America Adrift: Slippage or Growing Pains

From Pixabay at Pexels.com, Thank You

It is such an odd feeling to be adrift in the world. It used to seem to me that every globe was mechanically calibrated. As a scale always returns to zero, a globe seemed to return the Americas to the front and center position regardless of which way you turned it. Well that old centering mechanism is broken. The globe now stops wherever the momentum of the spin ends.

Of course it’s a metaphor, a metaphor and a child’s perception about America’s belief that it was the best country on the planet, an absolute fiery furnace of industry and a fountain of prosperity, the source of invaluable capitalist know-how and the Protestant work ethic – and the last, best mediator of humanitarian behavior and global justice. And although it all sounds a bit self-righteous and boastful from our current perspective, it produced results, both positive and negative, and kept Europe busy enough that it experienced 70 years of peace among nations that had previously involved the world in two world wars.

We have come down from those lofty heights to confront our flaws, our ‘sins’ of pride. Perhaps in our zeal to convert nations to democracy we lost sight of ideology and/or confused it with economics. Because it seems today that it was all about money. Communism as described by those who thought it into being (Marx, Engels) was both a governmental ideology and an economic system and as it turned out, an authoritarian state that used a virtual Iron Curtain to keep its own sad secrets. And yet there was and is a global tug-of-war over whether democracy and capitalism or communism will win in the ideological war by collecting the most nations. A democracy/republic did not necessarily specify any economic model, but other democracies and republics did practice various brands of capitalism, far simpler than what capitalism became in the Industrial Age, but enough to join the governmental system and the economic system in holy (or unholy) matrimony.

Because America was so active in Europe after World War II and since Europe and America had the same goal, to prevent another great war, and, given the fact that Russia who had been an ally in the World Wars had slunk off behind the Iron Curtain to see what it could do with its new Communist state, we came to find global strength in our alliances with European nations in NATO and later in the UN and in the G8 which eventually became the G20. 

In fact the distance between America and Europe seemed to shrink and England even referred to the Atlantic Ocean as ‘the pond’. Americans at first may have been seen as brashly confident, youthful, strong, and attractive. However, as the men who stayed in Europe and led the armed forces America left in Europe aged Europe began to question whether this was a matter of protection or occupation. Americans became ‘uglier’ and Europe as a result of its too-long familiarity with Americans began to feel a cross between amused at our temerity and pissed off by our arrogance, elitism, and hubris. Still it seemed our alliances with Europe were even stronger now that they could see our flaws, and that America’s strength was recognized around the globe.

Our fall from grace, or from our former confidence in our own ascendancy, did not begin in 2016. Losing a war we never should have been in, the war in Vietnam, may have been the first blow. The cultural tears in the fabric of our nation grew to be enormous between those who backed the war and those who didn’t; those who went to college and lived near universities and those who started families immediately after high school; between those who embraced the idea of giving women power over their bodies and their persons because of the sudden availability of birth control pills and then Roe v Wade and those whose religions were opposed. The divide may be thought of as the equivalent of placing the two camps of Americans on colliding tectonic plates.

At the same time we had to deal with our racism. We had the national shame of the Civil Rights Movement playing out on televisions all over the world and the world could see that the ‘land of the free’ was not really so free. We had the assassinations – John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy – all body blows to American ebullience and pride. That set us to grieving and continued the painful process of becoming a real nation with a history both glorious and inglorious. America got a few grey hairs. But there was further to fall. Our factories began to leave. Good jobs became scarce in the North and then in the Rust Belt and later in the South.

The Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, symbols of America’s financial dominance fell. The Pentagon, symbol of the nation’s military power was attacked. Washington, DC the seat of our republic/democracy was saved only by brave Americans on a plane who died to stop an attack. These were sure signs that there were people out there in the world we once felt that we owned who hate us and who now felt we had become vulnerable. American staggered after those blows, it almost seemed that we could not recover, and perhaps if all three attacks had succeeded we would be in a very different place right now. America was shaken to its foundations and the fears that our democracy could end became very real and are with us even more powerfully today than they were in those dark days. The strength and unity we had in those quiet days when no planes flew in America’s air space should have given way to a more mature analysis of what is good and what is bad about our nation,  but with sides being taken and divisions growing ever wider  there is no mature analysis in sight.

Should we still open our doors to immigrants? Should we still offer refuge? Do we remain with fossil fuels until the last dregs are hauled out of the earth and the oceans take over our beaches and the storms rage; until we are the huddled masses we once welcomed to our shores? Are we so offended by the insistence of diverse cultural groups that we need to change our forms of address to honor their sensitivities that we cannot learn to accept political correctness as just a new level of civility and not an attack on our freedom? Are we so prideful that we turn this into the most serious problem our nation faces, which it definitely is not. America without Trump might just be having an identity crisis. With Trump we may have turned this into an existential crisis.

Just as people rarely get to go through their whole lives without experiencing setbacks and grief, our nation, no longer a nation represented by cornfed boys with brush-cuts, became middle-aged and a bit dumpy and disillusioned. We lost two more wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (well we can’t say we won, can we) and we opened some beehives and as the bees poured out we thought we would avoid being stung. So we go out and find ourselves a dumpy, disillusioned President just to double down on our identity crisis. We pick a guy who cuts us off from all our old friends who might have enjoyed our come-uppance, but who would also have commiserated with us. Perhaps off our high horse we could have worked even better with our allies. But oh, oh, we might have been asked to take in some of the dispossessed Syrians. 

We pick out a guy who cozies up to all our old enemies and to the dictators who drive us to the edge of sanity with their come-here-go away-I’ll-kill-you mood changes using missile launches as punctuation. We no longer accept immigrants and we treat our neighbors like dangerous enemies. We send invoices to all our friends dunning them for money that is supposed to put us in the black according to our President’s wacky bookkeeping (as our deficits rise ever higher). It’s embarrassing to most of us, it looks strong to the rest of us. Still divided, the rancor grows between us. He (the royal he) exploits the new gaps of coastal versus rural interests and this man from the biggest coastal city of all pretends to identify with rural Americans and they buy it. 

The old man in the White House, imposing solutions devised in discos decades ago, is stoking divisions into hatreds. What will hating each other ever get us? When we were in decline for some reason we chose the one person who could be the death of us. Is this a suicide pact? Is this the bottom that will finally inspire the people who love America to help our nation rise from this mid-life crisis to become a nation that hews to the creed that birthed it, but that never-so-far informed it? Do we have farther to fall? Is our nation not middle-aged but really at the end of its life as this man is, or do we have many more useful years left? Is he a self-fulfilling prophecy?

Do we leave our old friends and allies to deal with all the transitional problems of these times. Do we continue to antagonize even our neighbors in our own hemisphere? Do we refuse to help the world solve the issues of polar melting and ocean pollution. Why, rather than choose a wise man whose age and experience could help America find the wisdom it needs to face the future, did we choose a hipster doofus, a player, a crook who pretends to be wise but who only knows how to feed the pigeons (another metaphor). Can we get our mojo back? How long can we stay adrift in the universe without becoming utterly beside the point. I don’t feel a need to be the richest nation in the world. But I did think we would help lead as the world solved logistical problems to ensure a future we might all look forward to. I thought we would share our educated brains with the rest of the educated brains around the world. Instead we elected an anti-intellectual.

Where does the globe stop when our children spin it now – not here.

This is a view from the cheap seats. I always sit in the cheap seats although I am afraid of heights.

Mass Shooters and Obstructed Problem Solvers

Forbes

Besides causing us to constantly grieve the killing of innocent Americans when our nation is not even involved in an internal war, these horrific shootings by our own home-grown terrorists are frustrating us (almost) beyond the point of sanity. I will not go through the list of incidents but it is out there on the web and it is terrifying and a development we never foresaw. Americans are problem-solvers. We see a problem and we work on it in our educated brains. We subscribe to the belief that once we identify a problem there are solutions to that problem and we can apply them like a band-aid. But in the case of mass shootings we are being blocked from solving problem that must be resolved in order to allow for America’s continued survival as a nation that bears any resemblance to the America we so love to revere. 

PBS
CBS News

We know that strict adherence to the Second Amendment of our Constitution has been ’weaponized’ by some Americans such as militia members, white supremacists, and racists to the point where we are prevented from keeping almost anyone from owning a weapon, even a weapon of war, and openly carrying it everywhere they go. We have seen after each shooter episode that swearing allegiance to a strict interpretation of the Second Amendment does not allow problem solvers to look at the gun ownership laws and set some reasonable limits on gun ownership. What might a reasonable limit be – violent mental disorder has been suggested and the NRA doubled down and declared that the mentally ill should not be denied gun ownership. Even blind Americans cannot be denied the right to own a gun, a stance that might isolate blind people even more than their disability often does. Should people who broadcast hate speech be denied guns? We suspect that much death and mayhem might be prevented if that could happen.

Yahoo News
Business insider
Riot police protect members of the Ku Klux Klan from counter-protesters as they arrive to rally in opposition to city proposals to remove or make changes to Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY – RC1DBF890610

Our mental health system is broken and has been since we began to issue scripts for psychotropic drugs and remove psychological support systems for people with some fairly serious mental disorders. Stubborn symptoms of depression, schizophrenia, paranoia can make it very difficult for some people to enjoy a consistently productive lifestyle. But the meds they are prescribed have unpleasant side effects that change peoples’ personalities so drastically that they no longer feel a connection to their own identity and they stop taking these meds to get ‘themselves’ back. Once they go off their meds and have no access to a support system they may be susceptible to the hate speech they hear around them, it may make them fearful and paranoid or angry; they may not have the impulse control that will stop them from buying a gun and taking action. Since we understand the limitations of the meds to control hereditary brain conditions we need to replace some of the human support systems for children, parents, and adults who have to live their lives as their brains try to mislead them.

Verge Network
The Gazette

We also have an understanding of what Langston Hughes identified as “The Dream Deferred”. Robbing a group of people (in this case black and brown people) of opportunities which they can see others all around them benefitting from sets up an inequality that makes people outside the neglected group disrespect them and see them as being of less value. But this is a self-fulfilling prophecy and is in no way an actual sign that any ability deficit exists. Giving both segregated Americans of African Descent and poor white Americans all kinds of opportunities to succeed would lift the spirits of the entire nation and rob hate of its favorite food – stigmatizing a group as inferior.

Twitter
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump (L) gives a thumbs up sign as he walks with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., November 10, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

It is the NRA, Conservatives, and the right wing takeover of our government that prevents us from implementing the solutions that our problem solving skills have generated and, although some things can be done at the local and state levels, some avenues have been totally blocked. We need to keep in mind what Mr. Hughes, American poet said would happen if a dream (or a solution to a problem) keeps being deferred. IT EXPLODES!, he says. His prediction has been realized and is being realized in America every day. As long as we hold the future back through hate and division it will continue. Perhaps the election will give us the way to stop the obstruction but this in no way looks like a lock. It may eventually require mass demonstrations if we are even capable of persisting in such a strategy. Frustration, helplessness, anger, and grief is a toxic recipe, not any kind of solution, and it will only poison American culture. This evil concoction could never take the place of a recipe whose ingredients are action and hope.

Mijente
NYT
RMN

Facebooks Trolls and Such: There’s a Meme for That

From Pexel – Thank you

I have a blog site https://thearmchairobserver/and I have a Facebook page for my blog https://www.facebook.com/thearmchairobserver/(come visit me). Facebook lets me buy ads so I can have the posts I write on my blog site “pushed out” onto the pages of unsuspecting Facebook users. I think the invasion of someone’s personal space is justified because my motives are existential. I am trying to save our democracy/republic from Donald the Destroyer, crusher of all things Constitutional – he who tramples our humanity by allowing people who just want to steal freedom to die crossing a border that no eagle can see – the friend of Putin and Kim Jung Un – liar – escape artist – fearmonger – user – abuser – possible traitor and much, much more. 

Once in a while one of my articles attracts some attention, usually from someone who believes Trump will soon be reelected and who likes to call Democrats names and taunt and troll them. Recently an article I wrote about “Trump and the Dangers of Toadyism” https://www.thearmchairobserver.com/trump-and-the-dangers-of-toadyism/

was shared by Facebook and got a surprising number of not very educated responses and a few zingers. Why create your own comments when there’s a meme for that. Although almost no one talked about the article’s content, a lot of people had a lot to say. This time people responded who wish to see Trump leave office, and those who wish to keep him in office. They were aiming memes at each other and calling each other names, and just venting. It was an internet duel, “take that”, no you “take this”. Comic book stuff – Pow – Bam – Zowie – Gotcha. It is easy to feel that we would all come to blows if we spoke to each other like this in person. Is it a good thing for people to express their bile or their sentiments? Maybe. But I don’t think anyone of the commenters changes the mind of any others. Every one leaves feeling the same as when they arrived. Here is some of what people had to say:

Patrick O(no last names): Well fffffuck you too!

Nancy B(me): Patrick – Use your words

Robert M: Nancy B – lol

Marc Depa: Meme – Picture of Trump smiling Caption “Can’t wait to serve 4 more years for my crimes in Federal Prison.”

Myles L: Dangers of t.d.s. (Trump derangement syndrome?) emojis – 3 laugh til I cried.

Patti Anzar Myles L. you will see – big laugh emoji

Marc D: http://mag.time.comICU6h8

Holly La D: Meme – Picture of an all red American map – Caption – “States where Donald Trump is President – Every time someone shares this post, a liberal sheds a tear.”

Meme – Photo of prominent Democrats Caption – America’s Got Treason

Marc D: Meme – Picture Jesus on Cross Caption – Hey Republicans…You know who else was a compassionate Libtard Snowflake who said we should care for the sick, feed the poor, and welcome immigrants. HIM!

Marc D: Meme – Picture split in half, Melania on one side, Trump on the other. On Melania’s side it says “send her back”; on Donald’s side it says “Lock him up”

Marc D: Sandy N to Russia 

(we don’t see what Sandy N says for some reason)

Marc D: Sandy N – But that is what people are saying

Marc D: Sandy N – So she should go back to her own country then like Trump told the other [for] women

Marc D: Sandy N – the whole country is saying he said that that’s the way they took it he shouldn’t let it at all that’s why all the black people go Puerto Ricans, Mexicans Jews or even against them up they’re all against them an most white people because of it [hard to follow this one]

Marc D: Most people took it as a racist remark he should have never said it that’s why his holes (?) are going now that’s why a lot of Republicans are turning Democrat look it up it’s all over [her] even he’s losing Texas for the first time in history a Republican’s losing Texas

Marc D: I have and I took it that way 90% of the country that that’s why he’s losing everybody

Marc D: https://thehill.com/454574-trump-approval-rating

Marc D: he’s losing all kind of these states is voters it’s all over the news because of the way he doing things he’s hurting people not helping Graphic “The Trump administration wants to kick 3 million people off of food stamps – 8 of 10 states with the highest percentage of people on food stamps voted for Trump/ shows 7 states from West Virginia down to the Gulf states in bright green.

Marc D: Sandy N – They’re really low during the 20’s right now his approval rating and everything’s really low he’s losing

Stacy O: Emojis 9 snowflakes, 9 frownies

The Armchair Observer: If you keep supporting this man he will destroy American Democracy

Jamie Lee G: The Armchair Observer – let it be done. As one of our founders, Benjamin Franklin said, democracy is mob rule, We are an American REPUBLIC.

The Armchair Observer Jamie Lee G – A REPUBLIC is just a democracy that has a Constitution, so still a democracy. Republicans won’t call it a democracy because they like the fact that calling it a republic says part of the name of the party.

Holly La D: Hey Snowflakes… Meme – Picture of Trump in front of American flag with a guitar – Caption – This is a little love song I wrote. It’s called “Still Your President”

Keith B: Get this crap off my FB page, I’m not a fucking liberal socialist.

The Armchair Observer: Liberals are not socialists unless you watch Fox News

Douglas M H: -The Armchair Observer – They are now, sorry, you can thank Obama and the four morons for that.

Holly La D: The Armchair Observer – Picture – A Cuban blackboard which says Our Revolution is NOT Communism (and several other things that proved to be untrue) – Caption – Cuban Propaganda during the Communist Revolution – Sound familiar??

Armchair Observer: I would rather sound like Castro than Hitler, both hyperboles.

Greg W: We dodged danger you can’t even imagine (1 like)

Gerry V: – Jamie Lee G – Meme Caption “The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command. George Orwell 1984” “Just remember what you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening. Donald Trump, 2018” “Trump asks his supporters to ignore their senses, and instead place blind faith in him”

Holly La D: Gerry Villani – picture of Barbie looking at a Ken’s man parts which are missing – Barbie says wtf? Caption It was then that Barbie realized Ken was a liberal.

Gerry V: Meme – Trump fist in air – “Don’t trust the press. They are the enemy of the people. Instead get your info from the government (me).”

Scott B: Another propaganda site just like the Russians. You go liberal hypocrites

Steven I: TRUMP 2020 (1 like, 1 love, 6 angry)

Betty M: Steven I “Bye”

Douglas M H: “What a wasted click. This article is a complete pile of odorous Democrat feces. Yawn. Trump 2020? In fact, Trump 2024 if no one is looking.

The Armchair Observer: He won’t mind if everyone watches him break the law. He does it all the time.

Conclusions:

  1. It may be impossible to have an intelligent conversation online.
  2. Overcoming systematic long term propaganda is really difficult.
  3. We can’t send everyone to an intervention.
  4. It may not be worth it to pay Facebook money to push out these blog posts.
  5. This is really depressing, except this time I had some liberal help. That was nice.

Michael Tomasky expresses this very well in The Daily Beast:

https://www.thedailybeast.com/deplorable-trump-watches-fox-writes-racist-tweets-to-rile-up-rural-voters

“This is why Trump is going to be hard to beat. An entirely separate non-reality has been constructed in places like Kentucky-05, where most TVs are tuned to Fox and people vote every time for the politicians who want to yank away their health care coverage and take their tax money and give it to rich people. And where people literally think a person would have to be absolutely insane to want to live in or even visit a place like Baltimore and are happy to believe every asinine racist thing Trump tweets.” 

Drama or Civility: The Mueller Hearings

From a Google image Search – Cassidy in The New Yorker

Mueller in the House

While the drama  we experienced in the Mueller Hearing on this Wednesday, July 24, 2019 appeals to our nature the civil approach of the Democrats was far more professional, Congressional, cognizant of the nature and the legal stance of Robert Mueller as a prosecutor and far more pertinent to the actual content of the Mueller report. 

Republican questioners, sticking to their elaborate conspiracy theories that implicate Hillary Clinton and clear Trump in the Russia matters, knew that their points had nothing to do with the Mueller report and were in fact intended to destroy the credibility of the entire Mueller investigation. 

But if we ignore the things we learned from the Mueller investigations then we will pay a price in terms of allowing the infiltration into our business by Russia and any other foreign nation that decides it can benefit from being able to interfere in our politics and stay under our radar. And we will turn our government into a seat for liars and manipulators and those who grasp power for whatever reasons they enjoy being in control, and that will end our republic.

Drama

Watching the Mueller Hearings today was an exercise in blood pressure control. Republicans are able to capture the attention of the Americans who are listening to these hearings in real time because they have some theories about how the President was supposedly railroaded and how the Republicans were shafted by a team assembled to conduct the investigation which was highly partisan. Mueller is a well-respected prosecutor who worked for Ronald Reagan and two Bushes. He reminded us all that good prosecutors never ask potential hires about their political affiliation and said that he has never asked for that information. He chooses mostly from people available in the Department of Justice who may have arrived during a number of administrations. Republicans continue to insist in that they were victimized.

In addition Republicans have a theory that Hillary Clinton got the Russians involved in the 2016 election and that she paid Fusion GPS to have Christopher Steele produce the Steele Dossier which contained “dirt” on Donald Trump. They kept pushing this unverified and thinly veiled piece of theory although they knew it was currently under investigation by the Department of Justice and that Mueller could not give testimony about it. They were talking through this hearing to their Fox “News” audience. Mueller’s answers suggest that he never even considered the Steele Dossier part of his investigation.

The Republicans said also that, since Trump denies any interactions on his part with the Russians, this investigation should never have been conducted. They ignored evidence that this President has so far lied over 3,000 times, both great big fat lies and tiny lies intended to confuse the records in the media over what is fact and what is fiction. Michael Cohen, the President’s lawyer, although admittedly tarnished by his own lies, tells us that Trump never does his own dirty work. He likes to have deniability. He tries not to ever be implicated in the things he orders his employees to do. That is why at least five of Trump’s campaign staff members are either in prison or under indictment.

Then there is the whole issue of why Mr. Joseph Mifsud was never indicted and the incredulity Republicans express, however disingenuously, that Mueller was never able to get him to testify although he was in and out of America a number of times during the pertinent time period. This whole issue of Mifsud and Papadopoulos and who Mifsud actually represented is another Republican conspiracy theory. 

In fact, especially in the afternoon session, Republicans claim there are many things Mueller should have investigated that he didn’t that would have been exculpatory to Trump. Well since these things were not investigated it is strictly a Republican theory that these things will fall out in Trump’s favor, but they are currently under investigation in the DOJ at Republican insistence. Given that Democrats consider William Barr, the Attorney General, a Trump toady it seems unlikely Dems will feel they can trust the outcome of the most recent investigations into Republican talking points.

Although Mueller was never able to tie Trump to the Russian intervention in the election, it is certainly interesting to note that his campaign had about 140 interactions with Russians which certainly seems excessive. 

Another Republican belittles Mueller’s accomplishments by saying that he cites the media over 200 times in his evidence so it appears that this report could have simply been compiled from what was in the media. However, we have a President who conducts his Presidency in the media, and who refused to testify before the Mueller investigation. Even when the President tries to keep secrets he is usually unsuccessful; someone leaks private discussions to the media either from the prodding of their conscience or perhaps even as directed by the President. The media used in the Mueller report consists of actual quotes of things Trump said either to the media or on Twitter (social media). Since these are direct quotes, things we all heard and know about, things the President owns as things he has said, they offered the only testimony from Trump that was available at the time. Although there is an Appendix that tells what the President said in his written statement with his lawyer, those answers were made after-the-fact and the President either could not remember or refused to answer many of the key questions put to him. 

Civility

The Democrats, on the other hand, appeared dry as paper, but that was because they stuck to what was in the report instead of constantly trying to criticize what was not in the report that they thought should be in the report as the Republicans did all day. The Democrats understood what Mueller would be willing to say and what he wouldn’t be able to say. The Democrats treated Robert Mueller with the respect he deserved. Clearly, the Dems would have liked Mueller to be even more definitive than he was about whether Trump stepped over the line with Russia and moved into the area of treason, which many of us believe he did. However Mueller insists that he could not make such a judgment based on the evidence, but he also said that the fact that so many of the witnesses lied to the investigators and even the Grand Jury did hurt the investigation. Mueller does say that there is clear evidence of Russian interference in our election and he does not soft pedal the seriousness of this nor the fear that this interference has not ended and probably will be a factor in the 2020 election.

What the Democrats tried to do is go over the most egregious examples of obstruction in Part II of the report and show how each met the three requirements of the Obstruction charge. They looked at the firing of James Comey, which the President admitted to Lester Holt was because of the investigation into Trump and Russia before the American people in a television interview, very publicly. We heard the things that Trump said to Cohen and Manafort and Flynn and Roger Stone which alternatively hinted at future pardons or issued veiled threats that harm might come to their families. These things are in the public record, the videos are out there and can be searched. Trump may think he speaks in code, but his coded statements are crude and easy to decode by even the least educated among us. We cannot help but wonder how it is that the only people unable to get Trump’s thinly veiled points are the Republicans and Americans who get their news from the Fox channel. We have physical evidence of the checks Trump wrote to pay off women he had affairs with who he feared would add to the flames of the “pussy” incident aired during his campaign. This President, for some reason, can convince people to deny the evidence that they can see with their own eyes and hear with their own ears. 

Whether or not one person’s mind was changed relative to the findings of the Mueller report by today’s hearings is going to vary once again by the party you give your allegiance to. This should not be true but it is. I doubt that people who pledge allegiance to Donald Trump will be swayed by such wonky legal evidence or such a respectfully conducted set of questions as the Democrats offered. This will most likely be the end of the Mueller report, but the proceedings did nothing to overturn the historical moments documented in the report. Trump may be reelected and may run out the legal clock and thereby escape indictment or conviction for his crimes, but what our historical documents say about Trump and his Presidency will not be kind or in any way respectful, if our historical record is allowed to say anything honest at all. This President likes to rewrite history to erase the negative things he does. What version of history survives will tell us whether our democracy made it through the Trump years.

Rachel Maddow

I will remind anyone who watches Rachel Maddow on MSNBC that she taught us what we needed to know to understand the Mueller Report before it was ever completed. She did not have spies on the Special Prosecutor’s investigation; she put everything together with journalistic talent and meticulous attention to detail. She always knew the current target of the investigation and with the help of her staff was aware of all the relevant news reports and articles by reputable news writers. She was apprised of all Trump’s many statements and all his tweets and offered us quotes that were also echoed in the press. She read us transcripts of trials, showed us footage of arrests, kept us informed of future court appearances and speculated about the identity of witnesses mentioned only by monikers like Individual 1 or 2. If anyone should get an award for coverage of the Mueller Investigation it should be Rachel Maddow. It is small wonder that Democrats who watched MSNBC knew immediately that Bill Barr (AG) was lying about the conclusions Mueller reached in his report and American’s who watched Fox News were unprepared to accept this reality. 

Trump and the Dangers of Toadyism

President Trump does not like, cannot tolerate, dissent. Trump has filled his administration with “yes” men and women, who do not oppose even his most undemocratic wishes but rather help him find creative ways to get his wishes fulfilled, no matter how damaging they might be to the form of government we inherited from the nation’s founders. Now the President wants a whole nation full of only affirmation of his every whim, full of “yes”. When has any leader had this kind of support from a nation without using the fear of death to inspire it?

Whenever the media, in any form, criticizes Trump, which thank goodness it still does, Trump lets us all see that if he had his way he would ruin that particular media outlet or make life so existentially difficult for them that they would have to get in line and praise his “very stable genius” every day and in every article. That would be fun, wouldn’t it? (sarcasm) But he is already doing this. If you read our newspapers or watch TV, news media outlets have moderated their speech to escape the President’s wrath.  How many media outlets could survive total abject toadyism? We would only need one state newspaper, one TV station, etc. We would be Russia.

Every book I have ever read about how to succeed in business warns against the danger of surrounding yourself with only those who agree with you (or pretend to). Eventually your ideas will become stagnant and there will be no infusion of new energy and you’ll begin to lose your market share to companies that encourage more diversity and fresher ideas. This can happen to countries also. Once again look to the example of Russia which seems to exist on a sort of perpetual mobius strip, going forward and yet doomed to go backward in an endless loop. So not only are Trump’s tendencies unconstitutional in a republic such as ours, but to require the constant stroking, and the absolute acceptance that he alone knows what is best for America, is also counterproductive. 

What Trump intends is to punish social media for allowing people (e.g. Representatives in the House) to dissent. He wants to claim victimhood, again. “The media is mean to me.” He wants social media to create algorithms that will send comments that say negative things about Trump and his policies to the trash and to take membership on social media away from individuals who post dissenting opinions. 

Although he should be trying to be sure there is no foreign meddling in the 2020 election and that fake accounts, bots, and memes that are offering false information do not get into the social feed, that was not his main concern in the media summit he held recently. Instead he whined about the unfair coverage he gets, this time from some of the American people, and he thanked and gave his endorsement to any social media that has supported him, however far they wander from our norms. 

Free speech is a difficult thing. When, if ever, does free speech step over a line? Is using a bot a free speech right or, in the case of elections, is it a cheat? Do we really want hidden foreign intervention in our elections? Aren’t we producing enough home-grown propaganda? The issue of what constitutes free speech on social media is complex and it will be on-going because as one clever attempt is banned, new techniques, cleverer ones, will pop up. Can we ever “clean” the web the way Panera says it cleans food? What will we lose if we are able to stop bad actors from abusing social media? Will good things be lost also? Will the whole world find free speech curtailed to the detriment of what we hoped would be the spread of freedom everywhere? A lot of people are very concerned about the answers to those questions. 

The world seems to have devalued democracy these days and “illiberal” democracies (dictatorships) seem all the rage. Will America throw away 243 years of relative freedom to join the ranks of those who put their trust in one person only. If we follow where Trump seems to lead and where the GOP functions as his wing man then we will find our freedoms disappearing one by one. Trump sees the media as the enemy and thinks he can kill all media opposition to his authoritarian style and his racist policies; his style that uses lies and distractions to manipulate the media and the people until it sounds like he rules, oops, governs by affirmation. Then he will be the most popular President ever – or else! 

Social online media is replacing print media and is currently in a position of power. We are in the midst of trying to figure out what brakes should be put on speech on the internet. People who are not liberal at all are using free speech arguments to justify lies, propaganda, and conspiracy theory in order to distort reality and bring about some pretty fascist outcomes. When messages are posted to sites skewed in a way that can be easily identified, it is easy to avoid those sites. But when they show up on social media they may be deliberately hiding their lack of bona fides and masquerading as factual sources. We saw this in the 2016 election when Russian bots adopted the personas of American citizens. To even create brakes that will consistently work may be impossible. What to do? What to do? What to do with the issue of a President who twists the concept of free speech until it means free speech only for him and his supporters.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – Esquire

Civil War 2.0

Red States in 2016 – From a Google Image Search – Washington Monthly

When the Civil War was won and the Confederacy surrendered, feelings of resentment ran high in former slave states. The fires may have been slowly banked after the war, but underneath all they still burned white hot and are still easily stirred to conflagration. A war that never really ended now confronts us once again as Civil War 2.0.

In those long ago days, former slaves believed that freedom was real and that they would be permitted to enjoy the full freedoms of the American republic. They wanted to own land and run for public office, go into business, and put the past behind them. 

But many Southerners believed that these former slaves were inferior to white folks right down to their genes and that they should not be allowed to become fully accepted citizens of a postwar South. They were still beaten by their former owners who were joined by southerners who could never afford to own slaves, their land was stolen from them, and they were kept under firm control by white authority figures. They were rounded up and killed if they gathered in a group that might take revenge for the ways they were treated under slavery. Fear of retribution was a big motivator for the slaughters, the lynching, the KKK intimidation which I found graphically described in Ron Chernow’s book Grant

Southern whites put pressure on Grant who became the President after the war. They insisted that no Federal troops would be tolerated to defend black folks against white backlash in Southern communities. Posse Comitatus laws were passed to give local sheriffs control over local matters. Rachel Maddow (MSNBC) showed us that these laws are still cited today, as they were in the Cliven Bundy matter when the Department of the Interior sent armed Federal employees to stop Bundy from grazing his cattle for free on government land. The ‘Feds’ were sent packing by armed militia, even though they were acting on Federal land, because this rule, which says Federal troops cannot operate in a state, is still valid. 

(This Posse Comitatus rule has some value, we don’t want Federal troops storming into our states every time there is a confrontation, but giving local law enforcement carte blanche to deal with situations where their biases might affect their reactions was harmful in the case of the aftermath of the Civil War and could be/is harmful again.)

One result of Grant’s decision to pull Federal troops out of the South was to allow a beaten Confederacy to vent all its frustration on their newly freed slaves. You would think all the hate expressed in such disgusting displays of violence, bloodletting, and hate would have led to decades of shame, bowed heads, and white remorse. However, as we all know, that is not what happened.

The Confederacy has been romanticized and any white remorse is “Gone With the Wind” as somehow a whole nation came to mourn the end of the Plantation system in the South (with its now-invisible companion, slavery). The nation somehow felt sorry for the losers, and the South’s private belief that they would “rise again” (as signaled by the ubiquity of statues to Confederate “heroes” throughout the South, and by the equation that said that the Confederate flag equals patriotism, and by the fact the Confederate flag is often allowed to fly alongside the American flag) went basically unchallenged for one hundred and fifty years. But alongside the misplaced sympathy and the desire to give the losers time to lick wounds, alongside this tendency to allow a group that rebelled against the government and lost to continue to take pride in a now defunct way of life, Grant’s decision made it hard for the Federal government to step in against the KKK and other hate groups. Freed slaves died by the thousands.

No actions were really taken to fight the hate until 100 years after the war was over. “Jim Crow” bought a dishonorable peace to the South. And although the North should have been a haven for freed slaves, we know it wasn’t. These days Confederate flags wave from truck beds even in states in the North which opposed slavery and fought the army of the South in the Civil War.

We are constantly reminded by modern Republicans that the Democrats were the party of slave owners before and during the Civil War. There were rabid segregationists in the party who argued that the “races” should be kept separate, and that black folks are inferior to white folks. But the parties switched ideologies after the Civil Rights Act was passed in the mid-sixties. A few segregationists hung on in the party because, perhaps, they thought they could fight integration more successfully from inside the party, but they were reviled and were an embarrassment to the party. 

Who knows if the Civil Rights bill would have ever become law if it wasn’t for Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, and the four children who lost their lives when the 16thStreet Baptist Church was bombed, if it wasn’t for the fire hoses, and the mirrored sunglasses, and the buses that brought white and black people in from Northern states to show solidarity and to bear witness. 

Fifty years after the passage of the Civil Rights Bill we see the old hatreds flare up again, the Confederate flags – adopted by militia folks who are white supremacists, and now Trumpists, still interested in living separate from black and brown Americans. Sometimes it feels like the Civil War never ended and that we are fighting it once again under the direction of Trump, Mitch McConnell, and the Freedom Caucus. All those Southern accents once again reincarnating the Old South, as the anger that has simmered for a century is reflected outwards each and every day from the Senate floor.

And Trump, just a white supremacist, no legacy in the Confederacy, smiles on it all as if the reasons for his behavior don’t matter, as if he is finally one of the “good ole boys” Look at the map. Red states and Blue states clearly parallel the old Union and Confederate divide, with Red States actually multiplying. Losing the war may have ended the very profitable Plantation system  (which depended on slavery) but these men, resentment stored up in their hearts, will be damned if we take away their millions, their factories, and their fossil fuels and spend money on ‘deadbeats’. 

The Civil War is not over. It is being fought by a Republican Party, bloodlessly, through an organized strategy of suppressing votes, of districts which are drawn so that they will reliably elect Republicans, of obstructing legislation in the Senate, of stuffing the courts, of building pipelines, of making public lands private, of drilling in the Arctic, of refusing to credit climate change even if it threatens their own homes, of unfettering an already empowered Capitalism.

Just think of Mitch McConnell as the new Robert E. Lee, although he hardly can be said to have any nobility or charisma. If the Democrats lose this continuation of the Civil War, this Civil War 2.0, the loss could be as devastating, or even more destructive than winning the war was in 1861. Republicans do not mind disregarding our Constitution and our norms and they have turned religion into a bizarre anti-religion which sounds nothing like the beliefs I learned about in Sunday school. If they win, our future slips away into some segregated, divided Conservative state for who knows how long.

“Spanking” Social Media: Donald Calls a Summit

From a Google Image Search – The Daily Beast – Known invitees to Summit

Spanking Social Media: Wrong President, Wrong Reasons

A conference/investigation/summit is being convened at President Trump’s request to accuse social media of being biased against him and his peeps. This is patently ridiculous. Although there are a number of issues to discuss about the unexpected outcomes of having free speech on social media platforms that are open to global participation, this President will not explore any of these valid topics. That is why no major social media representatives are invited to this summit, only Conservatives. Even some Trump allies on the right are excluded from the list of invitees. 

President Trump does not like, cannot tolerate, dissent. Trump has filled his administration with “yes” men and women, who do not oppose even his most undemocratic wishes but rather help him find creative ways to get his wishes fulfilled, no matter how damaging they might be to the form of government we inherited from the nation’s founders. Now the President wants a nation full of only affirmation of his every whim, full of “yes”. When has any leader had this kind of support from a nation without using the fear of death to inspire it?

Whenever the media, in any form, criticizes Trump, which thank goodness it still does, Trump lets us all see that if he had his druthers he would ruin that particular media outlet or make life so existentially difficult for them that they would have to get in line and praise his “very stable genius” every day and in every article. That would be fun, wouldn’t it. (I am sticking my finger down my throat in that don’t make me puke gesture.) How many media outlets could survive such toadyism? We would only need one state newspaper, one TV station, etc. We would be Russia.

Every book I have ever read about how to succeed in business warns against the danger of surrounding yourself with only those who agree with you (or pretend to). Eventually your ideas will become stagnant and there will be no infusion of new energy and you begin to lose your market share to companies that encourage more diversity and fresher ideas. This can happen to countries also. Once again look to the example of Russia which seems to exist on a sort of perpetual mobius strip, going forward and yet doomed to go backward in an endless loop. So not only are Trump’s tendencies unconstitutional in a republic such as ours, but to require the constant stroking, and the absolute acceptance that he alone knows what is best for America, is also counterproductive. 

What Trump intends is to punish social media for allowing people to dissent. He wants to claim victimhood again. He wants social media to create algorithms that will send comments that say negative things about Trump and his policies to the trash and to take membership on social media away from individuals who post dissenting opinions. 

Although he should be trying to be sure there is no foreign meddling in the 2020 election and that fake accounts, bots, and memes that are offering false information do not get into the social feed, that is not his main concern in this meeting. Instead he is whining about the unfair coverage he gets, this time from some of the American people, and he is blaming social media for letting this happen. 

Free speech is a difficult thing. When, if ever, does free speech step over a line? Is using a bot a free speech right or, in the case of elections, is it a cheat? Do we really want hidden foreign intervention in our elections? Aren’t we producing enough home-grown propaganda? The issue of what constitutes free speech on social media is complex and it will be on-going because as one clever attempt is banned, new techniques, cleverer ones, will pop up. Can we ever “clean” the web the way Panera says it cleans food? What will we lose if we are able to stop bad actors from abusing social media? Will good things be lost also? Will the whole world find free speech curtailed to the detriment of the thing many call “the liberal world order”. A lot of people are very concerned about the answers to those questions. 

The world seems to have devalued democracy these days and “illiberal” democracies (dictatorships) seem all the rage. Will America throw away 243 years of relative freedom to join the ranks of those who put their trust in one person only. If we follow where Trump seems to lead and where the GOP functions as his wing man then we will find our freedoms disappearing one by one. Trump sees the media as the enemy and thinks he can kill all media opposition to his authoritarian style and his thuggish policies, his style that uses lies and distractions to manipulate the media and the people until it sounds like he rules, oops, governs by affirmation. Then he will be the most popular President ever – or else! Social online media is replacing print media and is currently in a position of power. It probably will not be so easily “spanked”.