Thursday, June 11, 2020

History's Nasty Bite. . . .

Iv'e never been a triumphalist. Perhaps, somewhere deep inside I'm too superstitious. Fortuna's wheel can turn against you on a dime and certainly doesn't need any temptation to thwart your plans or wishes. Some people, of course, are triumphalists for a living, such as political media professionals. They have to continually talk in triumphant terms to project a sense of confidence. But, other than such professionals, I've noticed that the smarter people are, the less likely they are to speak in triumphalist terms. It appears to me that competent people are more likely to be cautious about potential outcomes, and less likely to talk boastfully about their victories. Such people are probably seldom caught in a psychological state of superstition, as I suspect I am. Rather, I think they are keenly aware that overconfidence tends to lead one to make mistakes, and boastfulness alienates potential allies. 

On the other hand, I've also noticed that people with little analysis (or to be less polite, stupid people) are often wildly triumphalist and nauseatingly boastful. And in politics, this correlation appears to be even more pronounced. I don't think I noticed this connection until later in life. This oversight is, I think, in part because I really tried to avoid listening to what rightwingers were saying, unless they were particularly bright and needed to be listened to for strategic reasons. However, the internet put an end to my ignorance fairly quickly because it is simply difficult to avoid the most rattled, shockingly ignorant opinions out there. I came late to the party and wasn't particularly struck by this rightwing triumphalism of ignorance until it looked like Justin Trudeau was going to run for the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. Everywhere I looked, Conservatives seemed downright giddy about the prospect of Trudeau leading the Liberal Party. They were so happy with the prospect that they kept talking in child-like triumphalist terms, saying things like "Please, please, please make Trudeau the leader of the Liberals because then the Conservatives will have the biggest majority in history." Now, I've never been a Liberal and the people I have voted for have, literally, never won an election. But I try to be as objective as possible about what might happen politically. And it seemed to me, at every objective level, that Trudeau was going to be a very popular candidate for the Liberals. He was young, personable, attractive and friendly - particularly when set against the Conservative incumbent, Harper, who was objectively (regardless of your politics) older, secretive, stand-offish, decidedly unfriendly, and (by most standards) less attractive. The distinction was so clear that I even cautioned many rightwingers online that their triumphalism was dangerous to their political goals and that underestimating a formidable opponent was a classic political mistake. The blinder and less informed these people were, the more they seemed to relish in facing a Trudeau-led Liberal party in the election. We all know the outcome of this story.

But no one is more triumphalist than the followers of a populist leader. And among this group, surely none are so wildly optimistic as Trump supporters. I can't tell you how many times I've seen Trump supporters on film or online bragging about the LANDSLIDE victory that Trump is going to have in the November election. And I really think most of them believe it. This phenomenon mystifies me. There have certainly been presidential elections that we can fittingly call "landslides," but many presidential elections are close run affairs. Even John Kennedy, who was a very popular president, only won election by less than one percentage point over Nixon. And, of course, because they have the antiquated Electoral College in the US, presidents can win the election while simultaneous losing the popular vote. I believe only five people have ever lost the popular vote and then won the election, two of them in my life time (George W. Bush, and Trump). And Trump's loss of the popular vote was by far the largest for anyone who then won the electoral college. In fact, there is really no comparison. Trump lost the popular vote by over 2.8 million votes. The next in line of infamy of minority victors is George W. Bush who lost by a mere 500k. Now, putting aside elections with strong third-party candidates, we can safely say that Trump is, in terms of pure numbers, the least popular man to win the White House. Hardcore Trump supporters who live with aluminum foil hats will, of course, deny this fact and scream about non-existent voter fraud etc. But let's live in the real world.

Thus, putting aside the real whackos, what would ever lead someone to a level of triumphalism to say that Trump is going to win by a landslide? Particularly given that Trump is the only president (since modern polls began) to never register above the 50% mark in popularity. Now, don't get me wrong - Trump could still win the next election, though it is hard to imagine, without some wildly unpredictable event, him winning the popular vote at this point. In fact, the only president who lost the popular vote and then went on to win a second term was George W. Bush, and his second election was by no means a landslide. And even though Trump is going up against someone who is, I think, a fairly poor candidate from an objective point of view (given his age, his baggage, his hapless tendencies, and corporatism at a time when the Democratic rank and file are leaning more to the left), I think there is almost no chance for Trump to win the popular vote. And, keep in mind, even to win the Electoral College vote Trump has to essentially get, at the very least, every vote he won last time (no easy feat for a president who has never broke the 50% mark of popularity and is arguably the least popular president since, at least, Herbert Hoover). Hoover, by the way, lost his second term election by an incredible %17 margin!

For now, given the potential company, I'm going to stick with my avoidance of triumphalism. Other than saying that  Trump probably won't win by a landslide, I don't know what the outcome of the next election will be. And, I will try to remember that it is hard to underestimate the intelligence of the American public. Meanwhile, I will watch the rightwing triumphalists and think, "be careful, history can turn on you when you least expect it." 

Friday, May 31, 2019

Is A President Above the Law, or only beneath Contempt?

Some people in the US keep telling us that "no one is above the law, even the president." But then the in next sentence they tell us that (at least according to DOJ policy) the president cannot be indicted of a crime. Every time I hear these two claims side by side my brain explodes into a giant WTF?

Not being subject to a criminal indictment is the very definition of being above the law. There is no more "above the law" than being unindictable. The president, it seems to me is the best available example we have of being above the law.

Ok, so the counter argument would be that the Congress can hold the president accountable. The House can "indict" (referred to as impeachment). And the Senate can (in theory, though it's never been done) come down with a verdict of guilty, and (again in theory) remove him from office. But I think that one has to make a serious stretch to say that such a process indicates that someone is legally accountable. After all, the only punishment that the Senate is legally sanctioned to impose is to fire the president from his job. If the only punishment that can be imposed for a crime is to change a person's employment status, I don't think that this can be said to be legal accountability.

"But wait!" someone might say. After the president is removed from office he can be indicted for a crime. Well, that statement is itself an admission that the president is above the law, because the person you are now talking about indicted for a crime is NOT the president!

"Oh, but that's just a technicality," you might say. The president might be technically above the law, but the individual that is in office can eventually (if all the stars align and people can put partisanship aside) be subject to the law. The problems with this position are numerous. First of all, a very unusual (and unlikely) set of circumstances would have to prevail even for the individual in the oval office to be held legally accountable even to a minimum degree. Secondly, and more importantly, if a president were ever removed from office (and remember that this has never happened), the Vice President (who is supposed to be the president's closest ally) can simply pardon him. And, of course, Nixon (who was not technically removed from office but was only pressured to leave) was pardoned directly by Ford so he, as an individual could not be legal held to account.

I think it is pretty clear that, regardless of what Nancy Pelosi tells us, the president is, in fact, above the law. Of course, the executives in many countries are de facto above the law. Prime Minster Harper was clearly guilty of two counts of bribery (and we have clear physical evidence of these crimes in both cases), but he was never indicted for either. The fact is that the political establishment of most countries will go to great lengths to protect both the high placed individuals of their system as well as the office of the executive itself from any real legal accountability. But as far as I know, the US president is the only national executive in "genuine" democratic states who is not only de facto but de jure above the law. If  I were American I would definitely want to look into this.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Begging the Question and acting Appropriately. . .

The phrase "beg the question" has recently begun to be widely misused, at least in relation to its strict traditional meaning. People now will often say something "begs the question" when it simply raises another question or problem. Such a phrase can obviously have a very wide application. For example, we might say that recent events in the US are undermining democracy and promoting racism. However, this "begs the question," hasn't the US been democratically problematic  and racist all along, and aren't recent events simply making obvious what people have been routinely ignoring? Maybe so. However, the traditional or strict meaning of the phrase "to beg the question" means something different. To beg the question means, in a sense, to answer a problem with itself or to make a circular, tautological claim. A simple example that I have seen used in a number of places is: "Chocolate is good for you because it's healthful." At a more technical level we can say that "begging the question" is a logical fallacy in which the conclusion of an argument is assumed in its premise. A good example of such a fallacy that we have probably all heard actively used is this - "God exists because the bible says he does, and the bible is the word of God so it must be true."

The new, now more common use, of the phrase "to beg the question" is fine as far as it goes. It is a useful, practical, everyday phrase and people seem to like to use it. But I think it is good to be aware of the strict definition of the phrase because, though "begging the question" is not strictly speaking, a logical contradiction (rather it's a useless, tautological statement), it is an example of logical fallacy, and logically fallacious statements have taken on special significance in this age of "truthiness."  Nixon famously said to David Frost "When the president does it, that means it's not illegal." This is an active and frightening example of a logical fallacy that is similar to "begging the question. Fleshed out, this fallacy would be expressed as "if the president did something illegal he would be breaking the law, but if the president breaks the law he hasn't done anything illegal." Fallacy, contradiction, and begging the question, have all become so ubiquitous in our current political context that it is almost overwhelming. And the danger with this circumstance the existence of the cognitive bias called the "availability cascade."  This is the tendency for a statement or proposition to become more believable the more it is repeated. The availability cascade is a dangerous cognitive bias to which we can all to easily fall victim.

When a proposition or system of thought relies only (or largely) on itself for justification we can run into serious social problems. But it is not only lying politicians who are our enemies here. We can become easily deluded about how decisions are (or should be) made. For example, the German sociologist and philosopher Max Weber and many of those who followed him like Jurgen Habermas, have spent a great deal of intellectual power devoted to the problem of the tendency for technical rationality to dominate our important social discourse. Rationality is a system that suffers from a significant internal problem in as much as to justify rationality one must use rationality itself. This means (to use Feyerabend's words) belief in the truth of rationality is a 'pre-rational' decision. Feyerabend's point here actually goes back at least to Montaigne's rational skepticism (and perhaps earlier, I am not sure). But the paradox of rationality (I am not using this term in the sense that it is used in Economics or Games Theory here) is, for most people, a purely theoretical problem. People use rational method and thought to perform all sorts of practical operations and (as with many logical paradoxes) pointing out the problem won't help us in these practical matters. Fair enough I suppose.

However, there is something else going on here that was brought up in a comment to my last blogpost in which the commentator complained that I was "politicizing" childrearing and some things (like, say, childrearing or climate change) shouldn't be politicized. This complaint illustrates, I think, what has become a very widely used logical fallacy and speaks directly to the work of thinkers like Weber and Habermas. The fallacy is that certain areas of thought are somehow beyond socio/political discourse. This is illustrative of the tendency talked about by Habermas for our normative discourse to become colonized by technical-rational thought. A widespread belief is growing that suggests that somehow must simply organize our normative (sociopolitical) structures to facts. This is, of course, just another example of Thatcher's famous TINA (there is no alternative). However, technical-rational questions are largely separate from our normative questions. This is because of Hume's famous IS?OUGHT problem - that is we cannot derive an ought from an is. Even if we can agree on certain facts, that doesn't mean have to design our normative beliefs on those facts. We may agree on the facts of climate change, say, but those facts don't compel us to any particular social policy. (Of course, certain facts will preclude certain courses of action) Even if we agree that human induced climate change will destroy the earth, it doesn't mean that we have to pursue a policy to stop it. The assumption that we should attempt to save humanity is not a technical-rational one, it is a normative and ethical one. We don't have to actively politicize our social/normative questions because they are already politicized by their nature. Though certain decisions are precluded by the facts, those options that are open to us are purely a matter of normative and ethical choice and the effort to portray them as purely technical and rational is not only an attempt to colonize our ethical realm with technicality it is often a disguise for pursuing goals that benefit the rich and the powerful. We might (and should) use certain facts to influence our normative decisions but it is becoming a widespread fallacy to believe that those facts are or must be inextricable from our normative and ethical principles. However, when our politicians are actively lying in open and blatant ways, or when they are telling us that we must act in certain ways regardless of important ethical discourse, the biggest challenge becomes the ability to distinguish facts about the world from the ethical decisions we make and to act appropriately. And that, as the phrase goes, begs all sorts of questions.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

My Socialism Includes Kids. . . .

After a lifetime of observation and thought, it increasingly seems to me that failures on the left are often not a result of leftists being too radical, but of them not being radical enough. That is to say, leftist who are supposed to oppose the arbitrary uses of power that are infused in society, all too often abandon one set of power structures for another. Now, this is historically obvious in the disastrous cases of many large-scale socialist projects like the Soviet Union. I think that most people on the left who are appropriately reflective understand that power (whether institutional or personal) tends to be self-replicating and that it gets out of hand easily and with often terrible consequences. We didn’t necessarily need Michel Foucault to point this out, there has been a solid tradition of leftists who have grappled with the issues of power, doubted parts of the Marxist or socialist traditions because of their (all too often) failure to make liberation a central part of their creed. But these liberatory threads of leftist thought were mostly marginalized by the mainstream socialist tradition that (for reasons that I could never fathom) hitched themselves to the wagon of Leninist (or even Stalinist) Marxism.

Unfortunately, we on the left are still paying for this colossal historical/intellectual error, and we still haven’t properly begun to reformulate (at least in the public mind) the real case for a liberatory socialism. So it goes.

Even more unfortunate is, I believe, that you don’t really have to look too far to see why leftism continues to be self-crippling. Leftist, as much as anyone else on the political spectrum continually fall victim to romanticizing the past. All too often, leftist, like those on the right, reason by nostalgia. The depth of this romanticism struck me recently while watching an exchange between Fran Leibowitz and Bill Maher. Both of these public figures (who are ostensibly considered to be left – at least in American terms) are so quick to hop on the band wagon of “good ol’ days” thinking that it is little wonder we are ideologically stuck. Leibowitz and Maher have fallen into the all too prevalent belief that one of the primary problems with today’s society is that we are too easy on kids. You hear this kind of talk all the time from people on every part of the political spectrum. “We are too soft with kids nowadays.” “In my day kids learned from the life of hard knocks, and it if was good enough for me it is good enough for them.” Leibowitz actually said that “we don’t punish kids enough” any more!

It is interesting to me that people who otherwise criticize the arbitrary exercise of power over people, are suddenly “all in” when it comes to parenting. I have heard many leftists who claim that punishment and negative reinforcement is counterproductive with adults, and then turn around and believe that it is the very best way to handle children. As though we can be harsh with children, treat them as though we are wardens governing over little prisoners, and then expect them to be soft, forgiving, equity-seeking, non-aggressive adults! The very idea seems patently absurd to me, and its falsity shockingly obvious.

There are a number of things to unpack about these kinds of beliefs. The first is to question whether they even true? Are children actually being treated more “indulgently” than in the past, say, sixty years? The second thing to ask ourselves is, if we do treat children significantly differently, is that demonstrably something that leads to undesirable behaviors now or later on?

Now, at one level, it is obvious that kids are treated differently than in the past. If you go back past the 1960s (at least in North America), schools and home-life was very different for the majority of kids. Children and young people often couldn’t express themselves in many ways. If they spoke up in classrooms or to their parents about what they thought, they could be treated shockingly harshly. But I have help to raise four kids and I don’t think much has changed since the 1960s. I don’t think kids are significantly more “indulged” than they were when I was growing up, and in many cases I am shocked to see the parents of my kids’ friends considerably stricter than the parents of my friends were.

 There is a widespread perception that things have changed radically in the past 30 or 40 years and I just don’t believe that is true. But again, as people age, they seem to inflate the changes that have taken place in their lifetimes and bemoan the perceived changes as progress run amok. Thus you will hear older people say, “In my day we didn’t talk back to our parents” as though having the capacity and/or right to say what you think is a bad thing. Furthermore, such a claim is mostly bollocks. In my day kids spoke back to their parents all the time. They might have got smacked for it, but they did it. And for those who think that hitting kids is totally fine, my simple question is “How did that work out for us?” You know, besides the World Wars the constantly lynchings, and the abundance of systemic violence everywhere? When I was young teachers could still hit kids in school in parts of North America. And let’s just observe that as it has become unacceptable to hit children the crime rates have consistently dropped.

So, while I will admit that some changes have taken place over the past 75 years concerning how we treat children, these changes haven’t gone nearly far enough, and rather than being a problem, such changes are actually one of the things that is driving us toward a more tolerant and equitable society. How is that any leftists let themselves fall into an idealization of our past treatment of children?? Particularly when it is the leftists who have always said that it is in our treatment of the most vulnerable, those without much of a voice, that we will be judged? Surely it is partially nostalgia, and partially the fact that many leftists simply aren’t (and never have been) actually committed to the principles of liberation. They only want a tidy revolution, they only want changes where it enhances their status and power.

As I said, I have helped to raise four kids, and if I have learned anything as a socialist it is that schools continue to be prison-houses for kids, plying them with competitive, power-driven ideologies. If kids speak up and say “fuck this,” I will do nothing but cheer them on. And if a young person wants me to call them by another pronoun, I will happily oblige. And if a child is grieved by some kind of loss (anything from a perceived academic failure to a loss in little league), I will be glad to commiserate with them. And if a child thinks that they should be able to wear what they want, I would not only allow it, I would encourage it, even I think (in my fuddy-duddy years) that it is a little wacky! And if kids want to be heard I will give them a bullhorn to be heard louder. And I will do these things for kids because I would do them for anyone! That’s not indulgence, that’s liberation.

Some nostalgic folks say that kids aren’t learning to deal with failure nowadays. I can’t think of a bigger load of nonsense. If you even vaguely observe a child today you know that they continue to deal with failure everyday; they struggle to be accepted by their peers, despite not being “thin enough” or “cool” enough. They continue to be pushed into activities by their parents that they don’t really want to do, and they struggle and often “underperform.” They struggle to get good grades in school because “success” is more than ever determined by your long-term career prospects. We are not indulging kids too much. If anything, we aren’t indulging them enough, we aren’t being honest enough about our own shortcomings and failures, and (certainly in the case of girls) we aren’t encouraging them enough to speak their minds and be who they really want to be.

The socialist project will move forward when we actually embrace tolerance, inclusion, and liberatory attitudes. And what better place to start than with kids? Let’s not bemoan the idea that kids have too much space to be themselves, let’s encourage it.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Hollywood, bigotry, and Scarlett Johansson. . . .

Ok, it has been a long time since I last blogged, but my life in the past year has been a bit crazy and disjointed. Furthermore, I have found the current political climate so depressing that I have had difficulty talking about. I keep in touch with current events, but increases in racism, hate, and downright wilful ignorance is just debilitating sometimes. I was recently reinvigorated a little bit by the victory and voice of Alexanria Ocasio-Cortez and people like her, so it is not all doom and gloom. But, as many of you know, it's pretty dark out there at the moment.

The issue that has dragged me back to my keyboard is the recent controversy surround Scarlett Johansson and her agreement to play the trans man Dante "Tex" Gill. Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I should say that I have a non-binary, trans daughter, so I have a vested interest in the issue. However, while I am a cisgender male, I am a staunch ally of trans people, and it is as an ally that I write this.

Though I admit that it is a complicated issue, I think it is deeply problematic for Ms. Johansson to be cast in this role. My concern has nothing to do with Johansson's acting ability, about which I don't feel qualified to speak. Nor do I think that no actor should ever be able to play another identity. I also understand that an argument can be made that Johansson's high profile in such a part can bring trans issues to public attention in positive ways. Johansson is a top-level Hollywood star and is not only bankable but will but a lot of people in seats.

Yet, having said that, I think that the potential payoff here is outweighed by the way such a act can reinforce the marginalizing of trans people. Hollywood has a long history of this marginalization. From the conception of film as an art form, Indigenous people, for example, have been played by white, sometime high-profile, actors like Chuck Connors who stared in the 1962 film Geronimo. The idea of Connors as Geronimo might seem absurd to us today, but in the early 60s no one batted an eye (at least not white people). While I hope that the trans issue will be handled carefully by Johansson and the rest of the film's staff, I believe that the same thing is essentially going on here.

Many people think the controversy surrounding this decision is "silly," and that trans people are being too sensitive. I have heard people suggest that "the whole point of acting is to play someone you are not," so it doesn't matter. However, if you take this argument to its conclusion, it holds little weight. Many people today would be uncomfortable with Johansson playing a Native American. This is because there is a long history of racism against Indigenous people, they have been brutalized and marginalized at all levels of society, and their exclusion from the narratives of film has been part of that marginalization. There are plenty of good native actors who can play the parts of native people and putting a white person in such a role would seem offensive and anachronistic. Furthermore, it is vitally important in our struggle against racism that Indigenous people start playing a central role in telling the story of themselves, rather than having other people do it for them.

The point is even more clear if we take a more extreme example. If Scarlett Johansson donned black-face and played the role of, say, Billie Holiday in a film, there would be near universal condemnation. The very idea is absurd. But the absurdity of the idea is a result of decades of work by activists around the issues of racism and the marginalization of African-Americans. I would say that it doesn't seem absurd to many people for Johansson to play a trans man because the vast majority of people still don't know much about trans people, their difficult struggle for acceptance, and the terrible bigotry that they still face. If such issues were more widely known and understood, I think most people would think that it is inappropriate for a woman to play a trans man.

There are many people who try to marginalize the controversy surrounding this issue by saying that there is a long history in theatre of people playing other genders. This is a misleading argument. There is, of course, a long history of men playing women in theatre, but this is mostly because for much of our history women were not even allowed on stage. This fact shouldn't compel us to ignore the problem of a woman playing a trans man. Rather, it should remind us how sexist the history of theatre is and how insensitive people have actually been to issues of equity and equality in the arts. Furthermore, a long tradition is not a good argument for continuing to ignore what is right and wrong. In actual fact there is also a very long history of white people playing racialized people in theatre (it goes back at least 600 years, maybe longer), but no one would use this as a justification for the use of black-face.

I am sure that there are many excellent trans male actors out there who would love to play this part. And the fact that the part has been given to a woman must surely be a reiteration of the marginalized status of trans people. Like indigenous people or African-Americans, trans people need to be given the space and support to tell their own story. It is sometimes a sad story full of pain and struggle, but it is an important one and one that can uplift us all as we seek to support any and all marginalized and oppressed group. 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Autocrats, dictators, and our Dynastic age. . . .

It seems to me that one of the most troubling aspects of political culture is the remarkable tendency for autocrats and dictators to garner large amounts of public support regardless of how corrupt, or even murderous, they are. Even in my own lifetime I am sure I can think of a couple of dozen such autocrats who, no matter what they did to their nation or their own people, retain high levels of popular support. The big autocratic names in this kind of popular support are, of course, names like Hitler, Stalin, The Shah of Iran, Ferdinand Marcos, the Perons, the Al-Assad family, Hastings Banda, Robert Mugabe, etc. Other than Al-Assad and Mugabe, I can think of a number of others who are still in power today like Duterte in the Philippines, Putin, Nazarbeyev in Kazakhstan, Karimov in Uzbekistan, etc. Social psychologists and political scientists have done lots of good work on this phenomenon, but making rational sense of something like this seldom helps us make emotional sense of it. It still, as the English say, beggers description. I want it all to make sense but no matter how much I know or understand about people and politics, I just can't quite wrap my head around it.

The Americans are in the midst of this phenomenon right now and it is just as bizarre and weird to me as it always is. Anyone with rational sense understands that Trump is an unhinged narcissist who, other than having little grasp on most other issues facing the US, simply doesn't have the temperament or basic skills for any job in which he has to be accountable, diplomatic, and consensus building. But all of that makes no difference to the fact that he is, in fact, president, he continues to be solidly popular with his base, and despite what we would like to think, it is very very difficult to remove a president from office (that is why it has never been done). Given Trump's narcissism, it is very unlikely that he will be, like Nixon, compelled to resign. And even if he is impeached by the House of Reps, it is very unlikely that the Senate will ever have 67 members that will be willing to actually force him from office. Thus it seems likely to me that we are looking at three and half more years of this. And given the popularity of autocrats and the fervency of Trump's base, I don't exclude the possibility that Trump could be reelected. We shouldn't overlook the dispiriting effect that four years could have on those who oppose Trump. And I think that this is one of the primary issues concerning the ability of autocrats to stay in power; after a while they just wear down the opposition and people lose faith in the possibility of change.

Political systems deteriorate over time because institutions atrophy, political classes become too professionalized or worse, dynastic. The deterioration of political culture results, or happens concurrently, with the breakdown of civil society. Democracy can only work or, more properly progress, with a thriving civil society. This is why Harper was so detrimental to Canadian democracy; he actively tried to shut down civil discourse and sabotage civil society. People like Harper and Trump do this by portraying any opposition media as an enemy of the people and the nation, they criticize judges or independent bodies that are meant to make government accountable, they defund education institutions and legal bodies that are meant to empower people, and (perhaps most importantly) they create an imaginary "liberal" elite, all the while promoting and strengthening the real, economic elite who pull society's strings.

I don't know where we go from here, and I am sure many Americans feel adrift on a threatening and stormy sea. The struggles for democracy, equality, justice, and civil society, are long historical struggles. As individuals, we can live nice long lives and still must realize that we are only bit players in this historical drama. The ebb and flow of tyranny and freedom is hard to measure. It makes me think of that analogy that they use in Good Will Hunting concerning the lifeline between two ships. Sometimes the swells of the ocean cause the person on the lifeline to lose sight of both ship, so you can't see where you have been or where you are going. Well, I think it is safe to say that we are between swells and waiting for the weather to clear at least a little.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

When John Dean accuses you of a "Cover-up," you've got a real Problem. . .

Few people have as intimate a knowledge of political cover-ups as counselor to Richard Nixon John Dean. If you haven't already seen it, watch as Dean describes the Trump presidency in full-on "cover-up" mode. There is little question in my mind now that Trump has already committed multiple impeachable offences, and that is without even touching collusion with the Russians, something that John Dean seems to think is becoming ever more clear. The only question now is whether the Republicans will choose Party over Country and the Rule of Law. Unfortunately, the answer to that is painfully obvious. Frankly, as cynical as I am, even I didn't think that a democracy like the US (imperfect by any standard but still just about holding on) could unravel this quickly.

The depth of the political crisis in the US can be seen in the effort to push through the so-called "Trump-care" bill. At the moment it looks like it will fail to pass the House, and even if they do get the seven votes or so that they need to swing it, it looks like it is dead on arrival in the Senate. But here's the thing, if Trump-care fails it will not be because Republican lawmakers have rejected it because it will take literally millions of people off of Medicaid, Medicare, and their insurance, but because the most conservative Republicans in the House (the tragically misnamed "Freedom Caucus") think that it gives TO MUCH to the poor, the sick, and the elderly. This is how bad the US political system has become; the party in power is rejecting a conservative, Trump-sponsored bill because it tries to take care of society's most vulnerable. (And, keep in mind, that these Congress Members who are upset because the Republican establishment is trying to care for people, all call themselves devout Christians!)

The real question that is haunting us today is not "will Trump be impeached?" or "will Trump cause a war?" or even "is Trump mentally unstable?" The real question is - how long can a society last hat is actively promoting detached, callousness toward its own vulnerable citizens?