Glenn Beck connects Bannon, Trump to Putin through Leninist ideas of Dugin

Glenn Beck took apart Steve Bannon’s remarks at CPAC (at National Harbor, MD) tonight on CNN.

Bannon talked about America as a nation and culture with borders and an identity, about economic nationalism (which could border on autarky) and “deconstructing the administrative state”.

Beck claimed that Bannon is inspired by Russian political scientist Aleksandr Dugin, whom Beck described as Leninist (perhaps post-Stalinist) without Marxism.

There are a number of far-out essays you can find quickly on Dugin’s ideas.  It’s a little hard to unscramble them into a logical system.  But it sounds to me like a fetish (even constructing sexuality and marriage) for order and tradition for its own sake.  It is traditionalism that maintains everyone has his “right-sized” place, and enforcing that idea gives life its meaning (whether mapped onto religion or not).  It is anti-modernist, anti-creative.  It’s rationalizations resemble those of “National Socialism”, to my eyes, at least.

Is this the “cult” that has taken over the administration?  Was there some alt-right plot to use Trump to manipulate a gullible, relatively uneducated “white” labor voter base, to turn on (and silence) sophistry and elitism?  Is Trump himself a pawn in some unusual chess opening gambit?  At least Peter Thiel always opens “1 e4”.

In the meantime, both Milo Yiannopoulos and Richard Spencer have taken their falls already, but separately.  Maybe Kelly Anne will too.

Newsmax reference on Beck.

Buchanan reference.

New European Conservative reference.

Radix Journal reference.

All of this is a bit scary. It sounds like crackpotism.

(Posted: Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017 at 9:45 PM EST)

Here’s my own combo speech — Inauguration and State of the Union — where I pretend I won the election (hint for Donald Trump)

People say I’m dangerous.  I can make right-wing ideas seem reasonable, sensible, justifiable.  I can keep someone like Donald Trump (that is “(t)Rump”)on point if I write his speeches for him and design his policies.  I’m even called the Elder Milo.

If I were hired to help Donald Trump write his inauguration speech, or State if the Union address, or something composite of the two, here is what I would come up.  Let me be the dangerous faggot #2.

Is America Great now?  I think it is.  Was it Great before?  I’m glad that I didn’t make the personal sacrifices of the Greatest Generation, or serve in a segregated Army against a common enemy, or endure the racism suffocating in the 60s.  I did catch the “homophobia of resentment”.  But if we want America to be Great, here is what we have to keep in mind.

Area 1:  We must protect, preserve and sustain our way of life, and build on it: Infrastructure.

That starts with national security.  I personally believe what I thought when I was writing the notorious Chapter 4 of my DADT-1 book, that North Korea is our most dangerous enemy.  The threats vary, from rogue states of extreme communism – the Cold War is not over – to the asymmetric actors of radical Islam.  And some enemies want to treat ordinary citizens as combatants, as if they could target anyone and make an example of him.  This sounds like what we associate with ISIS, but it is rhetoric I heard from some sectors of the extreme Left in the early 1970s when I was coming of age myself as a young adult.

In fact, I recognize that there is a significant subculture in our own country today, the prepper community, which believes that no civilization is permanent, and that every person has a responsibility to learn to survive on his own without technology in a decentralized, primitive environment.  How these remarks will affect individual people, myself included, I will come back to.  But it is clear that our dependence on technology is unprecedented, and it does make us vulnerable to sudden catastrophe.  That is no longer a fantasy of the extreme right or alt-right.

But I want to counter with the idea that we can “work smart”  We can do a lot more to protect and preserve our technological infrastructure.  First, let me mention what we should be doing overseas:  we should continue finding and securing all caches of nuclear material that may be lost around the world.  We don’t hear much about this.  But Sam Nunn and the Nuclear Threat Initiative are right.  There are unusual materials that terrorists could get their hands on.  We have to do much better at pursuing this. Now let me move to what we should do at home.  Our power grids and other infrastructure systems are vulnerable.  There is a lot more we need to start doing to protect them.

We need to make sure that our infrastructure grids are kept as separated from the public Internet and hackers as we keep the Pentagon and our own NSA.  There simply should no way someone could get to a power station from this computer, period.

But we also have to be smarter about the way we manage power itself.  I know this because much of my own family’s investment wealth, some of which I inherited, came from oil and gas and particularly utilities. I get to see oil and utility company materials.  Shareholders put pressure on utilities to maximize profits from the ability to share loads quickly.  But that capacity also makes us dependent on large transformers, which can be overloaded by deliberate sabotage.  And we don’t make enough our own transformers at home.  We can’t replace them.  We can’t get them from overseas quickly or move them around.  So we need both to move much of our infrastructure component manufacturing back home, and we need to build smaller stations and make individual nodes more self-reliant.  This can be done with modern natural gas plants and even small underground fission plants, as Taylor Wilson has proposed.  But this would take tremendous private and public investment.

The possible threats to the grids are multiple:  extreme solar storms (we barely dodged one in 2012), cyberterror, physical attacks, and some kinds of nuclear and even non-nuclear flux detonations.

Note that fixing this problem adds well-paying, high-skilled jobs at home. It also favors cleaner technology.  It even encourages people to have their own power sources, including solar panels, at home.  This sounds like a win-win.

The dependability of infrastructure and utilities does affect the standard of living and the capability of less fortunate people to lift themselves up.

Area 2:  Sustainability and climate change

Most religious heritages believe the people living today have a moral responsibility for future generations, at least what our kids and grandkids, considered collectively, will face as adults.  The fact that human activity has added carbon dioxide to the Earth’s atmosphere and that ice caps are melting is undeniable.

But what is less clear is how many incidents today are directly the result of climate change.  Tornadoes and hurricanes and extreme storms have happened in the distant past.  The droughts and wildfires seem to be the most likely results of climate changes, as well as the loss of high latitude communities to warming, which is much more noticeable near polar areas than in temperate zones.

What also is not completely clear is how other forces will play out.  While sudden escalations of warming are possible, as with methane release, so is sudden cooling, as with volcanic eruptions, or certain features of the way the Gulf Stream works.

But we must take the science on this problem seriously and not run from it.

Area 3: Sustainability and public health

We do face the possibility of novel pandemics.  HIV-AIDS seemed unprecedented in its diabolical nature when it broke out in the 1980s, but we now know that it may have been here long before igniting. Today, however, the biggest threats come from conventionally contagious diseases, not from sexually transmitted ones.  These include super-influenzas and respiratory diseases, and possibly exotic tropical blood disease like Ebola, and some of these might be insect-born.

The science tells us that vaccines work.  We can be more active in staying ahead of the curve in developing vaccines for “bird flu” for example.  We can protect college students from sudden and shocking amputations associated with meningitis with vaccines.  We may eventually have a vaccine for HIV.

People continue to question whether they are placing their kids at theoretical risk of autism by giving them vaccines.  The science tells us that this risk is extremely miniscule and theoretical if it exists at all.  There are herd effects.  If there is a risk at all, parents who refuse to “take the risk” are riding on the willingness of others to do so to maintain a population immunity to preventing any possibility of a pandemic breaking out.

Area 4: Trade

American consumers should not take advantage of products made with slave-labor overseas.  In the long run, America will benefit if more products are made at home.  In many circumstances, companies can be convinced to keep jobs here.  Innovation is making it profitable to keep jobs at home.

At the same time, the sudden imposition of tariffs would be harmful to the economy.  And particularly in Mexico and Central America, the growth of jobs there would tend to reduce the need for emigration to the US

But many of the terms of some proposed agreements, such as TPP, have terms that are potentially harmful to many American businesses, workers and entrepreneurs.

Area 5: Immigration

It is true that uncontrolled immigration presents some security problems for America.  It is true that in some areas, the “Wall” or the “Fenway Park Green Monster” needs to be strengthened.  But a Wall is not a fix-all for all our problems with jobs.  Many studies show that as a whole, immigrants commit fewer crimes than domestics, and that immigrants add to the economy.  Many immigrants take jobs Americans don’t want or couldn’t even do.

We have to be extremely careful about admitting people from some parts of the world.  That is true.  One question, when it comes to Syrian refugees, is why we don’t pressure the wealthy Muslim countries to do more of their parts in providing areas for them to move to.  Dubai, Qatar, UAE, even Saudi Arabia, should step up to the plate.

Broad-based bans of certain religions or countries are not likely to be effective.  In fact, some domestic attacks have come from people who have been here legally for a long time, or from their second-generation kids.

It is not reasonable to reverse all of the previous president’s policies.  In fact, president Obama was aggressive with deportations of those with criminal records or who entered the country illegally and don’t have credible asylum claims.  I would continue this policy.  I think the adult kids covered under DACA should stay and be given paths to legal residency and citizenship as long as they don’t have criminal records.

Area 6: Health care and services:

An underlying problem with health care and other benefits is “moral hazard”.  People will tend to use services that they can get other people to pay for.  We can propose benefits and policies, such as paid workplace family leave, but we must consider how we will pay for them.

With health care, whatever one can say about escalating premiums and various breakdowns of Obamacare. It’s clear that to replace it we should solve two big problems:  One is handling pre-existing conditions.  There is no question that pre-existing condition create a tremendous anti-selection issue for privately run insurance companies.  I think we have to admit that pre-existing condition need so be handled largely by public funds.  The claims related to pre-existing conditions could be reimbursed through a private-public reinsurance agency.  These reinsurance companies could be set up in each state, possibly managed by Blue plans.  People will not have premiums jacked up for ordinary care to cover those with pre-existing illnesses.  We could have a nasty debate, however, on what counts as pre-existing.  Does something related to behavior – drug use, smoking, obesity, or STD, count as pre-existing? How we handle end stage renal disease (with Medicare today) could serve as a philosophical model.

The other (second) part of this health issue is covering people with low incomes, where tax credits aren’t useful.  We need to continue Medicaid mechanisms to cover these, and probably do this through block grants to states (which is what the GOP always wants).  (Writer’s note:  my own work resume includes a lot of experience with Medicaid, Medicare, life insurance, and similar issues.)

When it comes to paid family leave, well, we must pay for it.  I like the idea of small payroll deductions, which could be waived for lower income jobs.  I like the idea that it is gender neutral:  that new fathers get it as well as mothers, and that it covers adoption.  That is the policy of most high-tech employers today.  But it costs more to expand it beyond maternity leave.  The deduction would make childless people stop and think, that they need to become involved in family and raising children at some point if they are going to use it otherwise they are paying for other people’s lives (moral hazard again).  It’s pretty clear that responsibility for others doesn’t just stop with deciding to have the act that can produce a child.

Area 7:  Identity politics.

I look at people as individuals, not as members of groups who get their rights by consideration of the special issues of their groups from the past.  Of course, we have to be careful about monitoring police behavior, but we run the risk that nobody will want to become a police officer.  We should use the facts, not mob emotion, in evaluating incidents.  Every identity issue has its own special concerns.  Most of these don’t have big impact on policy.  But we need to have a proper understanding of the history behind all these issues.  On LGBTQ rights, I think a lot of people in the past have seen this as (besides religion) a proxy for refusal to participate in procreation and raising another generation, and history has shown this perception to be largely misleading.

Area 8:  Second amendment:

European countries have much stronger gun control than the United States, but this, while reducing local crime, may make them even more vulnerable to asymmetric terror cells who circumvent the laws.  Gun control is a careful balance.  Yes, we need to close the loopholes and tighten the background checks and police procedures with seized weapons. But in some situations, self-defense is a good skill to have.

Area 9: Service:

I did deal with the Vietnam era male-only military draft, serving 1968-1970, and with the socially divisive deferment system I’ve had to deal with the idea of my life as being a fungible bargaining chip for my country’s foreign policy, however well intended. The modern volunteer system sometimes seems like a backdoor draft, with the stop-loss policies during deployments.  I think we have a moral issue in that we don’t share the risks of participating in a complex modern society equitably, and many of the risks are not very transparent. All of this figured into how I argued for the end of the military gay ban an “don’t ask don’t tell” over the years 1993-2011.

Talk of reinstating a draft did pop up after 9/11, but today we should ask, if we don’t want one, why do we need a Selective Service System and registration for young men?

Outside of the military armed forces and the Peace Corps, I have some doubts over how effective nationally run service can be, given the bureaucracy. Even the large private volunteer organizations need more transparency as to what people are getting into.  But service does help communicate the idea that the playing field can become more level and more meaningful.  But then it has to get personal.

Area 10:  First Amendment

This gets to be an area that leads us to consider personal values and personal impact.

But first, let me mention one rather straightforward area in the speech area: tort reform.  We need to reign in on frivolous lawsuits, which includes those filed by so-called “patent trolls”.  For SLAPP suits, we should consider a federal law, and we should give judges the power to order “loser pays” to discourage abusive litigation intended to silence critics.

But a bigger problem, and one that is murky and seems ambiguous, comes from the permissive climate centered on user-generated content on the Internet.  And this issue has grown in tandem with our dependence on technology as I mentioned at the outset.

The growth of user-generated content certain helps supplement the flow of news information and interpretation in a way that places all the nuances of current events on the table and forces politicians and leadership to think again before acting. But some material is intentionally deceptive or untruthful, and many people are unwilling or unable to process information that doesn’t already fit into their world views. Furthermore, many people have used the open Internet for harmful purposes.  These include cyberbullying, terror recruiting, and even sex trafficking.

The modern Internet would not be possible without laws that limit service provider liability for what users post online, in a way that follows the way utility immunity from liability worked with traditional phone companies and mail.   These laws include Section 230 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act and the Safe Harbor provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  Many people point out that service providers and social media companies, and certain online bulletin trading companies, become profitable from illicit and activity of their users, mainly from advertising-driven business models, and that out of general concerns for public safety, companies must take more responsibility for what they seem to be empowering their users to do.  It’s also true that while some users and bloggers can make a living online, many more use the services as a form of ego-boost and sense of importance, and participate in a form of communication that shields them from unwelcome contact with people that would have been necessary in the past.  In short, the Internet has enabled a kind of vanity self-publishing that eliminates the need to be aware of how one meets the needs of others or sells to others.  But this sort of vanity publishing depends on a certain permissiveness that encourages the placing of other people in danger.

The courts have been very supportive of the enhanced free speech on the Internet and web, in litigation involving such laws as the Communications Decency Act, and later the Child Online Protection Act (COPA).  The courts have enforced Section 230 vigorously. But it is not completely clear that the right to self-distribute one’s speech without supervision or market accountability is as fundamental to the First Amendment as the freedom to keep the government out of meddling with the actual content of the speech itself.  Self-distribution was not possible until the 1990s with the Web, and we lived without it before.

Given the seriousness of certain kinds of issues, like terrorism promotion and sex trafficking, the public is certainly going to demand that government look at regulating service providers and even users somewhat.  We need to ask questions:  how dependent on these downstream liability protections are companies like Google and Facebook in operating as they do now?  We need to quantify this.  Of course, we know, for example, that some of these services are not allowed at all in some authoritarian countries like China and user behavior is severely curtailed in more moderate countries like Turkey, so we know that this matters.  On the other hand, these companies seem to do well in western Europe, where downstream liability protections are less pronounced than in the United States – they have to deal with, for example, “the right to be forgotten.” We need to ask whether some automated filtering tools can be effective.  We know, for example, that digital watermarks for some child pornography images can be detected when they are stored or even before they are posted.  We need to see whether a narrowly drawn limitation on liability protection is reasonable.

Candidate Trump had talked about living “locally” in an earlier speech, which I discussed here January 2.  That seems to fit into the concerns over our dependence on globalization, technology, and loss of local community, too.  Trump talks about our working “together“, based on local engagement first.  But one needs to have some specifics laid out, or else it sounds like a call for unpredictable sacrifice and coercion.

(Posted: Saturday, January 14, 2017 at 3:30 PM EST)

Protectionism: why it’s hard to sustain job marketability for a lifetime, and maybe that’s too much to expect

I wanted to give a bit of personal history perspective to Donald Trump’s Christmas and pre-inauguration “deals” to goad some manufacturers (such as Carrier in Indiana) not to move some jobs to Mexico, as well as on the talk on tariffs and on how clean energy effects the job market – creating new technology jobs but not giving work to people whose old fashioned skills are outmoded.

My own career gives some perspective on this matter, in two different areas.

First, as I detailed in Chapter 4 of my third DADT book. I had to deal with outmoding of my own skills in information technology, which had been largely mainframe.

From the time I started “working”, after getting out of the Army in February 1970, until by career “cardiac arrest” at ING in Minneapolis in December 2001, I worked steadily in information technology (largely mainframe) for almost 32 years, with no periods of non-employment longer than one week at any time.  I had only one “layoff”, in February 1971 (from RCA in Princeton NJ) but was never off of a payroll as I started work as a civilian computer programmer for the Navy Department in Washington DC on a snowy March 1, 1971.

Over those three decades, there was a shift in the perception of the desired market skills, from academic preparation, to defense, to applications programming in procedural languages (most of all COBOL) for mainframe business (most often financial) applications, with a gradual shift from batch cycles to on-line. From the early 1970s until the Internet became significant in the job market (by the late 1990s) there was a market bias for IBM mainframe skills, as IBM crowded out several competitors (including Univac, for which I worked 1972-1974).  The Y2K exercise caused an uptick in mainframe demand toward the end of the 1990s, but otherwise in the late 90s the culture of computing changed rather abruptly, toward object-oriented languages, typically much less verbose than IBM’s mainframe languages), which young adults learned readily but which older professionals had trouble catching up with.

Learning these OOP and scripting skills was rather like learning to play musical instruments:  you had to practice to be good at it (like Mark Zuckerberg’s character, played by Jesse Eisenberg, coding his first cut at Facebook while drunk after a dorm party at Harvard, in an early scene from “The Social Network” (2010)). The development pace at new Internet companies was orders of magnitude faster than in traditional financial businesses (with mainframe), which in turn had been faster than the tortoise-like pace of defense project development.   The best way to learn a new language is to do a project in it and be responsible for it when it runs in production.  But generally it was harder for older professionals to get that opportunity with new stuff.  One reason was that the mature workers were needed to keep legacy systems running, until these systems were converted or assimilated.  Then fewer other companies needed these old skills.  If you knew how to run IMS databases, you might find a few companies that desperately needed your skills for short time contracting gigs.  But then the market died.  After 2001 (Y2K and the shock of 9/11 on markets) the “just mainframe” market dissolved into short term W-2 gigs arranged by staffing companies for clients (often for state governments, which remained mainframe shops for social programs).

This loss of traction for older professionals may help explain why the Obamacare implementation went so badly,  When finally there was a huge project needing old-fashioned skills, contracting companies could no longer find the mature talent necessary to “see around the corners” in putting a huge system like this together.

I don’t claim that outsourcing work overseas (like Y2K work to India) had any significant impact on my own job market.  What did affect it was rapid technology change, in an area that was unusually favorable for younger adults (often teenagers) with the opportunity to get good at these skills from scratch.  Indeed, in some areas (like around Research Triangle in North Carolina, around Austin, and in the Silicon Valley), college-age tech employment does help deal with the student loan and debt problem by giving talented young adults to opportunity to make real money quickly.

In the meantime, as I entered my “second career”, trying to mount my eventual assault as a writer (and I’ve covered that elsewhere and will come back to it – like “Selling Books” (July 8).  But I had to make a living with interim jobs in the meantime (as detailed in the same DADT Chapter).  I discovered a little bit of Maoist values – in facing a world of regimented workdays at low pay, like much of the world.  I tended to see this as “paying my dues” (indeed as I wrote here on a legacy site in 2004 “Pay your bills and pay your dues” )  Barbara Ehrenreich has written out this whole workplace issue with low-wages and regimentation in her book “Nickel and Dimed” (2001), where she found she struggled as she took low-pay retail jobs, say that working at Wa-Mart made her feel she had Alzheimer’s.

A few of the interviews for jobs I did not get (over qualification) would make me wonder how I would have fared on my feet all day, say running a cash register.  I almost got a job as a letter carrier for the Post Office (I was warned it would be “very physical” from the start of the day “casing the mail”) in November 2004; it fell through because we couldn’t get my old medical records (on the hip fracture) from Minnesota.  When I started substitute teaching, I found myself pushed toward out-of-profile assignments involving special education and very needy children.  Early in the experience, I backed out of an assignment involving helping dress kids in the locker room and manning the deep end of the swimming pool (details ).  Given my circumstances ar the time, having moved “back home” to look after an aging mother (who did have money), I can see how this would appear as “moocher” behavior.

Add to this mix the hucksterism of many jobs in the mid 2000s, where there was still a mentality that contacting people and manipulating them to buy things was virtuous – doing so was how you “play ball” with people.  I got calls for everything: becoming a financial planner, life insurance agent, tax preparer – these sound legitimate but are becoming more difficult than in the past – and things like subprime mortgages, and supervising sales people begging for charities in shopping malls.  It was all about other people’s worlds.

Given all of this, then, it seems particularly disturbing that a tech consumer like me would be OK with buying products from overseas which may be artificially cheap because of the near slave labor of people overseas, who work under conditions in which I wouldn’t survive.  That’s bad karma.  I had started this discussion earlier on a legacy blog posting here.

It is understandable that policy makers need to help people displaced by technology.  But over history, there has always been some attention to an underlying moral problem, that all people need deeper skills in meeting the real needs of others, and need to be able to change places more often.

(Posted: Sunday, December 25, 2016 at 4:15 PM EST)