I wonder how near the United States is to a revolution. No one ever sees revolutions coming. They just happen. It's like spontaneous combustion. One day people are merely disgruntled and the next they are gathering in the streets. I see several ways a revolution could happen in the United States in the near future.

I have a bet with a Republican friend about the outcome of the Presidential election. He predicts that Romney will win the election and President Obama will find a legal pretense to stay in office, effectively becoming a Putin-like dictator.

Is that impossible? All it would take is for the exit polls to show Romney winning while the official vote count goes President Obama's way. That would create a plausible-enough conspiracy theory to mobilize the well-armed segment of the population. It won't matter if the cause of the discrepancy is that the exit polls are wrong, or perhaps only the FOX News exit polls are wrong. Half of the population will believe something fishy happened with the vote tabulation. The streets will be filled with gun-toting conservatives demanding the President's resignation. That could happen.

Another way that President Obama could lose the election and retain power is if the country is in an unprecedented military or economic crisis at the end of this year and a leadership transition would be a mortal risk. I could see that happening if banks collapse, there's a huge natural disaster, or a war with Iran escalates out of control. That could happen.

Another risk of revolution is that Romney gets elected and stacks the Supreme Court with conservatives who subsequently rule abortion to be unconstitutional. That would trigger a revolt the next day. That could happen.

Another path to revolution - and the one I think most likely - is that the approval rating for Congress will sink so low that confidence in the system will simply drift below the minimum level necessary for a republic to function. That could happen if the budget problems aren't solved and our economic hole becomes bottomless. If a quarter of the population stopped filing federal income taxes out of principle, the toxic effect would make the government collapse like a fat man with clogged arteries. There wouldn't be enough jail cells for all of the conscientious objectors. That could happen.

A straight-forward economic meltdown could bring down the government. Liberals would blame the government for spending all the money on wars while under-taxing the rich. Conservatives would blame the government for giving away all of their hard-earned money to the lazy poor. If the financial system breaks down entirely, and both Republicans and Democrats see it as the government's fault, citizens will take to the streets. That could happen.

The most boring scenario for revolution is that the federal government becomes so bloated, useless, and constipated that it simply ceases to do anything, good or bad. No laws are passed, no judges are ratified, and no budgets are approved. Everything just stops. In that scenario the government would be committing a sort of Congress-assisted suicide. Citizens would just wake up one day and realize their government had evolved from ineffective to non-existent. That could happen.

There's also the "spark" scenario for revolution. That happens when some high-profile injustice is in the headlines and the public starts seeing it as a symbol of the government's larger evil. That could happen.

Given all of the risks of revolution, it would be prudent to designate an Emergency Backup Leader (EBL). If the country gets to the point where its elected leaders are deposed, ignored, or thoroughly discredited, we need a charismatic figure to step in and keep some sort of order until the system is repaired. I hereby nominate myself for EBL.

I'm under no illusion that I'd be a good leader. I'm sure you'd agree on that point. But the thing that matters most in a crisis is not so much the talent of the leader as the fact that one exists at all. The first step in reclaiming order out of chaos is to know who is in charge. If no one else volunteers for the job - which seems likely - I'm all you have.

I'm assuming that if all Hell breaks loose and the country is falling apart, there might be failures in our communications systems. The country won't have the time or the capacity to find a more capable temporary leader than me. I'll be the default choice simply because no one else volunteered and the country would be too fractious and disorganized to come up with someone more acceptable.

I do have a few advantages as an Emergency Backup Leader. For starters, I'm neither a liberal nor a conservative; I go where the data leads me, with a bias for what has worked in the past. I'm pro-religion, because the data says it makes people happy and healthy, but I'm not a believer, so I won't be discriminating against your faith. One big risk in a crisis is that a crazy religious leader emerges. That wouldn't be me.

On day one of my emergency leadership I will suspend all laws regarding drugs, prostitution, and gun ownership. I'd make it legal for anyone to operate a business without a permit. In a financial crisis the public will need to make money any way it can, and defend itself any way it needs to. Law enforcement will be busy enough without chasing the small stuff. Once the economy is restored we can have adult conversations about what needs to be regulated.

If the federal government falls apart, state governments are likely to be intact. As your future and potential EBL I pre-authorize governors in each state to ignore any federal laws and run things as if they are their own kingdoms at least until the federal government becomes functional.

I also pre-authorize the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to make his own military decisions until an elected civilian leader is back in charge. That should keep the Canadians from launching a sneak attack.

I haven't worked out the rest of my emergency leadership plan yet, so if you have any suggestions, leave them in the comments. Assume that in a crisis situation there won't be effective communication within the country, either for technical reasons or because there is too much "noise" in the political atmosphere. So your suggestions should be the sort where people know in advance what the drill is, the same way that occupants of a building learn where the emergency exits are before the emergency.

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Sep 1, 2012
I'm just sad that you're spreading the old and discredited view of "general intelligence" a la Spearman's "g". I didn't think you were into pseudo-scientific racism.

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Aug 31, 2012
I'm calling it now...the EBL is the Antichrist.

Of course, the last thing you need is another rumor.
Aug 27, 2012
@callcopse, In my mind, cooperation involves choice. When we're talking about liberal politics, we're not talking about a culture of cooperation and equality, right? We're talking about laws and enforcement. I think "interdependence" is probably the most flattering way to describe a legal system that says "cooperate or else," particularly when we're focused on social ideals that not everyone agrees with...
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Aug 25, 2012
It's funny how Scott's entire post ignores everyone who isn't a republican or a democrat. You know you're old when you think that republicans and democrats are our future in this country. Also, only a tiny percentage of the population even watches cable news, let alone fox news, and they skew way old in the demographic scale.

I'm going to call this blog post pretty meaningless and unfounded.
Aug 25, 2012
[There's no left, right, or middle if all you are doing is making decisions based on the available data. I have a lot of blue shirts but it doesn't make me more of a Crip than a Blood. -- Scott]

I'm going to agree with Scott. Naturally, everybody has their own preconceived stances on how to interpret the world around them, but you can still detach yourself from them with some critical thinking. Nobody can (or should) be applying critical thinking 24/7 to absolutely everything, and just because Scott isn't going to be spending ages staring at each bit of data doesn't mean he has to be left/middle/right.
Maybe in the intermediate states you could say that he is, but in the long run he'll be all over the spectrum.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 24, 2012
" With Scotts several ideas of trading, swapping, relocating or neighborhood help sites in one powerful portal I think we could even form something without money!"

That wouldn't last long. People would invent some kind of money, because it's far more efficient than barter.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 24, 2012
I would propose Ron Paul as EBL!
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 24, 2012
Kingdinosaur: "I'm not sure that once something becomes political that you can remove the leftness or rightness from the data."

I totally agree:
a) there are ways to sow doubt on data (character assassination, lots of maybe assertions, outright lies)
b) everyone more or less favours data that agrees with his views

And, naturally, it's never just about data:
- When is a correlation strong enough to justify this or that action or cost?
- Data is about the past. The assumption that an action will achieve a certain result in the future is always open to attack.
Aug 24, 2012
[There's no left, right, or middle if all you are doing is making decisions based on the available data. I have a lot of blue shirts but it doesn't make me more of a Crip than a Blood. -- Scott]

I don't know about that. I'm not sure that once something becomes political that you can remove the leftness or rightness from the data. Let's say tomorrow you find new data that suggests not only human-made global warming is fake, we'd need it to be real and happening to save the world from the oncoming totally natural ice age. You'd instantly be branded a traitor to the cause and an ignorant redneck hick.

Or let's say you have a business theory that aligns more with the right wing at the moment, tomorrow you find data suggesting the government should own all businesses and make all their decisions for them. The right wing would consider you a traitor and the left would say you've finally got it.

Then you have your natural inclinations and what you do with the data. How you perceive the data and the conclusions you draw could send you in a variety of different directions. At that point the data is secondary in importance. Then you have to assign values to the data as well. Not all data can be treated or valued equally all the time.

Take that hypothetical data that caused you to change your mind on global warming. Let's say you look at it and instead of deciding you were wrong you decide that the data may have been tainted or taken improperly, is a fluke result, or that one new set (or interpretation) of data doesn't by itself merit you changing your position simply because you've got all this other data that says otherwise. That's a completely different outcome with the same set of data, you've just put it in a different context.

So the hows and the whys of following data are just as important as following it.
Aug 24, 2012
I don't tend to favour 'inter-dependence' as a term but like co-operation and equality of opportunity - I should certainly like to see economic democracy as well as social democracy. I would not put myself down as a leftist in any traditional form mind you but disfavour extreme stockpiling of resource as much as I dislike authoritarianism (left or right wing). However there is no way Hitler can be portrayed in any way as left wing with his strictly hierarchical world view and general intolerance.
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Aug 24, 2012
my2k: It's not what the industry or even "the people" want, it's about Scotts goals as EBL. He wants to put the economy back on its feet ("Once the economy is restored..."). And you can't do that without the financial infrastructure banks and exchanges provide.

So, in my opinion, his means defeat his goal.

As for "they have the money", this is naive. They may have some tokens with promises written on them, and an abstract number on something called "account" but with no one capable of enforcing those promises (or even the right to own the tokens), they may as well try to eat their dollars (or gold bars for that matter).
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Aug 24, 2012
All this craziness about the end of days worries me a bit. It's clear that we are drifting towards the end of capitalism as we know it - with Rupert Murdock or any other wig holder owning it all - but didn't come evolution come up with mankind without this trading of little shiny or green things? Why vote another leader when "we" as people should get together and finally figure out what should come next! The Internet would be my choice of get-togetherness. With Scotts several ideas of trading, swapping, relocating or neighborhood help sites in one powerful portal I think we could even form something without money! ...might need an EBL portal, though, in case the first one stinks...
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Aug 23, 2012

"Left Wing ideology revolves around human inter-dependence, whereas Right Wing ideology revolves around individualism. "

That's just the American idea of Left and Right., and a pretty recent one at that. "Libertarianism" has never been taken seriously anywhere in the world except in America and more recently in the UK.

The doctrine of individualism is quite alien to the vast majority of human societies, where the tribe or the family or the faith is paramount. Indeed, as a doctrine it only makes sense to businessmen (who could argue that they don't financially depend on anyone). Societies whose propaganda systems aren't dominated by businessmen have no reason to sign up to the Church of individualism.

"Right-wing", as it's generally understood, is taken to refer to belief in social hierarchies.
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 23, 2012
Besides the other problems noted, the scenarios presented aren't actually Romney winning the election.
Aug 23, 2012
@callcopse, "Left wing means inclined to egalitarian ideals."

Left Wing ideology revolves around human inter-dependence, whereas Right Wing ideology revolves around individualism. The left doesn't want equality; it wants the strong to carry the weak. The right hates dependence, and wants people to sink or swim on their own.

Your idea of equality is totally different depending on which side you're on. The left considers their side more egalitarian than the right, and vice versa.
Aug 23, 2012
Sorry, I got my elections mixed up! I meant the time Gore won, so I should have said 2000. I think Bush actually beat Kerry.
+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 23, 2012
"So, the police won't keep guns under control but is supposed to protect the banks, stock exchanges, their data centers and other stuff from people armed with grenade launchers and whatnot. "
Why should the police be protecting those institutions? As I understand the financial industry wants less regulation and government involvement. If we eliminate the regulations that protect private citizens from them it is only fair to eliminate the regulations that protect them from private citizens. Any way they have the money, they could hire their own police force to protect themselves.

"It's not that unheard of for us to elect a new President, but end up with the incumbent still in power - that's exactly what happened in 2004."

Uhm, Bush won both the popular and electorial vote in 2004, it was in 2000 he didn't win the popular vote.
Aug 23, 2012
Leadership in this country being at an all-time low, short-term emergency backup plans are certainly necessary, but we also need to prepare long-term solutions. That's why I propose we bring together our best and brightest geneticists for "The Rushmore Project".

The Rushmore Project will exhume the graves of Lincoln, Roosevelt, Jefferson and Washington to recover their DNA. No expense will be spared to employ the latest lab techniques of polymerase chain reaction to produce thousands of fertilized eggs. Such a number is necessary because of uncertainties in the cloning process, and of course, an equal number of surrogate wombs will be needed.

The womb problem will be solved by our first Mormon President. As his first order of business, Mr. Romney will cite sacred Mormon Law to convert all abortion clinics to fertility clinics, making the reproductive systems of all female citizens available for governmental use.

But the tricky part of this project (as anyone who has seen "Boys From Brazil" can tell you) will be the "nurture" half of the equation. Plantations and farms with willing foster families will be needed. Vast orchards of cherry trees will need to be chopped down. There are probably not enough buffalo to shoot today, but a 3D video game could be substituted. Also, satisfying young Abe's lust for vampire blood could not come at a better time since the vampire movie craze is winding down, and there are many unemployed actors who could certainly give their lives for the greater good.

Aug 23, 2012
From CNN 20 minutes ago: Texas judge warns of civil war if Obama is re-elected
Aug 23, 2012
Are you just trolling us here? Hitler left wing? He was certainly a populist but 99% of scholars, apart from certain right wing revisionists, would identify him as far right. I really do not understand where that comes from - the 'socialist' in the party name? In that case North Korea must be the epitome of democracy - it is even in their name 'Democratic People's Republic of Korea' so it must be true.

Conservatives of that era in Germany did advocate taking some ideas of socialism, this is true. This was more to do with populism and control than any left wing ideals. Left wing means inclined to egalitarian ideals. It does not involve racial purity or killing communists - whatever you may infer from the name of Hitler's party.
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