Trust and Peace in Korea

Moon jae in and Kim Jong un big vox

After the stories we get, all too infrequently, out of North Korea – after the prison camps, the cult of “Dear Leader” that citizens are initiated into at birth – after the famine and the fear that the slightest misstep could bring imprisonment with torture and hard labor or even death – after all that and more, if you were a citizen of South Korea how would you feel about the possibility of ending Korea’s decades-long separation? Do you trust your new President with his goofy, light-hearted smile to stand up to a man who learned how to rule from his father Kim Jung-il a man who ruled by emotional whim, sometimes acting beneficent and sometimes vicious, paranoid and cruel. Kim Jong-un seems to govern in that same bipolar style. Would you want to cozy up to a guy who just threatened to bomb half the known world out of existence?

Do we hope that the spirit of Dennis Rodman is motivating Kim Jong-un to find his “Hangover” happy place as an adopted American frat boy? Does he hope to share Western pleasures with his people? Does he want sanctions lifted and an economy that can flourish as a serious leader of dependent people might? Will North Korea become more like South Korea or vice versa? Did the welcome his delegation received at the Olympics warm the cockles of his previously impervious heart? Does he wish to rebrand his nation from the “Hermit Kingdom” to something new? Perhaps seeing how far out ahead South Korea has managed to go in terms of modernity, technology, and prosperity he either wants to haul South Korea back to a harsher, simpler lifestyle or get some of that prosperity for his own nation. North Korea has always seemed to eschew modernity and critique the depravity of developed nations, America in particular, as being soft, self-indulgent and greedy. Perhaps this has just been a way to rationalize the advantages of starvation and strife.

No – if I were a South Korean citizen I would be quite leery of any abrupt attempt to reconcile North and South Korea. I would want to know exactly how such a relationship would function. Would a certain degree of détente still apply? Would Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in form some kind of coalition government? Would it just be a matter of loosening control along the DMZ? Both leaders seem to want the American military presence in South Korea to go away but if I were a South Korean I think I would say, “not so fast.” What is bringing on this new impulse to reunite the Korean people given the danger inherent in such move? What does South Korea have to gain from this reunion beyond squishy nostalgia for a past that would, perhaps, be difficult to recapture.

Was the collapse at the North Korean nuclear test site worse than we thought, making some move towards reconciliation a distraction to appease Kim Jong-un’s own people? What happened when the “Dear Leader” went to China on that slow train? Was he ordered to go hat in hand? Or did he go on his own to discuss his next moves with President Xi Jinping? The problem with secrecy is that it makes people wonder why such secrecy is necessary. What is being hidden? In this case we have had glimpses that what is being hidden is so terrible that it would raise outcries around the world if the truth of it were known. It gives me shivers to think that the South Koreans would want anything at all to do with this young man who knows how to smile so beguilingly while ordering death for dissenters or imagined dissenters.

President Moon Jae-in of South Korea is a liberal, he leans to the left. He even was imprisoned once in South Korea for activism. He wants to stimulate the South Korean economy and generate jobs. Corporate families like Samsung have disproportionate privilege and influence in South Korea. He would like to spread this power out, allow more businesses to share the wealth. And he would like to see a reconciliation on the Korean peninsula. He would like, as we would, to end the threat of nuclear war, which would certainly have negative effects on South Korea which might be subject to nuclear fallout or find itself in the margin of error of foreign retaliation. Kim Jong-un could be playing South Korea and Trump by meaning what he says but not telling everything. Nations that keep secrets can do that. Could he agree to not use nukes but never bring up bio-weapons if negotiations did not go there. Does he have a sincere desire to rejoin the world or is this all a power ploy? Hard to be a “player” and then expect public opinion to turn around on a dime and accept you when you suddenly act all sincere; hard not to suspect this could be a trick. Is President Moon Jae-in seeing what he wants to see? Is he correct to open his country up to a man who could still be a monster? I would not want to be the President of South Korea who has to make this decision. But if he is right he will be remembered fondly forever.

Double click on the picture; it’s a video.

https://nyti.ms/2vOfbp8

And then we put Trump into this mix which already has so much potential for duplicity. Trump wants a Nobel Peace prize. He has his people chanting “Nobel, Nobel” at his rallies. Peace is a good thing. None of us is happy when a possibly unstable leader of a secretive nation is threatening to nuke us all. We can sympathize with the people in a divided nation who wish to make their country whole again. Perhaps two unstable men can produce a stable and peaceful outcome much as two negatives can make a positive. It shouldn’t matter who brings peace as long as the peace is real. I am having difficulty accepting that such a flawed President as ours could leave us any legacy that will not have to be overturned as soon as we come to our senses. Part of me loves peace so much it will even accept 45 as the prince of peace, but part of me wishes that this was happening in any other administration. I will get over myself. Peace is peace and each little bit of it that is negotiated in this contentious world of ours is valuable. But can we expect one cruel leader, one hopeful liberal, and one old-reprobate-white- supremacist-con man to produce a truly trustworthy and lasting peace. It is a tough stew to swallow.

This is a view from the cheap seats.

History Stutters

The Berlin Wall big Stuff YOu should know

Post World War II

Europe has been dominated by the post-World War II division of the spoils of war for the past 70 years. Nations in Eastern Europe disappeared behind “The Iron Curtain” and the Berlin Wall. Nations that were not controlled by Communism and the USSR, and which were not firmly organized as Democracies, were wooed, rather persistently by the US and the NATO allies to resist Communism (the dark side) and turn to the (light), Democracy and Capitalism. (With Communism you got two for the price of one; government and business were different aspects of the same entity.)

America put Air Force and Army bases all over Europe, but especially in countries that seemed to teeter between the two ideologies. Nations, in the great project to rebuild Europe, got gifts of technology, private enterprise, and even new leaders that they did not always even want. The stories that came from behind the Iron Curtain, of purges, and Five-Year Plans, and hunger, and gulags where dissidents were gagged, should have been quite enough to discourage the spread of Communism, but the idealistic expression of that ideology still had popular appeal in a number of nations, and the unsubtle interventions of America were not always helpful in advancing Democracy.

Europe maintained this basic postwar pattern even with the dissolution of the USSR and the fall of the Berlin Wall. But almost as soon as Capitalism seemed to gain a foothold in Russia and the nations newly released from Russian hegemony, forces were at work to try to put the USSR together again. This movement which we see now in the actions of Putin seems akin to the national pride movements that brought Hitler to power in Germany. This appeal to national pride perhaps helps keep a rather frightening Putin in power in Russia. History stutters. The Cold War is slowly creeping back. Authoritarian rule is apparently all the fashion.

Post 9/11

Of course, what happened in Eastern Europe has not stayed in Eastern Europe. For a while Democracy and Communism continued to perform the old political push-pull. Western Europe became the European Union for economic solidarity and strength. America became the dramatic focus of a show of awful force by a new player – radical terrorism modeled on Islam. The twin symbols of Capitalism were toppled on 9/11. America reeled. Wars of retribution did not put an end to the influx of frightened Muslims into a basically Judeo-Christian Europe. As religion got added to the mix of the already contested spheres of government, economics, and race, history is stuttering again.

Europe and America, in the midst of an economic downturn fueled by the rise of Asian economies, was now being flooded by people from antique states along the Eastern shores of the Mediterranean  and in Northern Africa who were relieved of, or escaping from, authoritarian leaders. Conflagrations in Egypt, Libya, Iraq, Syria seemed to catch the entire area on fire. Europe and America became targets of anger as old established “regimes” fell and people, caught-up in chaos and fear, attacked nations that seemed to them to have been driven to depravity by money and power. However guilty the “West” feels about having abused its power, sitting still for bombs in public places, mass shootings and death by modes of transportation (turning our own technology against us) is not something people want to do.

Before World War II we find a propensity towards “strong men”. We find it, not in whole nations to begin with, but as a minority groundswell. Even in nations like England and America there were those who perked up at the call to “nationalism” – to national pride and strength. There were those who grew suspicious of “the other”, who spoke a different language, or against Jewish people who seem inordinately good at conducting business and making money. Charles Lindbergh was quite famous for this in his day and he was a popular guy.

Hitler was, arguably, the worst strong man ever, a twisted madman who would perform any scientific atrocity to create his “master race” and rid the world of people he hated (Jews, gypsies). Mussolini, the Italian Fascist, may have looked like a pale copy, but he did quite enough damage; damage that lingers in Italy to this day. We (Americans and our allies) swore that we would never let a Hitler happen to the world again. We swore that we would never allow a government that exercised control over its people through fear and media mind control, like Soviet Union, to operate in the “free West”.

Well history does stutter and here we are again with strong men peppered around the world. (Turkey, Russia, Hungary, the Philippines, China, North Korea, Honduras, Iraq, various thugs in African nations, and more). Here we are, where thuggery and jack bootery are making authoritarianism, even in smaller nations, as in South America and Africa, a constant horror to honest citizens. Here we have heartless, vicious men who send their own people, or their own neighbors scattering away from them, to what the refugees hope will be a new safe space in more stable and humanitarian nations, only to be turned back as the Jewish people were, or isolated by those who feel their nation is being taken over by these “others”. Here we have men so “strong”, so selfish, so greedy that they will rule over an empty nation in order to get their way. (Bashir Assad, drug cartels)

Migrant_Caravan_22997 big The Sacremento Bee

America, 2018

Here we have, once, again fear of the other, attempts to use threats and media mind control to consolidate the power of an authoritarian personality. This time one of these “strong” men is here, in the heart of America, trampling all over our traditions and unwritten rules. Here we have a man, in full knowledge of what happened the last time someone built a wall to keep nations separate, insisting that what America needs is a wall to keep out our neighbors. He perhaps does not remember, or never knew, what Russia had to do to keep West and East Berlin apart even with a wall. There is something about a wall that makes people determined to get over it or around it. There had to be legal papers, and intelligence officers, snarling dogs, and checkpoints and guards willing to shoot those desperate enough to try to get to the other side. Already we are using the threat of separating parents from their children, of putting their children in foster care, or in “shelters”, to deter people from trying to cross a wall that does not yet even exist in some places. This threat does not seem to discourage all who want refugee status. Will we have to allow the guards at the checkpoints to shoot to kill? Will we place the heads of those who are killed on pikes and display them along the wall? How far will we let our “strong” man go to keep people out of America?

And once again, as before, there are people who are attracted to the idea of the “strong” man, and who do not seem to mind that he will destroy what he seems to be defending – that strong man means authoritarian rule by a dictator. It is not just semantics. History stutters. Are we doomed to repeat this pattern again and again?

How Democracies Die by Levitsky and Ziblatt – Book

 

How democracies die big Chicago Humanities FestivalSteven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt wrote How Democracies Die. They were challenged to complete this book project by their agent Jill Kneerim. They did so with help from their student research assistants who are listed in the acknowledgments. It is a book that tries to analyze how much danger we are in of losing our democracy at this current moment in time. It begins with a story about Benito Mussolini and ends with references to the goings-on in the Trump/Republican administration, the 2016 primaries, and in the campaign of 2016. In the middle the authors look at a number of “political outsiders” who “came into power from the inside via elections or alliances with powerful political figures.” They take us through the rise of Adolf Hitler, Getúlio Vargas in Brazil, Alberto Fujimori in Peru and Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. They say, “in each instance, elites believed the invitation to power would containthe outsider, leading to a restoration of control by mainstream politicians. But their plans backfired. A lethal mix of ambition, fear, and miscalculation conspired to lead them to the same fateful mistake: willingly handing over the keys of power to an autocrat-in-the-making.”

Although the authors remind us that America has had no shortage of authoritarian personalities in politics we also, they explain, have had “gatekeepers”, first in the form of powerful men in smoke-filled rooms and later in the form of political parties, conventions and the electoral college which kept authoritarianism in check, possibly with the sacrifice of some of the “will of the people”. They go on to explain that the primary system opened elections up to “outsiders” who had not come up from the ranks of government. Two factors weakened the gatekeepers, one being the availability of outside money (Citizen’s United) and two being the “explosion of alternative media”. “It was like a game of Russian roulette: The chances of an extremist outsider capturing the presidential nomination were higher than ever before in history.”

There were signs as early as the primaries that Trump might represent dangers for our democratic government.

  1. He would not say whether he would accept the results of the election
  2. He denied the legitimacy of his opponents
  3. He show a tolerance for and encouragement of violence
  4. He exhibited a readiness to curtail civil liberties of rivals and critics

The authors tell us that “No other major presidential candidate in modern U.S. history, including Nixon, has demonstrated such a weak public commitment to constitutional rights and democratic norms.” They offer evidence for each point they make. They also say that Republicans closed ranks behind Trump and normalized the election results.

Throughout their interesting and well-researched book we are shown examples of instances when outsiders have gradually and, sometimes, almost invisibly, sometimes rather violently taken the reins of power from the “referees” such as the courts, or the congresses of government, bought off their opponents, subverted the media, and have ended up with absolute control, thus ending a democracy. We can see where the authors are headed. They want to warn us that our democracy also could die such a death, just sliding into authoritarianism one baby step at a time. Here we look at Erdogan in Turkey and the Orbán government in Hungary and many more.

“Even well-designed constitutions cannot, by themselves, guarantee democracy,” say the authors. Successful democracies rely on informal rules, they add. “Two norms stand out as fundamental to a functioning democracy: mutual toleration and institutional forbearance.” The rest of the book shows us how these two norms are no longer functioning or are being eroded. In the end they explore our possible futures under Trump, but even if he is not the one who destroys our democracy it seems as if it has never been more threatened and it is good time to have a blueprint of what cues we should look for. Knowing when to put on the brakes or when the brakes will no longer functions could be very important either in the near or the more distant future.

Although this book seems scholarly and is constructed according to academic principles it is very readable. The language is not at all obscure and the examples of other nations who have lost their democratic government to a dictatorial government are interesting with easy-to-draw parallels. How Democracies Die should, perhaps, be required reading given where we find ourselves right now in America. It is the very best kind of thriller, the real kind.

Republicans Need a Timeout – Economics

Dem Rep Bear big mcdanielregister.com

“Republicans are the root of all evil.” – me

We have a Republican president right now and the economy looks pretty healthy but I think this will end up being like those people who look out and see a nice day and decide that there is no such thing as climate change. A good economic moment does not always prove to be a long-lasting trend. Even if this economic growth moment does continue, which is “devoutly to be wished,” I am not sure that it proves Republicans are good for our economy. This growth began under President Obama and it is a global, not a national tendency.

There are forces at work in current Republican policy that could, in fact, be disastrous to our economy. Here are some reasons why Republicans need an economic timeout. First of all, in America we have the passage of that ridiculous tax “reform” bill. It is not like the wealth inequality in America is hidden. We all know it exists. There are books, and charts, and news articles showing us, quite graphically, about the 1% and the 99%. The 1% hold an inordinate proportion of America’s economic wealth, leaving the 99% to struggle to hold on to middle class status. So what do we do? We pass a bill that sends even more of America’s wealth to that 1%. We make that gift permanent. We send a pittance to the middle class, so they will not make an outcry, but we allow the Republican Congress to make that token contribution temporary. (As they face the 2018 election Republicans are having second thoughts and are seeking to make middle class tax cuts permanent.)

wealth inequality sm wikipedia

from Wikipedia

We let Congress try their “trickle-down” nonsense economics one more time because we really have no choice. The Republicans love trickle-down and they are in charge of our government and its purse strings. We watch Congress give corporations huge tax cuts and perks. We hear them assure us that these companies will share their newly purchased wealth with us. (They bought this wealth with giant-sized contributions to Republican campaigns.) But because corporations must share their wealth with their stockholders and use it to fund business expansion and to line the pockets of their owners and CEOs, there is little left to actually trickle-down to workers. (Sadly the whole idea of trickle-down economics now has echoes of those “golden showers” that Republicans have introduced into our daily conversation through their president, Trump. It’s an accidental analogy but strangely parallel in moral tone.)

Trump has boasted about the number of executive actions he has taken to overturn regulations on business, on banks, and regulations on pollutants which contribute to climate change. He calls this “winning”. The House of Representatives has worked diligently to deregulate business and banks and to change laws about drilling for fossil fuels. Republicans insist that if we regulate business, business will flee to a nation without regulations. Many of our businesses have migrated to other nations without regulations so this looks like an accurate analysis of the situation. But eventually these nations will begin to pass regulations. Workers, as their economic position improves, will require it. World opprobrium to a lack of safety and rights for workers will require it. Capitalism is a useful economic construct, but only if it is harnessed for the public good. Capitalists are human beings and human beings have a dual nature. Every enterprise that can contribute to the public good can also be bent by our more nefarious human motives to contribute to the selfish desires of individuals with power. Without regulation Capitalism has no conscience; its only goal is profit. In the short term we may be “winning”, but in the long term we may be “screwed”.

Money is useful but no human society should be only about economics, about stockpiling money, about being the richest society. Rich societies call forth the anger of poorer societies and this envy leads to revolutions and war. Societies are about governing people, keeping cultural forces in balance so that the society can survive and remain stable. Societies have to take human rights and needs into consideration. If rights are not shared by those who are governed by a society then that society will eventually die out or be overthrown. The Republican Party seems to be in favor of wealth inequality as an oddly-rationalized principle. They seem to have decided that people have money because they are, in truth, superior to most citizens and even, they contend, favored by God. (Yikes! Shades of the Divine Right of Kings.) Because these people are “elites” (creators) in every way they should be treated with deference, they should be offered privileges as tokens to keep them happy and perhaps to keep them from going elsewhere.

Every time we have removed regulations that rein in Capitalism some brilliant but twisted money savant has come up with a way to step beyond the lines of investment common sense and invent some money-spewing scheme that eventually explodes in our faces and delivers us into economic recession or depression. Herbert Hoover, Republican, bears the blame for the Great Depression. If we look to the administrations before his because the roots of an economic downturn are often found in the previous administration we find Warren Harding, Republican, in office from 1921-23 and Calvin Coolidge, a Republican in office from 1923-1929. Before our most recent Great Recession we find the Republicans once again in office in the person of George W Bush. The housing boom had been much discussed in the media but because of Republican laissez faire business attitudes no one stepped in to investigate or regulate. This one, when it exploded, even involved the banking business, traditionally opposed to risky ventures, but so in need of economic drama that good sense left the building. And now the Republicans are also removing restraints Obama put on banks that crossed over into what was basically thievery. We are told in the media that some of the same risky practices that burst the last economic bubble are lining pockets once again and we can again look to the mortgage market.

Republicans tout their own prowess as economists. So while they always push policies of Conservative economic practices, while they rattle on about debt and deficits, and balanced budgets and tightening our belts, they always contend that the belts that need to be tightened are the belts of the neediest members of our society. They always advocate cutting the safety nets for groups that not financially able to take economic risks such as the poor and seniors, the disabled and the sick. Those programs are actually all that stands against a total abdication of the American soul. Without them, if we do not protect our weakest members, we are not a society, we are just an economy and a war machine. And not even a good economy, since inequality will get even more pronounced if we refuse to exercise human empathy. And then we will join the roster of failed societies and realize the Republican dream will not take us anywhere good.

Force Republicans to take a timeout. They are not helping America. They are racist and they subscribe to bad economic policies. Elect Democrats in 2018 and keep on electing them until Republicans get a grip on reality.

 

 

Republicans Need a Timeout

 

GOP men Getty images big

“The Republican Party is the Root of all Evil” – me

Racism

Early racists were members of the Democratic Party, which was the party of the South. They were slave owners, and they did not believe that their slaves were equal to white people. Eventually people who sympathized with those who were once slave owners switched to become members of the Republican Party. Now most racists are members of the Republican Party and they still believe that intelligence relies on skin color.

Contemporary Republicans have been inviting racist hate back into our daily lives. For this they have become a party of evil. For this and reasons I will discuss in future articles, the  Republicans need a timeout from governing, for perhaps the next 50 years.

Looking Back

The party of Southern slave owners was not the Republican Party. In the 1860’s and beyond the Democrats ruled the South – but the party was not at all like today’s Democratic Party. However it is true that in the 1850’s and 1860’s leading up to the Civil War, the Democratic Party was the party of slavery and slave owners. When the Democrats decided to leave the Union and become the Confederate States of America they controlled everything south of Washington, DC (and a few states north of that city); they controlled all of the Southern states to the Mississippi River and also Texas and Louisiana. When the Confederacy (the Democrats) were beaten in the Civil War (with huge loss of life) these states once again became part of the USA. And their slaves were freed. The South erupted in anger and fear. Freed slaves were terrorized by the KKK and other white supremacist groups. Tens of thousands were killed outright.

But we have to go back further. The racism that underlies our country was there from the moment the first slave was abducted from a village or town in Africa and imprisoned on a ship to American (or anywhere). People (white people) reasoned that slavery did not go against their Christianity by arguing that black people were more savage and therefore obviously far less intelligent than white people.

The slave states in the South were not, therefore, starting from a place that allowed for any equality between black folks and white folks.

By the time the United States became the United States of America, the Southern economy was built around slave labor. Wealthy southerners grew cotton and tobacco. To pay well, fields had to be expansive. Plantation life developed around these labor-intensive farming operations. Slaves were brought to America as early as 1619-20 even before America’s founding. So, given all this, it is obvious that Plantation/slave culture was firmly established in the South by the time colonists won their independence and wrote our founding documents. Our forefathers in non-slave states found themselves having to include laws that suited Southern slave states or the South was ready to walk away from the new nation. We might have been two nations from the beginning. Perhaps we should have been. The compromises our forefathers made with Southerners have not been good for America.

Parties Switch Ideologies

When America passed the Civil Rights act in the 1960’s, the Democratic Party had a more mixed membership, was no longer full of only Southerners who harbored resentments and who did not want people of color to mix with white people in any way – even to vote. We had been through two World Wars by then and the parties were more diverse in terms of ideologies. But the remnants of the original Southern white supremacists were violently opposed to ending Jim Crow in the South and they came to be called the Dixiecrats. Many Dixiecrats migrated to the Republican Party, but some held out (e.g. George Wallace) and continued to embarrass a Democratic Party, that was now made of mainly of people who favored Civil Rights legislation.

Reasons for white Southern resentment:

The South lost a lot when they lost the Civil War, at least from their point of view:

  • They lost a way of life
  • They lost their booming agricultural economy
  • They lost their slaves who they considered property and so this represented an additional financial loss
  • They lost their excuses, which had saved them from being sinners, and morally reprehensible, and yet their pride would not allow them to confess their sins or make reparations
  • They feared that there would be retribution against whites by the freed slaves
  • They needed to continue to believe that black folks were still and always would be inferior to white folks
  • They needed freed slaves to be very scared

However, wars have consequences, or they should.

The Great Migration – Racism moves North

Americans move around. When freed folks realized that in the South they were not really free, many moved North. Northerners were not always happy when black folks moved into their neighborhoods, competed for their jobs, sent kids to their schools. The Northerners found they had some racism of their own. Factories and white families headed off to the suburbs and left black folks, separate once again, and poor in a new way because they could not easily go back to farming. City life often required skills that had not yet been learned and which hardly anyone was offering to teach. Black skin set Americans of African Descent apart, made them easy to isolate as a group, and set up the false duality we struggle with to this day. This is our shameful racist dichotomy:

 

White skin                                                  Black or Brown skin

Intelligent                                                   Limited intelligence

Genetically superior                              Inferior Genes

Creative and innovative                       Physical

Hard-working                                           Lazy

Gentlemanly                                              Loose control of sexuality

 

And on and on.

Republican Party is now the Party of Racism

Until very recently self-identified racists could be found in both political parties. But with the advent of the Tea Party, the Conservative talkers, the web of organizations, and the deeply partisan divide the Republicans are no longer mixed in terms of racism v. tolerance. Even if they claim they are not racist they have to be to go along with that party. Rachel Maddow always says, “Don’t go by what they say, go by what they do.” Accept as evidence what we saw as we celebrated the 50thanniversary of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, which was a resurrection of the racist behavior harbored in white hearts during the Reconstruction, and dim echoes of the terrorism, hate, and resentment that was born in our post-Civil War days.

The Supreme Court celebrated 50 years of voting fairness by gutting the most important section of the Voting Rights Act. The states who had used unfair voting practices, like poll taxes and literacy tests, had been required to preclear voting changes with the federal government. The Court overturned the preclearance procedure because, they argued, voting rights belonged to the states. (This is a Republican talking point – to put the federal government back in the place the forefathers intended. This is a states’ rights argument.) And here is what began to happen as soon as the voting rights act was disemboweled.

  • Voter suppression through voter ID’s, closing polling places, putting polling places where they were hard to get to, purging voter rolls.
  • Gerrymandering into black and white districts.
  • The rise of in-the-open white supremacy.
  • A push for nationalism over globalism.
  • Continuing to nurse resentment at the outcome of the Civil War.
  • Continuing to venerate the Confederacy.
  • Backing guns.
  • Urging the formation of militias.
  • Bringing back the “posse comitatus” bone thrown to placate Southerners near the end the Reconstruction, laws that gave away federal powers to local sheriffs.

Conclusions:

If our American government did have a referee or an overarching organization, like the NCAA for college basketball, the Republican Party might be penalized for keeping racism alive. They might even be forced to stay out of governing for the next 50 years, to take a long timeout. The only thing hopeful about this whole side trip we are being manipulated into taking is that this might represent the last hurrah for racism and even for white supremacy.

We the people can be the referee. We can put the GOP in a timeout. Vote for Dems in 2018.

Normalizing By Default

normalizing trump big media matters

In the early days of the Trump administration it was seemed impossible to accept that this crass guy who had assaulted women, who had perhaps done business with mafias, or laundered money that was somehow dirty could actually be our President. In all certainty there would be some kind of intervention. If we poured out into the streets and shouted our discontent someone would hear us? If Trump got tangled up with the courts and was found guilty of all his sins that would be the end of his presidency? Suppose it was discovered that he had somehow sent his loyal henchmen off to Russia to get help from Putin with the 2016 election? Would that be bad enough to convince Congress to impeach him? Would the Republicans finally turn against him because he does not have the character to be the President of the United States or even because he wasn’t helping them get enough done? Would he have a breakdown and be hauled off in a strait jacket drooling? Did we ever think that we would end up normalizing by default?

Well it has been many months, days, and weeks. We have watched this man overturn hard-won protections in the form of regulations placed on businesses to prevent them from getting too rapacious, and laws designed to finally end problems like acid rain and toxic smog, toxic waste dumps, dependence on fossil fuels, toss out rules that acted as safeguards for risky banking practices that hurt consumers and home buyers. We have watched him lash out morning after morning on Twitter, calling those who disagree with him ridiculous made-up names, which is a tactic that should not work but somehow does. We have watched him tweet out policy that comes straight from the mouths of talking heads on Fox News. We have endured seeing him strut like a peacock when he “wins” and throw hissy fits when he loses. His behavior reminds me of some kings who did not have the maturity to be good kings; kings who thought only of themselves and let their subjects fend for themselves, or actively made their lives worse.

Here is a man who greatest accomplishments as president so far involve overturning the thoughtful laws of the last American President. He may want us to think that he does this because these laws are bad for business or because it is what the Republicans want, but it could just as easily be the act of a racist who wants America to be a white, Christian nation (as he seems to think it was intended to be). Of course we know and he must know that unless his peeps use all those guns they are stockpiling to wipe anyone with pigmented skin off the face of the earth, that whiteness is not going to “win”. Our planet is too small and getting smaller every day. We might, instead, begin to think that the Republican Party is the root of all evil and that America would be far better off without them.

Here is a man whose second greatest accomplishment was to allow Congress to pass tax cuts that are supposed to set up we the people to lose our benefits. The current tax cut law creates a huge deficit. Then Congress tried this very week to pass a “balanced budget’ amendment which so far failed (John Katko, my Representative voted yes to this). If you make a budget that racks up debt and pass a spending plan that adds even more debt, and then you tell voters that the budget must, according to law, be balanced, next thing you know the GOP, by the grace of Trump, is finally rid of all those pesky safety net programs that supposedly don’t work and that are weighing the country down (Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, SNAP, SSD and more). These benefits may seem unnecessary if you are a billionaire, but not if you are a blind person, or you have a bad back, or you paid into a program because someone promised you that when you were old you would at least not be destitute.

Here is a man who has been under investigation by a special prosecutor almost since he took office, who has lied to the American people and the world so many times and so shamelessly that our heads are spinning. We didn’t think someone who was our president would lie so blatantly or that he would be so obvious about it, all the while insisting that it was not happening. It is very possible, considering all of the shady leaks, meetings, chance encounters that we have learned were “innocently” and accidentally blundered into between Donald’s campaign and Russia, or Russian people, that things Russia did actually may have affected the outcome of the 2016 election. And yet everyone assures 45 that they are not trying to say the election was invalid. (All the while wishing that would happen.)

And here is a man who exhibits almost every behavior “rulers”, elected, or otherwise, manifest when they have an authoritarian bent and hope to change a democracy into a dictatorship. We know that it is not a good thing when your country’s leader goes to war with any media outlet or person that speaks against him. We know that in an authoritarian state the government gets control of the media so that the news always favors the leader. If we get to the point where we are jailing journalists for “negative” reporting then we will know for sure that we are in danger. Right now the preferred method seems to be a sort of business model that just buys out media, weakened by the internet, and tucks them under the Conservative umbrella. Could we lose our fair and balanced media in this way? Could we lose our opposition media this way? It is already happening.

Here also is a man who would rather rule by caveat then go, hat in hand, to Congress  and use the structures our forefathers designed in our Constitution. The excuse here is that Obama used executive actions, but data proves that no President has ever been as obstructed as Obama was in his two terms. This president’s party owns all three branches of our government. What is really going on is much more sinister. Authoritarian guys somehow always find a government’s existing Constitution needs to be rewritten. If we get there will we finally know we’re in real trouble? Will it be too late?

So we have been told that impeachment is not a possibility and considering the current makeup of Congress that is right. And we have been told that Trump’s health is excellent and that he is does not have dementia so the 25thAmendment is unlikely to help. We got excited about the emoluments clause for a brief minute but it has no teeth. We hold out hope that Mueller will take Trump out, but we are told that even if we can prove actual treason by Trump he could still stay in office. We see that no one except a few loyal old cronies can even stand to work with Trump, which would certainly feed right into the modus operandiof any authoritarian dictator anywhere. If everyone in the government quits that would probably make Trump quite happy. We are even hoping that somehow a prostitute may be able to rid us of a problematic president. Then, in the next breath we are told that none of these things will work, especially given the Republican party’s willingness to use their majority status in Congress to back up a president who flaunts every rule that America once adhered to. In addition, an authoritarian leader also only likes the judges and courts who will give any of his actions legal status. Sound familiar?

Apparently a bad, terrible, very awful president gets normalized by default, because none of the safeguards we thought we had have any power at all, unless we agree that they do. We are not all in agreement. Yes, the Rasmussen poll gave Trump a 50% approval rating recently, but the Rasmussen poll is known to be skewed to the right. Check out the poll information in these two articles which compare the results of competing polls and compare Trump’s popularity to our most well-known presidents.

The following article contains interesting interactive graphics which lose their value if transferred as a static chart. This article is also very recent.

https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/trump-approval-ratings/

http://news.gallup.com/poll/203198/presidential-approval-ratings-donald-trump.aspx

It’s a conundrum such as America has never faced before. Getting rid of the president might destroy so much of American law and tradition that it could mean the demise of our current system. Not getting rid of a president who seems to favor authoritarian ways could also mean the demise of our democracy and years under a figure who inspires no pride or trust in we the people. Our hopes are relying on pathways that are in danger of disappearing altogether. Our lives will go on but it is hard to know how depressing our lives might become.

https://www.thenation.com/article/how-trump-has-normalized-the-unspeakable/

https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/01/we-havent-normalized-trump-weve-just-gotten-used-to-him-that-may-be-worse.html

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Caught in the Dialectic

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The “dialectic” is not just some academic construct used as propaganda by Communist thinkers. It is seen fairly universally these days as a tool that is useful for describing seismic disturbances in cultures and even in individual lives when measured over time. Cultures experience tectonic movements, which because of the organic (living) content cannot be expressed in the formulas of physicists, which work better for more easily predictable phenomena (usually inorganic). If the dialectic can measure political change, it can be extrapolated to apply to almost all of humanity’s communal activities.

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This dialectic has human endeavors moving along like an inchworm.

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Every so often there is a foreword movement which causes the center to rise, temporarily, and the “back” of the organism to move forward occupying new ground.

Thesis

It seems that some theorized that we were in a moment when we were poised to make a cultural leap. There was some momentum generated for eradicating poverty and disease, looking to problems that might crop up in the near future with 9 billion people on the planet, attempting to equalize wealth a bit, to create new markets that would “develop” seemingly more primitive cultures, (cultures that could suffer terribly in the future without some intervention), changing our extreme reliance on fossil fuels, and finding newer, cleaner, and renewable energy sources.

This “movement” advocated that we find ways to lighten the human footprint on our tiny planet in order to make sure that we did not continue to disturb the delicate balances on which we depend (the water cycle, clean potable water, clean soil, clean air, arable land). This world view suggested that the migration of factories to less developed nations was also “organic” and, while disruptive in the short term, would lead to a spread of prosperity, global in scope, which would eventually benefit all of earth’s people and keep us from social upheaval and war (at least until we learn to travel in space). We would be trading giant culture-destroying upheavals for smaller, more persistent upheavals, if we could look beyond our borders for more planet-wide ways to cooperate.

Antithesis

Lo and behold – not everyone was on board with globalism, globalization, planet-wide cooperation. Not everyone liked the agenda of get-everyone-on-the-same-page, equalize the distribution of wealth, save the planet. Perhaps it was too big a leap, too much too fast. It left the “front” leg of the inchworm up in the air, trembling, finding no firm footing for forward movement. Humanity in affluent societies just did not like the idea of living in curtailed circumstances in the present to ensure a livable future. They did not like the way a global perspective seemed to be weakening their nation and making them more uncertain about their finances. Capitalist societies were not the only ones that were unhappy with the disruptions of globalism.

Perhaps we have learned an important lesson, that it is dangerous to become so focused on the future that you forget to give equal consideration to the present and how the transitions are affecting people’s lives. Perhaps, since there is no one force overseeing cultural change, the dialectic is inescapable. (I have simplified the dialectic here, but it is often represented as a cyclical spiral that repeats and repeats.) In times of rapid change it is probably impossible to avoid little earthquakes in unexpected places. It may even be impossible to avoid some fairly large earthquakes.

But as we sit now in the peak of the current antithesis movement (nationalism), the-we-don’t-want-change movement, those who still hold to the original “global” thesis (agenda) find their forward movement blocked by policies that will make the world more divided, less global, less clean, less equal, and less free, but which will keep wealth fixed exactly where it is and allow wealth inequality to become more pronounced (even while these folks protest that they are doing the opposite).

Synthesis

When will we arrive at the time when we actually attempt to synthesize these two opposing movements? It could be decades or even centuries; or it could be as close as the next election. There is a certain urgency in the air. Perhaps the earth is near a breaking point and we do not have the luxury of lingering in the wasteful, greedy past for long. Perhaps those on the other side are correct and there is no danger that our planet will rebel against our treatment of it. Personally many don’t want to wait and see. These people like to be proactive.