State of the
The Future State of an
Fall of a Friend
Welcome to UWFR Volume 6.
We begin this new year’s series with
a reminder to our longtime readers, and explanation to our new, of what UWFR is, and what you should expect from
these pages, if you decide to spend any of your precious, finite time on
earth on them. Then, we will repay
your forbearance with a few words about what is coming in 2016.
But, first we shall tell you of an
old friend who has fallen on very hard times.
At the end of 2014, we learned of the
collapse of a journalistic enterprise we had long viewed as a friend. For those of us who spend a lot of time
reading about current affairs, a publication that places the value of its
content above the more immediate demands for immediacy or ‘viralness’, and
openly stakes its worldview while it yet strives for intellectual honesty and
fairness, is a friend indeed. And,
these kinds of friends are getting harder to find in this age of blogs, hits,
‘likes’, ‘followers’, ‘re-tweets’, and polarization.
The New Republic has been such a friend, though perhaps we should also admit
it had become a more distant one in recent years. Still, to read of the abrupt, en masse
departure of two-thirds of its writers and contributors, some whom we had
followed for decades (as one followed before Facebook and Twitter), was a bit
like reading about an old friend falling deathly ill. And this was particularly disconcerting
after witnessing the slow degradation or death of so many other friends.
New Digital Vertical
Publications that once insisted their
words be arranged in such a way as to communicate not just facts with
accuracy, but also ideas with honesty, careful to show respect for the
maturity of their readers-- these now are fading away. One by one, they are being replaced, we are
told, by “vertically-integrated digital companies”. Whatever these replacements are called, we
recognize them here by their ‘bait-and-click’ headlines, their ever-coarser
language, their hyperbolic accusations, their growing cheekiness, and their
expanding dearth of talent over age thirty (let alone forty, or fifty). Nothing like a group of nothing but
recent, 23-year-old graduates to tell us what the world is really like.
Even in the airwaves, the serious and
venerable National Public Radio
sometimes seems overrun with scratchy, high-pitched voices that one swears
must be straight out of high school.
But, we digress.
of a Faith
We came to know the New Republic in its heydays of the
1980’s, when the magazine was considered a ‘must read’ by political elites of
both major parties, including those at the White House, and as it advanced a
muscular liberalism that artfully and brilliantly challenged orthodoxies and
rigid ideologies from any band of the political spectrum.
Of the dozen or so news and
commentary publications that we have regularly tracked for the last 30 years
from the left, right, and libertarian ends, TNR was our favorite.
Some of our readers may find that
odd, given UWFR’s own general
leanings. And it is true that we have
generally disagreed with many of TNR’s
liberal-progressive positions. But,
for many years TNR was a rare place
where one could read liberal-leaning polemics that resonated with moral reasoning
and inarguable logic that honestly challenged some of the premises of an
ascendant conservatism in the United States, while also holding the stupidity
and excesses of the far left to account.
In it’s first issue, published on
November 7, 1914, the new editors began a century of words with these:
The New Republic is frankly an
experiment. It is an attempt to find [a] national audience for a journal of
interpretation and opinion. Many people believe that such a journal is out of
place in America; that if a periodical is to be popular it must first of all
be entertaining, or that if it is to be serious, it must be detached and
select. Yet when the plan of the New
Republic was being discussed it received spontaneous welcome
from people in all parts of the country. They differed in theories and
programmes [sic]; but they agreed that if the New
Republic could bring sufficient enlightenment to the problems
of the nation and sufficient sympathy to its complexities, it would serve all
those who feel the challenge of our time. On the conviction that this is
possible The New Republic is founded. Its success inevitably depends on public
support, but if we are unable to achieve that success under the conditions
essential to sound and disinterested thinking, we shall discontinue our
experiment and make way for better men. Meanwhile, we set out with
We cannot say if their faith was rewarded
as they planned or expected, but seventy years later, ours was.
First Slowly, Then in a Crash
Years Come to a Halt
We did find in more recent years that
the publication had taken an ideologically stiffer turn to the left
(following a national trend towards ideological rigidity that has afflicted
all political corners, and on which we have commented frequently; and not
unlike what we have witnessed even in some of our own personal friends over
the years). In our view, in that turn
it lost some of its former critical sensibility and the exciting
unpredictability of its pages that went with it. It may be the reason why it has lost almost
half its paid subscribers since 2000.
Still, it remained a liberal-progressive publication we could look
forward to reading with interest: still helping us find the kinks in our own
arguments and ideas, and alerting us where we might want to think anew.
Now, its hapless, insouciant owner,
Facebook near-billionaire Chris Hughes, has clumsily shattered the journal
founded by Walter Lippmann, doing so just 30 days after its centennial
anniversary, and a mere two weeks after a gala event keynoted by former
President Bill Clinton celebrated TNR’s
100-year milestone. The disaster is
seen as so egregious, it, along with a humiliating electoral defeat of his
husband, led to Mr. Hughes and his husband being called “America’s worst gay
power couple” in a story headline in The
We have sympathy here for Mr. Hughes’
position. We do not doubt the
sincerity of his motives. He is simply
a casualty of the same phenomenon that afflicts our own nation’s
president. Both rose to the world’s
highest pinnacles of power and fame in a very short time, and with
comparatively little effort. As a
result, both don’t seem to know how to deal with the world as it really
is. The Achilles’ heel of all
inexperienced ideologues is their notion of the power of their good
intentions. They do not understand
that before you can remake the world, you must first deal with it as it is.
Shortly after the mass exodus of
talent at TNR, which came in
protest to Mr. Hughes’ announced new direction for TNR and his unceremonious firing of its editor, Supreme Court
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg announced publicly her cancellation of her
subscription. So total was the
evaporation of available talent at TNR,
it could not produce it’s next edition due in December. A spokesperson for TNR announced the journal will resume print publication in
February. The blog-like website
TNR provoked us
into thinking harder about the world; about what should be the purpose of
every philosophy and ideology advanced by any moral, thinking being. And even on those frequent occasions when
we thought TNR’s authors were mistaken
in their criticism of a particular political figure or cause, or on the more
rare ones when we thought they were being downright unfair, we never lost
faith in that ship’s set course to advance the public discourse necessary to
advance the progress of our nation - and no less of our human race.
World Forecast & Review
Project – ultrapolisproject.com
Copy Editor: Michael
record cannot be beat. One can follow
the herd chasing the latest hyperbolic, melodramatic, and soon-forgotten
micro-trend, or one can be wisely and judiciously in front of it with
Forecasts on Track: New signs
that UWFR forecasts on the 2016
prospects for U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) and former U.S.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are bearing out. Column in the Wall Street Journal published Monday, January 26, 2015.
A New Experiment
So, we have now already told you a little of what we are
about here. Though we are a much
smaller enterprise, have a different ideological leaning, not to mention a completely different format and
focus, in UWFR’s core there is a
bit of TNR. We too are an experiment; we too believe in the critical and moral
examination of ideas that may bring enlightenment to the problems of the
nation, and sufficient sympathy to its complexities, that they may serve all those who feel the challenge
of our time; And, we too have set out with faith.
We will take advantage of some of the technology of our
time. We will use our Twitter
account to post brief forecasts that cannot await the next publication (had
we been diligent with that, we would have had our Romney forecast posted
before we were surprised by its sudden staleness). And we will continue efforts to expand
our reach with targeted ads. But well
researched and carefully considered full essays will remain the core of UWFR. Readers who click on our ads will have to
decide to stay based solely on our content.
We began our first Twitter ad campaign last year. Because it has netted us 100 new readers
per month, we will continue with those ads.
The avalanche of blogs, posts, and on-the-spot instant
online comments and analysis are, by definition, not well researched and
carefully considered. They can’t
be. And, we bet most are forgotten
within minutes, though any time you spent on them you will not get
back. Our writing here will continue
to aim to stand the test of time, not the test of notoriety. We invite new readers to peruse some of
our past issues. We think you will
find all still relevant at many levels.
We are on the hunt for readers who value that kind of writing, and
who value their time.
Of Objective Forecasts and
Our forecasts will continue to be a central element of UWFR. Anybody can safely opine about the
future, because few remember what they said. Do you remember all the
conservatives that predicted a 2012 win for Mitt Romney, and all the
liberal-progressives that said the government shutdown of 2013 would damage
the Republicans in 2014? (We got both right). We issue forecasts to test the soundness
of our views and arguments, not to rally any side. The new Forecast
Tracking Chart we launched
last year at readers’ suggestions will help readers hold us to account. We
also hope it will demonstrate the strength of our forecast record, which in
turn should provide evidence of our objectivity and critical analytical
We referred to TNR
as a ship. We did so because one of
our highly esteemed readers referred to our little enterprise here as a
“great ship” when offering some honest criticisms (Reader’s
Comments in UWFR, November 27,
2013). Great or not, we have set sail for the
course first laid out by TNR 100
years ago. Of course, we may tack to
the right. But, no one should
misinterpret that. For while our
mast may bear an unflinching and unapologetic starboard tilt, we also carry
a portside anchor which we shall deploy without hesitation at the first
sign of ideologically extreme or incoherent waters.
Ideological principles are useful. They help us chart a course, to map a way
to address the political and social problems of the day that must be
confronted. But they are not laws
from the hand of God. They are
man-made contraptions. Here we think
it ideologically prideful and foolishly stubborn to stick with a course
when the evidence is all around you that you are headed towards an
encounter with a jagged iceberg or a craggy shore.
A Higher Creed
In the final account, why should we care if an answer is
called conservative, liberal-progressive, or libertarian? Shouldn’t we care more that, however
imperfectly, it advance the human condition for as many as possible; and
that it do so within a framework that balances a respect for individual
human freedom against an equally important call to moral
responsibility? That, at least for
us, is a directive that more plausibly comes from the hand of the Creator
mentioned in the Declaration of Independence, than does any strict
adherence to a party banner or ideological creed.
That is the faith under which we have set sail, and
under which we will continue, as we are able, to deliver these pages to
December came and went for the first time in our adult
memory without a visit from our old friend.
Still, we are keeping our subscription to TNR. But, even if we
find that the New Republic we
knew is gone for good, we will continue to keep vigil for an old faith to
see a new day.
The Republican Variable
Tuesday, January 20, President Barak Obama delivered his
sixth State of the Union address. We
took the occasion to glance back at our last year’s review on his fifth
such address, and noted how similar the two addresses were in tone, and how
unchanged are the President’s expressed ideas of what he wants to achieve
in what is left of his time in office.
So much of what we said last time, in our UWFR issue of Feb 10, 2014, still applies. We see no point to
repeat it all.
Meanwhile, in the same night, and the same week, the
Republicans displayed some of the lack of discipline that has on many
occasions led them to be out-maneuvered by President Obama, when by all
accounts, he should be dead in the water.
Obama Stays Course
The President showed himself again an able speaker, if
only his words carried more credibility.
No doubt, even some allies must have been a bit startled by the
President’s glowing description of his foreign policy successes. Of course, anyone who only gets his or
her news from the Huffington Post
or MSNBC can be forgiven for not knowing any better. On the other hand, even viewers of more
serious venues such as PBS and NPR would know better. (Anyone see the
devastating critique of the Obama administration in Frontline’s documentary “The Rise of ISIS”, featuring the
administration’s own top former officials as chief witnesses?) Yet, President Obama remained undaunted
by the electoral beating his party received at the polls just a little over
two months before. In the wake of
his 2012 re-election, we said this about President Obama:
President Obama is no Jimmy Carter. True, Mr. Obama is often too slow,
methodical and tentative in hot situations, a complaint we and others have
made before. But that should not be
confused with trepidation on his part.
The president, when settled on a path, will have his way and give no
quarter to any and all who oppose him.
No change here, or to any
other forecast we have made up to this point regarding what is left of his
presidency regarding his style (unyielding), and his effectiveness
The President said words
that sounded like a call to rise above crude partisanship, yet before,
after, and in between those words were others that offered no concessions
of any kind to the opposing party.
It was a bit like someone saying, “If you are willing to stop being
such a jackass, and would agree with everything I say, we can work
Continued column 3 >
A Poke in the Eye
As Arm Outstretched
In his calls to common
ground, that ground was almost entirely on his side of the fence, and on
We still may not agree on a woman's right to choose, but
surely we can agree it's a good thing that teen pregnancies and abortions
are nearing all-time lows, and that every woman should have access to the
health care she needs.
Yes, passions still fly on immigration, but surely we
can all see something of ourselves in the striving young student, and agree
that no one benefits when a hardworking mom is taken from her child, and
that it's possible to shape a law that upholds our tradition as a nation of
laws and a nation of immigrants.
Notice how he could not resist putting the abortion
issue on the terms that define the opposing side as “anti-choice” and
denying a “woman’s right”. In his
shoes, had we been truly reaching for common ground, knowing full well the
opposing side sees the issue as a matter of being “pro-life”, we might have
We still may not agree on the difficult question of
abortion, but surely we can…
Secondly, he only listed
examples of where conservatives might be goaded to concede his point. In this case, be it giving every woman
access to “the health care she needs” (presumably as defined by him in
terms of free birth control and ‘reproductive’ services), or making sure no
undocumented “hardworking mom is taken from her child”. We did not hear anything like:
Yes, passions still fly on immigration, but surely we
can all agree that no legal preferential treatment should be extended to
foreign citizens who deliberately violated our laws over those who are
patiently waiting in lines at American embassies around the world.
Or maybe just:
Yes, passions still fly on immigration, but rest assured
we all do agree that we cannot reward law breaking, and that border
security cannot be ignored.
A Bumpy Party
There was no concession anywhere to anything important
to the Republicans fresh from an election victory. There is no question, then, as to whether
the President has changed his approach.
He hasn’t. The question is:
will the Republicans once again be provoked into recklessly charging like
an angry bull? Here is where we
expect it will get interesting, as the early signs are mixed.
On the one hand, the Republicans once again showed their
lack of discipline during the President’s speech by audibly cheering when
the President said, “I have no more campaigns to run.” This was juvenile, ungracious, and
completely inappropriate behavior.
It deservedly earned the President’s quick-witted, razor sharp retort, “I know,
‘cause I won both of them.” (We
think the President would have come off better had he smiled when he said
it, instead of allowing a glimpse of his understandable annoyance).
Another disturbing sign
was the invitation the Republicans extended to Israeli Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu to come to the United States and address Congress,
without consulting or coordinating with the branch of government that is
more properly in charge of handling relations with foreign heads of
state. Given the poor state of
relations between the Obama administration and the Israeli leader, the
speech is not likely to back current U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. As much as we oppose the administration’s
current policy, we believe this an ill-advised and even potentially
dangerous and politically destabilizing precedent. We do not need legislators inviting
foreign leaders to undermine our own.
On the other hand, the
formal Republican response to the President’s State of the Union address,
delivered succinctly by newly elected Iowa U.S. Senator Joni Ernst, smartly
held back its fire, completely avoiding any frontal attack on the
President’s remarks, focusing totally on a positive (if extremely vague)
agenda. Setting aside their slightly
awkward cheerfulness, Ms. Ernst’s remarks were an unusual sign of
Republican discipline, and a wise decision not to go for the red cape Mr.
Obama keeps waving in front of the GOP.
In short, the variable in
how developments unfold in the next few months is with the
Republicans. We think Republican
party unity and discipline will be unsteady. To borrow an over-used phrase in the next
few months in the GOP-led Congress, “it’s going to be a bumpy ride”.
State of 2016
Warren vs. Clinton
Ryan vs. Et Al
We have already made our
first 2016 forecasts for Secretary Hillary Clinton, Massachusetts U.S.
Senator Elizabeth Warren, Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan, and Governor
Chris Christie (you can now refer to our new
Tracking Chart to find most of them). And already, our forecasts on three of
them have moved closer to fruition, even though they all contravened
widespread conventional wisdom at the time they were made. As predicted in 2013, Clinton’s and
Christie’s 2016 stars are now falling; while, as predicted in 2014,
Warren’s is now rising (also contrary to many comments we received in
response to or initial forecast on Ms. Warren – see photo above). The Ryan picture is a bit more
Back in our October 12, 2012 issue,
Mr. Ryan was noted by us a winning future candidate beyond 2012. In our
Twitter service, in a post dated October 27, 2014, we forecast Mr. Ryan as
one of two leading candidates in 2016.
We got a lot of disagreement on that one as well, with astute
readers pointing out that House representatives do not typically win
presidential nominations – and this is true. And we still forecast so even though Mr.
Ryan had already said he would not run if former Utah Governor Mitt Romney
ran again. We simply never
considered a 3rd Romney candidacy viable, and we considered that
Mr. Ryan must have known that. So,
while we were not surprised when Mr. Romney withdrew last week from the
race, we were surprised that Mr. Ryan did so two weeks earlier, Romney or
no. Sure, he made noises about not
running in 2016, and all the folks close to him said he would not do so,
but we dismissed that just as we dismissed his Romney caveat.
What to make of this apparent, yet
incongruous blot on our mostly spotless record? Could we possibly have gotten Paul Ryan wrong? Sure, we could say that it is one thing
to forecast mass trends and another to forecast an individual mind - and we would be right to say so. Yet, we instead choose to keep this
forecast open, with a draft-Ryan campaign in mind as a possibility. Nevertheless,
we admit that at this time this forecast appears to be off the rails.
We now add a new forecast on five
other likely 2016 candidates: 1) former Florida Governor Jeb Bush may be a
big name, and that will help him for awhile, but he will be among those who
will do worse than expected; 2) Kentucky U.S. Senator Rand Paul may also
shine for awhile with his eloquence and his appeal to libertarian
Republicans, but in the end, will not be viable at the top of the ticket;
3) former Texas Governor Rick Perry will fail as much as we forecast the
last time, except that this time the failure will not be as dramatic; and
4) former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin: Please, let’s not do this.
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