Limited Government – A Terrible Idea

Limited Government: The “nanny state” and Political Correctness

Republicans love to talk about limited government. It is always at the top of their wish list. But limited government is code for many different things. To some who feel that the government has become too invasive in our private lives, the old “nanny state” meme blames bleeding heart liberals for trying to wrap people in a protective bunting of rules and regulation. Perhaps it began with seat belts or car seats or work safety oversight (OSHA) but, according to some, it turned into one of those rubber band balls that stay small for a while and then grow more rapidly in size and complexity. Doesn’t really matter how it began, there were Americans who felt that these rules made them feel like they were living in a “petty” dictatorship, Authoritarianism Lite. This all seems a bit hyperbolic now given the real authoritarianism which is a constant risk in the administration of 45.

Lumped in with these safety laws were the increasing admonitions to use language that is “politically correct” or inoffensive to all of the diverse groups that make up America. Independent-minded Americans have lost it. They do not want to “knuckle under” to the free speech police. They don’t care if it serves the interests of civility and kindness and the humane treatment of others. They already agreed to call Indians “Native Americans”, but now they were supposed to say “indigenous people”. It was a bridge too far for some. These linguistic battles have not served to unite us, that’s for certain.

Now we are in a battle, fomented by GOP propaganda, of “real Americans” versus other ethnic groups, which could easily end with various “tribes” retreating to separate corners, leaving Americans with a prolonged culture war. Our electoral college gave us a President who flaunts his right to be politically incorrect, but it is taking the word civil out of civilization.

Federalism, Constitutional Purity and States Rights

However these things are not what other, often more powerful, Republicans are saying when they talk about limited government. And there are two sides to how limited government would look if Republicans actually got their wish. Idealistically Republicans say that this is about restoring Constitutional “purity”. They believe we have wandered too far from the intentions of our forefathers. The Constitution gives the federal government the right to write laws, pass laws, and pass judgment on the constitutionality of those laws. But purists (fundamentalists) say that the Constitution gives the federal government the right to rule the nation only in a few areas, mainly military concerns and foreign relations, and that all rights not designated to the federal government belong to the states.

They know the Federalists (state’s rights) faction lost their original argument to make America a loose affiliation of strong states under a weak national government back in the 18th century. Although our forefathers did decide to go with a stronger federal government today’s Republicans are reviving the old Federalist arguments, and they would like to ditch the conclusion our forefathers reached and become strict Federalists. Of course this means throwing out about two centuries of law and tradition and basically starting from scratch. It also means that states would begin to look more like independent nations. You might need a visa one day to travel to another state. It seems like a pretty extreme way to avoid public health care (and a few other things Republicans don’t like).

The first order of business of modern Federalists was to get Republicans in control of the United States government so they could dismantle it. They were aided in this by having some very rich industrialists on their side who stood to benefit from all the deregulation which would accompany this reorganization. These industrialists either formed a web of think tanks and Conservative groups or found ways to connect groups that already existed and were like-minded. Right wing groups met at yearly gatherings and eventually formulated an ideology and a plan of action to implement that ideology. Their machinations have been amazingly successful. The Republicans now own all three branches of our government.

Trump has been surprisingly helpful in this endeavor to tame the sprawl of the federal government. He has done this inadvertently because he wants to save America all by himself. He needs to be a hero. Even if he is perceived by many as incompetent or as a villain, if he just concentrates on his own followers he is the hero he aspires to be. He must have to delegate tasks within his businesses, but he does not want to delegate tasks in government. He doesn’t trust civil servants. Out of tradition and law they pursue objectives set by previous presidents. He likes to lead through placing his henchmen, who have pledged their loyalty to him and him alone, in offices that have the names of real American agencies but which no longer function as the original entities did. These agencies and offices are now are part of the Trump spiderweb and do Trump’s business. As a result he does not need to fill positions in these agencies or offices. Staff numbers are going down. It is becoming impossible to rely on civil servants completing routine tasks to keep government as we have known it functioning. Fewer government employees equals limited government. Et voila. Winning.

More About State’s Rights

State’s Rights was a battle cry of Democrats when the Democrats consisted of the people who are now Republicans, and is still the oft-repeated refrain of the Republicans since the Civil War and Reconstruction. Americans who cry the loudest about restoring the rights of states seem concentrated in the Southern and the Western states. People claim to love the rights of the poor usurped states whenever they want something that is opposed to what the majority of the nation wants.

Southerners were beaten in the Civil War but, in a sense they felt a terrible anger about it and their spirits refused to accept it. They loved their general, General Lee, they loved their Southern plantation culture; they loved their wealth and their lifestyle. They knew that the end of slavery would be the end of the plantation system. There were plenty of examples in the nearby islands in the Caribbean. That pride was so strong that it has been kept alive to this day and even romanticized by many Americans.

Justice was done but it has always been an uneasy and contentious justice and we have still made no real peace with it for many, many reasons most of which fall under the heading of racism. But when Southerners lost the Civil War and lost “their property” they went crazy and lost all humanity in a lust for vengeance and punishment. Whenever freed slaves tried to use the freedoms they had recently won, especially to vote or hold public office or own land, they were terrorized, viciously attacked and often slaughtered. Freedom has been won piece by tiny piece with spilled blood and dashed hopes.

Posse Comitatus

The Southerners balked under Federal attempts to control Reconstruction in the South. They argued that state and local government should have control over what was happening in the South. The federal government, experiencing some scandal and turmoil of its own, capitulated and gave local sheriffs power to rule their own domains. The rest of the nation then turned their backs on the mayhem that ensued.

Once that battle for power was won it has used precedent to justify some fairly rebellious behaviors. Most recently it reared its ugly head in the Cliven Bundy matter. Westerners resent that so much land has been designated as federal land, although there has not been any big rush to develop most of the land the government protects, or hoards (depending on your point of view). When the government decided to clamp down on Mr. Bundy, a rancher who grazed his cattle for free on government land that others paid a fee to graze their cattle on, Mr. Bundy refused to accept the power of the federal government and appealed to the superior power of the local sheriff that hails back to those very post-Reconstruction days that we have been talking about.

During Cliven Bundy’s confounding stand Rachel Maddow went over the historical basis for this claim written in the Posse Comitatus Law. The militia movement, which has similar roots, and which has been growing in America along with the stubborn power of the NRA, revealed itself when people showed up with long guns, lying prone on US highways pointing those rifles through concrete road barriers at federal officers. It was a shocking stand-off and the federal government backed down to avoid escalating the matter with killings. That’s some of the ideological background on limited government. Behind the bizarre ideological rationale is an ersatz economic argument for limited government

The Ayn Rand Justification/Rationalization for Limited Government

With the advent of the Tea Party we began to hear new arguments for limited government. These arguments were based in money, economics, finance. America was changing. The factories which gave people good salaries without a college education had flown the coop, gone on a World Tour. People were not feeling quite so flush. Then they lost their houses in what was a scandal of bad risks by banks and the stock market, a bid for short-term profit over long-term fiscal health. The victims got spanked but the big dogs, for the most part, got off with a hand slap. They are already at their scams again.

People decided that they were unhappy with the way their taxes were being used. They had a little help from Republicans who supposedly backed the Tea Party folks, Republicans like Paul Ryan who read a seminal book by Ayn Rand in college or high school and decided that spreading Rand’s gospel suited the dilemma of those in the Tea Party and, incidentally, the goals of the Republican Party re limited government. A marriage made in one man’s mind.

I don’t like or respect Paul Ryan but even I must admit that his message caught on like a wildfire and is, even now, changing America beyond recognition. What he said that appealed to so many, was this – social government programs do not help people who are down and out, they actually hurt them. These programs keep people down and turn them into permanent dependents. We need to stop funding social programs (which would, in theory, cut taxes) – no welfare, no food stamps, no Medicaid, no Medicare, no Social Security, no federal control over or funding of education.

Socialism

I always say that you can’t have socialism in a democracy because we the people pay our taxes and we say how the money will be used and that makes social programs democratic, not socialist. But the new truth is that we the people don’t contribute enough taxes to pay for the enormous military that “patriots” clamor for and for the social programs that serve as safety nets for we the people in times of trouble or need.

Without the 1% Americans are basically poor. If these miserly folks no longer want to pay taxes that will be used for people who don’t work (or can’t work) then we the people are screwed. Why we have given all these wealthy people all our money is now a moot point. The deed is done and they will use any reasoning necessary to claim that they are entitled to it. They do not mind turning America into a third world country because they plan to live above it all. All of America has now become colonized by these rich few. The right has managed to push the left to the far left and when they express fears of socialism now it is because socialism may be our only way out of  all this planned inequality.

Conclusions

We are clearly on a path to limited government in all its manifestations. I am guessing that we will not like it one little bit if it comes to pass. That dangerous mob, the vociferous left, created as backlash to an extreme right wing, may someday save us from the chaos of running each state as an independent entity and each local government as a fiefdom. Pick the Dems (the Dims) to save us from having to take a sad detour into “limited government”.  (I’m confused, how can you be dim and a dangerous mob at one and the same time.) “Limited government” is an outdated concept and it belongs in the oubliette of history.

Photo Credits: From a Google Image Search – Medium, twenty48.net

Elections, not Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg seems no better and no worse than any other business owner/billionaire these days. His company makes huge profits and he still needs ever more to satisfy himself and his stockholders. This is our brand of capitalism and Zuckerberg is certainly not any more greedy than anyone else. I am not going back into the now-distant past to talk about whether he became sole owner of Facebook by trickery and theft of intellectual property. That has already been adjudicated and now is a matter for Zuckerberg’s conscience.

There are at least two different points being argued at the same time and they do connect, but they are not the same issue. One argument says here is a company that is owned by one man. It has a huge presence on the internet which gives Mark Zuckerberg a disproportionate influence over internet users. So the argument here is that Zuckerberg’s company needs some regulation.

But that depends on whether we are talking about consumerism or elections. Unlike Cambridge Analytica Mark Zuckerberg, I’m thinking, did not intend to influence a US election any more than he intended to make identity theft a more common type of crime. He did intend to use what all websites use and what Bruce Schneier, writing at cnn.com yesterday morning (March 26, 2018) called “surveillance capitalism.”

Facebook users are not that naïve. We know that, although Facebook has gotten quite picky about what privacy level we want for things we post, they still allow all kinds of other apps and sites to collect our data and that of our friends. How many times have you given up your contacts to gain quick access to a site? The problem is that this allows someone like Cambridge Analytica, an organization that has only a fiduciary relationship with Facebook to mine data that Facebook supposedly protects but actually makes accessible to all who pay to advertise on the platform.

Since our entire culture centers around making money, having money, making more money and stockpiling as much money as you can and since every company has the same goals – profit- it is hard to fault Zuckerberg for being a successful businessman. If no one ever used this data to spy, to meddle in an election(/s), then we would not be having this discussion right now.

We are at a time when meddling in American elections seems to be the project of the moment for way too many people and at least one nation. I am not talking about voter fraud. I do not think we the people are even on the list of election tinkerers. Are both the GOP and the Dems using the internet to feed false information to people who use social media? I don’t think so. Were those who stole data under false pretenses and used it to fix (or try to fix) an election only trying to stop Hillary, or did they only wish to elect Trump – or would they have tried to throw the election to any candidate on the right. It seems that the election of 2016 was very important to an awful lot of people, and that they were are all working for the right.

Regardless of who Cambridge Analytica was working for, or whether or not Putin had people trying to fix the election, or even if Hillary and the Dems were trying to fix the election against Bernie Sanders, clearly we must protect our elections from any kind of meddling. Free and fair elections are the basis of our democracy/republic. Given what we can see about the lack of any reliable privacy on the internet and the modern tendency to push media into our communities that offers partisan propaganda, but likes to pretend that it is offering unbiased facts, obviously, some real effort and study needs to be dedicated to protecting our “free and fair” elections. Since some people feel that all is fair in politics and elections this effort cannot be delayed. We have another election coming up. We have elections all the time.

It is disingenuous to try to make Mark Zuckerberg the scapegoat for what is happening with our elections. Perhaps this is more Conservative razzle-dazzle to distract everyone from noticing that most of the election meddling was done on behalf of the GOP and Donald Trump. Zuckerberg just uses the same “surveillance capitalism” that all sites use on the web (although it is possible he pioneered some of the methodologies currently in use). These tactics are invasive and annoying and they make hacking the web a gamble with a big payoff.

We do need some oversight on the internet or the internet will become so crime-ridden that it will be shunned by people who cannot take risks with their data or their money. And this very model of “surveillance capitalism” is used on all social media but Facebook has the biggest treasure trove of personal information. Can Facebook be fixed? Will we like it to death?

It also feels as if some people are feeling personally vindictive towards Mark Zuckerberg and some professional jealousy may be increasing their desires to force him to answer to Congress and take him down a peg or two. We need to keep our eye on the main focus here and that is to guarantee that our elections are free and fair. If we have to rein in capitalism on the internet, are we willing to do that at a time when our government is busily overturning all the regulations that are now in place? What we need most of all is a new government.

Social Darwinism and Overweening Egos

There are things the current incarnation of the GOP believes. They believe that social programs have been bad for the people at the bottom of the heap, robbing them of incentive to claw their way up the ladder. A lingering reptilian part of our brain is trying to whisper to us that this is a reasonable idea to explain why some people need government assistance for most of their lives. But the part of our brain that contains actual knowledge of history and intelligence to reach back and see if this is true tells us that this line of argument is wrong. This is Social Darwinism. Trump didn’t think John McCain was a hero because he got captured. Well the Social Darwinists (which apparently includes all of the GOP and their base) don’t think the less fortunate among us are worthy of any assistance because they are losers. They do not want to spend their millions and billions on losers. Let them survive or die. The fittest among them will survive. A few may even achieve greatness.

If you do some reading about the days before governments tried to “even the playing field” or at least put a livable bottom on our societies you will find that life without supports was very rough and hard scrabble indeed for those who were poor. But leaving poor people on their own without offering opportunities to legally improve their lives had consequences for everyone. Bandits roamed freely making travel difficult. Hygiene suffered when there were no funds to pay for infrastructure and when hygiene goes out the window, germs come in. So we know that plagues and diseases usually took root in poorer districts first and worked their way up. People who had to support families but had no skills turned to every type of crime and scam to make their meager way in the world. No country became great without some way to lift up those who were without honest resources.

The GOP points to the 1890’s, the midpoint of the era of the Robber Barons, when fortunes were made and regulation was pretty much nonexistent. They want to create this wild-west economy again. Throw out all regulations, disregard the end-of-the-world nuts who say that without regulation the world’s climate zones will change in ways that we may not be able to adapt to, and we may face the same extinction many animals face today. Nonsense the GOP says. The world’s climate changes all the time and nothing humans do can affect that it any way. So they are willing to bet on this even though all of the evidence stands against them and even though they are betting the futures of many folks who don’t agree with them. But they say, if we reset to a time when people were left to their own devices without government interference we might see the same burst of innovative energy that we saw at the beginning of the Industrial Age. To many of us this seems like an enormous gamble to take and they plan to take us all along for the ride.

They interpret the meaning of our forefathers when they said that all men are created equal differently from those of us who think that means that we are all equally human and that a government that is of the people and by the people and for the people is not a government for only rich people. Some of us believe that in order to keep our democracy great we must try to give everyone in our society an opportunity to succeed and at least a minimum standard of living to maintain health and order in our society. Offering social programs is not a totally altruistic endeavor. It is a survival mechanism besides offering spiritual rewards to all.

The GOP however does not assume that the forefathers were saying that all humans deserve to be equal regardless of their talents or the accidents of their birth (fortunate or unfortunate). They say this phrase means that although we may start out as equals it is how we make use of our opportunities that causes us to thrive or fail. The logic that they offer us is pretty self-serving. They feel that everyone can fight and struggle his/her way to the top given enough grit. No grit, no gold.

So under the cover of the “orange one” they are “deconstructing” Washington, enacting their brand of Federalism which sticks strictly to the Constitutions which says that any rights not given to the Federal government belong to the states. The Federal role is only to deal with foreign powers, to fund, maintain and employ the military, and to make a Federal budget. They have no worries comparing America with a population of 3 million to America with a population of 324 million. They have no worries that our forefathers decided not to go with a strict interpretation of the states’ rights versus federal rights. In fact, in 1890 the population in America was 5 times less than it is today but the GOP believes that the math does not matter. We are a republic, which means that our democracy is a constitutional democracy and we have wandered too far from what our forefathers intended.

Two of the strongest proponents of this view are Paul Ryan and Ted Cruz and, right now, they are the overweening egos of which I speak. Both of these men are well-educated and quite comfortably well-off. Both are ambitious and, I assume, sincerely want to fix America. But one is enamored of a thinker from the 1930’s and the other is the son of a man we took in as a political refugee, a man who has preached fire and brimstone and hate and racism all across the American South (like father, like son). We can see the Paul Ryan/Ted Cruz ideology in their stand on health care in America. Both are of the Social Darwinist wing of the Party. They want to put health care back on the free market and those who can afford it will buy it and those who can’t will get no health care at all. See if that doesn’t make “them” strive to move up the ladder of opportunity (which had just been pulled up into the attic, for the most part unreachable by any of the lowly).

Ted Cruz said recently that he does not back the American Health Care Act because it is just Obamacare Lite. He is holding out for Ryan Care, the free market. We the wealthy don’t wanna’ pay for any more health care handouts. Buy or die. And, he now is offering a way to get this done, right quickly. Here’s the title of the article that tells what Ted Cruz is up to now,

Senator Cruz Found an Overlooked 1974 Rule That Could Be a Real Game-changer for Repealing Obamacare

 http://ijr.com/2017/03/822444-senator-cruz-found-an-overlooked-1974-rule-that-could-be-a-real-game-changer-for-repealing-obamacare/

 

Of course he did, after all he prides himself on being a whiz (or a genius) at Constitutional Law.

“Among the disappointed is Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who now says he’s found a decades-old rule that he hopes will allow Republicans to pass a more thorough, far-reaching health care reform bill.

However, Cruz’s strategy — which would leverage the power Vice President Mike Pence has as president of the Senate — “might blow up the Senate too,” Bloomberg Politics notes.”

“These special rules hinge on what is known as “reconciliation,” a process which allows legislation that affects the budget but has a limited scope to be passed with only a simple Senate majority, leaving such bills immune to filibuster.

Traditionally, it has fallen to the parliamentarian — who advises the Senate “on the interpretation of its rules and procedures” — to determine what should and should not be considered a reconciliation bill.”

“Under the Budget Act of 1974, which is what governs reconciliation, it is the presiding officer, the vice president of the United States, who rules on what’s permissible on reconciliation and what is not.

That’s a conversation I’ve been having with a number of my colleagues.”

“Still, it remains to be seen whether or not Cruz’s colleagues will be eager to employ the senator’s “radical” interpretation of the rule. Being similar to 2013’s filibuster reform, it runs the risk of “fundamentally altering the way Congress works.”

In terms of fellow Republicans eager to see a more thorough replacement of Obamacare, however, Cruz certainly has plenty of allies.”

 

So while those who disagree with Social Darwinism fight to keep the ACA we are up against a new “nuclear” option, as if a Party that controls all branches of our government has any need to employ nukes. It is difficult not to feel that we are helpless to turn back the tide of backwardness now that it has been given sway over the business of our nation. I, for one, already believe that the GOP way is not good for our nation and I am sorry that we seem to have to go “there” to find out and that we may never find our way back. The tides of political thought in the world seem to have turned against government of the people, by the people and for the people.

 

Racism and Hillary Clinton

If it wasn’t
for seven years of the blatant resurgence of racism in America then we might
not need Hillary Clinton. Sadly Obama’s presence in the Oval Office allowed
racial meanness to rise to the surface in Washington, DC and outside our nation’s
capital. When we should have felt proud of America on the 50th
Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, when we should have been celebrating, we
were instead seeing the festering remains of racism being exposed in far too many
areas of American society.
The Supreme
Court struck a huge blow when it said that certain southern states were no
longer subject to clearance before they could change their voting laws. The GOP
shamelessly began passing restrictions on voting in those same southern states
where clearance had been used to guarantee racial fairness in voting. They
justified their actions as necessary to circumvent voter fraud, which turned out
to be almost nonexistent. They said they were not being anti-Black, they were just
making it harder for Democrats to vote, but they knew, all the time, how
important the Black vote was to Democrats. They got two licks in for the price
of one.
We have seen
all too many unarmed Black folks shot under suspicious circumstances by policemen.
It begins to seem as if certain individuals join the police force to
deliberately wipe out Black people, a sort of vigilante routine. I don’t know
if there is a group that has planned this or if this is just lone racists
acting on their own and I admit I may be seeing a trend where there is really
only a series of terrible accidents, but we should not have racists on our
police forces and if there is any way to root them out we should do it.
We have
allowed Black folks to languish in poverty in our inner cities – and I don’t
mean languish in a nice way – I mean it in a hopeless way. We have not found
strategies to entice all young African-Americans into the schools and that is
what we need to do. We also need to learn how to make school relevant enough
that they will stay and go “all the way” through. We need to stop concentrating
poor black, brown, and Asian people in our center cities and find ways, perhaps
through real estate options, to intersperse poor Americans in more affluent
neighborhoods where people can afford to help lift them up.
Yes, we have
finally been made aware of how over-zealously and unequally the War on Drugs
was conducted. We have been shocked by the staggering numbers of Americans of
African Descent incarcerated for minor drug offenses and the role unaffordable
cash bails have played in this. This was one of those cases where a program
that folks thought would help solve a problem, exacerbated the problem and
created new ones. I’m not sure it was intended as a “racist” policy, it was
supposed to “scare people straight” in dangerous inner city neighborhoods, but,
in retrospect, we can see that the enforcement of this program affected
Africans-Americans far more than white Americans and either the program and/or
the enforcement of the program was racist in the way it was implemented in the
lives of real people. In this case a flawed answer intended to solve a social
problem has produced terrible consequences and most of these consequences were
visited upon Black people. If may take decades to turn around the effects of
over-incarceration and inappropriately harsh sentencing.
We have also
seen how we have allowed the South to revere the defeated Confederacy and to turn
the white folks in Southern states into martyrs and heroes in a Civil War we
should never have had to fight. We see how this has become another way to keep
racial hatred alive – to remind Black folks of their “shameful” roots in our
nation and to insure they don’t get “uppity”. How any of this shame accrues to
Black folks is impossible to even imagine, unless you grew up in the South I
guess.
Americans of
African Descent have been here longer than most Americans, although not by
choice. If they did not have black or brown skin they would have blended in
long ago. Why can’t we get over this idea that the more pigment one has the
less human one is? We have to all get past this. What will happen if we are
confronted with a truly alien species?
Because the
GOP has shown itself to be especially prone to letting “racial” traits and
their own fears inform their behavior (or misinform it) we cannot elect a
President from among the Republicans. If you consider all of the candidates for
the 2016 election Hillary has shown the best understanding of what America needs
to do to address fairness, equality, and opportunity for Americans of African
Descent. I don’t think Bernie is any more racist than any of us, but I do think
he believes his policies will lift all boats and perhaps doesn’t understand the
unique obstacles Black Americans face.
I think it
might be true that we are nicer when we feel more affluent, when our economy is
humming along; but how long must these Americans, who have been here since our
beginnings, be kept from the freedoms that should be theirs as well as ours.
Clearly this particularly stubborn issue of “racism” did not disappear in more
prosperous times, but there was a more generous spirit and it looked, for a
while, like things might have turned a corner.
If the existence
of all this hate and inequality and separation had not bubbled up from the
depths it had been stuffed into, up into the light of day – that would be a bad
thing. Let’s not try to contain it away from view of white eyes once again. Let’s
try to solve this and heal America once and for all. At the risk of sounding
corny perhaps that is what Hillary means when she talks about making America “whole”.
By Nancy
Brisson

The GOP War on Women and Hillary Clinton

 

We might not have needed Hillary Clinton if the Republicans
had not spent the last seven years (at least) making women’s lives miserable. Women, no matter how men feel about it, have been under attack by the GOP and especially by Conservative Evangelicals.
We remember when Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke a slut because
she wanted to continue to have access to birth control pills. BIRTH CONTROL PILLS! I’m surprised no one recommended that clitoral mutilation should perhaps be adopted as an American rite of passage.
There was an implication that women should not get any pleasure from sexual relations. Representative Steve Pearce (R-N.M.) wanted women to be submissive to their husbands as a way to “fix America”. Women were blamed for the demise of the families which then led to
the demise of the entire social order in the US. OMG – we went to work – and we liked it. It gave some of us a sense of purpose and sometimes prevented negative female problems like frustration, depression, etc. So the GOP told America that “liberated” women can be blamed for the holes in the fabric of the American Dream.
We might not have felt we had to insist on a female President
except for the number of times Congress has tried to “defund” Planned
Parenthood and threatened to shut down the US government in order to do it. We value Planned Parenthood. It has helped huge numbers of women at times when they needed safe, inexpensive, and confidential attention in their lives for a variety of reasons (and it still does). It sort of stands as a symbol of the freedoms women have won. I have a tough time understanding anyone who does not see that the GOP has
been obsessed with women and issues that should only concern women, and perhaps their partners, ever since Obama took office. But none of this is Obama’s doing; he has no beef with women and vice versa.
Clearly the GOP does not intend to wait until numbers are on
their side to overturn Roe v Wade and perhaps make some forms (or all forms) of birth control illegal. They can do this if they control all three branches of government and there will be almost nothing we can do to stop them. The Republicans have created such a threat against women that the only way we will feel safe from losing hard-won rights, granted by law and bolstered by scientific advances, rights that offer freedom to women, is to put a woman in the White House. One reason many women will support Hillary is because things look really grim for us if we don’t.
The GOP has spent seven years riling up all of the groups of
Americans who are not white men or Evangelical women and now they act surprised that the only people in their tent are old white people, including white supremacists like David Duke and the KKK. The Republicans will reap what they sowed, we hope. The media, on the other hand, seems to have suddenly come down with collective amnesia. Hillary Clinton might rather just enjoy being a grandmother, but we can’t let her do that yet. So when the GOP starts in on Hillary, and they will, I hope that at least the women of America will remember what they stand to lose if we put a Republican in the White House.
By Nancy Brisson

Why We Can’t Elect Donald Trump (or any of the Bully Boys)

Donald J
Trump could become the leader of America, but if he is elected and if he does
the things he says he will do, America will be a substantially different nation
than it has always been. We can kiss our forefathers good-bye, and the high
ideals they wished us to strive for as a nation. By the time we build that
wall, send all undocumented immigrants back to their countries of origin, build
up a huge military presence and bully China, I’m not sure what America will be
left with, but I think we will finally understand the word Fascism.
Older
Americans shudder at the thought of a Socialist taking over our Democracy but
tend to have little or no reaction when someone exhibiting signs of Fascism
(Donald Trump) begins to climb in the election polls. Fascism is far more at
odds with Democracy than Socialism is but we just don’t have enough
understanding of what the term means for it to call forth the intensely
negative visceral reaction that it should. I have written warnings about this
twice before, but this time I have help from a very famous writer, Umberto Eco.
Writing from
Paris, Christopher Dickey begins his article in the Daily Beast with this statement, “Here in Europe, people
know a thing or two about fascism.” He is remembering an article he read twenty years ago by the deeply
philosophical Italian author Umberto Eco, who died last week.

No, here in Europe, by various names—as Fascism, Nazism, Stalinism—it was
the living, vibrant, vicious force that led directly to the most horrific
global war in history. More recently, it took root and lingered as an active
ideology in Latin America, providing a crude foundation for the repressive
revolutions and dirty wars that raged from the ’60s through the ’80s.

Indeed, the fundamentals of fascism are with us today, in the killing fields
of ISIS-land, in the madness of North Korea, and also, sadly, in battered
democracies from newly militaristic Japan to xenophobic, isolationist parties
in Europe. And, yes, in somewhat more subtle forms fascism can be found on the
campaign trail in the U.S. of A.

Umberto Eco, in his article
(title not given) gives a list of the attributes of a Fascist:

Makes a cult of tradition

Rejects modernism

Takes action for action’s sake   (“thinking is a form of emasculation”)

Distrust of the intellectual
world

Disagreement is treason

Racist by definition   (“seeks for consensus by exploiting and
exacerbating the natural fear of difference”)

The appeal to a frustrated middle
class   (“a class suffering from an
economic crisis or feelings of political humiliation, and frightened by the
pressure of lower social groups”)

Obsession with a plot

Followers must feel humiliated   (“by the ostentatious wealth and force of
their enemies”)

Popular
elitism   (“Every citizen belongs to the
best people of the world, the members of the party are among the best citizens,
every citizen can or ought to become a member of the party.”) (“[T]he leader
knows that his force is based upon the weakness of the masses; they are so weak
as to need and deserve a ruler”)
Life is
permanent warfare   (“pacifism is
trafficking with the enemy”)
Official
heroism   (“martyrdom”)
Machismo   (“implies both disdain for women and
intolerance and condemnation of nonstandard sexual habits, from chastity to
homosexuality”)
Selective
populism   (“citizens do not act, they are
only called on to play the role of the People”)
“Newspeak”   (from 1984, George Orwell)   (“All the Nazi or Fascist schoolbooks made
use of an impoverished vocabulary and an elementary syntax, in order to limit
the instruments for complex and critical reasoning.”)
Umberto Eco
sounds like he is speaking about the Republican Party candidates and members of
Congress, and especially of Donald Trump, as we know them right now, but he wrote this 20 years ago.
Here’s the
link:
I think that
all of the Republican candidates are unelectable and everyone is feeling this
even if they will not admit it. I am guessing that people are thinking that
Donald Trump is the least dogmatic. He is not toeing the party line. He is his
own man. And for some reason people cannot see the dangers in turning over our
governance to this man. They want the 50’s back and Donald promises the 50’s.
But they will return under his terms. He humiliates anyone who questions his
leadership and people back down, even scary people like Ted Cruz. If we give
him carte blanche to “make America great again”, it will be his vision of
America, not ours and he may have a hard time ever leaving office. He may make
himself President-for-life. We cannot control this man. He brooks no
disagreement. In the scary GOP line-up of future Presidents perhaps the man who
seems most benign is the biggest nightmare of all, but we may not know it until
it is too late.
At the end
of his article Dickey draws parallels between Europe then and America now.

But where does Eco’s Eternal Fascism fit in American politics? Can it be
that many of the figures parading before us in this presidential campaign year
appeal to the worst instincts of “the People”? Do they play on atavistic fears
and resentments, frustrations and humiliations? Are they marked by their
irrationalism and anti-intellectualism, their hatred of things foreign, their
desire to be seen as heroes and their gun-toting machismo?

Oh, hell yeah. But I don’t need to point the finger. Umberto Eco is doing it
from the grave. As he wrote more than 20 year ago:

“Franklin Roosevelt’s words of November 4, 1938, are worth recalling: ‘If
American democracy ceases to move forward as a living force, seeking day and
night by peaceful means to better the lot of our citizens, fascism will grow in
strength in our land.’

“Freedom and liberation,” Eco wrote, “are an unending task.”

How do we
get angry Americans who think any of these guys are the answer to “setting
America on the right path” to understand that they will do just the opposite?
How do we get Donald Trump to leave the Republican race now that all of the
non-scary candidates have been chased away? Getting rid of Donald is not
enough. We must elect a Democrat in 2016 or American Democracy will not
survive. I have no idea how we convince what I call “the pod people”,
brainwashed by right wing media, that they must vote against the positions they
have been taught to believe in.
By Nancy
Brisson

The GOP’s Experiments in Social Science

Take everyone off of food stamps. These are the
kinds of things a GOP candidate must say nowadays to get elected. Close down
the Housing Assistance Program and the program to which needy families can
apply for emergency cash. This is Jeb Bush’s newest election offer to the
American people. Will it help him rise in the polls? Who cares? These are
terrible ideas.
Let’s set up a great big experiment with poor
people. Let’s deprive them of a means to an adequate diet and to adequate
shelter. Oh, and let’s deprive the disabled also, and old people. Let’s see if
being hungry and living in squalor will give them a new lease on life because
it works so well in nations with no social services. Not.
Didn’t I just spend two holiday weekends being
bombarded with the same commercial with the sad, uplifting music begging me to
send money each month to support starving children around the world? Happy
Holidays! Any idea how it feels to pay for a supposedly free, possible cheerful
holiday movie with guilt because your income will not stretch far enough to
help these children?
How will we feel when this is right outside our door
or when it’s us? Many people in America still don’t have jobs. You may believe
that they could work if they wanted to but what if that is, for the most part,
a big fat lie? What if there are not enough jobs for everyone or what if the
people do not have the skills to fit the jobs that are available? What if there
are people who are basically untrainable for mental, or emotional, or physical
reasons?
We have experimented with people before but never on
this large a scale except perhaps the polio vaccine tests. It was inhuman when
the Nazi’s did it and it is still not a humane way to behave.
I know Bush says he will replace these social safety
net programs with state grants so that states can fund their own programs. This
is part of the Federalist mantra of the GOP – let’s go back to 1783 and choose
the strictest interpretation of state’s rights that our forefathers considered
and discarded. Let’s take the other path and see where that one goes. In fact
Greg Abbott the new governor in Texas is calling for a Constitutional
Convention to rewrite the Constitution and to beef up state’s rights.
The Feds keep making people do things they don’t
want to do, they whine. Southern states and others scattered throughout the US
don’t want abortion to be legal. They don’t want illegal immigration. They
don’t want a social safety net. They don’t want legal same-sex marriage; they
want to teach creationism in their schools, they want to privatize schools, and
on and on with these backward ideas. They want to use fossil fuels without
limitations. They want to drill-baby-drill until the whole of our beautiful
land is devastated and toxic. They want our corporations back and will sell out
American workers by busting unions and refusing to set a minimum wage and using
any ploy necessary to bring the Industrial Age back to America.
I don’t think any of it will work. It will all just
serve to dismantle our nation. You can’t turn back the clock. The tolerance
levels in the world have moved beyond their reactionary minds. If people lose
their rights and their needs are not met they will fight to get it all back or
the nation will see poverty like it has not seen in over a century. If you give
money to the states some states will just use it for another purpose. There are
states that would not accept the ACA federal exchanges; the rich exercising
their principles at the expense of the poor.
Better wake up now. You will not gain autonomy – you
will lose economic security. I’m not saying that we could not benefit from a
reevaluation of our social programs or by tweaking them for greater
effectiveness. But I am saying that adopting a quick fix like turning the whole
thing over to the states is not the answer. The inequalities between the states
will be quite stark if we follow this Federalist path.
I’m sure that when you have a job you will shut out
the dire need around you, but when you don’t there will be nothing to keep you
from having to wallow in the mire with all the dispossessed. Wake up. This is
not the South rising again. The Civil War was an awful war. If the nation does
break up again I hope it just does it quietly. Of course, I hope it doesn’t
happen at all. I did not think we would still be talking about this in 2016.
Why do Americans seem to like these ideas? Do they
not see the turmoil in the world? Do they not realize that they could be the
one to be laid low? They are much closer to the bottom than the leaders they are
following who are not so likely to ever end up poor. They made sure that the
fix was in. People will vote to have stuff taken away? Who knew?
Those wily Republicans say they cannot legislate to
lessen climate change and global warming because they are not scientists. And
yet they will swear they know how healing it will be to Americans if we take
away the safety net even though they are neither economists nor social
scientists. This suggests expertise is simply a matter of expediency.
When leaders haul out reasoning that makes our
brains feel like pretzels that is when we need to disregard them instead of
making the very stupid move of electing them. Aren’t we tired of fighting these
battles created by these very selfish people?
By Nancy Brisson

Why Would Anyone Be a Republican?

Somedays it seems that there are so many things to
say about the GOP that it is impossible to pick just one. When I hear the
ridiculous, tone deaf things Republicans say I can’t believe that anyone claims
an affiliation with this particular party.
It is not just because Ben Carson says that the
students in Oregon should have attacked that gunman en masse and that if they
did attack then the gunman would probably be able to shoot only the first
person to oppose him. We all know what this is – it is blame the victim.
If we should all be ready to attack an armed person
at any moment then I think we need to be like Israel and require everyone to
serve a stint in the military. That way we will be trained in combat, our
reflexes will be quick, and we will be skilled in the correct approach to
disarming an armed person intent on taking us out.
Carson, not yet sure he had made his point,
continued on to say that he would rather see someone riddled with bullets than
give up his guns. Who was ever actually offered that choice? Do we all get a
chance to answer? Is he actually saying that he would rather see people shot to
death than give up his guns? This is not in the context of a revolution, it is
in the context of a massacre. He is not Patrick Henry saying ‘give me liberty
or give me death.’ He is saying I will never give up my guns to protect your
son or daughter from being senselessly slaughtered. No one has asked for your
guns Ben Carson. We have asked for your commonsense as a fellow citizen and a responsible
and well-educated adult. But we wish we did have the guns that the shooters took
to classrooms in Oregon, Sandy Hook, Columbine and more.
Our clothing is not designed to make carrying guns
easy or stylish. Will we all buy gun belts with holsters and learn how to twirl
our six-shooters? We will have to put fashion designer on notice about this new
style. Do the comments made by Ben Carson fall into the category of ridiculous,
or in the tone deaf one? I pick both.
Next we get the news that a new committee will be
formed in Congress to investigate Planned Parenthood. Americans do not react.
They just keep texting one another and sharing cute jokes on Facebook and I do
these things too. But these men are using our money to hound poor women and
take away their health services and they are using sneaky tactics to close down
all the centers where any woman can get an abortion, in their own state at the
very least; but their true target is the entire nation.
I’m surprised they don’t offer a deal. If you
liberals give up abortion rights we’ll be quiet about same-sex marriage. But
they cannot be quiet about either because their religion won’t let them.
We don’t need a committee to investigate Planned
Parenthood. Isn’t there any way to stop these guys? Isn’t anyone angry about
the atavistic bombardment of women by these reactionary males trying to prove
their alpha male bona fides? Or if not isn’t anyone at least angry about our
tax dollars being spent to form another committee we don’t need.
Few people speak up. Do they like what the
Republicans are saying and doing, or is it that they have no desire to be an
activist? Ours is a country which relies on us to govern (of the people, by the
people, for the people). Sometimes we need to let our representatives know when
we are displeased. If you don’t want to march or carry a sign at least you can
sign a petition online or drop an email to your Congressperson. All their email
addresses are available online.
I could go on and list more ways the GOP ticked me
off this week but, for now, enough.  You’ll be happy to hear that there will be more
later.
By Nancy Brisson

Priorities

We all know the Republican priorities by heart: small
government, stop molly-coddling deadbeats, send foreigners home, end abortions
and perhaps contraception, restore Christian morality in America, drastically
expand the military, suppress Democrat votes through actual voter suppression
and extensive gerrymandering and union busting, restore jobs by cutting
corporate taxes, build a wall, electronically control visas, drill baby drill,
no new environmental restrictions, and much more. One thing Republicans have
done a great job of is making Americans aware of their agenda. They have also
been great scandal-mongers keeping citizens riled up and screaming for the
heads of the President and his staff. They have been so good at these things
that even Democrats can barely remember their own priorities.
Bernie Sanders reminds us that regulating Wall
Street and banks in order to protect citizens from another economic downturn
should be a top priority. His list of priorities also includes passing changes
to current tax laws so that we are not sending all our money to the wealthy
while leaving out the middle class. He would like to see more support for
workers with families, especially for women in the workplace, but not only for
women. He advocates things like paid sick leave, paid family leave and equal
pay for equal work to close the male/female pay divide. He sets a high priority
on doing whatever we can to combat climate change. And he would like to make
higher education economically feasible for all
.
Hillary agrees with all these things and adds in
decriminalizing drug addiction to focus on treatment, getting petty offenders
out of jail, and she is still rolling out policy statements, each time
addressing a new area that requires action. In terms of foreign affairs
Democrats are not so hawkish right now, preferring diplomacy, but Hillary makes
it clear that she can do “hawk” if necessary.
There is not a lot of overlap in what Republicans
consider important and what Democrats see as important and even where there is
overlap, solutions offered are not at all the same. This has put governance
into stalemate territory making it almost miraculous that the President was
able to accomplish as much as he did. Of course, the GOP chorus repeats the
refrain that Obama is a “weak” President. They also like to use the word
“feckless”. The one I love (not) most in their repertoire is the insistence
that Obama “has blown up the world”. They blame all change in the Middle East
and Syria and Russia and China on Obama, but their recall of historical facts
and their chain of causations lack a foothold in reality and the blaming is
therefore unsupportable. They keep getting away with this shoddy, politically
expedient reasoning by skillful propagandizing because they do not want the
blame for George W. Bush’s actions laid at the feet of the GOP. However, 43 is
definitely the one who took the lid off the boiling pot and let old animosities
loose in the modern world. What is done is done, but at least accept that your
party lied and had a great big hand in creating the current chaos.
Given all this, why, oh why, do we spend our days
talking about women’s issues? Why do we spend hours trying to undo Planned
Parenthood, with its long history of helping poor women especially, even
threatening to close down the government over it? Why do we have an American
political party arguing about contraception? These guys have discussed this
among themselves and have decided that if the “sexual revolution” never
happened then American families would still be intact. Well suppressing women’s
rights has “Remember Prohibition” written all over it.
With all the important territory we need to cover to
help America and Americans thrive, abortion and contraception never would have
been on my list of priorities, and I would bet many other Americans feel this
way. Perhaps the GOP is only pretending to be this interested in these issues
to bide their time until they regain the Presidency. Of all the laws, such as
tax loopholes that we might need to overturn, these laws seem really low on the
list. This might be just about men holding dominion over women.
Well GOP, change the subject please!  America, we must insist that these GOP men
rearrange their priorities. I wish we the people had enough money to sue Ted
Cruz et al for wasting the people’s money threatening to shut down the
government and, indeed, shutting down the government. In that way we could
speak to them in a language they understand, the language of the law. They like to sue people.
By Nancy Brisson

NBD – Much Ado About Very Little

I can’t believe the fuss being made about President
Obama’s possible executive action on immigration. It is such a limited action
and really will change very little for undocumented immigrants in American. The
people whose concerns are being addressed are people who have lived in America
for years, have had children in American, children who have attended American
schools, have had jobs in America, but who constantly anticipate (and not in a
good way) being deported. They know that if someone turns them in or finds out
about their undocumented status they could easily be torn from their jobs and
their families. They may have done something “illegal” but they did it years
ago and they have lived productive lives since then, productive lives that
could unravel at any moment (as could any of our lives, although not in this
particular way).
What Obama is able to do through executive action is
so small that it will not even cause a ripple in the surface of American
culture or the American economy. It sounds like he plans to issue temporary
work permits to parents of “dreamer” children so that these parents can
continue to work and support their families while their children get an
education. These workers, who may not have been paying taxes, who may have been
paid “under the table” will now contribute tax money and they can more
confidently seek to climb the employment ladder thus offering more skills to
the American workforce. They are not taking American jobs away from citizens
because they are already working.
The real issue here is not immigration. Republicans
are determined to turn the Obama presidency into eight empty years in American
history. It is their intention to stop anything that might give President Obama
a legacy. They are not too keen on any Democratic policies and they are still
just stalling until the next election. They are aware that Presidents have used
executive actions in the past. Executive actions are not even the real issue.
The real issues is to prevent America from moving too far to the left so that
when they get a Republican President elected they will not have to move so far
to swing right.
They have a back-up plan in case they don’t win the
Presidency in 2016 and their back-up plan is to turn as many states red as they
possibly can, a strategy with which they are having a great deal of success. We
have already seen Republican politics in effect in Wisconsin and in Kansas and it
is clear that their policies will not work out for anyone but the very wealthy.
Things are not going well for the middle class in either of those two states.
We need to passionately oppose the GOP because the ways in which they want to
change America are wrong-headed and unacceptable. I know that I haven’t backed
this up with many facts, but read about those two states, read about Wisconsin
and Kansas, and you will see where the policies of the GOP lead.
What the President says he plans to do about
immigration reform is very small and should be “no big deal” except that the
GOP is just so angry whenever Obama tries to accomplish anything and their
threats are so disproportionate to the actions taken by Obama that we know
their threats are political and have nothing to do with the topic of
immigration. I don’t believe Obama should fear impeachment because, one, the
job of being President in these circumstances has been very stressful and our
President has been demeaned, and, two, if the GOP impeaches this President,
history will not be kind to them.

By Nancy Brisson