TWH 5-26-16

We were warned:

In contemplating the causes which may disturb our Union, it occurs as matter of serious concern that any ground should have been furnished for characterizing parties by geographical discriminations, Northern and Southern, Atlantic and Western; whence designing men may endeavor to excite a belief that there is a real difference of local interests and views. One of the expedients of party to acquire influence within particular districts is to misrepresent the opinions and aims of other districts. You cannot shield yourselves too much against the jealousies and heartburnings which spring from these misrepresentations; they tend to render alien to each other those who ought to be bound together by fraternal affection. …

The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government. But the Constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all. The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established government. …

All obstructions to the execution of the laws, all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle, and of fatal tendency. They serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels and modified by mutual interests….

I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the State, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally.

This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but, in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.

Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight), the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.

It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.

There is an opinion that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the government and serve to keep alive the spirit of liberty. This within certain limits is probably true; and in governments of a monarchical cast, patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party. But in those of the popular character, in governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency, it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose. And there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be by force of public opinion, to mitigate and assuage it. A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.

We just didn’t listen.

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THE BLUEPRINT:

The secret accumulation of knowledge — a gradual spread of enlightenment — ultimately a proletarian rebellion — the overthrow of the Party. You foresaw yourself that that was what it would say. It is all nonsense. The proletarians will never revolt, not in a thousand years or a million. They cannot. I do not have to tell you the reason: you know it already. If you have ever cherished any dreams of violent insurrection, you must abandon them. There is no way in which the Party can be overthrown. The rule of the Party is for ever. …

The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power. Not wealth or luxury or long life or happiness: only power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from all the oligarchies of the past, in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just round the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means, it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. …

We control matter because we control the mind. Reality is inside the skull. …

There will be no loyalty, except loyalty towards the Party. There will be no love, except the love of Big Brother. There will be no laughter, except the laugh of triumph over a defeated enemy. There will be no art, no literature, no science. When we are omnipotent we shall have no more need of science. There will be no distinction between beauty and ugliness. There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — for ever

ARE WE THERE YET?

No. But we’re at the precipice and one foot is already extended out into open space. We have the illusion of free and open elections, and cling to this illusion in spite of the fact that nearly half of us cannot participate in determining the top two contenders for the Title. The two major political parties wrote the rules that make it impossible for any other party to pose a serious threat to their power.

And, what few people realize is that the two parties are but two faces of the same beast – the Oligarchy. The Oligarchy gradually adopted two faces to pit the masses against each other.

Maybe, deep down, some people realize this. Maybe this is the root fear the NRA feeds to keep gun sales strong. But maybe it is already too late to overthrow the Oligarchy through armed revolution.

Maybe we should just praise the lord and pass the soma.

OPEN THREAD

The Watering Hole, Monday, May 23, 2016: Why Do Donald Trump’s Positions Appeal To You When He Clearly Has None?

We on the Left often talk about low information voters more than they do on the Right, but that’s only because the Right depends on them so much to stay in power. Without the low information voter and the low effort thinkers, Republicans would never have been able to grab onto and retain the political power they currently enjoy and abuse, not only on the national level, but at the state level, too. An informed voter would never vote for a Republican unless that voter was a greedy, rich, selfish bastard who couldn’t care less about helping his or her fellow human beings who are in trouble (often due to Republican policies.) And face it. If you aren’t greedy, rich, or selfish, you really have no reason to vote for a member of a party that openly admits to doing things that help the super rich far more than they help you or anyone else you personally know. I mean, seriously, do rich people need more tax cuts? We are talking about taxing income beyond a ridiculously high point at which they’ll literally be bringing in (not necessarily earning) more money than they can possibly use in their life times or their grandchildren’s, so why do Republicans insist on lying and acting like taxing more of that income will take away all incentive to make money? That’s pure selfishness talking, not sound public policy. And if it’s sound public policy you want out of your public servants, then why on Earth would you vote for Donald J. Trump? What possible argument could you have?

It can’t be because of Trump’s positions on any of the major issues. In addition to the fact that Trump often speaks in incoherent phrases, he has often been unable to state a position and stick to it. Whether it’s on taxing the rich, paying down the national debt, a woman’s right to exercise her constitutional right to an abortion, the minimum wage, money in politics, defeating ISIS, following international laws, immigration, H-1B visas, border control, the Syrian refugee crisis, banning Muslims, being so popular with white supremacists, the KKK and David Duke, the multi-national Iran nuclear deal, or even healthcare in the US, Trump has often stated, then reversed, then modified whatever position he had, sometimes within hours. He expressed three separate and conflicting opinions on abortion in less than an hour and a half. And some of his current positions are in conflict with longstanding planks in the Republican Platform. Here’s the thing: Whichever position Trump had that attracted you to him is almost certainly changed by now, possibly to be the opposite. And if his current position is appealing to you, just wait until he gets criticized on it and it will change again. “Everything’s negotiable” to Trump, even the interest paid on treasury bonds, which is ridiculous, of course. But Trump’s typical low-information, low-effort-thinking supporter doesn’t know that, nor does he know that the people who hold the highest amount of our national debt are you and your fellow American citizens, not the Chinese, as Trump often infers but never states outright (as far as I know.)

It can’t be because of his “honesty” (about which he often brags). Trumps says a lot of things on the campaign trail that simply aren’t true, or even close to true. Sadly for our nation, studies have been showing that, regardless of your political ideology, the truth doesn’t seem to matter. It would appear, to many Conservatives especially, that what you feel to be the truth is what is the truth (to you, anyway). This could explain why Trump tells lies to appeal to Conservatives emotionally, even though the lies aren’t in the least bit grounded in Reality. It feels right to Conservatives, so there must be something wrong with the evidence. It’s a shame, but not a surprise really, the Republican Party has been so antithetical to funding public education. Despite the fact that the truth may not matter, it’s still important that people learn how to think critically about a subject, regardless of whether it’s politics or religion, instead of just accepting what they’re told as true. But critical thinking requires effort, and your average Joe Sixpack conservative has neither the desire nor the ability to put a lot of thought into things. So when they do put that small amount of effort toward a position on something, they often end up choosing the Conservative point of view, even when it provably isn’t the best choice, or even the one that will move them toward their ultimate goals, whatever they are. Donald Trump may at one time in his life said something you also believed. He once said he believed in a woman’s right to choose to undergo an abortion. Now, because he panders to a bunch of low-effort thinkers, he says abortion should be criminalized (despite its being a Constitutional right) and that the doctor should go to jail for performing one, not the woman because she is also a victim. That kind of “thinking” requires you to believe the woman was not choosing to undergo an abortion and that it was done against her will. Kidnapping is already a felony so why would any new laws be needed? If taking away someone’s Constitutional rights can be done by making it illegal to ever exercise those rights, then we should be able to solve our national gun problem by making it illegal to exercise your right to own guns. But that’s not how it’s supposed to work, so these Republican efforts to ban abortion by criminalizing the performance of one cannot possibly withstand Constitutional muster. And neither will Trump’s efforts to bring back waterboarding and other methods of torture (“even worse”). Nor will barring people entry to this country because of the religion they practice. Nor will deporting people born on American soil. Trump has held many different positions on many different topics, so which position on which topic makes you believe Trump would make a good President? Or an effective one? Or even a competent one? Because by the time Election Day comes around, it’s entirely possible that Trump will no longer hold that viewpoint you thought made him better than the rest. So why would you vote for him?

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to make fun of Donald Trump, or discuss anything else you wish.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, May 21st, 2016: Contents Under Pressure

Yesterday at work, after glancing at my calendar, I did a mental double-take, thinking, ‘holy jeez, it’s May 20th already, 2016 is going by too quickly!’ Later, after some Trump BS refocused my attention on the upcoming election, my thoughts changed to, ‘holy jeez, there’s still nearly six months until the election, I wish we could just jump ahead to November and get it done and over with!’

I doubt if any of us, during the campaign season that led up to King George being anointed by the SCOTUS, and even during the eight years that we (and the rest of the world) suffered through under the BushCo maladministration, ever thought that any candidate for the Presidency could come along who was even more unqualified than Dubya, and just as amoral as Darth Cheney. The stress of those years pales in comparison to what we, and everyone else in the reality-based world, are experiencing during this unbelievably mind-numbing Trump campaign.

A continual state of stress is unhealthy for an individual both physically and mentally, as we all can attest to. Is it any wonder that the heightened stress of these last several months is having an even worse impact on so many Americans than that of the Bush years, even with the never-ending war(s), the “you’re either with us or against us” mantra, and the economic crash that affected every American except those who caused it?

And after BushCo, the undercurrent of American racism, which slowly became ‘acceptable’ when President Obama won in 2008, turned into the norm in an ever-growing and ever-more-violent tide that has eroded the foundations of the Republic nearly to the point of collapse. Even if Donald Trump doesn’t win the Presidency, will the added pressure and stress of the national and international turmoil brought about by Trump’s – and his followers’ – jingoism, ignorance and hatred be too overwhelming to keep this Union intact?

Personally, I think something’s got to blow under all of this pressure, because it’s not going to ease anytime soon. It only leads one to question: when, how big, and how toxic will the fallout be?

This is our daily Open Thread – what’s on YOUR mind?

The Watering Hole, Monday, May 16th, 2016: Wrong, As Always

Recent opinion pieces at The Christian Post website demonstrate that the “Christian” right – and these aren’t all what I would consider to be real RWNJs – continues to steadfastly ignore reality.

On Earth Day, Dr. Richard D. Land posted “Earth Day: How Environmentalists Hurt the Environment”. Some excerpts:

Many advocates for drastic measures to combat climate change (i.e., global warming) assert that human caused global warming is now “settled science.”

And yet, recently published data from the Department of Energy reveals that the U.S. has reduced carbon emissions for the past fifteen years by more than 10%, more than almost the entire rest of the world combined. How did America accomplish such a feat? The answer is hydraulic fracturing or fracking, which involves releasing fossil fuel (oil and natural gas) trapped in rock formations by injecting millions of gallons of water and chemicals into the formations.

As a result of widespread usage of this controversial technology, the U.S. has become the world’s No. 1 oil and natural gas producer. As a direct consequence of fracking, the price of natural gas is one-fourth what it was a decade ago, and since America has a virtually inexhaustible natural gas supplies, people keep using more and more of this environmentally clean and very inexpensive fossil fuel. [Will someone please explain to me why anyone would want to literally undermine the land to access what is, by definition, a limited energy source?]

EPA studies declaring fracking can be done safely and cleanly moved U.S.A. Today to declare that “to help the environment and economy, keep on fracking” (4/19/16). U.S.A. Today also observed in the same article that fracking “has spurred a remarkable U.S. energy boom and . . . this boom has created jobs, boosted manufacturing and brought the USA closer to energy independence.”

Still, environmental activists on the left continue to oppose fracking, as well as the only clean energy “technology with an established track record of generating electricity at scale while emitting virtually no greenhouse gases: nuclear power.” In fact, in a “Pew poll of members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, 65 percent of scientists want more nuclear power” (Eduardo Porter, NY Times 4/19/16).

Apparently Dr. Land is completely ignorant of WHY environmentalists – and any humans with a fairly basic knowledge of science and some critical-thinking skills – are against fracking and nuclear energy. Has he not heard about the earthquakes being caused by fracking? Is he somehow privy to exactly which chemicals are being used in fracking? The “EPA studies” that declared “fracking can be done safely and cleanly” did not say that fracking IS BEING DONE “safely and cleanly”, more simply that it “can” be done. (Here’s the Christian Science Monitor’s take on this.)

And “nuclear”?! Does “Fukushima” ring a bell? Sorry, but Indian Point is way too close for me to want any part of nuclear power. Not to mention disposal of nuclear waste, which has already been an environmental problem for decades. Or that nuclear facilities make lovely targets for terrorism. Where the hell has Dr. Land been?

Then there’s Ken Blackwell’s ridiculous drivel, “Trump is Bad But Not Worse Than Hillary”

[The blurb says “Ken Blackwell is the Senior Fellow for Family Empowerment at the Family Research Council. He serves on the board of directors of the Club for Growth and the National Taxpayers Union. He is also a member of the public affairs committee of the NRA. Mr. Blackwell is also the former Mayor of Cincinnati and a former Ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Commission.” As Blackwell says in a different context below, “What more needs to be said?”]

“…no one should doubt Hillary Clinton’s determination to expand the state at every turn.
Trump the businessman has experience in confronting bureaucracy, and the Democrats are prolific regulators. President Barack Obama has imposed costly new rules at a rapid pace. Clinton likely would set new records.

Then there’s the judiciary. Antonin Scalia’s death has upset the delicate balance on the Supreme Court. Turning those appointments over to a liberal Democrat would lose the court for a generation, undermining any future conservative political victories.

America’s international security and standing also are at stake. Clinton had a disastrous hand in her husband’s presidency, noteworthy for the debacle in Somalia, unnecessary war in the Balkans, and broken agreement with North Korea. Then she was the first term Secretary of State for President Obama. What more needs to be said?”

1) What exactly has Hillary Clinton said or done to indicate a “determination to expand the state at every turn”? What is your definition of “expand”, and the vague phrase “at every turn”?
2) Trump the con-man has minions, er, “people” – the “BEST” people – to “confront bureaucracy” for him. And those minions don’t always win, either: it’s probably not a good idea to mention “Scotland”, “golf course” or “windmills” in front of The Donald.
3) Hillary Clinton is not a “liberal” Democrat.
4) WTF did First Lady Hillary have to do with Somalia, the Balkans, and North Korea? How does being “the first term Secretary of State for President Obama” disqualify her? And finally,
5) “What more needs to be said?” A whole hell of a lot more!

Donald Trump’s expected nomination comes as a disappointment for many Republicans. However, by every standard Clinton is worse. Conservatives might reluctantly vote for Trump. But, they should consider a vote
for him nevertheless, if he becomes a standard bearer of our platform. A platform that has made us the majority party in the United States.

Is Trump smart enough to do the right thing and are we smart enough to beat Hillary?

Politics is the art of the possible. That doesn’t mean abandoning principle. But if the good is unavailable, it means preferring the politically unattractive to the politically ugly. Too much is at stake for conservatives to treat the presidential election like a kamikaze mission or for Trump to be dumb.”

Two pieces about “Christian” megachurch pastor and devout Trump supporter Robert Jeffress demonstrate the extremely hypocritical and morally reprehensible “values” of religious conservatives. In one piece, Jeffress defends Trump’s childish tweet in response to criticism of Trump by another Evangelical, Russell Moore, with the equally childish (and un-Christ-like) argument that “Moore had it coming because he provoked Trump.” In the second piece, Jeffress calls Christians who won’t vote for Trump “fools”:

“Pastor Robert Jeffress, leader of the influential 12,000-member First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, declared Wednesday that Republicans who have vowed never to support Donald Trump if he becomes the Republican presidential nominee are “fools.”
“It is absolutely foolish to do anything that would allow Hillary Clinton to become the next President of the United States … at least Donald Trump has voiced a belief in a pro-life movement, he has at least talked about religious liberty as he did last Friday, you don’t hear either things coming from the lips of Hillary Clinton,” he continued.
“I believe any Christian who would sit at home and not vote for the Republican nominee … that person is being motivated by pride rather than principle and I think it would be a shame for people to allow Hillary Clinton four or eight years in the White House,” he said.

So much for ‘separation of Church and State’ – I’d like to see the IRS have a little talk with ‘Pastor’ Jeffress.

This is our daily Open Thread–talk about whatever you want.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, May 14, 2016: The Man Who Would Be Last

Last night’s closing segment of “Real Time” had Bill Maher addressing the accusation that Donald Trump’s popularity is the fault of Liberals. Like so many things Conservatives say, this is the exact opposite of the Truth. But as we all know, in political debate in America, facts don’t matter. They don’t. Regardless of political leanings, when people are confronted with facts that contradict something they believe, they will simply refuse to accept that they are wrong. Most of what Conservatives believe to be true is not, while a substantially lower percentage of what Liberals believe is false. Studies have shown that even Liberals normally willing to be persuaded by new evidence will still cling to about ten percent of their belief system against evidence to the contrary. By comparison, Conservatives are persuaded by almost nothing that contradicts their beliefs, even personal experience. To Conservatives, facts are just somebody’s opinion about Reality. What matters is what you believe to be true. Even when it isn’t. Here’s how Bill Maher responded:

One small but important clarification about something Maher said, the Boston Tea Party (the historical event after which the modern political Tea Party takes its name) was a revolt against a tax cut. King George cut taxes on British tea going to the colonies, thus making them cheaper to sell and harder for the colonists to compete. It was not, as many in the Tea Party movement believe, a tax increase being protested. But Maher is correct that these people have had their taxes lowered since Obama took office. And the problem isn’t that we’re taxed too much, it’s that we’re taxed too little, especially the wealthiest Americans. Taxes are the price we pay to live in a civilized society, and a necessity if we want our government to do the things we actually want it to do. Conservative Republicans often complain about our national debt being too high, but it’s their own fault and something else for which they refuse to accept responsibility. They believed something demonstrably untrue, cut taxes because of it, but continued to increase spending while lying about its effect on the national debt. They constantly claimed that tax cuts for the rich would pay for themselves by bringing in more revenue. It was a position that defied logic and the facts, but they went ahead and kept saying, not only that it was true, but that it was good for America. Then they turned around and tried to say that money spent on social welfare programs and national infrastructure was unjustifiable when our national debt was so high. Yes, they actually tried to make that argument. They still do. No amount of spending on our military is too high to them, but try to find a couple of billion dollars to make poorer people’s lives better and it’s, “Sorry. No can do. There’s a war on.” Except that war is not being financed by a single penny of tax revenue, it’s being funded by deficit spending, the thing Conservative Republicans claim they hate so much. There’s a lot of hypocrisy and flat out denial of the truth when it comes to right wing thinking, so it should surprise no one that Donald Trump will be the Republican Party’s nominee to be POTUS. He’s completely unfit to hold public office, has no grasp of factual reality, and is completely clueless about the nature and purpose of being a public servant.

Donald Trump is incapable of being a public servant because Donald Trump serves one person, and one person only – Donald Trump. His policies are based on either pure fantasy or rampant racism and bigotry. He has no understanding about how diplomacy works, nor why it’s a good thing. He seems to think the POTUS personally negotiates trade deals and treaties with other countries, and that he can do better than all previous presidents have done. The man is not simply a narcissist. Anyone who thinks he or she is capable of being POTUS has to have a big ego to begin with or else they would become overwhelmed by the responsibilities. It’s true of President Obama, Vice President Biden, Secretary Clinton, Senator Sanders, Senator McCain, Governor Romney, Humanoid Dick “the Bruce” Cheney, and everyone else who has thrown his or her hat in the ring. But Trump’s narcissism is in a category of its own. He talks as if he’s never failed at anything in his life when Ivana and Marla could tell you otherwise. So can the several bankruptcies he’s filed for businesses that could not be called “successes.” And the lawsuit he’s facing for his sham of a school that made promises he had no intention of keeping. Yet he’s so thin-skinned that he constantly threatens to sue anyone who tells the truth about him. He even said he wants to limit the freedom of the press and make it easier to sue them for defamation when they say things about him he doesn’t like (such as truthful things, and things that really happened.) His campaign rhetoric has been so atrocious and despicable, that many white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and KKK groups have publicly endorsed him for POTUS. Even David Duke thinks he’d be a good choice for Trump’s running mate.

Apparently Mr. Duke hasn’t thought this out very far at all. I mean, is there any reason why Duke couldn’t be taken out first, then Trump, to prevent exactly what Duke threatened? A David Duke presidency? No, it would be much, much worse than any of that if Trump were to become POTUS. It would mean the end of America. It would mean an end to the greatest experiment in governance in the history of Civilization. Thanks to the Republican lack of support and outright disdain for Education dating back to the Reagan Administration, most Americans are unaware of just how unique this country is. For starters, in just about every other country on the planet, there is an official religion and it’s usually whatever religion the head of the country practices. The USA under our Constitution was the first country to say that would never happen here, and that people would be free to follow any religion they wished free of government interference. Christian Conservatives very much want to change that and make some unspecified version of Christianity our nation’s “official religion.” A President Trump would also bring an end to the rest of the First Amendment, too. Journalists would not be free to publish articles critical of Trump, and people would not be free to peaceably assemble to demonstrate against his inhumane, ill-conceived, and illegal policies. And do you really think the rest of the world will stand behind President Trump when he starts a war with China? No, if Donald Trump were to somehow win the election this November (and I can’t imagine how that could happen without massive Republican cheating and voter suppression of likely Democratic voters), he would be the last person to hold that office. This great country would cease to exist, and something truly evil would take its place. And someone like Ted Cruz and his dad could be in charge of it.

Daily. Open. Thread.