Brain Download-Unconstitutional President, Columbine, Notre Dame, and the 2020 Election

Brain Download-Unconstitutional President, Columbine, Notre Dame, and the 2020 Election – Mid-April 2019

Trampled Norms

Journalists and authors, both professional and not, have written about the way Trump and the Republicans are crushing the “guardrails” of our documents and our laws (How Democracies Die).  In an article on 4/17/2019 the newest incarnation of these columns raised alarms about these threats to our democracy.

The article discusses the ways Trump and the compliant Republicans have actually crossed red lines, or have shown that they are willing to cross certain red lines, especially when it comes to the laws Trump wants to ignore or overturn in order to stop asylum seekers from entering the US, and his desire to ship migrants off to sanctuary cities, actions that would break current laws. He gets mad and he gets even (if he can) and he does not seem to let a little thing like a law stand in his way. None of us, the article says, are any too happy about the way Republicans are stuffing the courts with uncredentialed judges, either.

David Rothkopf, writing in The Daily Beast today, arrives at the same dilemma we all keep facing. What can we do about it? He also feels that an effective response strategy is more necessary than ever after Trump’s willingness to break laws, which escalated once again last week. He doesn’t offer any suggestions we already haven’t thought of and now that we are in the election cycle we are unlikely to heat up the resistance.  But he is right, we should, because 6 more years of Trump and the Republicans will most likely make American democracy have a near-death-experience (or die an authoritarian death).

https://www.thedailybeast.com/trump-and-co-are-crossing-big-bright-red-linesand-theyre-getting-away-with-it

Columbine Connection

Today – 4/17/2019 is almost exactly a decade (sorry for my math, two decades) after the Columbine shooters shocked our nation (4/20/1999) and today an eighteen year old, who had an unhealthy interest in the Columbine shooters and that whole terrible day, a girl who searched the internet about how to buy a gun in Colorado, made authorities nervous enough to shut down schools near Columbine. Not only did she ask about purchasing a gun, she actually went to Colorado and bought one when she arrived from Miami. She was found dead this morning. Possibly when she realized that everyone was looking for her she may have killed herself, thinking that was the only thing she felt she could do.

It seems that authorities are beginning to get ahead of potential shooters by treating tips and internet posts seriously and being proactive. They have been able to stop several shooters lately before the tragic mass shootings they were planning happened. This is a good thing. Although it may not be enough to stop all mass shootings. We didn’t lose any innocent students today but it is still sad to lose another young person to a mental script that doesn’t offer rewards to anyone, especially any of the rewards that s/he thinks such an act will bring. We need to find out why our culture produces so many young people attracted to such appalling violence.

Notre Dame

A friend reminds me that Notre Dame, built in the 12 th century (the 1100’s) was built on the backs of peasants who moved the large stones which were used to construct the great cathedrals. Were they slaves or were they paid? If they were paid, they were most likely not well paid. My friend also reminds me that these cathedrals took decades to build so that parents, and their children, and their children’s children ( and more generations) carried stone to the builders without ever hoping to earn enough for a better life. And these same peasants who performed the most back-breaking labors also knew they would never be allowed to enter the cathedral when it was finished.

Ken Follett in The Pillars of Earth,described (or imagined) the building of one of the great cathedrals in England. If he used more facts than imagination, the building of a cathedral was a huge operation that required many talented builders with a variety of skills. A whole city grew up around the site of a build as there had to be houses for workers, food for workers, drinks and drinking establishments, and eventually even guilds for workers and a town or city government for order. So cathedral building may have offered more advantages than building the pyramids in Egypt seems to have offered.

Still we now have billionaires pitching in to rebuild Notre Dame and we have French people who need to see those billions invested in jobs and better pay for French people. People first, rebuilding second some protestors are saying. This sad loss of a religious and national treasure is teaching us another lesson about what happens when an economy does not equitably distribute money that people need to live. We see that someone can afford to offer their wealth in exchange for their soul when a cathedral is involved, but who seem to misinterpret what their soul really requires. Actually some people have become so rich that they could hedge their bets by doing both.

The 2020 Election -Speaking of Money

The Democrats are happy to have so many candidates running in their primary for the 2020 election. They are also trying to answer charges that Republicans have popularized, arguments which paint Democrats as being more in love with big money than Republicans are. I guess all is fair in love and elections, but we are a capitalist country and Democrats live in the same economy as everyone else. Are we now supposed to have two disparate economies, in addition to two political parties with nothing in common?

We are aware of how the GOP demonizes the Democrats. Why are we having this moment of purity about Wall Street and money? Young people are idealistic and easily persuaded to be critical, and their parents did have their 60’s moment when they learned that economics was not the only basis for a thriving culture. They saw that many cynical leaders thought of war as a way to keep the economy booming, and of course, keep communism from spreading. From what we are seeing of the spread of authoritarianism our leaders were perhaps not totally cynical. And these young people did not come of age in the job market their parents found after they left school.

So we see Democrats trying to promise that they will use only grassroots dollars. This is a political reform that is sorely needed but obviously, at this moment, the opposing party is unlikely to reciprocate. And while Dem leaders may not want to limit the Dem field I am starting to get a bit nervous about how I will offer support to all these primary candidates. My donations are small even when the number of candidates is small. Now I am beginning to worry that I will not be able to be a good Democrat. My pocketbook will not allow it. I suppose I could choose one candidate and concentrate on that one person but there are several people that I like. It seems so overwhelming that sometimes I think about keeping all my dollars for myself. I hope this doesn’t describe too many Democrat supporters and voters. How will Dems successfully compete against Trump with his hand in the deep pockets of the Republican political apparatus?

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search, Newsweek

Wealth Distribution Goes Awry

We are living in a time and a nation where there is a disparity in wealth distribution, when the distribution of wealth has gone awry. We have all heard that the top 1% have wealth that is out of all proportion to what the other 99% of us share. We see what such a disproportionate access to economic resources does to every aspect of our society. When the rich fix the machinery of the economy so as to deliver the main share of wealth, that is supposed to circulated throughout the culture, into their own pockets, bank accounts, investment instruments, and perhaps their businesses, the entire economy is disrupted.

Rich folks seem to be emboldened by their wealth to believe that they have done something to deserve the riches they have amassed; that money equals entitlement and is proof that they have been somehow chosen. It could be that wealthy people have poured money into politics to get laws passed that ensure that wealth moves up the ladder; that they get all the cream off the top. But then they have some kind of selective amnesia and they forget that they made sure that the croupier would shovel the largest share of chips in their direction.

Once a few individuals come to feel that they are superior to all of the lowlier folks in their culture, once they are isolated into a class of their own, they, of course, do not want to lose any of the wealth they have amassed. Since they see everyone else as less worthy they become disinclined to offer benefits to the unlucky and the lazy, which means everyone poorer than they are. They want to pay workers as little as possible because it comes out of their pockets as they see it. They lose sight of what will happen if there are no consumers in the marketplace. They seem to think that their funds will magically keep multiplying.

They don’t like things like unemployment insurance, health insurance, a minimum food and housing allowance. Since they do not live in the same neighborhoods as poor members of their culture the problems of poverty that affect middle class people do not impinge on the wealthy. They lose their empathy. And they forget that everything is interconnected; that eventually the filth and disease of the neglected will infiltrate their privileged domains. They buy land and build an isolated and self-sufficient kingdom. But will their kingdom rely on the labor of the less-well-off. If their paranoia makes such an arrangement suspect they might actually have to become laborers again at some point. Perhaps they don’t entertain profound thoughts at all while yachting and partying and paying lobbyists and super PACs to keep the right people in power.

Without consulting history it seems as if this problem is unique to 21stcentury America, but obviously this is not so. Wealth distribution can fail whenever wealth and power get concentrated in a relatively small group of citizens of a nation. When wealth gets stuck in the pockets of a group of powerful people eventually something happens to redistribute that wealth. It could be accomplished with sensible laws and raised taxes on the wealthiest class. It could be accomplished by order of a dictator like Mao who turned the Chinese economy upside down with his Cultural Revolution. It could be accomplished by a war which brings all classes together with a common purpose so that the classes mix, and empathy and community feeling are engendered. Or a revolution.

I keep hoping we will find a relatively benign and political solution to our own growing wealth inequality that is creating a greedy class and is pinching everyone else. Democrats are the party that would like to find ways to distribute wealth more fairly but Democrats are out-of-power. They have won a toehold in the House of Representatives but, without any support from the opposition in the Senate important initiatives will not be enacted. Our only hope is to prepare an agenda and find a path to win a majority in both houses of Congress and, the Presidency in 2020. We have had plenty of wars but they are not the threat-to-all-humanity kinds of wars that serve as class equalizers. And we might get ourselves a dictator but the current applicant for the job will have no interest in redistributing any wealth.

I have been reading Churchill: Walking with Destiny by Andrew Roberts and there is Winston Churchill dealing with this exact situation early in his political career (1909-1910). He was born to the aristocracy, but his family had no money. His father was a well-known political figure but he stayed with his class. Winston switched to become a Liberal and defied his class and was subjected to predictable criticism, fortunately minimized because he was such a great speaker and original thinker with more energy than anyone else in government at the time. (It is even more bizarre to be reading this as the Brexit deal fails and Theresa May loses, not her seat but her power.)

Churchill also lost his bid to redistribute wealth in 1910 and he called for the government to be disbanded, and for a new election. He did win a seat in the new election and he was given a post in the Home Office. The ‘People’s Budget did eventually pass but reform was slow. We know that the British did pass social reforms that offered a safety net to British citizens.

Churchill, pg. 129

“The paternalist in Churchill wanted, in Masterman’s critical but essentially accurate phrase, ‘a state of things where a benign upper class dispensed benefits to an industrious bien pensantand grateful working class’”

Pg.129-130

“In April 1909 Lloyd George unleashed the naked class war that Churchill had predicted five months earlier, with his Finance Bill, soon nicknamed by Liberals the ‘People’s Budget’. In order to raise the extra £16 million, income tax would rise from 1s to 1s 2d in the pound (that is from 5 to 5.83 per cent), a supertax would be introduced on high incomes, as well as taxes on tobacco alcohol, motor cars and petrol, and a halfpenny per pound on the value of undeveloped land, with death duties of 25 per cent on property valued over £1 million, and a 20 per cent capital gains tax on land. This represented wealth redistribution on a scale unprecedented in recent British history…” “If that opposition could not be mollified or overcome and the Lords refused to pass the budget there would be a profound constitutional crisis.

“Tomorrow is the day of wrath!” Churchill told Clementine on 28 April, before a key vote on the Finance Bill. “I feel this Budget will be kill or cure: either we shall secure ample pounds for great reform next year, or the Lords will force a Dissolution in September.”

Pg. 130

“If I had my way I would write the word ‘insure’ over the door of every cottage and upon the blotting book of every public man, because I am convinced that by sacrifices which are inconceivably small, which are all within the reach of the very poorest man in regular work, families can be secured against catastrophes which otherwise would split them up forever… when through the death, the illness, or the invalidity of the bread-winner, the frail boat in which the fortunes of the family are embarked founders and the women and children are left to struggle helplessly in the dark waters of a friendless world.”

Pg. 131

“’The wealthy”, he said, in the course of a nearly 7000-word speech, ‘so far from being self-reliant, are dependent on the constant attention and waiting of scores and sometimes even hundreds of persons who are employed in ministering to their wants.’

In a speech in Leicester

“The issue will be whether the British people in the year of grace 1909 are going to…allow themselves to be dictated to and domineered over by a miserable minority of titled persons, who represent nobody, who are responsible for nobody, and who only scurry up to London to vote in their party interests, in their class interests, and in their own interests.”

“He now wanted the House of Lords to be stripped of its equality with the Commons, and therefore no longer capable of vetoing legislation sent to it by the democratically elected lower Chamber.”

“Churchill’s speech shocked many Tories, and led to protests from both the King and Prime Minister.”

Pg. 132

“In October, Churchill stoked the fire further and told a Dundee audience that it was ‘an extraordinary thing’ that 10,000 should own practically the whole land of Great Britain and that the rest should be trespassers on the soil on which they were born.”

Pg. 133

“On 4 November 1909, the People’s Budget passed the House of Commons.” (Paraphrasing)-If the Lords turned down the Budget the consequences would be a general election.

Pg. 134

“The Budget was rejected by 350 to 75. Parliament was dissolved two days later and an election called, voting to get under way on 14 January 1910, which the Liberals would fight on the slogan ‘The Peers versus the People.’

Pg. 135 (some early 20thcentury trash talk)

“Curzon complained that Churchill had the ‘manners of a mudlark’. Lord Newton spoke of the ‘nauseous cant of Winston Churchill’ and the Duke of Beaufort said he would like to see Churchill and Lloyd George ‘in the middle of twenty couples of drag hounds’.” (Since Winston and his wife Clementine belonged to the aristocracy, although they were quite poor, they suffered social setbacks as a result of Churchill’s politics, but Clementine was supportive of her husband.)”

I will read on and see if Churchill deserves any credit for the benefits Great Britain offers today. It seems like history is a sort of time machine which reminds us that we fight the same fights over and over again; that class struggles have existed as long as there have been human societies. It was both stunning and discouraging to see the parallels between the beginning of the 20thcentury and the beginning of the 21st. A Churchill, however, seems to be exactly what we need right now and I hope the Democrats find one.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – 99 Get Smart