Changing Dominance

From the Hollywood Reporter

Interesting times. Hair-raising times. But there are great trends at work under all the mess. There is the ‘about time’ movement of overturning privilege. This deep desire for change may have found its moment. Why do white people assume they are better than people with pigmented skin? Why do white men dominate the world? Why has wealth been allowed to accumulate in so few hands? Why do we tolerate sexual abuse and why is the perpetrator so often male? These are issues that run at the core of our current events. And they are thorny issues. Humans who have found ways to accrue privilege to their group do not give it up easily or voluntarily. We don’t necessarily want the scales to tip too far in the opposite direction either.

The issues get muddy. When Black folks decide to say ‘enough’ and most of us agree that we cannot watch this horror show anymore, someone always has to muddy the issues by saying ‘all lives matter.’ All lives matter is a given, but it includes those who already have more privilege than they know what to do with. White people don’t get to pile on. Many say but I am poor and white so no privilege, but that is because you are privileged in so many small ways that it never strikes you as privilege. You never need to worry if someone will object to you walking down a street unless you look too obviously poor; and then you can solve that by simply changing your outfit. If you win the lottery while white you can live anywhere you wish without having to think about the repercussion on your family’s well-being and acceptance. We are confusing economics with racism. 

One issue at a time. Latinos are also included in discrimination against skin color, but they have other issues too such as language and recency. Black issues are old and we have overlooked hate that has been steeping for too long. Solving racism will lift all minority boats, but right now we are solving racism against people who were once owned by white Americas who resent that they were forced to free them, who held them down so they could look down on them, because they knew in their hearts that slavery was wrong. Slavery was such a twisted system which made a point of the economic and cultural differences between Black folks and white folks and tried to make them biological differences, cognitive differences. 

Let’s stick to the racism that never ended when slavery ended and then we can deal with how we will live peacefully and productively with other minority groups. Focus, concentrate, and stop being threatened by things like a bunch of statues that mean little or nothing to most of us, or changes to policing which we can see has too many burdens – too much militaristic equipment and too many citizens with guns to deal with. What will change the way our culture is structured to keep darker-skinned people separate and not equal? Get used to the term ‘reparation’ or any synonym because economic poverty helps perpetuate racism and only economic remedies will make inroads on white supremacy. In the end white supremacy is about money and power. 

This is also about history. We believe that the complex history of white nations, which is European history and American history, with its giant leaps in progress and innovation is all the proof we need that whites are superior to other races. But what our DNA mania is telling us is that there are no separate human races. We are all one race which simply wandered all over the globe and adapted to conditions in various places. The history of white nations came after other nations made astounding leaps in cultural ‘progress.’ Perhaps climate and access to fresh water had more to do with which cultures grew bigger and lasted longer. 

And older cultures seem to look at all our wasteful exuberance and at what it is doing to the planet as too much progress, an obsession with progress, a hamster-wheel of progress with no point and no soul. Did we get addicted to progress just for the sake of showing off our big egos? Is there a way to edit progress, to keep what is useful and tone done what is harmful? Here we are in the midst of a pandemic and some Americans are ready to start a war unless they can belly up at their favorite bar this weekend. Will instant gratification end our Grand Experiment in governance and culture? 

People also get religion all mixed up in this. Which religion developed last seems to suggest that this is the last word of God and since Christianity became the possession of white people that means that white people are God’s newest and best creation. This attempt on behalf of white people to own God and Jesus is so patently outrageous that it makes Thomas Paine’s The Age of Reason, with its argument on behalf of Deism sound positively rational and right. So many bad things have their roots in Christianity in Europe and probably in most religions; it almost makes you want to abandon the entire realm of the spirit which has also been tainted by money and power.

Let’s hope this time white folks can get over themselves and do the work that needs to be done, open our arms and our hearts and our pocketbooks and get this one argument over domination, power, superiority, and money over with once and for all. With the sharks in charge this does not seem like the best hour for this fight. We know the dangers of swimming with sharks, especially hungry sharks. Will there be casualties or can we do this by winning one extremely consequential election? It could actually be that simple if that administration makes the laws that offer the change and then builds in the protections that make the laws stick. 

No one should get killed coming home from a convenient store with a bottle of iced tea. That young man, Elijah McClain (say his name)  did not need a ketamine injection. Solve racism to the best of our abilities, and then move on. Because we also have to solve #metoo with women asking for protection from men and men claiming that they also need protection. No wonder our brains feel ready to explode. Trying to be fair to everyone may not be possible when you are trying to change old patterns of domination.

Can I Get Some Justice?

From a Google Image Search – CNN.com

Can I Get Some Justice?

I hear this in my head to the tune of ‘Can I Get a Witness? Have courts always been partisan and I just fell for the hype that courts were above parties and politics? OK, I was naïve. But have courts become even more partisan than ever. Is there less middle ground. Is there nothing between a liberal view and a conservative view? If all ideologies are polar opposites how can courts avoid being partisan? You either respect women’s right to make decisions about their own bodies, or you consider abortion murder. You either agree that executive power has few limits or you agree that there are limits and checks and balances on the executive. Do Presidents and Vice Presidents have to show their taxes or not? Can social media muffle a President when remarks seem unpresidential or inappropriate? How many times can a decision made by one judge be overturned on appeal in another court? Can you just pick and choose a court that has a judge with an ideology that matches yours? Were these ever things we questioned before? Did we have these questions but the divide between courts is wider now?

Apparently, if you don’t like the decision of one court you can just appeal in another court that is the province of a more sympathetic judge. Look at how long Trump has been able to drag out the question of whether he needs to show us his taxes or not. What happened recently in the Flynn case where Judge Sullivan was overruled by Barr is another long story. The contretemps over the Southern District of New York with the turf war between Berman and Barr shows more of the battle of the judges.

George Bush (Rep.) appointed 2 Justices to the Supreme Court, 62 judges to the Court of Appeals (conservatives), 261 judges to the District Courts (conservatives). 

Obama (Dem.) in eight years appointed 2 Supreme Court Justices, 55 judges to the Court of Appeals (liberals) and 268 judges to the District Courts (liberals). He was blocked by Mitch McConnell from even nominating a third Justice to the Supreme Court although there was an opening.

The Trump administration in four years has appointed 2 Justices to the Supreme Court (conservatives), 53 judges to the Court of Appeals (conservatives) and 143 to the District Courts (conservatives). 44 nominations await Senate action and there are only 71 vacancies remaining on the US District Court benches. 

This gives us federal courts where conservatives have the edge they have been striving for: 

Court of Appeals – 115 Republican appointments. 55 Democratic appointment

US District Courts – 404 Republican appointments. 268 Democratic appointments

It is unclear if Bush or Obama made appointments by party, but we know that Trump has only nominated judges from a list drawn up by the Federalist Society, so we know that these appointments were made along the Republican party line.

Of course, only rich people usually get to play this ‘game of courts’ because appealing over and over is very expensive and many Americans cannot even make bail in one city or county court. But if you are wealthy you can apparently shop for the justice you want and even if you can’t pick your judge you might be able to pick the district in which you file and in which the case will be brought. If at first you don’t succeed keep trying. And if you are this President you have an entire Justice Department at your disposal to make your legal outcomes so. Bill Barr was exactly the AG Trump dreamed about. There has been quite enough dream fulfillment for this one man who always wants more. Will we ever trust our courts to be nonpartisan? Time to reform the justice system in America and not just because it is racist, it is also elitist and not the least bit blind.

Title IX, Betsy DeVos and Sexual Assault in Schools

From a Google Image Search -WUSA9.com

Betsy DeVos, the Secretary of the Department of Education under Donald Trump has written a new procedure to use in cases of sexual discrimination in our schools and especially in our colleges. Having these policies rewritten by a woman who never stepped foot in a public school, who champions private religious schools, and who, most likely, has never set foot on the campus of a State University is problematic for many people. This constitutes a new interpretation of the rights of women and girls as set forth in Title IX in a series of government programs that were designed to make schools fairer. For one thing Title IX becomes the rights of boys and girls, rather than the rights for girls, which takes some of the teeth out of Title IX.

Narrower definition – “Under the prior guidance, a single incident, if severe enough, might meet the definition of sexual harassment. The new rules state that sexual harassment must be unwelcome conduct that is so “severe, pervasive and objectively offensive” that it effectively denies a person access to the school’s education programs or activities. 

The new rules also clarify the sexual harassment definition to specifically include sexual assault, dating violence and stalking, which need not satisfy the severe and pervasive standard.”

Might discourage reporting – “Under the new rules, colleges and universities must now conduct live hearings with cross-examination in connection with sexual misconduct complaints. Critics believe this will intimidate and cause further emotional harm to sexual assault survivors.

Before, schools could use a standard of “preponderance of the evidence” – which means more likely than not – to prove a Title IX policy violation. Now, schools may use a “clear and convincing” evidence standard.”

“Victim advocates are concerned that schools will utilize the higher standard of proof to reduce the number of lawsuits from accused perpetrators who are disciplined under the policy.

The rule changes arguably provide more due process protections for alleged perpetrators that many observers and some courts found were lacking in the past.”

“The final rules take effect Aug. 14, 2020, which is particularly challenging given the major demands on schools during the COVID-19 pandemic. If a college or university has not utilized live hearings, they must now coordinate and train staff and personnel to develop and implement the new investigation and hearing requirements, including virtual hearings if necessary.”

These facts are taken from an article in The Conversation and there are more specifics in the article if you want more detail.

https://theconversation.com/heres-how-the-new-title-ix-regulations-will-affect-sexual-assault-cases-on-campus-138091

This is a complex issue. It involves our children both female and male. And while it is true that males are more likely to be guilty of sexual assault; women may, for a number of emotional reasons, either falsely accuse someone or exaggerate a behavior that is negative and demeaning but may not rise to the level of sexual assault. Since many sexual assaults are verbal and have psychological effects that only the victim can experience first hand these situations are difficult to unravel. 

It has also been true that colleges tend to bury sexual assault complaints that may reflect on their school, therefore their reputation and their bottom line, and so they keep them “in the family” so to speak. How do we make sure women are protected and prevent men from being falsely accused? Well isn’t that the dilemma of the entire #metoo movement. 

For reasons of transparency I will tell you that I am a member of AAUW whose goals include protecting girls and women from discrimination, including but not limited to sexual discrimination. So this august group sees the new Betsy DeVos rules as being problematic in that they may further intimidate girls and young women who already feel threatened by a sexual aggression. 

Can you, by procedures, protect both girls and boys in this matter? Can you leave the adjudication of sexual assault as a campus matter when colleges can be negatively affected if details leak into the public domain? Will Betsy DeVos’s plan keep our daughters safe and our sons from false accusations? Should someone whose Evangelical roots advise that women should be submissive be considered the right person to lead the Department of Education when it is trying to offer fairness and enlightenment in these matter. Keep an eye on how this plays out. We may need to revisit it. Does it take all the teeth and all the protections out of Title IX? Again, pay attention next fall as these new rules come into use. Talk to your daughters, talk to your sons. This is a very tough issue and oversight from parents is extremely important. 

Why I Publish

Nancy Brisson, that’s me, but as an author I use N. L. Brisson. For the past decade I have been watching news, reading newspapers and books, with a focus on politics and writing on first one website, The Brissioni Blog at Blogspot, and then at Word Press on a site entitled The Armchair Observer and now at The Armchair Blog. Retirement gave me an opportunity to tune into politics at a very turbulent time, a time when people like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Mark Levin and others seemed to delight in whipping some Middle-class Americans into a frenzy that led to a disavowal of compassion for those less fortunate than themselves. Factories sat empty and later homes sat empty as the Great Recession hit America and we forgot that selfishness never profits anyone; it only makes life meaner and divides a nation that prides itself on being united.

My family was a poor family and a big family. With a lot of help I was able to go to college. I earned my BA degree at SUNY Potsdam and eventually became an Assistant Professor at an EOC in SUNY. I earned an MEd at the University of Arizona at Tucson on a sabbatical leave. It was only after I retired that I became focused on what was happening in our nation, the United States of America. I sit in the cheap seats, not always the best close-up view, but an excellent overview position.What I observed is the subject of my series of books Loving America to Death. If we want to preserve the America values we treasure we all need to think about what we believe to be true about societies and governments. My articles also appear at Tremr.com and my books are available at IngramSpark in hardcover and on Amazon as ebooks and paperbacks. I have also read and reviewed many books and my reviews are on Goodreads.com.

America Do Be Crazy

From a Google Image Search – theantinews.com

Americans do not like to take good advice. If someone tells us to wear a mask we get all rebellious and say ‘make me.’ We demonstrate to open up the economy even if the health risks are pretty great. And yet we get all cultish about Donald Trump and are able to ignore an ever-growing heap of evidence which suggests that he is bad for America. Trying to prove that Trump is not benefitting his own followers meets with stubborn disbelief and does not shake the convictions of the Trumpers who say things like ‘but, our guns’ and ‘but, the economy.’

Trump’s followers seem able to ignore the damage that COVID19 has done to our economy and insist that all that is not Trump’s fault, and that if what happened did not happen the economy would still be booming. What if Trump had taken the coronavirus seriously in January or even February? What if he had taken the same precautions as other nations, especially stocking up on proper supplies so that people who were not in healthcare positions would feel that there were plenty of masks to go around. By failing to address the virus, Trump does have to take responsibility for the economy. But why can’t Trumpers see this?

Is our entire nation suffering from bipolar disorder? How can so many Americans hold these two opposing positions at the same time? Of course, because Trump telegraphs how his people are to behave they do not see their actions as contradictory. Because they do not accept that their lockstep love of a very tarnished man is unnatural, or that their unquestioning loyalty to a man who is destroying the way we govern seems like a form of mass hypnotism, they don’t understand why other Americans and citizens of nations around the globe are astonished to observe what is happening in America. It is too serious to dismiss with an affectionate and slightly annoyed thought like ‘those crazy Americans.’ I believe that global reactions are more in the form of shock and worry that America instability will spread, a very bad reaction given all of the issues the world is faced with in these fraught times. It was 100 degrees in Siberia yesterday! The entire world is at the mercy of a virus right now. An American politics teetering on the brink of fascism is not the cherry on the sundae, it is perhaps the last straw.

Trump, in his white supremacist state-of-denial, has noticed that this virus affects mostly seniors and minorities. Since these two groups are not ‘popular’ with his followers they do not need to be protected. Yes, Trump is a senior citizen, but he believes he is too important to die of a virus and he is too manly to adopt any protections against it. He also, as a narcissist, would never want his face covered. And because he does not wear a mask, he expects his followers to vote with their bare faces, to show their Trump-love, and that they even place this love above their self-love and the love of their families – besides they are mostly white and not in nursing homes and therefore are not at risk. It is looking like masks are our best protection against the spread of the virus so what are we to think of a President who tells his most loyal voters to defy this health directive? 

Clearly America, and the world, could not afford to shut down our economies forever. But we were learning some interesting things from this temporary virus fix. One is that shutting down, although it felt like an existential mistake, really worked to suppress the pandemic. Another lesson is that perhaps the world will keep ticking along even if it is not being forced into a state of perpetual economic boom. Another lesson says that more family time, less hamster wheel, frantic socializing, child activity scheduling might help us experience a better quality of life. I’m sure some families imploded, but most did not. Our fear and grief also generated a bonanza of sweetness. Our sense of community was enhanced even as social distancing made that goal seem less possible. Will any of these lessons stick? Not if we keep the gung-ho corporate power structure we have. Not if Trump keeps trashing regulations and turning the economy into our reason to be. Does the economy serve the people, or do the people serve the economy? 

All the bipolar behavior of the Trump set serves one goal – to keep Trump in office, to help him win the election by making his Trump Troops seem brave and special and free thinking; while all the while they are acting as if they are programmed Trump robots who cannot even perceive how contradictory their behaviors actually are. Why aren’t these Americans upset that Berman was fired by Trump (although now William Barr is taking the blame). (Aren’t toadies great?) It is almost pathological that this set of Americans can just blow off Trump’s unwillingness to allow any oversight as a ‘nothingburger’, similar to their reaction to wearing masks to protect themselves and their families. However bipolar their behavior I cannot accept that all of these Americans favor destroying our republic. How can they possibly still believe that Trump is making America great again? 

Goodbye to the Armchair Observer

I am sorry to say that if you go to visit me at The Armchair Observer you will find a message that the site is no longer secure. It was time to renew my hosting arrangement but I have decided that my blogging activities are too expensive and I did not renew with my host. Most of my posts since 2016 are available on this site and on my ‘books’ site, both of these sites are hosted by Word Press. All of the posts about politics that I valued and wanted to keep are available in books on Amazon.

I never had hundreds of readers but I do want to thank those who did take the time to read my posts. I write about books because reading has been important to me all of my life. I write about politics because I saw that Republicans had plans for America that I did not agree with and which did not honor the US Constitution. They said that they were interpreting our documents as they were intended to be read, but given the racism, elitism, and the cheating around voting and elections I could not accept their explanations. I had to say something and keep saying something, calling attention to the GOP’s undemocratic behaviors. That is what I have been doing on The Armchair Observer for the past ten years. Now many others have taken up the task of saving our republic and I have published my posts in a more permanent form. I am going to try my hand at writing some fiction. Once again thank you so much to my readers and I may occasionally add a new post to this blog until the bill comes due or the 2020 election is over, whichever comes first.

Here is a link to my author page on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/author/nlbrisson

Loving America to Death by N. L. Brisson

This is a series of book, all entitled Loving America to Death, one for 2010-2011 and then one of each of the other years in the decade. 2012,2013,2014,2015,2016,2017,2018,2019

As an example I use the book for the year 2017.

2017 begins with the inauguration of Donald J. Trump as the 45 th President of the United States of America and a mad roller coaster ride begins as Trump and the GOP rush to erase at least 50 years of American history and 240+ years of American law and tradition. The attacks on “mainstream media” engage our “Big Brother” fears as we are told to believe that the only truth emanates from 45 and right-wing media. Free speech is up for grabs but the nations gun clearly are not. We begin the era of Trump’s America First agenda with withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement and end with a President who denies help to Hurricane victims in Puerto Rico.

An Overview:

After observing and writing about this turbulent decade in our politics I am publishing the essays that I posted to my online blog at The Armchair Observer. Beginning with the Obama years, witnessing the strange behavior of the Republican Party as exhibited in one astonishingly obstreperous stance and act after another. They seemed determined to be the most rabid patriots ever to dismantle the laws and traditions of America and our republic. When they were Trumped in 2016 attacks on our democracy increased exponentially. We the people have been divided and coopted to help increase wealth inequality in America, to vandalize the planet in the name of fossil fuels and old school manufacturing, to sign on to isolation from our best allies, to xenophobia, racism and white supremacy, to feed an old man’s ego and to help destroy our democracy. In this series you can refresh your memory about some of the oldies but goodies.

Author Bio:

Nancy Brisson, that’s me, but as an author I use N. L. Brisson. For the past decade I have been watching news, reading newspapers and books, with a focus on politics and writing on first one website, The Brissioni Blog at Blogspot, and then at Word Press on a site entitled The Armchair Observer. Retirement gave me an opportunity to tune into politics at a very turbulent time, a time when people like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Mark Levin and others seemed to delight in whipping some Middle-class Americans into a frenzy that led to a disavowal of compassion for those less fortunate than themselves. Factories sat empty and later homes sat empty as the Great Recession hit America and we forgot that selfishness never profits anyone; it only makes life meaner and divides a nation that prides itself on being united.

My family was a poor family and a big family. With a lot of help I was able to go to college. I earned my BA degree at SUNY Potsdam and eventually became an Assistant Professor at an EOC in SUNY. I earned an MEd at the University of Arizona at Tucson on a sabbatical leave. It was only after I retired that I became focused on what was happening in our beloved nation, the United States of America. I sit in the cheap seats, not always the best close-up view, but an excellent overview position. What I observed is the subject of my series of books Loving America to Death. If we want to preserve the America values we treasure we all need to think about what we believe to be true about societies and governments. My articles also appear at Tremr.com. I have also read and reviewed many books and my reviews are on Goodreads.com.

https://www.amazon.com/author/nlbrisson

The Profound Experience of this Deadly Virus

Yesterday I may have gone for the ridiculous with my dreams of a future full of robots, inspired by a world that is too crowded, that seems too full of people in a time of a possibly deadly contagion.

But last night and today have brought me the more profound expression of the isolation, fear, grief, loss, heroism, and the intimations of mortality we are living with. The videos of empty cities are poignant enough, offering thoughts of the apocalypse we have often imagined where the world and all the works of man continue to exist after humans have faced extinction. But then someone thought to put Andrea Bocelli in front of the Duomo in Milan signing Amazing Grace and it allows us to mourn and hope at one and the same time. In case you didn’t see it or would like to see it again here is the link

.

Then, just to prolong the realization of the terrible significance of what we are going through in this time of COVID19, this appeared on my Facebook page this morning and brought it all home to me once again. Mourning is just as valid as hope right now and giving way to one helps you express the other, on and on. So here is another link that might touch your heart and get in touch with deeper veins of human emotion.

This experience is beyond anything I ever imagined and it offers us lessons about preparing for the future if we will heed them or can decode them. Stay safe.

Bop Bag Politics

clown bop bag amazon.com

Our president is basically a human bop bag. If he gets knocked down he pretends it is due to his magnanimity as a leader (an emotion he does not possess) and then he just pops back up. This bop bag toy works as a symbol for a lot of politicians; but it may just be the quintessential symbol for Donald Trump, not just as a politician but also as a businessman.

Ending the shutdown is a victory for many Americans who spoke up about the everyday repercussions of working without pay; a victory over a president’s empty words about one-sided loyalty. Nancy Pelosi probably never intended to gloat. She used the power of her office, which she understands completely, and the power of the Constitution, to help put an end to the shutdown. The only extraordinary thing about it is the skill with which she wields the gavel. Gloating does not have good outcomes given Trump’s pathologies. He hates losing and will stubbornly hold his ground.

It is entirely possible that Trump only decided to end the shutdown for three weeks so he could give his State of the Union address in the House chambers amidst the pomp and spectacle of regular order, in these times that are anything but regular.

However Trump could have decided to do the authoritarian thing and force his way into the House chambers and he didn’t. Perhaps he realized how quickly opposition might escalate if he used that play from the authoritarian playbook at this particular moment, if he sidelined a Congress that now shows some promise of offering the checks and balances that signal a healthy democracy/republic. Don’t be too comforted; this play is still available for future use.

In the Rose Garden he made a formal announcement of a temporary (3 week end) to the government shutdown but he did not back down at all from his insistence on the necessity for a wall on our southern border.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/prisoner-of-his-own-impulse-inside-trumps-cave-to-end-shutdown-without-wall/2019/01/25/e4a4789a-20d5-11e9-8b59-0a28f2191131_story.html

“Trump’s quest for at least some portion of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border is not over, however. Friday’s agreement only temporarily reopens the government, providing a three-week period for Congress to negotiate a longer-term spending agreement. The president said he would continue advocating for his signature campaign promise and threatened to again shut down the government or declare a national emergency to use his unilateral powers to build the wall if Congress does not appropriate funding for it by Feb. 15.

‘Let me be very clear: We really have no choice but to build a powerful wall or steel barrier,” Trump said Friday. He also tweeted in the evening that his decision “was in no way a concession.’”

He does seem, however, to be willing to accept pieces of wall as opposed to sea to sea wall. He also seems willing to accept a steel barrier rather than a monumental medieval concrete wall that can be seen from space. (Although perhaps with his push to get to Mars while he is still President, he will have to leave some kind of monument that will be visible from space.)

So the bop bag we call Donald Trump is now back in the upright position. What will happen next? Will it be some money for barriers and will Nancy Pelosi and her Dem peeps accept a bit of defeat gracefully? Will it be the declaration of a National Emergency, which promises to damage our constitutional democracy “bigly”? Will it be another shutdown after Trump gets to deliver his SOTU address?

What can the president possibly say in his SOTU address that anyone but loyal Republicans will want to listen to? We have not yet reached the point where Americans can be forced to watch the address. Someone will tell us what he said after the fact. If you are a person who sees through this man you will probably have to tune out the SOTU address to save your TV from mayhem. Perhaps you could order a bop bag to take your frustrations out on. Remember also that a bop bag can be put down permanently; all you have to do is take the hot air out of it.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – amazon.com

Wealth Distribution Goes Awry

wealth inequality -99 get smart

We are living in a time and a nation where there is a disparity in wealth distribution, when the distribution of wealth has gone awry. We have all heard that the top 1% have wealth that is out of all proportion to what the other 99% of us share. We see what such a disproportionate access to economic resources does to every aspect of our society. When the rich fix the machinery of the economy so as to deliver the main share of wealth, that is supposed to circulated throughout the culture, into their own pockets, bank accounts, investment instruments, and perhaps their businesses, the entire economy is disrupted.

Rich folks seem to be emboldened by their wealth to believe that they have done something to deserve the riches they have amassed; that money equals entitlement and is proof that they have been somehow chosen. It could be that wealthy people have poured money into politics to get laws passed that ensure that wealth moves up the ladder; that they get all the cream off the top. But then they have some kind of selective amnesia and they forget that they made sure that the croupier would shovel the largest share of chips in their direction.

Once a few individuals come to feel that they are superior to all of the lowlier folks in their culture, once they are isolated into a class of their own they, of course, do not want to lose any of the wealth they have amassed. Since they see everyone else as less worthy they become disinclined to offer benefits to the unlucky and the lazy, which means everyone poorer than they are. They want to pay workers as little as possible because it comes out of their pockets as they see it. They lose sight of what will happen if there are no consumers in the marketplace. They seem to think that their funds will magically keep multiplying.

They don’t like things like unemployment insurance, health insurance, a minimum food and housing allowance. Since they do not live in the same neighborhoods as poor members of their culture the problems of poverty that affect middle class people do not impinge on the wealthy. They lose their empathy. And they forget that everything is interconnected; that eventually the filth and disease of the neglected will infiltrate their privileged domains. They buy land and build an isolated and self-sufficient kingdom. But will their kingdom rely on the labor of the less-well-off? If their paranoia makes such an arrangement suspect they might actually have to become laborers again at some point. Perhaps they don’t entertain profound thoughts at all while yachting and partying and paying lobbyists and super PACs to keep the right people in power.

Without consulting history it seems as if this problem is unique to 21st century America, but obviously this is not so. Wealth distribution can fail whenever wealth and power get concentrated in a relatively small group of citizens of a nation. When wealth gets stuck in the pockets of a group of powerful people eventually something happens to redistribute that wealth. It could be accomplished with sensible laws and raised taxes on the wealthiest class. It could be accomplished by order of a dictator like Mao who turned the Chinese economy upside down with his Cultural Revolution. It could be accomplished by a war which brings all classes together with a common purpose so that the classes mix, and empathy and community feeling are engendered. Or a revolution.

I keep hoping we will find a relatively benign and political solution to our own growing wealth inequality that is creating a greedy class and is pinching everyone else. Democrats are the party that would like to find ways to distribute wealth more fairly but Democrats are out-of-power. They have won a toehold in the House of Representatives but, without any support from the opposition in the Senate important initiatives will not be enacted. Our only hope is to prepare an agenda and find a path to win a majority in both houses of Congress and, the Presidency in 2020. We have had plenty of wars but they are not the threat-to-all-humanity kinds of wars that serve as class equalizers. And we might get ourselves a dictator but the current applicant for the job will have no interest in redistributing any wealth.

I have been reading Churchill: Walking with Destiny by Andrew Roberts and there is Winston Churchill dealing with this exact situation early in his political career (1909-1910). He was born to the aristocracy, but his family had no money. His father was a well-known political figure but he stayed with his class. Winston switched to become a Liberal and defied his class and was subjected to predictable criticism, fortunately minimized because he was such a great speaker and original thinker with more energy than anyone else in government at the time. (It is even more bizarre to be reading this as the Brexit deal fails and Theresa May loses, not her seat but her power.)

Churchill also lost his bid to redistribute wealth in 1910 and he called for the government to be disbanded and for a new election. He did win a seat in the new election and he was given a post in the Home Office. The ‘People’s Budget’ eventually passed but reform was slow. We know that the British did pass social reforms that offered a safety net to British citizens.

Churchill, pg. 129

“The paternalist in Churchill wanted, in Masterman’s critical but essentially accurate phrase, ‘a state of things where a benign upper class dispensed benefits to an industrious bien pensantand grateful working class’”

Pg.129-130

“In April 1909 Lloyd George unleashed the naked class war that Churchill had predicted five months earlier, with his Finance Bill, soon nicknamed by Liberals the ‘People’s Budget’. In order to raise the extra £16 million, income tax would rise from 1s to 1s 2d in the pound (that is from 5 to 5.83 per cent), a supertax would be introduced on high incomes, as well as taxes on tobacco alcohol, motor cars and petrol, and a halfpenny per pound on the value of undeveloped land, with death duties of 25 per cent on property valued over £1 million, and a 20 per cent capital gains tax on land. This represented wealth redistribution on a scale unprecedented in recent British history…” “If that opposition could not be mollified or overcome and the Lords refused to pass the budget there would be a profound constitutional crisis.

“Tomorrow is the day of wrath!” Churchill told Clementine on 28 April, before a key vote on the Finance Bill. “I feel this Budget will be kill or cure: either we shall secure ample pounds for great reform next year, or the Lords will force a Dissolution in September.”

Pg. 130

“If I had my way I would write the word ‘insure’ over the door of every cottage and upon the blotting book of every public man, because I am convinced that by sacrifices which are inconceivably small, which are all within the reach of the very poorest man in regular work, families can be secured against catastrophes which otherwise would split them up forever… when through the death, the illness, or the invalidity of the bread-winner, the frail boat in which the fortunes of the family are embarked founders and the women and children are left to struggle helplessly in the dark waters of a friendless world.”

Pg. 131

“’The wealthy”, he said, in the course of a nearly 7000-word speech, ‘so far from being self-reliant, are dependent on the constant attention and waiting of scores and sometimes even hundreds of persons who are employed in ministering to their wants.’

In a speech in Leicester

“The issue will be whether the British people in the year of grace 1909 are going to…allow themselves to be dictated to and domineered over by a miserable minority of titled persons, who represent nobody, who are responsible for nobody, and who only scurry up to London to vote in their party interests, in their class interests, and in their own interests.”

“He now wanted the House of Lords to be stripped of its equality with the Commons, and therefore no longer capable of vetoing legislation sent to it by the democratically elected lower Chamber.”

“Churchill’s speech shocked many Tories, and led to protests from both the King and Prime Minister.”

Pg. 132

“In October, Churchill stoked the fire further and told a Dundee audience that it was ‘an extraordinary thing’ that 10,000 should own practically the whole land of Great Britain and that the rest should be trespassers on the soil on which they were born.”

Pg. 133

“On 4 November 1909, the People’s Budget passed the House of Commons.” (Paraphrasing)-If the Lords turned down the Budget the consequences would be a general election.

Pg. 134

“The Budget was rejected by 350 to 75. Parliament was dissolved two days later and an election called, voting to get under way on 14 January 1910, which the Liberals would fight on the slogan ‘The Peers versus the People.’

Pg. 135 (some early 20thcentury trash talk)

“Curzon complained that Churchill had the ‘manners of a mudlark’. Lord Newton spoke of the ‘nauseous cant of Winston Churchill’ and the Duke of Beaufort said he would like to see Churchill and Lloyd George ‘in the middle of twenty couples of drag hounds’.” (Since Winston and his wife Clementine belonged to the aristocracy, although they were quite poor, they suffered social setbacks as a result of Churchill’s politics, but Clementine was supportive of her husband.)”

I will read on and see if Churchill deserves any credit for the benefits Great Britain offers today. It seems like history is a sort of time machine which reminds us that we fight the same fights over and over again; that class struggles have existed as long as there have been human societies. It was both stunning and discouraging to see the parallels between the beginning of the 20thcentury and the beginning of the 21st. A Churchill, however, seems to be exactly what we need right now and I hope the Democrats find one.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – 99 Get Smart