you conclude that these are dangerous and bad ideas, or on the contrary that they are a bunch of really excellent propositions, or whatever you think of them, understanding them is vital for anyone who cares about the future of America, and freedom. Indeed, I am impressed with the author of It’s Time to Fight Dirty for thinking about the Constitution so deeply. I wish a lot more Americans did so. I believe that given the full light of day, most people will support the Constitution rather than move to some other model of government. But as long as most Americans actually know very little about it, we’re in real trouble. This allows the enemies of freedom to tear it down bit by bit while few Americans even bother to take notice.

Here are some of the major proposals in It’s Time to Fight Dirty:

  • “The 58 State Solution”[i]

By increasing the number of states, and carefully bringing to statehood areas that are already solidly “blue”, this suggestion quickly moves the entire nation to the Left. Then, without much effort, more states and more progressive senators can amend the Constitution at will. Leading candidates to become new blue states include the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and “Seven Californias”[ii], as it is described in the book (new states created by breaking California into multiple states).[iii]

Problem: In this scenario, the Constitution quickly becomes the plaything of a small group of powerful elites. They redefine it to their benefit. We would witness major alterations to our system, almost overnight, likely all in the direction of collectivist progressivism for the masses, with major exemptions and increased power for a select elite. Freedom would take major hits, and it would get worse over time.

  • The Neutron Option” or “Packing the Court”[iv]

According to It’s Time to Fight Dirty, this entails ending lifetime terms for justices and letting each president appoint 2 members to the Court. Or, as FDR attempted, wait until a Democrat is in the White House and then increase the size of the Court, with the Democratic president adding all the new justices.

Problem: Court-packing is, of course, always going to be a hyper-partisan venture, but the purpose of the third branch of government is to uphold the Constitution, not decrease its authority, or simply change it (or water it down) without Amendment. Either approach—Neutron or Packing—would almost certainly end the back-and-forth battle between conservatives and progressives, and thus disenfranchise about half the nation’s voters. The implementation of these proposals would mean Court-mandated changes to our entire system—and about half the nation’s voters would be permanently out of government power in all three branches–likely, forever.

  • Scrap the Electoral College[v]

In this proposal, we would elect presidents by a straight national popular vote.

Problem: If the president is elected by straight national majority vote, none of the little states, or less populated states, will have much say in who rules the nation. The Framers wanted a prospective president to have to win “majorities in a majority of states”, with the impact of each state’s majority weighted by population. This is a little complex, but it keeps people living outside big cities, and in small and sparsely populated states, involved in our democracy. Without the Electoral College, most people who live outside the biggest cities and most populous states would have practically no say in electing our leaders. That’s oligarchy, not democracy. Pure national-level democracy is the reason the Framers believed that big republics can’t work; Madison argued at the Constitutional Convention that they can work, as long as we’re smart about it—like using a “majority of the majority of states” rather than a simple national majority that disenfranchises the voters in all but the most populous states.

  • Move to a Parliamentary System[vi]

This means allowing the president to be elected not by a majority of the electoral votes, but rather by the highest percentage of votes (a plurality). In other words, we’d transition from two major parties to a bunch of parties, scrap the Electoral College, and—for example—the person getting 29 percent of the vote, would win—as long as no other candidate got more. So, in this theoretical example, the Democrat gets 29 percent, the Republican gets 27 percent, Democratic Socialist Party gets 12 percent, Green Party candidate gets 10 percent, Violent White Nationalist Party gets 1 percent,[vii] Violence Against Conservatives Party gets 2 percent,[viii] Silicon Techno Party gets 8 percent,[ix] Rust Belt Jobs Party gets 9 percent,[x] and several other parties get a few thousand votes each. Various parties can even combine their votes together in order to win and then divide up the spoils.

Problem: In this model we would tend to get more extreme presidents in each election, because candidates would have little or no incentive to appeal to the center of their own party, much less to the center of the whole nation in general elections. Special interest money would centralize to an even more elite few—causing increased top-down government by a small ruling class. It’s the Military-Industrial-Bureaucratic-Complex on steroids. To make this even worse, the leadership of Congress in this system would always be the very same as the White House, cancelling most of the value of checks and balances between the Executive and Legislative branches. No more Constitution—at least in reality. Gone. Fin. Over. Many freedoms would go with it.

Overall, my perspective is that most of these proposals could, arguably, destroy the Constitution in the process. It’s Time to Fight Dirty justifies this by arguing, in essence, that Republicans started it, that they began the dirty (outside the Constitution) tactics. In fact, this is partly true. The establishment wings of both major political parties have ignored or skirted the Constitution in a number of ways over the course of many decades. Even if Republicans were the only ones to ever undermine the Constitution, however, Democrats (or anyone) choosing to do this a lot more frequently and even more effectively is not good for our nation.

If you believe, as I do, that the Constitution is the best system humanity has developed so far for maintaining genuine freedom in a lasting fashion, anything that undermines it is ill-advised. While the Constitution began with the glaring flaw of allowing slavery, the system it established eventually found ways to overcome this, and a number of other ills, with a lot of pain along the way—and in the process provided more freedom and opportunity to more people than any other governmental form in recorded human history. Destroying it, especially with the short-term goal of winning partisan political battles (no matter which side you’re on) is not a good plan. If the Constitution is destroyed, or significantly weakened, I’m convinced we’ll witness a massive loss of freedom, opportunity, human dignity, prosperity, and happiness for people on all levels of the socio-economic scale in the following fifty years—not just in the United States but in many places around the world—and that it will take decades, perhaps centuries to get back to the level we now enjoy. We don’t want to go backwards; we’ve got too many problems right now that we need to solve, so we don’t want to get stuck just trying to get back to where we already are.

With this at stake, undermining the Constitution makes party agendas look shallow, even petty. I understand that many issues held dear in both parties are infused with high levels of passion in the current environment, and have been for at least the past twenty-five years (and escalating), but from the larger perspective of history they are still trivial in comparison to undercutting the U.S. Constitution. Both sides greatly benefit from its protections, year after year. And nothing I’ve seen proposed to date is anything close to better, or even as good.

It’s important to note that the author of It’s Time to Fight Dirty does outline some very good ideas, putting an end to gerrymandering, for example. It’s also true that Republicans have pushed a number of “dirty” plans, from widespread gerrymandering (realigning voting district boundaries in a way that “your” party will win more elections) to the “W” Bush administration investigating political opponents in election years (accomplishing very little in legal terms, but casting negative light on those running against them). Like twin toddlers tussling in the playroom, it’s hard to honestly say which party first started the “dirty” tactics—just look at local and state elections through U.S. history. Both parties are to blame for undermining the Constitution.

But that’s real the point: Weakening the Constitution for partisan goals is shortsighted and, ultimately, bad for America (and beyond).

Part II: Deep State Rules

With all this said, the proposals in It’s Time to Fight Dirty aren’t actually the worst “dirty” plans to undermine the Constitution. For example, some have proposed “tanking” the economy to stop the reelection of a president they don’t like, by manipulating interest rates through the Federal Reserve or getting a consortium of wealthy banks, billionaires, and other entities with major financial clout to take steps that bring the economy down—“just until after the election” that they want to go their way. Or consider the rising power of the deep state, bureaucrats working within the government who simply use their influence and authority to push personal or partisan agendas—regardless of what the laws require. This is deep power. It also cuts against the positive goals of both major parties, and hamstrings their winning candidates—Reagan and Clinton, Obama and Trump, etc.

This should concern all voters—your power over who rules you is simply rejected and ignored. In this reality, elections matter very little. And, unlike the relatively straightforward proposals outlined above, this occurs almost entirely in secret. Even the media may take months or years to realize what’s actually going on. If the suggestions above are ill-advised, this approach is downright corrupt.

But it’s not theory. It’s already happening. The deep state threat is real, and amounts to:

  • Ignoring Elections

This doesn’t mean the people ignore elections, or the media, or even our elected officials. Our freedoms are never in worse danger than when actual agents of the government, federal employees in any or all of the three branches, especially in executive agencies and courts, ignore Congress, the White House, the courts, and even the law. They make decisions, or don’t, without letting anyone else consider what is needed, and influence our lives in a thousand other little ways. Sometimes these become big issues in individual lives, but we are informed of the bureaucratic mantra: “That’s just the way it is.” This is real power. It always undermines freedom, and it frequently hurts people. It has now reached the level of pandemic, though it remains largely in the shadows. It is a serious abuse of the Constitution.

In fact, the challenge from the deep state is much bigger than most people realize. Consider the following comment by Senator Mike Lee:

“I keep two towers of documents in my Senate office. The first is only a few inches tall. A collection of all the legislation passed by Congress in [a year], it contains about eight hundred pages. The second tower, which is eleven feet tall, is a collection of regulations proposed and adopted by federal agencies in [the same year]. It contains about eighty thousand pages.

“These extraordinarily unequal towers illustrate a startling reality: The U.S. Congress no longer passes most of the federal laws, rules, and regulations that are imposed on the American people. While a mountain of those rules are decreed by an army of unelected federal bureaucrats, only about 1 percent of the rules we must live by are enacted by the most accountable branch of government—Congress.”[xi]

This dangerous reality led one author to write a chapter entitled: “Do Elections Matter?” The title of the book, written by Mike Lofgren, is The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government. Perhaps the most consistent theme I noticed while closely reading this book is how many congressmen, senators, and presidents from both parties are now (or have been) in numerous ways subordinate to the bureaucracy.[xii] Not officially, and not in the minds of the regular people, but actually, in real life. It is the bureaucrats who provide elected and many top appointed officials (in all three branches) with the information they use to make powerful, life-impacting decisions on many fronts, and it is usually bureaucrats (often the same ones) who implement such decisions after they are made. If the top official has questions or misgivings about the information that is provided, he/she typically turns to experts for further clarification—such experts are nearly always the same, or other, bureaucrats.

Shadow government, indeed. Unknown. Powerful. Anonymous as well, at least in any practical sense. And while many of these people have amassed decades of employment seniority, they typically face no accountability to voters. They seldom face real accountability at all.

Part III: Quantocracy[xiii]

Another major attack on freedom and the Constitution comes from what Frank Pasquale terms, simply:

  • The Black Box Society[xiv]

This consists of a number of secret algorithms, owned and utilized by various corporations and government agencies. These algorithms, and those who control them, exert significant power over people, organizations, and even governments. They interfere in our elections (all of them, at least at the national level, and many others as well), and in those of other nations. They are even more shadowy than the deep state, and many of them operate without governmental oversight—working for banks, big tech, consulting organizations, Wall Street and Silicon Valley firms, investment, finance, big data, and governmental intelligence agencies in the U.S. and abroad. Orwell’s warning is now reality: they are watching. Some for profit, others in the name of security, still others for information, influence, and/or power.

According to Pasquale, and the ample research he shares in his book The Black Box Society, algorithms and their proprietors literally “control money and information” in the current economy—not only in the United States but around the world.[xv] Pasquale wrote: “As technology advances, market pressures raise the stakes of the data game. Surveillance cameras become cheaper every year; sensors are embedded in more places. Cell phones track our movements; programs log our keystrokes…”[xvi] Devices in our homes, televisions, cars and businesses listen, watch, and record. “The resulting data—a vast amount of data…—is fed into databases and assembled into profiles of unprecedented depth and specificity. But to what ends…?”[xvii] Who controls it? And who could control it next month, next year?

Whatever the answers to these disturbing questions, many of the institutions that collect and control such information about each of us also have direct power over important parts of our lives. Do we qualify for a loan? The algorithms, and those who program them and later analyze their data, decide. Do our politics lean Left or Right, and based on this what news stories and feeds will appear when we search for information online? Will our messages sent be delivered, or “lost”, “masked”, “shadowed”? Will the things that appear when we search online support our leanings, or purposely seek to change our views? Can third parties pay for what they want us to see and read? Can they, in effect, buy us, by buying the information they want us to encounter—information tailored specifically to each of us, digitally individualized, designed to sway our specific beliefs and actions in ways that benefit the buyers? Will they guide us to the kind of news, purchases, investments or connections we want, or those that someone, somewhere, has determined would be best for us? Or for them? All of this is within the power of Black Box algorithms. Moreover, this is already the norm in many ways.

Important question: Is such power subject to any limits, checks or balances, even when it is wielded by government entities or agencies? If not, this undermines the Constitutional structure of adequate limits, checks and balances on all powers delegated to the federal government.

Obviously the Framers didn’t specifically strategize Constitutional safeguards against the government operating (or piggy-backing) algorithms to electronically data mine or apply predictive analytics toward the citizens. But their intent in this arena is clear from the Fourth Amendment language concerning protections from searches of “persons, houses, papers, and effects.” Freedom is undermined when personal or business information is being collected, stored, owned, or analyzed by government or other power organizations—whether it is called “mining”, “surveillance”, “data”, “analytics,” “metadata”, “sessionization”, “mix modelling”,  “stemming”, “event processing”, or anything else. This applies to “cloud”, “cluster”, “lake”, “IoT”, “ETL”, “CEP”, “hive”, and anything else that originally belongs to or comes from one person or private group.

Dressing it up in technical jargon doesn’t make it okay for the government or any other powerful computationally-enhanced entity to just take it, or use it, no matter how fancy the math. Perhaps the United States needs to follow the example of Estonia and teach computer coding to all students in elementary schools.[xviii] If our citizens are going to rule their own nation, they need to read and understand our Constitution, and perhaps also read and understand the codes and algorithms their government and other entities can use to control the people.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, except those who code, and especially those who hire the coders and control the coded algorithms and information: some are more equal than others…”

Part IV: The Big Twelve

Orwellian references aside, today’s American citizen is at times alarmingly unaware of the threats to freedom. Consider, for example, the following “declarations” proclaimed by Google in its early years, and still espoused by many tech industry insiders in the U.S. and abroad:

  • “We claim human experience as raw material free for the taking. On the basis of this claim, we can ignore considerations of individuals’ rights, interests, awareness, or comprehension.”[xix]
  • “On the basis of our claim, we assert the right to take an individual’s experience for translation into behavioral data.”[xx]

These are the first two of six such declarations. The others claim the right to own whatever data they take, and to use it however they choose.[xxi] The message is clear, albeit shocking: Someone owns us. This is not good for freedom, except the kind of elitist “freedom” (license) that does whatever it wants, whatever it can get away with. One author called these six declarations the beginning of a new “age of conquest”.[xxii] The strong conquer, rule, and label it “freedom”, “democracy”, “social democracy”, or whatever they choose to call it. This new reality, the new economy, if it succeeds, is built on the poignant question: “Are we all going to be working for a smart machine, or will we have smart people around the machine?”[xxiii] Either way, the hierarchy is top-down, with most people living as part of the “down”.

The real question is right in front of us: “Who knows? Who decides? Who decides who decides?”[xxiv] If so much information about you is legally owned by a Black Box somewhere, and those who control it, and if the owners have all the rights concerning this information, what parts of you are owned by others? And if the owners have the right to convert this information into behavioral data, to analyze it and use it to model your tendencies, to buy and sell it to others, and to directly influence your choices using this same data, how much does this impinge upon your freedom?

For example, if there are five possible paths for a baby to take when he crawls through the doorway leaving his room, but he can only actually see or hear three of these paths, is he really free to take either of the two paths that he can’t detect? This logic applies to the information we access, and all entities (governmental, corporate, and combined) that gather and utilize information about us. If there are five options we can choose from in making a life decision, big or small, and the data collected about us is used to ensure that we are only informed about three of these options, is our freedom reduced? (Some would say “stolen”, or “usurped”.) If a for-profit entity like a bank or corporation does this, what term would we use to describe this action?

What about a “for-power” organization such as a government, activist media outlet, big tech firm, activist online platform, or political consultant hired to target certain voters to make specific choices on election day? How much does such a consultant get paid for your vote? And are such payments for votes legal? What if the payments go to First-Amendment-protected media organizations that are compensated specifically to influence your vote—albeit “indirectly” by paid advertisers who are part of the side arrangement? Can votes be bought? If so, can they also be sold? What if those same media or online platform organizations receive government subsidies, contracts, or tax breaks—and the way they sort and deliver information to you, and how you vote based on the information they provide (or withhold), impacts the level of money (or resistance) they receive from the government?

“Black Box”, indeed…

We are in the “undiscovered country” of 21st Century governance, legality, morality, psychology, technology and business. Which rules are new? Which do we know about? What don’t we understand?

It is this last question that always leads to the loss of freedom—from Ancient Greece, Babylon or Egypt to medieval Italy or modern Ukraine, Egypt, Ohio, or California. Arrogantly, in the United States we tend to think we are on side of “knowledge”. But do we fluently speak R, Python, or Julia, not to mention the really cutting edge dialects of digitized power? Have we even heard of these, or know why they matter? We don’t know what we don’t know—yet we the citizens are supposed to be in charge of our nation. According to Forbes, in 2019 “Data Science is the best job in the U.S. for the last three consecutive years.”[xxv] But how many people with these jobs make the actual decisions—the big ones that steer society? Answer: none. They work for the decision makers, corporate and governmental.

How many government and corporate projects, and technologies, are now dedicated to “behavioral modification”? And do they mainly target conservatives and libertarians, or liberals and progressives? While the blue and the red argue about the issues of the day, passionately pointing fingers at each other, the quiet answer is unflinching: Both. All. Everyone.

We are at times duped by the sideshow. The nightly news broadcasts and hourly feeds keep us tied to the reality-TV shows we call political news. But the worst assaults on freedom frequently happen off-stage. Unless we know where to look, we don’t even notice. We think the news is real. It is often a lot more like clever theater. Is the answer to learn coding, to study C++, SQL, and other big data languages? Or to become a data scientist and infiltrate Silicon Valley? Is working for the “big nine” the path to leadership in our time?[xxvi] The “big nine” are Amazon, Google, Facebook, Tencent [China], Baidu [China], Alibaba [China], Microsoft, IBM and Apple. The “big twelve” are the same corporations plus the big-data arms of the U.S. government, the Chinese government, and the Russian government, and the workers and thinkers in the “big twelve” community are in some ways more closely connected than most Americans are to each other. The divisions between them, especially those based on the letterhead in their offices,[xxvii] are often much less significant than the blue/red divide in American life. The real story is happening, but often goes unnoticed.

In short, the solutions won’t likely come from within the technology institutions or culture, mainly because expertise is now a “for-hire” sport, not a “change the world” activity. Working for an employer almost always means furthering their agenda. To effect significant change, in contrast, one must engage more entrepreneurial pursuits. Enterprise remains by far the most effective vehicle of innovative leadership.

Part V: Three Steps to Kill the Constitution

In this atmosphere, with the U.S. Constitution pulling in one direction and so many opposing forces pulling the other, how can humanity’s best chance at genuine freedom win the day? The Framers were clear from the very beginning that the Constitution’s success depended on the regular people. If they couldn’t rise to the occasion, the Constitution wouldn’t last. Benjamin Franklin put it succinctly. When asked by a citizen what kind of government the Convention had created, he replied: “A republic, if you can keep it.” He put the onus for Constitutional success on the regular people. It remains firmly in the same place today, though few people actually realize it.

In a sense, “killing” the Constitution in our day is an easy task. Get the people to forget it, ignore it, and fail to study it closely or frequently. Check! Done. Step one is accomplished.

The other two steps have proven more difficult, despite the efforts of the sharpest minds elite money can buy and the generational funding of massively endowed and funded universities, trusts, media corporations, K-Street special interest lobbyists, the great banks, and a host of storied private foundations and think tanks. The combined wit and treasure of the elite classes haven’t quite been able to pull it off.

This is all a shocking surprise, to tell the truth. How can the ignorant masses face off against the biggest and best and richest and most ruthless, and keep coming out on top—without even understanding why, and in most cases without even realizing what they’re doing? It defies logic.

The challenge resides in this little-publicized fact: the American Framers predicted the elite, multigenerational onslaught against their most important work (the U.S. Constitution), and they drummed up a little “algorithmic computational code” of their own. So far, it’s been battered, repeatedly put under siege, and even cracked a few times, but it hasn’t quite broken. Much of the “code” remains intact, and the “algorithms” have proven both resilient and, shockingly, self-healing and self-improving.

The Constitution Code

https://tjed.org/product/bbf

The Framers’ formula is, in a way, a self-protecting AI. Every American should know it and understand it. But very few do. Here’s how it works:

  • Governments exert power.
  • This is good when the power is used to protect the life, liberty, property, and inalienable rights of the citizens.
  • It is bad when that power is used against the people, usually by elite groups (inside or outside the government) striving to increase their own power and status at the expense of the masses.
  • The challenge is that no group other than the masses ever adequately protects the people’s interests and inalienable rights, yet the masses themselves tend to get distracted from doing this on their own.
  • The solution to this dilemma begins with dividing the elite groups of power into separate cliques and convincing/incentivizing them to limit, check and balance each other—hopefully dissuading them from joining forces and taking away the rights of the people and simultaneously giving themselves control of the nation’s resources.
  • Such a solution is complex and difficult, but can be achieved by what Jefferson called “dividing and subdividing government” in multiple ways that keep elites from combining their forces against the masses. The key is to keep the elites focused on battling each other.
  • The U.S. Constitution established just such a system and result.
  • It had various initial flaws, particularly slavery, but the overall structure incentivized improvements over time; many of the flaws were fixed, and the basic direction and protections grew in strength and momentum. Elites battled each other in numerous ways, but the masses unwittingly kept most of their freedoms intact. The process was painful and imperfect, but it kept improving, albeit not rapidly. Groups with fewer freedoms slowly gained more, usually without reducing the overall freedoms of the whole society. The “code” worked.
  • The system contracted certain viruses as time passed. One, the old virus of class division, infiltrated the code largely by reviving political party conflict. The parties grew in power, and threatened the entire balance.
  • Another virus, also an old standby of past governmental decline, came in the form of elite corruption in the halls of power. This grew over time, patiently spreading its tentacles into institutions of influence—both public and private. The two viruses learned to work together, mainly through political parties and other special interests (including academia, media, and big business).
  • Both of these dangerous viruses wormed into the Framers’ code, but found themselves strangely limited. They were able to flourish, but not win. Both operated on the assumption that power, wealth, and knowledge eventually win the day, only to discover that the Framers had anticipated this and prepared accordingly. All the power, education, expertise and funding the elites could bring to bear were thwarted by the Framers’ “algorithms”—the people didn’t wither under such attacks (as expected, based on thousands of years of historical precedent), nor did they try to directly fight back (as also anticipated). Instead, they simply took note of, or even ignored, the plans of elites. This was quite unexpected, and quite unprecedented. The Framers’ “code” thrived.
  • But how? How did the masses win in such circumstances? How did the “code” change things? The answers are unconventional and, as mentioned, largely unprecedented. Benefiting from the Founding model, the people exerted voting power in a strange way: regardless of the words of experts, or the powerful spin of academia and media and money, they instinctively pushed back against much of what the elites promoted. The masses seemed to have a sixth sense in these matters. If the elites wanted it, the voters pushed against it. Whatever the elites did to promote their agenda, the regular people quietly, usually without openly realizing it, sensed the pressure and voted against it. Sometimes they failed to do this in a single election, and more rarely for two consecutive elections. But never for three or more. No matter the actions, plans, schemes or grand strategies of the elites, the masses instinctively voted the contrary. They did this even when political parties rose up and tried to inflame the masses to extreme reactions. Many were fooled by this powerful strategy. But when the elections came, the electorate pushed back against the wishes of the elites. Not logically, but emotionally. And, again, they did this quietly, in most cases without fanfare. Elites often didn’t actually know what was coming until election night. This happened numerous times in modern day. In the recorded annals of history, this was new. The Framers’ code created a system where the people, the masses, experienced a new power, a new sense of when elites are pushing for something, and how strongly they are pushing, and a corresponding incentive to push back en masse.
  • This pattern indeed flew in the face of three millennia of written history, but the Framers, who knew this history as well as any generation before or after, coded it into the cells, cell walls, and very syntax of the system. And it held, despite massive pressure brought against it in multiple formats and from all directions.
  • It still holds today.

When the U.S. Constitution has been altered by legitimate Amendment, this Framers’ “code” has strengthened. When it has been circumvented or diluted by “dirty” tricks, weaknesses have appeared. Note that this includes both unconstitutional changes (such as Court decree rather than following the Amendment process, etc.), and also alterations that are technically not unconstitutional, but are still “dirty” because they violate the intent and design of the Framers. Again, it’s worth repeating that both major political parties are guilty of many dirty tricks of this sort.

Now, down to details:

https://tjed.org/product/2019-tjed-freedom-convention/

Step One of Killing the Constitution is to get the masses to shirk their duty to study, know, revere and masterfully apply the Constitution. As mentioned, this is a fait accompli. The enemies of the Constitution have won this part of the battle, at least for now.

Step Two is to get the masses to stop instinctively pushing back against elite agendas and proposals that in any way raise elites above the people and threaten to lessen the freedom or rights of the regular people. To date this has been repeatedly and aggressively attempted, but it hasn’t worked. Not in big ways. The Constitutional code has been weakened some, but not beaten. The Framers’ “algorithms” are working.[xxviii] Note that they work in part by pitting elites on the Left against elites on the Right, and vice versa. While these opposing camps of elites think they are battling each other, they frequently serve to warn the masses about each other—greatly influencing elections, but not in the way elites expect. Elites on both sides tend to believe that when they “expose” elites on the other side they will strengthen their own side—the reality tends more to exposing all elites. Again, this was part of the Framers’ intent, or “code”.

Step Three is to get the few on the side of the masses who deeply understand the code (Albert Jay Nock called them “the Remnant”) to give up, switch sides and join the elites, or stop passing on Remnant-level knowledge and depth to the rising generations. This has proven impossible. The enemies of the Constitution have achieved no significant victories concerning this Step. Today’s Remnant are strong—people who love freedom and understand the Constitution deeply, one could say “algorithmically”, at the level of the Framers themselves.

Conclusion

Throughout the history of free nations, there are constant attacks on freedom and the principles upon which freedom is built. This remains the rule in our world today. The U.S. Constitution, under which more genuine freedom has been experienced by more people than in any other government in recorded history, is a powerful framework for freedom, and it is the best hope for continued freedom for the masses (and also the elites) in the years and decades ahead. Attempts to undermine the Constitution are many. They appear in multiple ways, both old and new, each year, many times a year, employing a variety of sources, methods, and tactics.

This will no doubt continue as long as we are free. As such, it is a good thing, an ongoing sign that people are using their freedoms to explore many options, question what works, and seek solutions to the real problems we still face. But freedom is not guaranteed. Historically, it is quite fragile. It only lasts when the people effectively stand up for it. It disappears when the masses fail to demand it. It is always, as Ronald Reagan warned, just one generation away from extinction. If we don’t protect it, we will lose it. If we are distracted, too busy, or too lazy or ignorant to fight for it, we deserve to lose it.

As mentioned, the First Step in destroying the Constitution is already accomplished. The Third will never be achieved. It is to the Second Step that the enemies of freedom amass their energy. They wield the might and power of all the money in the world, the wit and wisdom and will of the biggest and most prestigious institutions on earth, and the force of many in government, banks, universities, media outlets, corporations, foundations, experts and armies.

Against this stands the yet unexplained habit of the American people to sniff out elite schemes and vote them down, sometimes swinging Right and other times Left in a seemingly illogical, uncanny, and incredibly potent pattern of effective choices—decade after decade. Their actions are far from perfect, and they are not coordinated, yet so far they have kept the regular people’s place above all the polish, erudition and stratagems of the world’s so-called “best and brightest”—those in financial and political power.

Still, little by little, the enemies of freedom whittle away around the edges. Over time, this reduces freedom, slowly but surely. Today this erosion is approaching a serious danger point—especially if “dirty tricks” steal away the Constitution in ways that further undermine its effectiveness. We are living in the times described by W.B. Yeats:

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

Will the American voters at some point lose their proven “sixth” sense of quietly rebuffing elite agendas? If so, will this happen soon? Or, more specifically, will those who hate our Constitutional freedoms find ways to destroy the system that endows the regular people this power? The pressure to do so continues to build.

(For more on this topic, including effective solutions, read Oliver DeMille’s book Freedom Shift: 3 Choices to Reclaim America’s Destiny>> )


*Books Reviewed:


NOTES

[i] David Faris, 2018, It’s Time to Fight Dirty: How Democrats Can Build a Lasting Majority in American Politics

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] Ibid.

[v] Ibid.

[vi] Op. Cit., Faris

[vii] No such party actually exists, at least not as such; hopefully, of course, nothing of the sort ever will, or get anything near 1% support in the electorate.

[viii] Ibid.

[ix] Ibid.

[x] Ibid.

[xi] Mike Lee, 2015, Our Lost Constitution: The Willful Subversion of America’s Founding Document

[xii] Mike Lofgren, 2016, The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government

[xiii] Quantocracy: Government Rule by Algorithms and Quants

[xiv] Frank Pasquale, 2015, The Black Box Society: The Secret Algorithms That Control Money and Information

[xv] Ibid.

[xvi] Ibid.

[xvii] Ibid.

[xviii] Questions: Does Estonia still do this in 2019? Have any other nations followed suit?

[xix] Cited in Shoshana Zuboff, 2019, The Age of Surveillance: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power

[xx] Ibid.

[xxi] See ibid.

[xxii] Ibid.

[xxiii] Ibid.

[xxiv] Ibid.

[xxv] Cited in bigdata-madesimple.com

[xxvi] Amy Webb, 2019, The Big Nine: How the Tech Titans and Their Thinking Machines Could Warp Humanity

[xxvii] Anachronistic? Probably.

[xxviii] The American Founding era phrase for what we might term a sort of political “algorithm” was “auxiliary precautions”.

Category : Aristocracy &Blog &Book Reviews &Business &Citizenship &Community &Constitution &Culture &Current Events &Economics &Education &Entrepreneurship &Featured &Foreign Affairs &Generations &Government &History &Independents &Information Age &Leadership &Liberty &Mission &Politics &Producers &Statesmanship &Technology

News of the Day – Media Spin

July 25th, 2019 // 3:37 pm @

I. Today in the News

There is so much going on in the news these days–big events that have major potential to influence the future of our nation and freedom. Unfortunately, almost all the news is reported with strong partisan leanings. The slant and spin are frequently overwhelming.

To respond, I’ve decided to do an in-the-news series that steps away from current partisan spin and addresses the big news of the day from the perspective of the U.S. Constitution and the viewpoint of the American Founding. It will give readers a different way to look at things. I’ll try to keep these brief and to the point, just a few paragraphs per post. I hope you will comment and share so this can influence people…

II. July 2019: Media Spin

Most people tend to see modern media as two groups warring with each other—the media Left versus media Right—over what’s really going on in America. Whatever politicians do in Washington, the Left media spins it one way, and the Right media either spins it differently or seeks to debunk what the Left media has reported. Most Americans tend to see through this spin, but very few see the “other” part of what’s actually happening.

We live in the age of reality entertainment. Sports, the original reality show, is very popular—especially big events (like the Super Bowl) on live TV. Live politics, such as debates, are popular as well, though not quite as popular as sports. Reality television programs continue to garner and keep avid fans every season.

Perhaps if we really thought about it, we would realize that there is a formula of success for reality television. Extra credit if you realize that it applies to politics every bit as much as it does to shows like The Bachelor, the Super Bowl, Survivor, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, American Idol (and all it’s talent and dance spin-offs), March Madness and the NBA Playoffs, the Real Wives series, The Apprentice, etc.

Survivor – Media Style

Here are the key points in the formula of Reality-TV Success:

  1. Ratings depend on a battle between two sides
  2. How strongly people hate one or both of the sides drives ratings, the more intense the hate, the higher the ratings
  3. To get non-interested people to start watching the show, you need to get regular people talking about the villains they hate on the show (so the uninterested people will hear about the controversy in strong enough terms that a number of them tune in)
  4. The battle and controversy must escalate each week, to keep people watching
  5. Viewers must know that a major showdown (a finale) is coming, and that it will portray high drama with a clear winner who takes all the spoils and a loser who is sent home with nothing [in politics, this finale is the next major election]
  6. Only hated villains increase ratings drastically, so the job of producers and reality-show participants is to exaggerate and dramatize the conflict, over and over, the more the better
  7. If you want to win, you need to be seen as strong and trying hard but also vulnerable, you need to be attacked and hurt, “bloodied” by your enemies and opponents, but refusing to give in or give up, to the point that many viewers are rooting for you (as much as they are simultaneously wanting the villains to lose, and as much as half the viewers are hating you and seeing you as the villain)
  8. If you are portrayed as a villain on such a show, the key is to find an even bigger villain, show how they’re hurting you, and create a major conflict between you and them
  9. Only outlandish, extreme behavior reaches a lot of new viewers and thus boosts ratings, and such behavior must be repeated next week if you want even more new viewers
  10. Being liked and considered good and classy kills ratings and viewers tune out, only tuning back in when there are bizarre and extreme attacks and controversies [in sports this is often achieved by bad behavior off the field and also by strong team rivalries and hatreds; the same is true for many actors and celebrities whose careers are in decline and they need to find a way back into the news]
  11. Only when you are strongly attacked will people really listen to you or care about you, and when you fight back effectively (i.e. in extreme ways) you will be admired by some and gain new support
  12. What happens on screen must be interesting enough that other TV shows and social media posts are inundated by people attacking you, and others defending you, or you aren’t going to win
  13. The more extreme attackers you can get to “gang up” on you, the more your supporters will line up to vocally defend you, and the more supporters you’ll get over time.

This formula can be weakened a bit by judges on shows where such judges have real power; but on TV shows where the viewers are the only judge, these rules become even stronger.

Now apply all this to politics, which is currently covered by the news media and posts on social media using these same reality-show rules. Add to this the tactic of  “baiting”, where one contestant wants to gain more supporters, so he/she attacks another person or group in an extreme way, in order to hopefully elicit an extreme reaction, which will in turn get a lot more supporters for himself/herself.

One reason this tactic is so effective is mentioned above: extreme controversy gets uninterested people to pay attention and take sides, and some of them will join your side.

But wait…some will join the other side too, so how does this actually help you?

Answer: When some new viewers join the other side, and some join your side, you don’t gain much. But when you bait multiple people and groups, incentivizing some to join you and others to join those you attack, you gain support with every controversy, but those joining your enemies typically join ONE person or group you attacked, while not emotionally joining the entire other SIDE.

Specifically, for example, when president Trump baits Nancy Pelosi and then later baits Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and then later Joe Biden, and Bernie Sanders, and then CNN, etc., he gains more supporters every time–depending on the level of controversy and intensity of attacks by him and against him. But while each controversy also gains supporters for each of the attacking entities, they aren’t united. Indeed, many who take Pelosi’s side really dislike Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and vice versa. Many who take Joe Biden’s side don’t like Bernie Sanders, and vice versa.

In fact, these smaller factions often try to tear down each other as much or even more than they try to denigrate the president. But ALL the new supporters gained by the president in each separate controversy give more to support him. At the same time, this pattern creates the feeling that everyone is ganging up on the president, engendering more sympathy, stronger emotions of support by his base, and more new supporters who dislike that he’s being ganged up on and also new supporters who like the way he stands up, all alone, to the gang that is piling on against him.

See the Whole Board

This is the same formula utilized in most popular high-action movies, viz. Chuck Norris, John Wayne, The Rock, Rocky and Rambo, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mission Impossible, Bruce Willis, Captains Kirk and Picard, Black Panther, Wonder Woman, James Bond, The Matrix, the Flash, Jason Bourne, Avengers, etc. It’s the same pattern outlined in steps 1-13 above. Superheroes and superheroines stand against all odds, despite personal struggles or individual character flaws, and battle for what they believe in, suffer attacks and are hurt, and keeping fighting anyway, until they eventually win over evil.

Indeed their personal weaknesses, shortcomings, mistakes or character flaws almost always endear them to their supporters, because the “heroes” stand up against the attacking enemies even though they themselves are flawed and far from perfect. Think Iron Man, Sherlock Holmes, or Bruce Wayne.

Ronald Reagan was great at creating this heroic “reality” in the public mind, so was president Obama. JFK impressively did it before “reality shows” were even a thing. Bob Dole and Michael Dukakis were terrible at it, as was John Kerry. Kissinger was good at it, and Al Gore understood it and tried to do it, but couldn’t quite pull it off.

Neither George Bush was very good at it either, nor was Jimmy Carter. Marco Rubio and Bernie Sanders didn’t do it well; Chris Christie is great at it, but not quite as good as Trump. Bill Clinton mastered it, but Hillary struggled—just didn’t quite get it, mainly because she wanted to “be liked” too much.

This appears to be the same reason Jeb Bush, John McCain, and Mitt Romney couldn’t use it very well—the extreme attack, the relentless controversy, the bizarre media battles, and purposely getting half the nation to hate you so the other half would support you, just wasn’t their thing. They wanted everyone to like them. Donald Trump is more interested in winning than being liked, and he is even better at reality-show tactics than Bill Clinton.

Joe Biden tries, but so far isn’t very good at it. But the real issue is whether the American people understand these tactics and recognize when they are being employed. Those who dislike Trump consider such reality-TV tactics lacking in taste, class, and decency, but tend to admire the same tactics when launched by those from their side of the aisle. Trump supporters who understand this tactic generally wink and laugh when the president so effectively employs it against the Left, but they frown when it is used by Nadler, Schiff, Pelosi, Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews, Stephen Colbert, Robert De Niro, or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, among others.

One way to quickly recognize this tactical approach is simple: Whatever tonight’s mainstream news is openly attacking about Donald Trump, go see how he baited it. See what person or group he’s baited, and how the news media is sucked into spreading his plan for their response of “zealous, extreme outrage” far and wide.

The more angry and adamant the news reports, the more effective his tactic. One little group of his opposition grows, but his support grows even more, bit by bit over time. Then watch his approval ratings a week later–both among his base, and overall. The ratings almost always increase a bit after a major controversy where he baits someone and then the mainstream media attacks him.

The more extreme the attack, the more he usually benefits. An important longterm question is: can Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez master these same reality-show tactics? (Think 2020, 2022, and 2024 House and Senate elections; and the 2028 presidential race.) So far, she’s rivaled Trump in this reality-TV-style tactical arena. Some might argue that she’s even better at it.

As for 2020, a salient question is whether Kamala Harris or Elizabeth Warren (or any other candidate) can dominate reality-show tactics more effectively than Trump? Though the election cycle is just beginning, Kamala so far seems very adept with these tactics. Measuring effectiveness according to these tactics, Kamala is right now the clear frontrunner for the Democratic nomination in 2020.

Think Several Moves Ahead

Finally, why do such tactics work? The answer is deeply rooted in human history, perhaps even in our ancestral/emotional DNA. Stories are our deepest language, and stories of the the underdog battling for what’s right, against evil, protecting the little guy against the “dark” forces of might and massive power, especially against all the odds, while being attacked from all sides, are ingrained in our collective experience.

The Left tries to use this same plotline against Trump (the plight of illegal immigrants), while the Right turns it against his opponents (the rising sinister forces of socialism). Each time the president baits anyone on the Left, or even the Right, the mainstream media’s response is so extreme, so howlingly mimicking the voices of an angry mob, that they make him look like the besieged warrior standing alone, refusing to stop believing or fighting for what he thinks is right.

In any plotline from reality TV or movies (or literature), the figure cast in such a role is always the hero. Regardless of the words spoken by the “sides,” year after year, with each night’s news, this narrative remains firm. And it grows each time it is broadcast, reinforced with every new and different situation.

In 2016 Trump inhabited this image, this feeling, more effectively than anyone else. In 2020? We’ll see. But so far the mainstream media is absolutely addicted to repeating this narrative every day, every evening, every newscast. And the president makes sure they keep doing it. It might possibly be that only someone who does it better, whatever their politics, can displace him.

The real issue, as mentioned, is whether or not we as citizens understand this—when it is utilized by Trump, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, or anyone else on the Left or Right.

It is our job to oversee and guide our nation’s future. We can only do this if we are playing chess, not checkers—clearly seeing through spin from all sides and immediately/consistently recognizing what is bait and what imagery is portrayed in every controversy.

Those playing “checkers” will hear the roar of the mainstream media criticizing a political figure and belief that he/she is on the ropes; those who actually understand what is happening clearly know that such noise communicates the exact opposite.

Category : Blog &Citizenship &Culture &Current Events &Featured &Generations &Government &History &Independents &Information Age &Leadership &Liberty &Politics &Statesmanship &Technology

The Jefferson-Madison Debates: What Are We NOT Teaching Today’s Youth?

February 27th, 2019 // 8:04 am @

THE MISSING TOPIC IN MODERN EDUCATION

What Was Lost

I thought he was convinced, but then he leaned forward in his chair and shook his head. He wasn’t officially my student, but we’d had a number of mentoring discussions in recent months, and I knew from experience that he was about to say something deep.

“It’s frustrating that so many people in my generation like socialism,” he said. “But I don’t think they really understand it. They just dislike all the political division and fighting, and Bernie Sanders seemed like a third alternative.”

I nodded.

“Besides,” he continued, “I’m not actually a Millennial.”

“You’re not?” I asked…

“I’m Gen Z,” he said before I could finish. “Born after 9/11.”

I pondered that.

“We’re different from Millennials.” He paused. “A lot different.”

I could see this was really important to him. “In what ways?” I asked.

He could tell I wasn’t really buying it, and he grinned. “Well, we’re similar in a lot of ways too, I guess…” He pursed his bottom lip and cocked his head slightly to one side. “But I don’t think that’s our fault. I think the bad traits that are blamed on Millennials and Gen Z aren’t really caused by us.”

I was shaking my head at this point, so he raised his voice a bit.

“No. Seriously. This is real. You guys just don’t get it…”

“Get what?”

He sighed. “Okay, you’re not wrong. But you’re not right, either. It goes deeper than pointing out the weaknesses of Millennials. We’ve bought into some things we shouldn’t, but I blame most of it on Boomers and Gen X, on our parents and the other adults in our lives. Your generation trained us to be this way.”

My skepticism must have showed.

“Look…” he said. He was getting a bit frustrated, but he calmed himself and smiled. I could tell he had given this a lot of thought.

“Here’s the deal,” he looked at me intently. “Your generation cared a lot about raising kids. Maybe too much. They don’t call you ‘Helicopter Parents’ for nothing. But in all your hovering as parents, your generation missed something. Something big.”

I waited, not sure what to expect.

“Your generation of parents taught my generation to be good people. And you taught us to aim for success in our schooling and careers. But you didn’t teach us to be strong.”

He said the last sentence slowly, with emphasis on the words “didn’t” and “strong.” I was surprised by his words. After considering them for a moment, I realized I was hearing something important.

Making Snow

“Huh…. You might be right,” I said slowly.

“In fact, you actually avoided teaching us to be strong—in a lot of ways. If we had a chance to face a problem or struggle on our own, you jumped in and offered help. Or just told us what to do. Or told us not to worry about it, and then you took care of it.” He kept talking, without pausing: “If something seemed hard for us, you told us to drop it or avoid it. If you didn’t think we could handle it, you didn’t even let us try…

“Of course, there are exceptions. Rare parents who did it differently. Unique teachers, coaches or others who pushed us. But they are the exceptions, not the rule. “And for every demanding coach or hard teacher who pushed us there are twenty parents protecting us from those same people, telling us we don’t have listen to them or do what they say. Every time I had a demanding youth leader or coach, almost all the other adults in my life undermined them. Most kids in my generation have a habit of just ignoring anything hard—they know their parents will back them and help them get out of hard things. So they hardly ever push themselves. Why should they—when the adults are always telling them the easy way is better?”

He stopped to take a breath, but I didn’t have anything to say. I was nodding by this point, surprised at his intensity, and also the wisdom of his observations.

“You know how many adults act worried when I tell them I like martial arts, and football? And try to talk me into quitting? Also, I’ve learned never to mention that I might want to serve in the military when I’m older. That gets most adults really angry at me—like serving your country is the stupidest choice anyone could ever make…”

He cocked his head again. “Which is strange, because those same people act super patriotic when the flag is mentioned, or in church meetings around the Fourth of July. I’ve noticed that a lot of them fly flags in front of their yard. It’s weird.”

I sighed, a bit overwhelmed by his onslaught. Important thoughts, these.

“What did you say my generation teaches well, versus poorly?” I asked. I wanted to make sure I remembered it correctly.

“You’ve taught us to be good, and to seek career success. But you don’t teach us to be strong. In fact, most of the time you teach us to be weak.”

“Wow…”

He frowned. “And your generation has the audacity to point out how weak my generation is, and mock us for things like participation trophies. I mean, most of us want real trophies, at least at first. It’s the adults who told us that participation trophies are better. You teach us to be weak, you refuse to let us do hard things that build strength, and you warn us against doing anything really hard or risky in life, then you call us Snowflakes!” His shook his head in disgust.

“Okay,” I responded. “I get it. You’re making a lot of sense.” I laughed: “But calling your generation ‘Phone Zombies’, or ‘Selfie Addicts’, like some people do, is pretty accurate, right?”

He laughed with me. Then he said: “But you guys aren’t the best with phones either. Like, why does your generation answer the phone by saying ‘hello’ and acting like you don’t know who’s calling? You have the name of the caller right on your screen!”

I laughed. I had never noticed that before.

He knit his brow. “It’s basically the same thing, really. It’s pretending. Why do Boomers and Gen X pretend so much? You pretend you don’t know who is calling on the phone, but it gets worse. You pretend to know the answers, and you pretend you know so much better than us. But you don’t, not really. We didn’t elect Clinton, Obama, or Trump or Bush. You guys did that. Why?

Opposite Lessons

I laughed again. “Good question. I don’t know if I have a good answer though. But…you don’t like any of them? I thought a lot of Millennials liked Obama?”

“Not me. But then Gen Z is different politically than most Millennials, and I’m unique even for Gen Z.”

“How are you different?”

“Easy—my parents taught me to be strong, not weak. That makes me different from a lot of people my age.”

“How did they do it?” I asked.

“My parents? Well, they did it with little things, mostly. Like…the time a sixth grader was picking on my little sister, and shoving her, and I told him to stop. He told me no, and kept shoving her. I was only in the third grade, and my sister was a first grader, but when the bigger kid didn’t stop I hit him right in the nose. Hard. He was twice my size, but I couldn’t just stand there and watch him hurt my sister.”

“What happened?”“I got in trouble, and got lectured about how nobody should ever hit anyone no matter what. I asked the principal if that applied to U.S. soldiers fighting Hitler, and he didn’t like it. He called my mom and she promised she’d read me the riot act. When I got home, my mom asked what happened. I told her everything, and when I was done she told me I did the right thing. My dad said he’d never been prouder of me in my whole life.”

“Wow,” I said. “What did the principal think of that?” “Nothing. They told me to tell him I was sorry and wouldn’t do it again. But to stop the big kid anyway if he kept picking on my sister. I asked about the principal’s threat to kick me out of school, and my parents laughed. ‘You don’t need school to learn,’ my mom said. So I kept a close eye on that kid.”

“Did he pick on your little sister again?”

“No. The boy got in big trouble. Not for picking on my sister, but for getting in a fight with me.”

“Oh, he hit you back?”

“No. He just got hit, and fell down. That’s all he did. But his parents called that a fight and grounded him.”

“Maybe the parents didn’t like that he was shoving a little first grader, and that’s why they grounded him.”

He thought about that. “Maybe. That’s not what he said, though. He said it was for fighting with me, even though all he did was fall down and cry. Either way, the boy learned the lesson to never get in a fight cause you’ll get grounded, and I learned the lesson to stand up for what’s right. We learned opposite lessons.”

“You think that made the bigger boy weaker in life?”

“No idea. We moved away a year later. But he was bullying a little kid, so maybe he needed to learn to be smarter and nicer, not stronger. But what I realized from that event is that most adults don’t want us to be strong. Some do, but most don’t. I’ve seen a lot of other examples of this through the years.”

“Like what?”

Rules and Exceptions

“Well, the biggest example is found just by comparing the way people online talk about Millennials with what my generation is taught almost every day in school. Almost every criticism of Millennials comes from following the exact same lessons we’re taught to obey in school. If we act the way our teachers tell us we’re called “good students” when we’re in school, but if we act that same way once we’re out in the workforce we’re called ‘Snowflakes,’ ‘flaky,’ ‘uncommitted,’ and things like that. It’s annoying.”

“Yeah,” I nodded again. “Makes sense. You’re told over and over not to rock the boat, so you learn to be…I’m not sure what the right word is…”

“Mediocre?” he asked, “Passive? Weak? Unfocused.”

“Okay. Is that what you think?”

“We’re the Mediocre Generation,” he nodded. “But hey, how could we be anything else? We’re told over and over that you aren’t a good person if you go after the achievement trophy by beating the other team. We’re supposed to make sure everyone does just as well as we do, even if that means losing or not trying very hard.”

“But in sports…”

“Like I said before,” he interrupted, “there are exceptions, like sports, the military, or…well, I can’t think of anything else. But only a few people get to be in competitive sports. Most of us just play sports in gym class, and it’s never about winning, always about trying less so nobody looks bad. We’re taught to relax and never try hard in anything. Never show up anyone else. Just stay in the middle of the group. Then, when we get in the workforce we’re called slackers, lacking ambition, not leaders. It’s trash. The double standard is trash.”

“Is that why you like martial arts, because you get to really do your best?”

“Yes, and no,” he answered. “In most martial arts classes, it’s the very same. I’ve had lots of martial arts teachers, because we moved a lot, but only one of them really taught us to be strong, to actually fight, to test our moves in real combat. The other classes were a lot of theory, very little actual fighting, or learning to fight. Then I got a teacher who let us get bloody, literally, because he wanted us to actually be good at what we were learning. Lots of parents pulled their kids out of the class after just one or two visits, but that teacher taught me so much more than all the other teachers combined.”

“So, you think parents should let their kids get bloody noses and bruised faces more often?”

He laughed. “That’s the kind of thing adults say when they’re going to the extreme, when they want to feel good about raising weak kids rather than letting their kid do hard things. As if those are the only two options. That’s a straw man argument.”

“But, let’s just be honest,” he continued, “If you want to be good at self defense, you’re going to have to learn to actually defend yourself. And yes, that means getting hit sometimes, enough to become good at the skill. The same thing is true in math, or history. I’m amazed at the wimpy assignments a lot of kids get in their classes. If they don’t really study, they don’t learn very much. If their studies aren’t really hard, their education ends up being pretty weak.”

The Road Less Traveled

I nodded. “Any other ways your parents taught you to be strong?”

“A lot of ways… Example was one of the most important.”

“What example did they give you?”

“Well, they built a business. They both started as employees, but early on they decided to start a business, and that made a huge difference.”

“How so?”

“Building a successful business is about as hard as anything. It’s way harder than being an employee, in most cases. I watched my parents through the lean years, building, building, sacrificing. Always sure the benefits would eventually come, but working so hard for almost no pay, year after year. By the time success really came, I was almost grown up. But I watched them struggle and keep going. Building a business from scratch is an amazing thing. It was incredibly hard, and the family members all participated in making it work. I used to be so amazed at how much extra time other dads had to spend with their kids, and how much extra money they seemed to have.

“My dad’s extra time and money all went right back into the business. And it was amazing. We all learned so much. Watching my parents do really hard things, and eventually succeed, made me realize that I can do it too. I remember teachers in school talking about how hard entrepreneurship is, and how all the students should choose an easier path and be an employee. But those teachers aren’t nearly as impressive or successful as my parents. And they don’t make nearly as much money. So I followed the harder path whenever I could. Easy isn’t the goal. It just makes you weak. Strong is so much better.”

“You’re kind of a philosopher, aren’t you?” I asked.

“Not really. But I was homeschooled during my high school years, so I learned to think about things. Not just cram for tests, or try to look good with my grades, like they wanted me to in public school. I want to really understand the things I study, but that means digging deep. Hard, serious study brings real learning. The rest is trash.”

I laughed. “So if the world homeschooled, we’d all be better off?”

“No, that’s not what I’m saying. My point is entirely different. If the world did really, really hard education, we’d be way better off. Seriously! But so many of your generation keeps telling people my age to do easy stuff—as if that’s really going to help them. Like I said, if it’s easy education, it’s mostly trash. Regardless of home school, public school, or any other kind of school. Easy is usually trash. If it’s hard, it’s more likely worth doing.”

The Problem We Missed

“You’re in college now; so do you find it harder than before?”

“Well, my classmates nearly all say it’s a lot harder than high school. But I find it easier in one way, and harder in another. The material is easy. I study a couple of hours a day, or less, and I’ve gotten mostly straight A’s all year. It’s so much easier than my teen years in homeschool. But it’s hard in a way that’s really frustrating—there is a lot of busy work that teaches me nothing, but I have to do it and show my work. I can get the right answer within thirty seconds, but I have to take 5 or 10 minutes to show the work. Ridiculous. It’s not learning, it’s rote busywork. I think the purpose is to give students something to do to prove they’re working. But it gets in the way of real learning. Too much of it is a waste of time.”

“Maybe they’re trying to make it hard for you! You said you wanted hard.”

He didn’t smile at my joke. In fact, he frowned. “Rote isn’t the same thing as hard. Rote is a cop-out. It seems hard, but you’re not actually learning much, if anything. Real ‘hard’ is way better, because you actually improve your knowledge, your skills, your ability to think and apply what you learn. Easy is the opposite of hard, but in another way rote is also the opposite of hard.”

“Interesting. Do you think college is making the same mistake you said most Boomers and Gen Xers have been making with their kids—teaching today’s youth to be good people and succeed in a career, but not to be strong? Or is it different at the college level?”

“It’s different, because they are teaching you to focus on your career, and they hardly mention being good people. That part is basically gone at the college level. But they still aren’t teaching us to be strong. It’s just as weak as in elementary and high school.”

“Really?”

“Really,” he doubled down. “The focus on career is so strong that nothing else seems to matter. They just don’t have time for being good, or becoming strong. They teach classes on ethics and legal responsibilities, but these are about the career, not actually about being good people.”

“Why do you think being strong is so important? Do you actually believe we need to teach it to all young people?”

He looked at me like I had three heads.

“Okay,” he said, “I’ll bite. If you’re not strong, you’re not actually going to be all that good in life. Not really. Not when it counts. Being truly good takes serious strength. And if you’re not strong you’re also not going to be really successful—in your career, or in your family and relationships, or in reaching your own personal goals. All of these things are hard. Those who make these things work have to struggle and overcome challenges. They face problems and roadblocks and sometimes enemies or opponents. If they aren’t strong, they don’t succeed.

“And they’ll never improve the world much. If fixing the world’s problems were easy, they’d have been solved a long time ago. My generation needs to be strong. Weakness is our biggest weakness, and being strong is our biggest need.”

Getting Started

I nodded, impressed. “You’re a unique young man,” I mused.

He took this as an affront. “Not really. There are a lot more of us than you might think. But we don’t just have to learn to become strong, like all young people did in history, we also have to unlearn all the weakness and trash the older generations have fed us…”

He sighed. “Like I said, it’s not simple. We’re kids. We want to believe what adults tell us. When we figure out that a lot of it is wrong…that makes it frustrating. It’s disappointing. And it isn’t simple to know which things to believe and which are just making us weak.”

“Which things are trash,” I said.

He smiled.

So did I. Then I said: “Next time you call I’m going to answer my phone by saying your name, not pretending I don’t know who is on the line.”

He laughed. “Good choice.”

“I don’t know why we do that…habit I guess.” I shook my head slowly. “In my day, we really didn’t know who was on the line when the phone rang.” I paused. Then: “My generation wants things to be easy, too,” I told him. “We wish we could skip everything hard. It’s not just you guys.”

“But youth have to be taught to be strong while we’re young,” he responded. “I’ve noticed that the older you get before you learn to be strong, the harder it is, and the more people try to avoid it. Parents don’t help their kids when they make things easy.”

“Really?” I pushed back. “Two year olds? Four year olds? We should have them all running marathons?”

“There you go again, making your point with an extreme example.”

I grinned. “Okay, at what age should it be hard?”

He pondered. “Well…at the age that the hard thing makes the kid strong. Some things won’t make a two-year-old strong, but will make a ten-year-old strong. There are things at all ages that will help, or hurt. But most importantly we need a different way of doing things with teens. That’s where most of the damage is done right now.”

I looked at him with quizzical eyes. “What do you need to do right now in your life that is really hard and will make you stronger, that you’re not doing yet?”

“Ah…” he relaxed and leaned back in his chair. “Now you’re mentoring me. That’s great. Thank you. Let me think about that question…”

Part II

What does each young person you mentor or parent right now need this week, or month, in his or her life, to become stronger in the right ways?

*For more on this topic and ways to educate young people for strength, get the book Hero Education, by Oliver DeMille. Available here >>

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The Madison-Jefferson Debates: What Isn’t True

August 7th, 2018 // 1:22 pm @

Reality or… Not?

Some things just aren’t true, even if we think they are. Even if we are assured that “everyone” says they’re true; and even if the experts—almost always unnamed—have formed a consensus on the matter. Actually, the more you get know the experts, the more you realize they aren’t in consensus on almost anything.

Now, let’s be clear. A lot of what we’re told is true. But not everything. And that’s why sometimes it’s important to take a step back and really dig into things. Research. Find out. There are whole websites dedicated to setting the record straight about urban myths, generally accepted “truths”, quotes that are attributed to someone who never said those words, etc. We give “Pinocchios” to politicians who fib, and “Fact Checker” is a growing career field in the Information Age. (Is it really? Or does it just seem like it? Ask the question on Google and you can spend hours studying the various listings. Or ask the same question on social media and wade through hundreds, or even thousands, of opinions.)

Falling for Everything

Here are few items that most people consider truth. Unassailable. Set in stone. Incontrovertible.

  • Lie Detector Tests
  • DNA Evidence
  • Election Polls
  • Carbon Dating

Which are sure? Which are certain? Not all. Do you know which of these are fully accepted by the experts in the field—no exceptions? Answer: none. All of the above are rejected by at least some experts, even where a majority of experts agree. Have you studied the arguments, evidence, tests and conclusions on each? Or any? Note that even where the science is firm, like with DNA evidence for example, the way experts present such science is at times incomplete or misleading. Or, another example, even if the statistics used in a pre-election survey are accurate, the wording of a specific survey question can skew the entire result; and what if survey respondents are afraid or ashamed to tell the truth, like in the 2016 U.S. presidential election when many voters didn’t want people to know they planned to vote for Donald Trump? In such cases, the math and the science can be technically correct, but the way experts use them turn out “wrong”, because all the variables aren’t controlled.

In short, on many things we simply know less than we need to. And yet most people are comfortable making decisions based on things they know very little about—just taking someone’s word for it. It’s a habit for most people.

But things are not always what they seem. Truth isn’t always what the experts claim. This doesn’t mean that every crackpot theory questioning the experts is correct. But it does suggest that we should be independent thinkers who read the original data or studies where possible and scrutinize things for ourselves. Independent thinking is required to maintain independence. This is obvious, isn’t it? But most people don’t follow this approach.

Time to Think

For our Madison-Jefferson conversation this week, I’m recommending the attached article. It is a great read, and an important one. It demands that we look at things more deeply, and think more wisely. It calls us to research more, question more, dig deeper, and not just accept conclusions at face value. It is one of those articles everyone should read and deeply consider. Agree or disagree, this article will make you think!

Enjoy…

How Social Science Might Be Misunderstanding Conservatives >>

 

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The Jefferson-Madison Debates: The Next Civil War?

May 13th, 2018 // 4:25 pm @

True or False…or False?

It’s getting worse. Just watch the news. This phrase, the “Next Civil War”, was recently used by economic forecaster Harry Dent to describe the growing divide between Red and Blue state cultures. These two sides now disagree with each other to the point that in many cases people experience real hatred for those on “the other side”.

Former president Barack Obama noted that people who largely get their news from the mainstream media and those who get their news mostly from Fox are basically living “on different planets.” They not only disagree on principles and solutions, he pointed out, but they fundamentally disagree on “facts”. What the Blue culture sees as incontrovertible truths, the Red culture frequently sees as lies. Fake. False. And the opposite is just as true: what the Red culture sees as fact is often considered false by Blue culture.

No wonder the two sides are so angry at each other. When you disagree on what the facts are, the solutions promoted by the other side frequently appear ludicrous. Even dangerous. Both sides, each rooted in its own understanding of reality, watch the other side say and do things that are clearly and painfully hurtful—according to the set of obvious but differing “facts” they each believe.

Roadblocks

This divide is widening. We’ve reached the point that one of the worst things parents can learn about their child’s “significant other” or new fiancé is that he/she is a Republican, or Democrat—depending on the family. Religion, career, ethnicity, education, financial status, and even a criminal history, are largely negotiable in most modern families. But the other political party? Many parents turn Tevye: “If I try and bend this far, I’ll break.”

Lynn Vavreck wrote in The New York Times (January 31, 2017): “In 1958, 33 percent of Democrats wanted their daughters to marry a Democrat, and 25 percent of Republicans wanted their daughters to marry a Republican. But by 2016, 60 percent of Democrats and 63 percent of Republicans felt that way.” And for many, the feelings run very deep. While in 1994 21 percent of Republicans viewed Democrats in the “Very Unfavorable” category, by 2016 the number was 58 percent. (Pew Research Center) In 1994 17 percent of Democrats saw Republicans as “Very Unfavorable”, but the number in 2016 had skyrocketed to 55 percent. (Ibid.)

Aaron Blake summarized this concern in The Washington Post: “If 58 percent of Republicans hate Democrats and 55 percent of Democrats hate Republicans, that would mean about 35 percent of registered voters hate the opposite political party.” (June 19, 2017) “But that’s not quite hate…. 45% of Republicans see the Democratic Party as a threat to the nation’s well-being…. [and] 41% of Democrats see the Republican Party as a threat to the nation’s well-being”. (Ibid.) When you add independents, the “hate” one of the parties (those who see the other party as a threat to the nation) makes up 39 percent of registered voters or “About 1 in 4” Americans. (Ibid.)

There are a lot of others who see the other side in an unfavorable light, around 33 percent of additional Republicans (for a total of 91% with “unfavorable” or “very unfavorable”) and 30 percent of additional Democrats (86% with “unfavorable” or “very unfavorable” views). (Ibid.) Note that all of this occurred before the Trump presidency. Again, this divide is real, and deep. In the Trump era the intensity has only increased.

But does any of this justify the phrase “Next Civil War”? Not yet. Not unless we’re going to surrender to hyperbole. Yet this conflict is escalating in many sectors—it’s moved beyond the traditional battlegrounds of politics and news media to additional culture and power centers including education, television, movies, entertainment awards shows, daily and nightly talk shows (both radio and television), sports, and multiple venues on social media. Even social media and Internet platforms are getting involved by adjusting algorithms to promote certain political leanings—or dampen the voice of those they dislike—often without informing their customers.

Platforms and Soapboxes

For many Americans, the sight of some NFL players purposely kneeling during the National Anthem is the ultimate symbol of this divide. One side sees young role models and leaders using their public platform to bravely protest government abuse—especially what they consider racially charged police violence. The other side feels hurt and confused by millionaire beneficiaries of the American Dream figuratively spitting on the American Flag and the sacrifice of dead and maimed military heroes.

It’s difficult to even discuss this situation rationally in many venues due to the raw and heartfelt emotions of people on both sides of the Red-Blue cultural divide.

Sadly, many schools have also become places of great conflict. For example, a national uproar occurred when a middle school teacher assigned her students to write letters to political officials urging them to pass stronger gun control laws. Should teachers tell middle school children what sides to take on political issues? And assign them to engage in activism for one specific side? At what point does teaching become brainwashing? A father of one of the students, a policeman, refused to allow his child to do the assignment. The father deeply disagreed with the politics of the teacher, and many of the other parents disagreed with the politicization of middle school in general. In response to backlash, the teacher allowed students to skip the assignment without penalty, but didn’t suggest writing against stronger gun control if this more accurately aligned with the student’s views. The same week, an elementary student was expelled from school for drawing himself hunting during a “free art” assignment, and a high school teacher was fired for a lengthy history-class soliloquy describing current members of the military as “the lowest of the low” in our society. Red and Blue cultures passionately disagreed on how these events should be handled. Both sides largely see the other’s view as ridiculous and extreme.

Another moment that epitomizes this division occurred on Broadway when the cast of Hamilton stopped the musical midstream to lecture the new Vice President elect, Mike Pence. Hamilton itself is an artistic icon—an American Les Miserables that underscores how the struggles of Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton and their families and peers unleashed freedom in a way that has now spread to people of all backgrounds. The lecture itself was seen by one side as a welcome comeuppance to a dangerous new administration, and by the other as yet another gauche elitist attack against the will of the voters and the American system.

Networks, Numbers, and New Divides

Thankfully this war is largely cultural—it has not devolved into massive physical violence between the two sides of a nation (like the French Revolution, U.S. Civil War, or Russian Revolution, etc.). Hopefully it will always remain peaceful. But in the fight for hearts, there is no doubt that a major civil war for the future of our republic is already under way.

Worse, it is doubtful that any real solution is imminent. When one part of the nation generally believes most of what airs on CNN, ABC, NBC and MSNBC, while another part tends to place more trust in Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, or Trump tweets, the two aren’t going see eye-to-eye on much of anything. And when these two groups are the largest political blocs in our republic, we’re going to have genuine and repeated disagreements.

Perhaps the epicenter of this battle for “the hearts and minds of the people” is found in the media. And this poses a major challenge. Why? Because most of modern media—from both the Left and Right—has three serious problems:

1-It is largely agenda driven (“Forget the facts, full speed ahead!”)

2-It is shallow.

3-It is electronic.

Most people realize the problems with item #1. As a result, they stop listening to media outlets that are clearly against their views—and seem hostile to anyone with a different perspective. This has created another significant problem with modern media:

4-It is isolated. The Right listens to the Right, while the Left listens to the Left. Few listen to both. Few listen to the other side. Over time, media outlets increasingly cater to their narrow audiences, so the extremism increases.

Result: the divisions in our nation are getting wider, deeper, and more susceptible to anger and, too often, extremism and unhealthy thinking and actions.

The Missing Depth

The  2nd and 3rd problems listed just above are equally dangerous. Many people are very busy—work, family, more work, community, more family. Little time is left over for meaningful civic involvement, much less for taking the time to really dig into each day’s news, truly understand what is happening, and go way beyond the 30 second sound bites or even 3 minute segments on any given story. An hour of the news is more than most can spare—and most hour newscasts only provide a very shallow overview of a few of the day’s news topics. In short, shallow. No time for depth.

The result is that nearly all shows repeat a few top stories, with only a bit of detail. Even if a person watched television all day, he or she would usually only hear about the same top stories, addressed shallowly over and over—with different opinions but nothing really weighty or reflective. Depth is almost unheard of in most of today’s media.

This is especially true of the electronic media. Besides, television, radio, and online media typically interact with human brains more like entertainment than like something really, truly important. When we watch or listen or surf our news, in most cases, we are in the mode of moving quickly from one thought to the next. Even if we try to focus, ads, pop-ups and crawlers invade our screen with multiple headlines and distractions all at once. Our devices were purposely designed this way, in fact.

Reading the news, in contrast, naturally moves the focus into our intellect. A good start. “But nobody wants to read anything longer than a page…” today’s editors assure everyone. Many editors put the limit at “two paragraphs.” If we don’t read more deeply, we’ll truly and literally become a nation of sheep. Deep thinking is needed to deal with the reality of today’s complex and globally-interconnected world—for any citizen. And deep thinking about the news is basically impossible unless we’re reading (or listening/watching to a source that takes) much more than 5 minutes to really address an issue in some depth.

The Jefferson-Madison Debates

The term “fake news” means the following to most people: news that pushes a false agenda, distracts from truth, lies. But “shallow news” is just as bad for the nation. Even “accurate news” that is shallow is a major blow to our society. And this accounts for most of what media consumers experience. When it is both fake and shallow, we’re in real trouble.

The Left and Right argue about which news reports are “fake,” but few even claim to offer real depth in their news. And even fewer consumers seem to be actively searching for and embracing deeper news.

To reiterate: the Red-Blue divisions are growing, and intensifying, and this means that major problems are ahead unless we do something about it. My plan is to write a weekly (or, sometimes, every two week) article that treats real topics in enough depth to help readers take a step back from the constant screaming of electronic news, and really understand a topic (one at a time) enough to see behind the scenes of modern media spin and fake/shallow posturing.

More will, of course, be needed to stop our seeming national sprint toward more civil conflict. But I know this weekly column will make a difference—for those who read it.

It was the reading and thinking about articles and pamphlets during the American Founding generation that helped America gain freedom, and deep thinking is vitally needed today. I’m calling this new series of weekly articles The Jefferson-Madison Debates, and I hope you’ll join us.

It’s going to be fun.

— Oliver DeMille

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