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Wed Dec 9, 2015, 10:04 PM

Broken Government

“There is no week nor day nor hour when tyranny may not enter this country, if the people lose their supreme confidence in themselves. -- and lose their roughness and spirit of defiance. Tyranny may always enter -- there is no charm, no bar against it -- the only bar against it is a large resolute breed of men.”
-- Walt Whitman


In 1973, former Kennedy White House historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., published one of the most important books of the past century: “The Imperial Presidency.” It was at the time that many people believed this nation was at the beginning of a constitutional crisis, involving President Nixon, both Houses of Congress, and the US Supreme court. Schlesinger provided readers with the frequent attempts by the executive branch of the federal government to grab additional powers, with claims of “national security” during times of war.

A significant part of this book focuses on impeachment. This, of course, was Schlesinger’s advocating the impeachment of President Richard Nixon. The above Whitman quote, which Schlesinger used to close the book, is an accurate indicator of his views regarding the struggle with Nixon. When some of the Congressional Committees that studied presidential abuses of power made their reports (partially) public in the post-Nixon 1970s, thinking people were able to combine that information with Schlesinger’s book, and recognize the very real threats posed to our constitutional democracy.

In the years that followed Nixon’s resigning in utter disgrace, there have been two US Presidents who should have been impeached: Reagan, for Iran-Contra; and Bush, for the purposeful lies that resulted in the invasion of Iraq. Obviously, the impeachment of President Clinton was politically-motivated nonsense. When there is a high-profile, showcased nonsense, it suggests other things are quietly being accomplished.

For a brief but accurate description of the events that were “hidden” from public view -- or, at least what happened while the public was watching and debating President Clinton’s trial -- one should read Thomas F. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein’s, “The Broken Branch: How Congress is Failing America” (Oxford; 2006). The authors document how a group of politicians, led by Newt Gingrich, purposely “broke” the legislative branch of the federal government. It would be difficult to claim, with a straight face, that Congress has been repaired, or healed, in the time since the book was published.

The US Supreme Court, while on occasion returning surprising decisions, has proven to be a reliable advocate for corporations and for executive powers relating to “national security.” In 2001, Vincent Bugliosi published his classic, “The Betrayal of America,” which documented the US Supreme Court’s theft of the 2000 presidential election. As the author notes, their decision was not based upon the Constitution, or constitutional law. Instead, it was an authoritarian clamp-down on democracy. Their decision, Bugliosi proves beyond any doubt, was 100% rooted in four of the (in)Justices’ political and economic (re: corporate) interests.

Fast-forward to 2015. Early in the republican primary contest, it becomes evident that their party was experiencing a grass roots’ discontent with career politicians. This includes a rejection of the republican machine’s preferred candidate, Jeb Bush. But it goes much deeper than that: for a period of time, the three most popular candidate -- Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and Carly Fiorina -- are political outsiders …..at least to the extent that none of the three had ever held elected office.

Two of the three would implode, when the republican voters came to recognize them as unfit for office. Carly Fiorina was exposed as a liar, something forgivable; however, when she refused to admit that her horror story about abortion was false, her numbers did a nosedive. Carson proved to be beyond a lying creep; his delusional “religious” belief system offended even his republican audience.

The third candidate, Donald Trump, has been on a campaign of lies, insults, racism, narcissism, nativism, sexism, and hatred. Despite previous predictions from most political journalists, being exposed as an ass-clown has not damaged Trump’s campaign, in any meaningful way. Often, it’s just the opposite: the republican grass roots rewards his most vulgar behaviors.

In the past few days, while discussing Trump’s most recent proposal to refuse to allow people of the Islamic faith entry -- or re-entry -- into the United States, a growing number of people have recognized that Trump’s proposal is unconstitutional. It surely is serving to make the rest of the civilized world question what the United States has become. It definitely puts Americans abroad at higher risk, including the military. Some have pointed out that Trump may be violating the law in making such statements.

What is less apparent, in my opinion, is that regardless of the undeniable fact that Donald Trump has abandoned any respect for the Constitution, if he were to be elected President, those Constitutional restraints upon Executive power do not guarantee that his behavior would be harnessed by the House, Senate, and/or US Supreme Court. If it were as simple as a president going mad in office, those restraints might be enough to protect our society. The US survived the very real challenges that Nixon presented. But those of us old enough to remember know that it was a struggle.

The dynamics in our country have changed significantly since then. No serious person could argue that Congress or the Supreme Court are as functional today as they were when Schlesinger wrote that book. It would be realistic to think that the Constitution plays a significant, much less healthy, role in America today.

It seems safe to say that not only are the Americans who support Donald Trump the most angry, potentially violent, pro-authoritarianism of the population -- but internationally, the only people who want Trump to be elected are of the ilk of ISIS. Thus, it seems increasingly likely that individuals and groups within the pro-Trump movement will look for -- if not initiate -- the types of incidents that will increase the levels of the toxins of rage, paranoia, and violence in a way that they believe will increase Trump’s chances for victory.

This, of course, would be the environment needed for Trump -- or even a Ted Cruz -- to do further, severe damage to this country. This is not to suggest that this is definitely going to happen, or even the single most likely outcome of the 2016 presidential election. I’m not recommending that we begin a mental measuring for curtains in the FEMA camps. And I haven’t seen any black helicopters around my house ….or any drones, though I guess they aren’t highly visible.

But history teaches us that nations can be vulnerable, under certain circumstances. The Whitman quote provides a valuable insight into part of those circumstances. Indeed, it would require that Good People believe themselves to be helpless to stop the machine, and hopeless about the future. It would require another portion of the population to hold the same feelings of hopelessness, but to look to a “leader” to “save” them. And a bunch of spineless cowards, compromised by their own unethical behaviors, to over-populate the House and Senate, plus an authoritarian majority on the Supreme Court.

Look around you today …..watch the news, listen to the radio, read the internet …..and think about the current environment in America today. What do you see?

Peace,
H2O Man

47 replies, 2631 views

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Arrow 47 replies Author Time Post
Reply Broken Government (Original post)
H2O Man Dec 2015 OP
H2O Man Dec 2015 #1
H2O Man Dec 2015 #39
MannyGoldstein Dec 2015 #2
H2O Man Dec 2015 #6
Scuba Dec 2015 #3
H2O Man Dec 2015 #13
KingCharlemagne Dec 2015 #44
Octafish Dec 2015 #4
H2O Man Dec 2015 #15
Octafish Dec 2015 #45
H2O Man Dec 2015 #46
BlueJazz Dec 2015 #5
H2O Man Dec 2015 #23
merrily Dec 2015 #7
H2O Man Dec 2015 #12
merrily Dec 2015 #14
H2O Man Dec 2015 #17
merrily Dec 2015 #21
H2O Man Dec 2015 #24
malaise Dec 2015 #8
annabanana Dec 2015 #18
malaise Dec 2015 #19
H2O Man Dec 2015 #26
malaise Dec 2015 #27
mmonk Dec 2015 #9
H2O Man Dec 2015 #28
mmonk Dec 2015 #43
raouldukelives Dec 2015 #10
H2O Man Dec 2015 #29
hifiguy Dec 2015 #31
KoKo Dec 2015 #11
H2O Man Dec 2015 #30
KoKo Dec 2015 #34
KoKo Dec 2015 #16
H2O Man Dec 2015 #40
Samantha Dec 2015 #20
H2O Man Dec 2015 #32
Solly Mack Dec 2015 #22
H2O Man Dec 2015 #33
Solly Mack Dec 2015 #37
AuntPatsy Dec 2015 #25
H2O Man Dec 2015 #41
Martin Eden Dec 2015 #35
KoKo Dec 2015 #36
H2O Man Dec 2015 #42
Martin Eden Dec 2015 #47
mrdmk Dec 2015 #38

Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Wed Dec 9, 2015, 10:34 PM

1. Okay, okay ....

Maybe after tonight's "The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell," people might take more interest in this OP.

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Response to H2O Man (Reply #1)

Fri Dec 11, 2015, 10:24 AM

39. (Thank you)

Sometimes, it feels like I'm talking to myself here on DU:GD. Your response seems to have sparked the following conversation. I can't speak for anyone else, H2O Man, but I take back the rude things I was saying about you, before this post. Half of 'em weren't true, to begin with; the other half were outright lies.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Wed Dec 9, 2015, 10:40 PM

2. K&R. Insightful, well written,

 

and terrifying because I suspect that you're right.

I hope that DUers read this, and think.

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Response to MannyGoldstein (Reply #2)

Wed Dec 9, 2015, 11:55 PM

6. Thank you.

It should disturb all people of conscience that this day is upon us.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Wed Dec 9, 2015, 10:51 PM

3. Another brilliant essay from H2O Man. Our nation is a powderkeg.

 

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Response to Scuba (Reply #3)

Thu Dec 10, 2015, 11:59 AM

13. Thanks, Scuba!

It's a topic that I've been giving a lot of thought to recently. This included last Friday, in the hours in which I was engaged in ceremony. I had what, for lack of better description, I'll call a heightened awareness that the "threats" to our country's well-being are topped by Good People taking for granted that America as we know it will continue to be as it has been. And the only way that what's best about this country can continue is if Good People are active participants, along the avenues described in that Constitution, especially its Bill of Rights.

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Response to Scuba (Reply #3)

Fri Dec 11, 2015, 11:06 AM

44. The most terrifying prospect of a Trump presidency is that he would not

 

be presiding over a divided government but instead over a one-party state. I could easily see such a government passing laws to intern all of DU's membership residing within the borders on grounds of 'national security' or 'emergency powers' or some such.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Wed Dec 9, 2015, 10:53 PM

4. DKAS

Donkey Kong Attention Span.

What Frederick Douglass said:

"Once you learn to read, you will be forever free."

Nixon and those behind him -- are the reason for all the treason -- from the coup against FDR to overthrowing democracy and making war around the world for the capitalists and Big Oil to the present interest in tilting global trade to the Wall Street-City o' London axis of weasels.

Thank you for your most important essay, H2O Man. The man on the White Horse is galloping to town. People who don't read will never know what hit 'em.

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Response to Octafish (Reply #4)

Thu Dec 10, 2015, 12:16 PM

15. Very good!

As so often happens, your comment get me thinking of something different, though related.

A couple decades ago, one of my nephews was complaining about what he correctly viewed as weaknesses in the "concept vs reality" of "freedom of the press." My brother said that while what our nephew was saying was true, that it wasn't the entire truth. He reminded the young man that a curious mind can, if they take the time to search, find accurate information. It may be in a book in the basement of a library, or in a margin magazine ....but it exists, and every American has both the right and the responsibility to be engaged in that search for truth. More, my brother told our nephew that very few places in the world offer citizens the ability to do this .....and to quit complaining, and invest that energy in finding "good" press, and then becoming an active transmitter of that information.

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Response to H2O Man (Reply #15)

Fri Dec 11, 2015, 02:31 PM

45. To me, information is what this universe is all about.

F'r instance, from your neck of the woods...a Mr. Carlos S from somewhere in Mexico shows what this life is all about (Just the band's expressions while doing their work say it all):

/

Hippy Bashers, please know it was wasn't the drugs.

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Response to Octafish (Reply #45)

Fri Dec 11, 2015, 03:09 PM

46. Beautiful music!

Santana was one of the first -- and best -- concerts I ever attended.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Wed Dec 9, 2015, 11:00 PM

5. Great post. I believe a lot of us (not just at DU) know that the monsters are gaining ground.

 

We knew when they seized/bought the media years ago that the wool would slowly start to fall over the populace.
These type of things work best over the long haul. The old humans are getting too tired to fight and the young ones are slowly evolving into the type of robots the monsters want..easy to please and easy to buy.

As for Bernie. I love him and I worry about him.

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Response to BlueJazz (Reply #5)

Thu Dec 10, 2015, 06:28 PM

23. Very good!

Thank you for this!

It seems to me that the negative force in our society has been increasing its momentum. I remember thinking, "No one could possibly be worse than Nixon." Then, "No one could possibly be worse than Reagan." By the time of Bush-Cheney, I recognized that things could continue to get even worse.

I both agree and respectfully disagree with you about us old folks. While I know that you are right -- I sure as heck cannot do half of what I used to -- I also think that to the extent we appreciate that we are now the exact same age as our grandparents were, when they were our age, we can shift gears, work at the right pace for our age, and make a vital contribution.

My exposure to young folks is almost exclusively family-related, since I stopped serving on the local school board. And that includes my daughters' friends at college. They strike me as having social consciousness, and I'm pretty impressed with a lot of the student population. They have the advantages of youth, while we have the advantage of experience.

I do find myself thinking people should put their cell phones away for a while. But even our generation uses cell phones quite a bit. I've never had, or used, a cell phone. (Never had a credit card.) If I were a college student today, I'm sure that I'd be far more politically active than most students are. But, instead, it's my time to be a grumpy, impatient old man!

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Thu Dec 10, 2015, 08:38 AM

7. Great post, even though I don't agree with the overarching premises.

I agree that our government is broken, but I don't think it is because of the Nixon era. I think that we tend not to take in events much beyond in time those we experienced. We tend not to take the long view when we look back and we tend not to take the long view looking forward.

Since Jamestown, government was intended to be of the rich white Western European male, for the rich white Western European male and by the rich white European male. And, from that, so many evils have flowed, even until today. The question is how do we finally move away from it? If I knew the answer, I would make billions. However, I think taking as long a view as possible and not framing solely in partisan terms are necessary to working toward the answers.

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Response to merrily (Reply #7)

Thu Dec 10, 2015, 11:50 AM

12. Thank you.

I fully respect that intelligent people can look at the same set of circumstances, and have very different ideas about what those circumstances indicate. Indeed, that is what enriches the serious discussions on this forum.

In writing the OP, I was tempted to add information from two more books. The first was John W. Dean's 2007, "Broken Government: How Republican Rule Destroyed the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Branches." I suspect that the title allows one to "guess" what the author's viewpoint was at the time he wrote the book. While Dean is not among my favorite authors -- I do not believe that many people understand what his agenda has been, over the decades -- this was published in a series of valuable books he wrote, including "Conservatives Without Conscience" and "Worse Than Watergate."

The second was a 2004 book by Senator Robert Byrd, "Losing America." While the book was specifically about "confronting (the) reckless and arrogant presidency" of George W. Bush, I think it is a mistake to limit it to that specific period of time. In what I consider the most important section, the elderly Senator describes how VP Cheney, in the hours after the 9/11 attacks, instituted what is known as the "shadow government."

This was a crisis-response, that suspended the Constitution, and placed federal powers in the hands of an un-elected group from the executive branch,the military, and corporate powers. It wasn't until several years afterwards that this move by Cheney became public; even then, few people were aware of it, because the media opted to not report on the issue.

Now, here again, you and I can look at these things, and reach different conclusions on their implications. And, again, this is a good thing. Likewise, there are no doubt many areas where we would be in agreement -- for example, that Trump is a "reckless and arrogant" candidate, and would be a terrible president!

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Response to H2O Man (Reply #12)

Thu Dec 10, 2015, 12:08 PM

14. I don't think we disagree on implications of the things you cited. I think we may disagree on

root causes and timing.

For every book a Democratic author writes about a Republican President destroying the country, the Constitution or whatever, there is probably also at least one book written by a Republican author claiming a Democratic President has destroyed the country, the Constitution or whatever that resonates just as much with rank and file Republicans as the books you cite resonated with you. Heck, even the SCOTUS thought FDR and a Democratic Congress were trying to destroy the Constitution with the New Deal--and there was a lot of valid Constitutional interpretation at the time to support that view.

"Divide and Rule," and "Divide and Conquer" have been great strategies for seeking to conquer us and rule us. And, as the ideologies of the two largest political parties become less different than they were, say, in FDR's time, they've doubled down on demonizing each other.

I fully understand how that benefits politicians. I am considerably less clear on how and to what extent that benefits us. Then again, as my prior post intimated, they system was never intended to work to our benefit to begin with. We've made some inroads over time with Constitutional amendments, such as citizens' voting, rather than state legislatures' voting. However, within the basic structure of our plutocratic system, that kind of nibbling around the edges has not resulted in fundamental change.

Of course, we can agree not to vote for Trump. Any two relatively sane people can agree on that. Even the less than sane Kristol and Cheney apparently agree on that. You and I certainly can further agree never to vote Republican, as any two relatively sane Democrats can. However, that is not going to make anything less plutocratic, nor will it will make the system more truly representative of the majority of Americans, certainly not to extent of disadvantaging the plutocrats.

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Response to merrily (Reply #14)

Thu Dec 10, 2015, 12:47 PM

17. Great points!

Certainly, one of the dangers posed by Trump is that the general population will think that any/all of the other candidates are "better" ....and that electing one of them somehow "saves" democracy. A good historic example of this was the 1964 election, when people viewed LBJ as the sane alternative to Goldwater. I recognize, of course, that LBJ did accomplish meaningful advances in civil rights, but he also channeled insane violence in Vietnam.

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Response to H2O Man (Reply #17)

Thu Dec 10, 2015, 01:13 PM

21. Thank you.

IMO, LBJ was the sane alternative to Goldwater. Well, the saner alternative, but LOTE voting is mostly what our system has devolved to.

Goldwater was a conservative Republican, "strong on defense" and a rabid anti-communist who defended McCarthy to the bitter end. That he would have done any better than LBJ in Vietnam is highly doubtful. He certainly did very little to "debunk" the mushroom cloud ad Bill Moyers conceived of, so maybe it wasn't bunk.

LBJ did use all his considerable skills to get civil rights passed. Goldwater used the dog whistle of "states' rights" to justify doing nothing about Jim Crow.

LBJ pushed for Great Society legislation, including Head Start and Medicare. Goldwater was an extreme fiscal conservative for his day.

https://www.lewrockwell.com/2006/02/daniel-mccarthy/neocon-myths-about-barry-goldwater/


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Response to merrily (Reply #21)

Thu Dec 10, 2015, 06:32 PM

24. Right.

LBJ is one of American history's strangest characters, including that period when he served as president. Without Vietnam, my father used to say, "he'd be up there with FDR." But, of course, there was Vietnam.

Goldwater had a far more limited quantity of characteristics.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Thu Dec 10, 2015, 08:51 AM

8. I see a scary situation

but American are resilient and usually move forward not backwards. Obama's two victories are proof of that.

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Response to malaise (Reply #8)

Thu Dec 10, 2015, 12:51 PM

18. We are sure going to have to invest heavily in

education (specifically History and Civics) if we want that trajectory to continue.

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Response to annabanana (Reply #18)

Thu Dec 10, 2015, 01:03 PM

19. Agreed

Too much ignorance is promoted by those who benefit from chaos most

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Response to malaise (Reply #8)

Thu Dec 10, 2015, 06:51 PM

26. In my opinion,

Democrats will benefit from viewing President Obama after he is out of office. Those who voted for him, but have been frequently disappointed, will begin to value his strengths; those who fully support him, will be able to see that he was imperfect as president. And definitely, in regard to the '08 and '12 victories speak well of the American potential.

We are approaching a great battle. One that might make a large number of republicans who have been anti-Obama miss him.

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Response to H2O Man (Reply #26)

Thu Dec 10, 2015, 07:43 PM

27. I agree with all points

and they will miss him.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Thu Dec 10, 2015, 08:53 AM

9. Recommended. I do see the toxins.

It's up to us to provide the antidote.

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Response to mmonk (Reply #9)

Thu Dec 10, 2015, 08:08 PM

28. Thank you.

It strikes me as being along the lines of what a good group of DUers was predicting, and warning about, during the Cheney era.

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Response to H2O Man (Reply #28)

Fri Dec 11, 2015, 10:55 AM

43. The change that happened under Cheney

was less hidden and more brazen. That neither party seemed concerned enough to protect elements of our system became a disturbing new phenomenon.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Thu Dec 10, 2015, 10:19 AM

10. We live in the most reality shareholders cannot block.

Try as they might to shield the reality of what they have accomplished, when one looks with ones true eyes and not the retina of corporate media, it is clear in every facet around us today. From our swiftly declining natural world to wars for profit to the elimination and suppression of truth to protect said profits from democracy.

From our devastated small communities and the vanishing of Mom & Pop America to giant big box stores that only suck at the arteries of them. Leading to ever more draconian, offensive and frivolous fines and taxes levied against the least of those communities to make up for the loss of revenue represented in the form of dividends to the assorted owners across the globe.

I used to laugh back when I was a kid and they'd tell me if the communist menace ever took over we would loss all our charm, all our small business and we'd all have to line up at giant, nondescript grey buildings that all looked the same to get our rations of onions and toilet paper.

When I look out across America now, that is all I see. Each with the same colors, the same floor plans, the same toilet paper on the same shelf.

The people are afraid. They should be. Unfortunately, scared people run to daddy, every time. Corporations and the think tanks and lobbyists they spawn exploit said fears for gain and voila.

The Trump generation. All glittery facades over deadly realities.

Anyway, I am rambling. Great read as always H2O.

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Response to raouldukelives (Reply #10)

Thu Dec 10, 2015, 08:16 PM

29. Very well said.

I mighty glad that you did "ramble." Please ramble more often.

I took my sister out "house-hunting" today. It was so sad for us to see areas that have been horribly devastated over the past few decades. Neighborhoods in towns, and once-beautiful rural regions. If we weren't old enough to remember these places from when they were outstanding, attractive areas, it would be almost impossible to believe the difference today. (Thus, we focused on an old farmhouse, out in the wilderness.)

Back to the point I want to make: please feel free to add as much as possible here. What you said is important, and you have a gift for communications.

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Response to raouldukelives (Reply #10)

Thu Dec 10, 2015, 08:29 PM

31. A superb post.

 

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Thu Dec 10, 2015, 11:06 AM

11. Two Articles:



Does Fear Lead to Fascism? A Culture of Fear and the Epigenetics of Terror

By John W. Whitehead--The Rutherford Institute
December 08, 2015

http://www.democraticunderground.com/1016139197

------------------

America’s Reckless War Against Evil --Why It’s Self-Defeating and Has No End

America’s Reckless War Against Evil--Why It’s Self-Defeating and Has No End
By Ira Chernus--Dec. 8 TomGram

http://www.democraticunderground.com/1016139205

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Response to KoKo (Reply #11)

Thu Dec 10, 2015, 08:19 PM

30. Great!

Thank you for these links! They are very much appreciated.

Though I've never asked you, and have assumed that you are appreciably younger than me, it's clear that you've been paying attention to the world of politics for some time. And not just "current events," but that you've made a systematic study of history. I always enjoy your contributions on this forum.

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Response to H2O Man (Reply #30)

Thu Dec 10, 2015, 09:51 PM

34. Thank you!

It's much appreciated.

I'm probably in your age group and that's why I follow you and others who have lived through.."Trying Times" in America. My first vote, when I was able to vote, was for John Lindsey for Mayor of NYC. If I had been able by just one year I could have voted for JFK.

So glad you liked those links. Sometimes many of us post and don't think anyone reads or cares. So, it's good to know you thought those posts were interesting enough to follow through to read.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Thu Dec 10, 2015, 12:32 PM

16. "How Donald Trump United America"--Politico

I thought this was an interesting read given how depressed we on the Left are about the Trump Mania and the disappointing direction we see our country going. My personal opinion is that Trump is unwittingly exposing the rotten underbelly of our whole system. And, since he has his own personal fortune and celebrity recognition he can't be influenced or shut down the way any normal politician could be. He is exposing the crassness of the Corporate Cable Media which adores him for bringing in viewers and providing lots of Click Bait for the print media and Tweets for the Twitter crowd. In a way he's Sarah Palin on Steroids (but more intelligent) with a bit of John McCain's craziness thrown that has never stopped him from being re-elected.


-----------

How Donald Trump United America

The most vulgar, embarrassing campaign of the century is teaching us that underneath it all, we’re actually a decent people.

By Jack Shafer

December 09, 2015

Even though Thanksgiving Day is two weeks past, I hope it's not too late to express my gratitude for Donald Trump's campaign for president. His new jibber-jabber about banning Muslims from entering the United States has awakened the animal spirits harbored by some of our nativist brothers and sisters. Yes, that’s a bad thing. But the good thing is his proposal is reviving the American consensus view about the value of religious tolerance and free speech. It’s uniting voices across the political spectrum. Donald Trump, amazingly, is inspiring America to sing “Kumbaya.”

Rebuking Trump for his comment were conservatives Sen. John McCain, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Jeb Bush, who tweeted that Trump is “unhinged.” Joining hands at least metaphorically with the conservatives was liberal Hillary Clinton, who called Trump's proposal “reprehensible, prejudiced and divisive.” The equally liberal Martin O'Malley spent his campaign's entire rhetorical budget to tag Trump a “fascist demagogue.” And a White House spokesman declared that Trump's speech “disqualifies” him from serving as president. Meanwhile, pundits Bill Kristol and Dana Milbank have attacked Trump from the right and left, likening him to a John Bircher and Mussolini, respectively. Even Tom Brokaw dusted off his teleprompter yesterday to editorialize against Trump on NBC Nightly News.

Trump has achieved the seemingly impossible with his bigotry: He has brought the two most popular strains of political thought together and reminded us that, for all our faults, Americans are pretty decent folk who, when called upon, can extend respect and civility to cultures that are different than our own. Without Trump's provocation against Muslims, it's hard to imagine Speaker Ryan standing before the press corps’ video cameras to disassociate himself, his party and the country from Trump’s hysteria. “This is not conservatism,” Ryan said emphatically.

“I have a temperament where I bring people together,” Trump agreed in September. He was talking about his skill at filling auditoriums with cheering supporters, of course, but it turns out he has an even greater skill at uniting practically everybody else from both parties against him. Trump’s cheering supporters are actually few, relatively speaking. He pulls from 25 percent to 35 percent in polls of Republican and Republican-leaning voters, but as Nate Silver wrote recently in FiveThirtyEight, this translates into “something like 6 to 8 percent of the electorate overall, or about the same share of people who think the Apollo moon landings were faked.” In October, when the Washington Post’s Philip Bump took his own yardstick to the polls, he estimated that Bernie Sanders commands more supporters than does Donald Trump.

Early in the summer, as Trump launched his candidacy and started his rise in the polls, many speculated that he was a double agent dispatched by the Democrats (namely, his wedding guest Hillary Clinton) to sabotage the Republicans with a presidential campaign that barnstormed the country like a parody of a Tea Party rally (a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, perhaps). As John Fund wrote in National Review, what do you make of a “Republican” who “sees links between autism and pharmaceutical companies,” “revived ‘birtherism’ in 2011,” espouses crony capitalism and embraced the idea of Oprah Winfrey as his running mate? I never bought the idea that Trump was a plant deployed to destroy the Republican Party. But now that he's gone completely loopy, I'm beginning to think that he's actually doing the GOP a favor. He's ensuring that whichever candidate comes out of the Republican National Convention as the nominee will look mainstream, sane and electable compared to Trump.

Continued... about Trump moving the "Overton Window" at:

http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/12/donald-trump-2016-united-america-213426

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Response to KoKo (Reply #16)

Fri Dec 11, 2015, 10:25 AM

40. Very good!

Thanks again!

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Thu Dec 10, 2015, 01:09 PM

20. Wonderful thread, H20 Man

It truly does make one think, but I believe it is an invaluable tool for some of our DU'ers who did not live through this period of time.

Personally, I have been "looking around" for 15 years now, and I absolutely do not like what I see. 2016 seems to me to be the real tipping point as to whether we can survive as the Country that most of us want us to be or will the reigns of power move further into an even tighter grip of corporatism, the billionaires and the ultra-right wing players. It is a defining moment for all of us.

Sam

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Response to Samantha (Reply #20)

Thu Dec 10, 2015, 08:41 PM

32. Thank you, Samantha!

I really like your response. Very nice.

Last Friday, I was in ceremony from morning to evening. I found myself thinking of the prophet, Black Elk, from the Paha Sapa (or Hesapa), and the circle. How as an old man, this sacred Elder viewed the cycles that bring change to the circle. And his concerns for the future, as he knew what the next few cycles would bring.

I thought about the two recent episodes of domestic terrorism....one at a Planned Parenthood, and one involving the young Islamic couple. How the PP episode actually poses much more of a threat to American's daily lives. How some in "powerful" positions believe, foolishly, that this type can be controlled, in ways it is beneficial for their selfish, individual needs.

I'm thankful that you have been "looking around" for the past 15 years or so. I enjoy comparing notes with you! I've been "looking around" for quite a few decades now, and am convinced that we are entering the most dangerous period since WW2. (The Cuban Missile Crisis ranks high, but that 13 days was relatively brief.) I apologize for now handing up a better world to the next generations.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Thu Dec 10, 2015, 04:43 PM

22. K&R

I see an America that has been courting fascism by name since the 1920's - at times, more obvious than others - due to the opportunistic introduction of supporting ideas during key events in the country's history, as well as the slow introduction of certain authoritarian principles that allowed people to adapt to, incorporate into, and shape how they see America and what America means.

It could be argued that it goes back further, just without the label, where opposition to Marxist philosophy became right-wing ideology.

Nationalism (and all that entails) was the key weapon used against Communism. Nationalism demands an adherence to authority; a duty to state that requires citizens to see themselves and their country as exceptional to all others. Better, stronger, and divinely blessed - with an obligation to be the guiding light of the world. The example by which all should follow. Because, you know, we're right!

Which meant branding dissent as un-American by whatever label was playing well at the time. (Bolshevik!, Commie! Hippie! Outside agitator! Terrorists supporter! Muslim!) - to include being called un-American and traitor.

Can be argued that it goes back to the ever present authority and its desires v. the people and their desires. The dawn of government, by whatever form it went by at the time.

Where authoritarian power needs the people to yield. More so, it needs the people to yield willingly. Otherwise, the state isn't the final authority. Appeals to authority, fear, prejudices, nationalism - even patriotism, where nationalism is all too often dressed up as simple love of country with reinforcing rituals and symbols that aren't all that harmless. All part of the arsenal of power; of authority.

Appealing to the fears of people is not quite as old as time but close. It works. Appealing to their fears is most successful when directed at an enemy. You can fear the dark but if there's nothing lurking in the shadows, it won't go far as a motivator. Place a Commie or a Muslim or an Outside Agitator in the shadows and you now have somewhere to direct all that fear, resulting in a powerful tool of manipulation.

With that tool you can win hearts and minds. You can shape a nation. You can convince a people that a living wage is un-American, that a safe work environment is a Communist plot, that dissent falls from the traitor's tongue, that equality is the bane of "Our way of Life", and that Americans cease being american when they resemble the enemy of the day. That people cease being human when the government labels them the enemy, or inferior, or less.

Trump is as American as America's history.

He's the ugly underbelly we like to pretend doesn't represent the "real" America. After all, so far, for every step we've taken toward giving in to the very worst, we've managed to push against it.

The thing is, people will comfort themselves with each pulling away from the authoritarian state without also marking the gains made by those who want a nation that bends the will of the people toward obedience and acceptance of a supreme authority.

Just going from recent time, The Bush administration, for all its talk of not being at war with Islam, still rounded up Muslim men in America. They still tortured Muslim men. They still kidnapped and detained - without charges - Muslim men. They still paid bounties for the capture of Muslim men for dubious reasons. Saying you're not at war with Islam, but still torturing Muslims, and invading a predominately Muslim country for lies is like claiming you never said Saddam was responsible for 911 but forever linking his name and the country of Iraq with 911 every time you open your mouth.

You're deliberately appealing to fear and to prejudice, trying to pretend you're saying something else, while dog whistling the entire time.

And then America treated torture as a matter of opinion. Up for debate. Many Americans told themselves we've moved on, that we ushered in a new age, that we made a change.

Well, look at the response to Trump. What's changed exactly? Many Americans would still cheer torture. Look how many are cheering the mere thought of internment camps for Muslims. Torture could easily end up being a pay-per-view televised event - and mind you, some Americans would pay to see it.

It wouldn't be free because that isn't good business. Besides, many Americans salivate at the prospect of paying for their own oppression. They've been conditioned well.

We lost on torture. Regardless of what President Obama says - we lost. The U.S. government tortured people and got away with it. That's a loss, people. What we lost isn't just an abstract concept of right and wrong. That loss opened the door - and not just by a crack either. Our government openly and boastfully tortured people - then got away with it. What else might government do now?

This wasn't an aberration or some sort of crazy time in America. In case you haven't noticed, that particular crazy hasn't gone away.

It has become more acceptable. Because, you know - it's just all a matter of opinion and open for debate! And aren't we a wonderful and great country that people can disagree about torture and still sit together to break bread!

Yay, us!

But then there's Trump. Saying nothing more than what a lot of Americans have been saying for 14 years. Yes, his forum is bigger. His audience larger. Still, Trump is saying out loud what torture said with each pounding of the fists, with each bang of the head against a wall, with each bite of an attack dog - with each drop of water.

If you ever find yourself thinking Bush and Cheney were at least reasonable in some way (compared to Trump) - think again. Try to remember. Sometimes, the goal is to get people to think that the Bushes and Cheneys of the world are more reasonable.

Bush and Cheney were just the more acceptable face of Trump - and not because they aren't the same either. Because they are all three exactly the same. They just have different presentations...it's all in the framing. Some rage monsters are easier to swallow because they hide behind ambiguity and deniability. Some rage monsters lay it all out there.

Bush/Cheney torture was just Trump's hate-filled rants put into action. How could Trump not feel safe in his vitriol? America has a long history of demonizing those considered "others", and this particular other (Muslims) has been "legally" tortured by the U.S. government.

So, yeah, Waterman - America is ripe for Trump (or Cruz or some other rage monster)... and has been for years.


Doesn't matter if Trump loses - and don't gloat when he does (and I think he will) because even if he does lose the nomination and/or election - America still loses because hate, ignorance and fear were advanced.

That he was even allowed on the stage tells us just how much we've lost and how much those who favor an authoritarian state have gained.

Sure. His loss would mean we dodged a bullet - but this is America. We've got lots of bullets.




Or not.








































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Response to Solly Mack (Reply #22)

Thu Dec 10, 2015, 09:02 PM

33. In the years

since I joined this forum in 2003, I have never enjoyed a response to an OP more than I do this one. I'm not sure if you were thinking, "That old H2O Man sounds like he's thinking accurate thoughts about the USA, so I'll invest the time required to pick his spirits up," or what. But thank you so much.

Rather than writing a longer, single response that attempts to address most of the important points I will respond to later, I want to start with what may well be the most important one. It's found in paragraph six, where you note authoritarian power demands that people yield willingly.Now, that is something that people really need to think about.

It's not enough to have a population that lives in fear, and obeys for self-preservation, despite hating the oppressor. For that type of tyrant (be it an individual or a system) is common place in comparison to what you speak of. That type of authoritarian rule is terrible, but it is not of the type that almost precludes understanding.

Our culture has produced enough soft citizens -- those who are not unlike the grade school tattle-tale .....that kid who was motivated to tell on his classmates, watch them get in trouble, and have a smug, self-satisfied shit-eating grin on his mug, while basking in his glory. Yet, this is far worse: these fools would gladly drop dime on themselves. Their sense of identity is tied up closely with that of their oppressor, in the most de-humanizing manner.

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Response to H2O Man (Reply #33)

Thu Dec 10, 2015, 11:49 PM

37. I'll borrow a phrase from Chomsky & Herman

The people must consent willingly to the authoritarian state - but that consent can be (and almost always is) manufactured. This doesn't mitigate the responsibility of people to be aware and informed, but it can help explain those who do almost preclude understanding.

Admittedly though, even when I know what is driving a person, I still have moments of I just don't get people. The magnitude and complexities of how people have been manipulated into embracing the very worst and calling it a good thing is just so exhausting, that sometimes I just want to look at it from afar, as if it really doesn't have an impact on my life. A comforting lie. One of many people tell themselves.

Authoritarian states depend on comforting lies, as well. Be wary of them. Humans might not be able to go a day without some kind of rationalization, but be aware of what you're explaining away. Could very well be your rights.

I know some don't think it a complex issue, but simply telling someone the truth or a fact, or providing evidence that they're wrong doesn't work. People become more entrenched. More defensive. Just that much more sure that they're right. Because their entire being, their whole identity, is tied up in needing what they believe to be true to be actually true. Give them a person to follow, someone espousing the same views, who shares their same fears and prejudices, and they will tie their identity to that person. The authoritarian state needs that level of devotion.


I don't possess the structural mechanisms to retrain how people think. Governments do. Alas - another chapter, though integral part of an authoritarian state.


Which isn't to say I am helpless. I'm not. None of us are at this point. Behind, yes. Way behind. All is lost? Not yet. But we have to decide that merely dodging a bullet isn't enough. We gain nothing that way. Not even time. And we don't gain time because people have the propensity to let the bad things slide into the past as if they've never happened, or are so long as to not be relevant today. They move on to the next thing, until they are abruptly reminded that it's all connected. Some even appear shocked. Shock wears off.

I digress...sort of.


Like you said, the people can hate the tyrant as long as they obey and never go against the tyrant - be it with words or actions. The motivation is easily recognized and accepted. The people have no choice. Obey or die. They live in terror.


But the authoritarian state I'm speaking of (as you suggest, and I am, in fact) needs active compliance from those who agree, and passive compliance from the indifferent (because they're not affected). It needs those soft citizens you describe to maintain power. The goal isn't to terrorize the population. That would be counter-productive to maintaining the illusion that all is well.

And all is not well.

Thanks for listening. Thank you for your kind remark.













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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Thu Dec 10, 2015, 06:37 PM

25. ....

Look around you today …..watch the news, listen to the radio, read the internet …..and think about the current environment in America today. What do you see?


Honestly, I see that though the technology has advanced to a Sci-fi degree that the older generation once held as exciting, people and communities themselves have changed little..there are just more of us....

I find that extremely sad...

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Response to AuntPatsy (Reply #25)

Fri Dec 11, 2015, 10:31 AM

41. Right.

Rubin used to tell me that humanity's technological advances were far beyond our ability to exercise any wholesome control of them. Thus, while our technological abilities made it possible for human beings to get back to the Garden, we instead mixed miracles (advances in medical abilities, for example) with nightmarish weapons of war.''

Years later, this topic was re-visited, and he noted that western civilization had reached a tipping-point, where technology was exerting more control over people, than people had over technology.

I miss talking to that Old Man.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Thu Dec 10, 2015, 10:37 PM

35. What do I see?

I see a failure of the Fourth Estate and of our educational institutions.

The popularity of Donald Trump and the dysfunction within our government is possible because far too many citizens are uninformed, misinformed, and/or disengaged from their own governance.

Let me clarify a couple terms I used:

The "failure" of the Fourth Estate relates to the intended function of the free press to inform the citizenry pursuant to the informed consent of the governed. Today's major media is a business increasingly controlled by fewer and fewer hands. The most benign function is profit, which has nothing to do with truth or civic responsibility. An underlying function, epitomized by Fox News, is propaganda to manipulate the citizenry pursuant to the interests of the oligarchy.

The "dysfunction" within our government is also intended, to a certain extent. Ronald Reagan ushered in an era of "conservatism" by proclaiming government is the problem, not the solution. Part of this relates to traditional conservative free market philosophy, but I think it has become a concerted effort to alienate the American people from their own government -- which allows the oligarchy to exert more control. THAT is the intended function, as opposed to dysfunction.

The sheer numbers of voting citizens supporting the likes of Donald Trump is strong evidence that our educational institutions have failed. Many schools are little better than day care centers trying to deal with disruptive behaviors, and the schools categorized as better performing still fall far short of teaching critical thinking skills, a true appreciation of history, an understanding of the world outside our borders, and civic responsibility. Colleges are all too often focused on the means to make money, shortchanging the paths to an enriching life and enlightened self interest within the larger human community. If we really cared about our children and grandchildren we would make a well rounded education with diligent mentoring our highest national priority.

H2O Man, I always enjoy your essays. The only disagreement I find is your conclusion the fading poll numbers of Carson and Fiorina are the result of their erstwhile supporters having enough of their lies and lunacy. Those are the very qualities that have propelled The Donald to the top among the proud products of our fourth estate and educational system. Those candidates simply can't compete with Trump, and their gender/race is a handicap in that demographic.

Yet hope remains, as Gandalf said. The Trump demographic is old and dying off. Our hope lies in youth, but they must be cultivated and mentored. Vigilance is necessary to guard against tyranny, and diligence is a commitment to the lifelong effort on behalf of our young people.

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Response to Martin Eden (Reply #35)

Thu Dec 10, 2015, 10:46 PM

36. "Yet Hope Remains."

Good points...Critical Thinking Skills:

The "failure" of the Fourth Estate relates to the intended function of the free press to inform the citizenry pursuant to the informed consent of the governed. Today's major media is a business increasingly controlled by fewer and fewer hands. The most benign function is profit, which has nothing to do with truth or civic responsibility. An underlying function, epitomized by Fox News, is propaganda to manipulate the citizenry pursuant to the interests of the oligarchy.

The "dysfunction" within our government is also intended, to a certain extent. Ronald Reagan ushered in an era of "conservatism" by proclaiming government is the problem, not the solution. Part of this relates to traditional conservative free market philosophy, but I think it has become a concerted effort to alienate the American people from their own government -- which allows the oligarchy to exert more control. THAT is the intended function, as opposed to dysfunction.
The sheer numbers of voting citizens supporting the likes of Donald Trump is strong evidence that our educational institutions have failed. Many schools are little better than day care centers trying to deal with disruptive behaviors, and the schools categorized as better performing still fall far short of teaching critical thinking skills, a true appreciation of history, an understanding of the world outside our borders, and civic responsibility. Colleges are all too often focused on the means to make money, shortchanging the paths to an enriching life and enlightened self interest within the larger human community. If we really cared about our children and grandchildren we would make a well rounded education with diligent mentoring our highest national priority.


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Response to Martin Eden (Reply #35)

Fri Dec 11, 2015, 10:48 AM

42. Extremely important points!

Thank you for this. You've opened up the discussion on one of the most important problems we face, in taking up the effort to revive our constitutional democracy. And that, of course, is the "free press" that is required to educate and motivate "we, the people."

We all know that the mainstream media is owned and carefully controlled by corporate interests. Yet, even here on DU, we see people complain daily about the product that this mainstream media serves up. That makes about as much sense as going through a McDonald's drive-thru, and being unhappily surprised that the joint is still serving burgers. "But the person who took my order seemed so pleasant! I thought I could trust them!"

Those who care about "politics," but who get all of their news from the mainstream media, are being fed a diet that mixes small amounts of select facts, with a "secret sauce" of disinformation and misinformation. For but one example, if one accepted the media's definitions as reality, then all possible options for a healthy democracy are being provided by the cluster of politicians currently running for president. One might as well have their eyes sewn open, as in "A Clockwork Orange," and be force-fed the sad excuse for food that McDonald's serves daily to an unsuspecting public.

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Response to H2O Man (Reply #42)

Fri Dec 11, 2015, 08:28 PM

47. Junk food is a good analogy

It's addictive and unhealthy.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Fri Dec 11, 2015, 02:18 AM

38. K & R for the excellent OP and the well reasoned responses :-)))


A big thank-you too all...


/

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