Chillingly, liberally illiberal

“In a Super Bowl Sunday interview with Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, Trump shrugged off O’Reilly’s comment that Putin is a “killer”: “There are a lot of killers,” Trump said. “We’ve got a lot of killers. What, do you think our country’s so innocent?” Now, how should those truly liberal of mind take such a comment from the president of the United States? I think that he speak truth here. What is actually problematic is what he is using this truth to support and not that he is stating something other than fact that can easily be validated, has been validated many times over by truly reliable sources. All hinges on how one chooses to see the meaning of the term “killer.” There is no denying that the United States does kill good number of people and it does so under both democratic and republic administrations. Some killing does not make a killer for some because it is killing for the right reasons–those who kill for such purposes are not killers! In fact, they are often said to be heroes. The thinking that gets one from killing to hero with no pause to consider “killer” is a psychology that deserves examination for it might help to reveal what happens when the politics of a democratic society is reduced to “parties” and the “membership” of its people in one or another party a good thing rather than what it really is, a democracy destroying phenomenon. A good member of a party, it seems, has to go along with what his or her party does and this places a good amount of pressure on the individual to find ways to justify what his or her party does, even if what the party does is reprehensible, would be condemned out of hand had what is done been sponsored by the other party. The fact that people are willing to elevate killer to hero without thinking of the true effect of the deed for individual killed and all of humanity is truly chilling.

Illich and Ortega y Gasset

One more thing on my mind, this from the book Deschooling Society by Ivan Illich: “The current search for new educational funnels must be reversed into the search for their institutional inverse: educational webs which tighten the opportunity for each on to transform each moment of his living into one of learning, sharing, and caring.” To have such, of course, individuals would have to respect themselves enough to be involved in such sharing of the product of their reasonings and, for it to be productive, individuals would have to engage in the kind of reasoning that brings about sound, supportable ideas regarding what they see in the goings on in the world around them. Jose Ortega y Gasset wondered whether the “people” were ready to take on the responsibility of governing themselves, participating productively (humanely) in the discourse by which public policy be wrought. He worried about the nature-the nurtured nature–of the modern human being–in regard to ability to make the good decisions. He writes about “the mass,” saying this: “Strictly speaking, the mass, as a psychological fact, can be defined without waiting for individuals to appear in mass formation. In the presence of one individual we can decide whether he is “mass” or not. The mass is all that which sets no value on itself–good or ill–based on specific grounds, but which feels itself “just like everybody,” and nevertheless is not concerned about this; is, in fact, quite happy to feel itself as one with everybody else.” Consider how these two philosophers of the twentieth century just might be describing what it means to identify with, say, with a party rather than with particular ideals or ideas and how it might be that our system of schooling, as Illich argues, causes us to give up individual identity, to lose trust in our ability as individuals to think our way to viable ideas and the consequences of this for a system of governance dependent upon the participation of “the people.”

Grassroots energy defiled

The attached article is a really important one to help in understanding how it was made possible, mostly by the doings of a democratic party elite who prized their elite positions in society more than the good of the people, that we went from Obama to Trump. Throughout the Obama administration and into the election that brought Trump to the White House, I wrote about that elite and how they were using the party more for themselves, to hold onto the power they had somehow accrued, than developing policies that might help a citizenry recently brutally punished by elites during the “economic crisis” manufactured by those elites. Hilary Clinton–and I know some will continue to resent my saying so–was the star of the elite crowd of not so liberal, not at all progressive, leaders of the party and, if one does any kind of honest analysis, it was her allegiance to this elite (that was illiberal enough to pander to the very Wall Street assholes who had caused large numbers of Americans to suffer greatly) that made it possible for Trump to take over after Obama. Good numbers of people had very good reason not to trust Hillary and Nancy and Debbie and whoever else was running the democratic party. So this article helps to show that the grassroots crowd that supported Obama in two elections in record numbers didn’t stay with his party because they felt neglected by a party that, as this article tries to show, really didn’t really want grassroots participation–Hillary was going to be the candidate come hell or high water and now we are drowning in the fires of a hell the democratic party helped to make possible. Here are some of the poignant quotes from the article. Reading it in whole is suggested:

Quotes: There was plenty in Movement 2.0 to inspire heartburn in that crowd. In Silicon Valley terms, Obama 2008 had “disrupted” presidential campaigns, demonstrating how an underdog candidate could defeat a more experienced opponent by changing the terms of the game and empowering millions of people in the process. Now, it seemed, the Obamaites and their tech wizards wanted to disrupt the Democratic Party, diverting money and control from the DNC into an untried platform, while inviting “input,” and possibly even organized dissent, from Obama’s base. Earlier that summer, activists unhappy with Obama’s flip-flop on warrantless surveillance had used MyBO to build a group of more than 20,000 vocal supporters, earning national press and compelling a response from the candidate. What if Obama’s base didn’t like the health care reform he came up with, and rallied independently around a single-payer plan? Besides, grassroots movements, no matter how successful, don’t reliably yield what political consultants want most: money and victories for their candidates, with plenty of spoils for themselves. For insiders like Tewes, Movement 2.0 was a step too far.

At the time, I just didn’t realize the powerful pull that the architects of the Obama ‘movement’ would feel away from movement building and toward paranoid possession of the conventional trappings of political power. If you’re not really that committed, as a matter of principle, to a bottom-up theory of change, then you will find it nonsensical to cede some control in order to gain more power.”

“I guess they liked our name for it, but chose to pervert the idea to something quite conventional and, forgive me, trivial. To me, real movement building had to be about defining and advancing progressivism, not a communication strategy from the West Wing basement costumed as faux movement. The kind of movement we wanted would have helped

The entire campaign machine, renamed Organizing for America, would be folded into the DNC, where it would operate as a fully controlled subsidiary of the Democratic Party.

Obama unveiled OFA a week before his inauguration. “Volunteers, grassroots leaders, and ordinary citizens will continue to drive the organization,” he promised. But that’s not what happened. Shunted into the DNC, MyBO’s tools for self-organizing were dismantled within a year. Instead of calling on supporters to launch a voter registration drive or build a network of small donors or back state and local candidates, OFA deployed the campaign’s vast email list to hawk coffee mugs and generate thank-you notes to Democratic members of Congress who backed Obama’s initiatives.

Ultimately, of course, the failure to keep the grassroots movement going rests with Obama. It was his original, and most costly, political mistake—not only a sin of omission, but a sin of imagination, one that helped decimate the Democratic Party at the state and local level and turn over every branch of the federal government to the far right.
https://newrepublic.com/article/140245/obamas-lost-army-inside-fall-grassroots-machineW

A Reason to Believe: Pipedreams

I really do not know why I keep writing this stuff.  I just have to write.

Rod Stewart sang “I wish to find a reason to believe” and, I was walking the walk with Jack the dog the phrase came to mind and got me to thinking about how desperately I need a reason to believe.  The past two years have been wretched and much of my faith (secular in nature, of course) in America has been undermined.  I no longer believe that I will experience democracy as a force for good, for humanizing nation and influencing the rest of the world to such by providing an example of what government by the people can do in regard to bringing about a more perfect union.

 

I wonder now about “the people” and its capacity to engage in good sense decision making and I am watching as the institutions charged with educating and informing the people, for very political reasons, do little to help in the creation of thoughtful and well informed public.  I think the confidence man (see Melville for details) has not only been given more latitude to deceive but has become something of a model for what makes one a successful person.  Indeed, the new president became president because good numbers of people understood him—as he wanted them to understand him—to be an effective swindler, a swindler who achieved ‘great things’ by skirting law and using flawed laws, often negotiated into existence by those like Mr. Trump who wanted the law to serve them, too often at a great cost to others who did not, could not, would not play the game, at least not at a level of any account.

 

The con game has become so well embedded in American society, in the way things operate in the society, that most, most of the time, hardly take notice, if at all.  Yesterday was another Super Bowl Sunday and numerous companies payed considerable amounts of money to advertise because they knew (market research!) that they could, for several million dollars, put before the public pitches so obviously insincere in nature that no sensible person would ever be swayed to buy the products being advertised.  They could put these insincere pitches before the huge audience watching the spectacle and sell enough product to make the money spent on advertising worth the while many times over.

 

Yesterday, Tom Brady, a cheater, and a fan of Mr. Trump won.  Mr. Trump won.  Neither can, or should, by their deeds, by the nature of their characters, be considered a good person if honesty and fairness are essential qualities of good character.  But it is not character that will count in the way these two men are judged, it will be their ability to win, the tactics good ones because they were the tactics that produced the wins.  Mr. Brady and Mr. Trump are American winners and they are American heroes for good numbers of American citizens.  They set an example as do the winning corporate heads at Exxon and Goldman Sachs.  Volkswagen just became the auto maker with the highest sales record in the world!  They got caught cheating but it did not stop them, a bump in the road that never repaired, only forgotten to VWs benefit.

 

Swindles and swindling are an essential part of the mechanics of modern day American society and swindling, its acceptance as just the way business is done around the world, really is a bad sign for what the future holds.  Nations, to be successful, will have to find ways to make right what is wrong.  Indeed, there are and have been many nations, many of them now adopting in various ways various forms of capitalism American style, that have and have had woven into the fabric of their politics deceit, corruption and practices much, much worse.  But until recently, such practices were known by most, even those responsible, to be something other than something good.

 

What capitalism and its acceptance world-wide as the universal basis for how people of nations and nations with other nations interact.  There is something very sane about people being concerned with the economic realities that affect their lives and there is something also very sane about nations being concerned with economic matters that are related to how one nation interacts with another.  What is problematic is that economics have become the main focus related to how people and nations get along with one another and, what is terribly troubling is how much a role swindling and its acceptance as “a part of doing business” affects what I will reluctantly call universal morality, that aspect of consciousness that takes into consideration right and wrong as factors and how right and wrong are defined.

 

If swindling is a part of making the propitious “deal,” if swindling is equated with being clever enough to win, then becoming a clever swindler becomes the goal of those who wish to succeed and honest and fairness come to be looked upon as barriers to success.  Really, writing about honesty and fairness at this point in the history of the world seems even to me to be somewhat supercilious.  Maybe in the coffee house but never in the bar do I feel comfortable mentioning the words in too positive a light for I have developed a sense that they may be taken as synonyms for foolish.  The good con artist receives admiration, especially if his or her cons work.  He or she who pitches honestly, there is little that is attractive in their stories.

 

I am truly demoralized.  I am experiencing a world in which honesty, a factor of respect, an element of humane interaction with others, has been devalued to the point where it is a laughable rather than an imperative, where honesty and fairness increase the probability of losing and dishonesty and cheating get people to where they want to go, help them to succeed, realize their ambitions.  This leads me to think that a part of the problem is with what they want and what they want to be.  What they want and want to be, I think, is conditioned by the way success is defined in the societies in which they live.  Capitalism, the kind of capitalism that exists today and the institutions that capitalism have done so much to shape in so many countries, by its very nature invests very little in honesty and fairness for the focus is, as corporate law reflects, almost wholly on the bottom line.

 

Corporations, to be viable, must win.  That is their obligation to their stockholders.  To lose honestly is to do considerably more harm than to win dishonestly.  Dishonest dealings, exposed in the light of day, hardly draw much in the way of meaningful penalties or public ire.  Good numbers of corporations caught being involved in very dirty dealings often regain the public trust rather quickly even when members of the public suffer, sometimes greatly, by the dirty deeds.  There are people who are in the business of figuring out ways to very quickly get the public to trust again companies whose actions show that they are not trustworthy.  Their success in doing so is touted, the companies lauded for their ingenuity, their people heroes in the business “community” and beyond.

 

I do not need examples here.  I know that anyone reading what I write here knows many of the examples that provide the evidence that supports my claims.  Certainly it is disconcerting that so few, if it is for business purposes, get penalized for lying and considerably more troubling that there is so little public outcry.  Now we are headed in this United States of America to greater leniency for crimes by business, the penalties they have “suffered” said by some to be disincentives for building a healthy business community.  What should be seen as abhorrent behavior by business is not seen as such, the behavior of those who sanction such penalties understood to be criminal.

 

This is the twisted nature of the state of reality in which we live and it is bound to get even more twisted in the short term and without much meaningful objection from the public.  It seems that the public too much enjoys a good swindle and too many see themselves as benefiting in some way or another from the game and the way it is played.  Budweiser or a Coke in hand, a snack from Frito-Lay, a cushy place on the couch, they can spend their best Sunday of the year watching multi-million dollar football players perform their heroics and, by winning by doing whatever it takes to win, become eligible for millions and millions more selling not only the crap they sell in the commercials (and through appearances on late night shows) but also the crap notion that things are good and as they should be in America.

 

It is time to shut it down but I don’t have much reason to believe that the many will risk having their goodies taken away even if their enjoyment is predicated on something terribly immoral.  Wish as I might, there is not much to believe in anymore.

 

Follow-up to last: Alienating

Two points to follow up on what I said last Word Press post:

  1. Redistribution of wealth: This does not mean that we have to “rob” from the rich to feed the poor. What it means is that we simply no longer tolerate poverty, that anyone who works receives a decent wage, say a minimum of $40 or $50,000 dollars (much less than most of those with whom I have worked or shared coffee.  This need not raise the price of things if the way for paying for such fairness was in reduced profits.  Yes, stockholders might be hurt and highly paid bosses might “suffer,” but isn’t this a sensible kind of equalizing, a way to build a society in which more people than are now are content with their lives?  Certainly people could make more, certain jobs than necessitate high levels of skill (auto mechanics, for instance) could be paid more and maybe there would be a revaluing of jobs such as policing, teaching, and public health (including people who take care of those who cannot take care of themselves—child care providers, those working in agencies and businesses that (should be) taking care of the elderly.

 

I realize that it is absurd to even begin talking about such a possibility because it is, in the minds of most, simply impossible.  But, what if the problem is that what is sensible, in our society, has been made to be the absurd and, considering the current state of affairs, the absurd, the really absolutely without a doubt absurd, the sensible?  Actually, I really do think this is the case and has been the case, something I began to suspect when I was told that good boys went of to places the did not know to kill people they did not know for reasons they could not grasp, were never told, because such behavior reflected behaviors and attitudes such as those to be found in the Boy Scout oath.

 

  1. Absurdity as good sense, accepting absurdity as good sense is, at a very early age, for a good number of children (who become what is considered adult at some point) when religion is introduced. How it is that acceptable practice says that indoctrination into a world view that is based in the fantastical tells one about what acceptable means in a society such as ours.  When I hear people complaining about other people believing in things sensible people should not, when I hear these sensible people chiding those who will follow fools without question, I have to think, if brave enough say, that they got their start somewhere and a good number of the fools got their foolishness through exposure to religious dogma.

 

All of this, of course, brings me back to what I think to be the end all and be all of the good (and by this I mean the sensible society) is education.  If education in a democratic society does not help people to develop the ability to parse the bullshit, if it does not help them develop the skills, knowledge, and dispositions that allow them to figure out what is true and what is not, the result is, well, IT IS THE AMERICAN SOCIETY IN WHICH WE CURRENTLY LIVE.  Schools really do not do much of what they could to grow truly thoughtful students and this is because truly thoughtful citizens would not tolerate the garbage they are fed.  This, if students were also taught that it is good to be humane, would not accept the economy number 1 is suggested to help resolve.  They would not accept the absurdity that is religion—they might want to problematize it (as they should all issues of real importance) and work to discover what parts of it hold up to scrutiny (scrutiny of religion though, of course, being thought impolitic and downright impolite—this, of course, an absurdity itself).  I have to believe (and I use the word believe in the sense of a hypothesis for which I have strong evidence to support its validity) that almost all who are truly being sensible would at least understand why someone who is sensible might come to believe that religion is hooey and of a most dangerous kind.

 

I do not expect to earn friends from statements such as this but I do wish things could be better.

Shut it Down Because…

Marching on weekends does little to disrupt the regular flow of life in the United States of America, nothing really to pinch where it might be felt.  It seems to me that the remedies called for by the behavior of the new administration must be more radical, something that really causes those making the misery know that there are consequences for what they are doing.  Donald will not be moved by marches—the very big one a few weeks ago, it seems, did nothing to cause him even to publically acknowledge that there is legitimate descent.  He, I think we have good reason to believe, watched the “reporting” on Fox News and listened not to what those demonstrating were saying.  The Muslim-not-a-ban ban came within days of the marches!  And so did the attack on the Johnson Act.  He did not pull any of his candidates for cabinet posts and he nominated to the Supreme Court a person who, it seems, is not of the sort that will preserve the rights of women.

My ideas for action are not going to be taken seriously, I can tell.  A general strike is probably out of the question-maybe not, maybe there are people working to bring about just a thing.  If anyone knows of people working on bringing about such action, let me know.  As I think I said earlier, the economy is what the United States of America is about and its disruption would truly shock the nation and those currently holding power including those who so many are depending upon who will probably do hardly anything but enunciate a word or two connoting radicalism but who really are really too happy with the status quo to actually do anything radical about Donald Trump and what is looking to be the sealing of the deal for those who have been pushing a radical rightwing agenda for a very long time, an agenda that has pushed the old party that had pretentions of leftness so far to the right of center that there is no viable party in existence that is more concerned with the process of humanization than with insuring that those with lots and lots of money are able to make lots and lots of money.

The only radical movement with viability now is the movement represented by the current administration, its top advisor a straight out and proud advocate for a politics of exclusion who wishes to punish those who disagree with him.  What kind of march is going to move this guy toward a humane sense of how things should operate?  What is it that he and those who support his ideas take from marches by the opposition?

In many of my much too long (it seems) posts to Facebook I have complained about “liberal,” in its most visible forms, having become neoliberalism.  That is what I saw when Hillary Clinton became the only candidate allowed to vie against Donald Trump and there is ever so much available if one wishes to look to show that no true liberal was she, not at all one to go after the corporate-religious coalition that she was running against.  Mr. Bannon, by the way, is both a corporatist and a religionist, the latter the most dangerous aspect of him as it fuels his racism and his desire to purify the nation by pushing all who are not white and Christian into obscurity.

The problem, really, is us, we who may have a scintilla of good sense left in us, we who really do want a society that is fair to all and equitable, that works to insure that our humanity is respected, that the phrase in the Declaration that states that “all men [sic] are created equal and therefore, just by the fact that they are human, by nature have a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  That the corporatist-religious agenda gets in the way of ALL people being afford what is, by nature, theirs, because it is about some being able to get much more at the expense of a good many, a good number of these not having enough (education, health care, income that allows for the happiness), the religious part justifying the selfishness of the corporatist (capitalist) system so that those who enjoy the benefit have God as good reason for not engaging in the kind of introspection that might help them understand that the system is truly harsh and patently unfair.

I begin to sound like a commie, don’t I?  And my railings against the democratic party and its neo-liberal tendencies the bashing of the best choice we have.  So be it.  Until those opposed to Trump begin to understand what the effective preventative against the full-on from the right take-over of the United States (the talk in right-wing think-tanks starting as far back as the Reagan era was to build the permanent republican majority, one that is harshly corporatist/religious) is something, as Mr. Sanders pointed out, pretty radical seeming to those relatively content with the status quo, an agenda that is based in redistribution of wealth and the undermining of magical thinking that is sponsored by that “religious community” to which the illiberal liberals that run the democratic party constantly give praise.

And once again I am feeling something like ambivalence toward myself for, at a time when people of certain religions are being treated in terribly unfair ways (by religionists, I have to say) here I am, again, saying that religion is a problem.  It is, a problem, and that one group of religionist would ban another group on the basis of religious belief is, for me, not only a sign of the problematic nature of religion but also significant because it reflects how crazily important religion is our world, how belief in fantastical things affects the ways in which deal with one another.

Shut it down!  And march?  Shut it down with marches?

Government working for the people

Antics-From the New York Times, 2/3/17

The Republican-controlled House voted on Friday to overturn an Obama administration rule that sought to reduce harmful methane emissions into the environment, part of the Democratic president’s campaign to combat climate change. The House vote followed action in the Senate earlier Friday ending an Obama-era regulation that requires oil and gas companies to disclose payments to foreign governments for mining and drilling.

The House and Senate also gave final approval this week to a measure that eliminates a rule to prevent coal mining debris from being dumped into nearby streams.

…the Senate used an unusual pre-dawn vote to approve legislation, 52-47, killing a regulation that has required oil and gas companies to disclose payments to the U.S. or foreign governments for commercial development. The House approved the measure this week, and Trump is expected to sign it.

He [Trump] told the group that he expects his administration “to be cutting a lot out of Dodd-Frank because frankly I have so many people, friends of mine that have nice businesses that can’t borrow money. They just can’t get any money because the banks just won’t let ’em borrow because of the rules and regulations of Dodd-Frank.” Trump will also sign a presidential memorandum Friday that instructs the Labor Department to delay implementing an Obama-era rule that requires financial professionals who charge commissions to put their clients’ best interests first when giving advice on retirement investments.The rule, which was set to take effect in April, will be delayed for 90 days while it’s reviewed. The so-called “fiduciary rule” was aimed at blocking financial advisers from steering clients toward investments with higher commissions and fees that can eat away at retirement savings. Critics argue the rule limits retirees’ investment choices by forcing asset managers to steer them to the lowest-risk options.

Letter to editor, Reno Gazette-Journal-2/3/17 “gaslighting.” The definition: “a form of manipulation through persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying in an attempt to destabilize and delegitimize a target … hoping to make them question their own memory, perception and sanity.”