The parallax view from here….

“As an American citizen of German birth I finally testify that I am painfully familiar with certain political trends. Spiritual intolerance, political inquisitions, and declining legal security, and all this in the name of an alleged ‘state of emergency.’ … That is how it started in Germany.”  Thomas Mann in response to accusations by the House Un-American Activities Committee that he was a communist.

74a72e9d61ef6e8fb175031b4318632dThe novelist who gave us a classic novel, The Magic Mountain, was an early and fierce critic of Adolf Hitler and the poisonous culture of the Nazis.  Because of his public, even fearless words against them, he was forced to flee his native Germany in 1933, eventually finding refuge in the United States where he became a citizen in 1944.  Yet, even in America, he found himself similarly threatened and hounded by the forces of McCarthyism as he publicly protested and wrote against the oppression of American writers and intellectuals during the infamous House Un-American Activities Committee hearings that amounted to nothing less than fear mongering persecution, eventually leading to blacklisting and even to prison sentences as in the case of the Hollywood Ten.  As a result of his public criticism of yet another fascist movement, he was finally forced to leave the U.S. and return to Europe.

The McCarthy era was a low point in American history, proving beyond doubt that the fears of those Americans like Sinclair Lewis, who in 1935 imagined the seed of fascism could find fertile soil in the American psyche, were more than prophetic,  The House Un-American Activities Committee and the later McCarthy hearings in the Senate demonstrated that “it can happen here” and it did to the extent that the foundations of intellectual oppression and propagation of fear was laid.  All that was lacking was the proper demagogue, a role that McCarthy tried desperately to fill.  Thankfully he was thwarted.  The saving graces of our nation at the time were the decency and strength of its leadership, as exemplified in people like attorney Joseph Welch who challenged McCarthy at the Army hearings, and the power of the free press, the courage of journalists like Edward R. Murrow.  The eventual shaming of the demagogues who very nearly destroyed the character and intent of our Constitution was inevitable, but not before they exacted a terrible price on their victims, literally destroying the reputations and careers of thousands of people on the basis of lies and baseless accusation, creating an environment of fear and mistrust.

All of that seems now to have returned and we are once again faced with the ugly specter of fascist intent and unprecedented demagoguery in the person of Donald Trump.  Time and again, this amoral, despotic individual has proven himself invulnerable to every criticism, moving by incremental steps toward autocracy by pushing against the moral and institutional constraints that we always believed were inviolable.  He toys with Congress, attacks our courts, vilifies his critics, challenges and ruthlessly mocks the authority of anyone in our government who tries to oppose him.

On any given day, one could point to any one of a dozen of his actions as a dangerous precedent, the sort of behavior that would eventually bring down any previous politician… and yet, it almost appears as if he draws strength from every cry of “foul” that comes his way.  What is it that makes this man invulnerable?

Has he so wearied his critics with his lack of shame that they simply give up in frustration?  We know well enough that for all his faults, his enablers are willing to forego any appearance of personal integrity for the rewards they receive when he satisfies their corrupt intent, giving them the license they’ve always craved in pursuit of autocracy.  But now, even his greatest critics within the government seem impotent, utterly restrained from meaningful action against him.

Is it possible that they too see opportunity in the phenomena he’s unleashed?  Are they afraid of him?  Or merely and similarly as jaded as his enablers. The answers may not come from a normal perspective.  Perhaps they will come from a parallax view, an unpopular and skewed perspective from the fringes of our society, from a perspective that may no longer exist in our contemporary culture.  Perhaps it will come from the distance, from the past, from the echoes of what we once held dear but seem, somehow, to have lost.

Where is our Sinclair Lewis?
Where is our Thomas Mann?
Where is our Joseph Welch?
Where is our Edward R. Murrow?

Or have we become the very force that feeds the beast we fear, if not through outright support, then with silent acquiescence?  Is this present circumstance the sum of our failures, the substance of our corruption as a nation?  If we hope to survive, we’d better find out just what it is we have lost and regain it.  And soon.

Time is not our friend.

What is this Green New Deal exactly? And why are Republicans….

…..and neo-liberal Democrats so dead set against it they are ready to dismiss it quite out of hand?

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) were joined by Democratic lawmakers from both the House and Senate on February 7, 2019, to introduce Green New Deal legislation. (Photo- Stefani Reynolds)

Chances are you’ve heard people both praise and vilify House Resolution 109, otherwise known as the Green New Deal, but it’s just as likely that you haven’t really been given a sense of what it is and what it contains.  A bold, expansive document, it is a comprehensive listing of priorities for the Congress and Senate to consider as it tackles issues that many Americans perceive as necessary for the survival of our basic institutions and the future well-being of all Americans… with the emphasis on the word “ALL…”   The document specifically outlines a series of problems that affect every American and provides solutions that benefit our collective interests, addressing not only the devastating and observable effects of man-made global warming, but advancing the perspective that the radical changes we must use to correct them should incorporate methods that benefit every American, such that no single group or segment of our population is forced to bear a disproportionate share of the necessary cost.  Indeed, if all the proposals are implemented, the plan could very well rebuild our infrastructure, strengthen our nation, and provide a more egalitarian economy simultaneously.

I’ll be writing about the Green New Deal in several posts over the coming weeks, but for now, I would like to give you a link to the House Resolution, so you can read it yourself.  Click on the link below for a .pdf file:

HR109 – The Green New Deal

The Resolution is presented in the usual legal format.  I’ve produced a file that presents the same text in a more readable outline form and will post it here soon.

Watch this space !! 

If you do?  You could become an expert on the Green New Deal… able to leap tall misperceptions with a single declarative sentence… able to deflect the speeding bullet-points of right-wing detractors… and you could become the envy of all your progressive friends, while standing for truth, justice, and the American way.

If I could be given a super power, that’s what I’d ask for.

From silence… assent

People prefer not to say it, but it’s there.
Watch him work.
It’s like a symphony and he’s the conductor.
Maybe you don’t want to watch, but you should.
It’s time to wake up and recognize the meaning of it all. Something terrible is happening and we can no longer deny it. The prohibitions of moral compulsion have not constrained it and we wonder, now, if even the rule of law is able.
After all, t’s not as though one man is the source of it.
Trump himself is but the wink and the nod that unleashes those sleeping dogs of incivility and aggression that rested in that dark other room we seldom ever visit for fear of waking the things we would rather deny. We’ve been astounded at how easy it was for him to spark such a movement, but the truth of it is… all he had to do was to know it was there and exploit it. He can’t, then, be rightly accused of inventing a storm that was not his, but just waiting for one who was willing enough to stir it from slumber, to whistle up the wind that now rages around us.
Why cry havoc, after all, when all that’s required is to vent the pressure with the license of a grin? Donald Trump is nothing, after all, but a permissive conduit for all that is vile and suppressed within us. Surely no man could ever deny it… or try to suggest all that which is vain and terrible within the mob he unleashed did not exist before he stirred it to life. It was there all along unexpressed… ready to be tapped, a roiling boil, seeking only his permission to be vented. 
And how good they must feel to be finally liberated, free to express what is never permitted. Profanity laced permission… dog whistles and strokes of intention… approval, encouragement, the wink and the nod that whispers to the sleeping dogs… “It’s okay to be angry. I’m angry too. Let’s be honest. Let’s stop pretending. Let’s finally take back dominion. Let’s take back the nation that’s meant to be ours. Let’s take back the land that was meant to be ours. It was meant to be ours.”
Blood and Soil. 
Blut und Boden.
It’s happened before. Or have we forgotten?
Oh, I know. I’ve heard the connection is purely hyperbolic and the phenomenon should never be taken so seriously as all that. It never is.
That’s how it grows.
In the end, people ask, “How did it happen? How did it ever get so far out of hand? Why didn’t someone see what was coming?”
Who knew?

On Socialism in America…

I wrote this about two years ago and posted it on Facebook, but I think it’s time to dust it off and toss it out there once again along with a couple of others, posts that I will resurrect over the next couple of weeks because there should be a conversation about this contentious subject before the shouting match buries it yet again…

This is long, but bear with me, please. It’s a big subject and cannot be treated with sound bites or slogans, but speaks to the very core of our problems. This is something to which I’ve given a lot of thought, more so lately than ever before…. There is once more a debate, but the subject is often too vague and the voices on each side of it are, even among the unified participants within each side, confused and often angry. This is not a new debate in this country… right vs left, conservative vs liberal, but the debate too often rages around the effects rather than the cause of our differences. Enter Bernie Sanders and the surprisingly popular, if not populist appeal of his socialist ideas…
Perhaps the debate is not about some vague idea of “Conservatism” vs “Liberalism” after all, but speaks instead to something more basic… the economic system under which we live. Perhaps the present, seemingly insoluble crisis is about the failure of an economic system that is, no matter how elegantly you describe it or bend it to heel in academic terms, based upon the base and unsympathetic nature of its driving force, greed… or avarice, if you prefer. 
Perhaps, once again, as it has in the past when there is a vast, even incomprehensible inequity between the rich and the poor, the debate comes down to capitalism vs socialism.
“But hasn’t that been tried and didn’t it fail?”
“It’s been tried, Virginia, but never properly achieved. Yes, there are many nations in the world who live under systems of social democracy, but the Soviet experiment that you’re thinking of was not socialism at all, but state controlled capitalism. Social democracies, however, such as we see in the Scandinavian countries are thriving and they are only weak imitations of socialism.”
“But isn’t socialism undemocratic,, even stifling, a kind of dictatorship?”
“Absolutely not. In fact, socialism is an expansion of democracy to the point that every aspect of our lives, including in the workplace where most of us spend most of our waking moments is democratically controlled.”
“Sounds too good to be true. And if it’s so great, why aren’t more people talking about it”
“Simple answer? Socialism is inimical to capitalists and capitalists own almost everything. After World War Two, our government suppressed socialism, even to the point that espousing the idea was criminalized. People lost their jobs, in universities especially, to the point that, even now, the subject is virtually taboo on campuses in America.. Even the word, socialism, was stigmatized… a product of the Cold War.”
Socialism is possible and probable within the lifetime of any generation that loses the fear of cultural, racial, religious, and gender diversity.  With our current generation, we are very nearly there. When people truly believe in both equality and justice, when equality is inclusive of all people, when the one criteria to fit the definition of “human” is only and merely their humanity alone, we can have a fair and equitable social and political system, one that is as purely democratic as humanly possible under a socialist system.
Is it possible today?
You tell me…
Do you make justice and equality possible?
Or is there some group that you despise?
Can you answer that honestly?
Probably not.We who call ourselves progressive often cannot converse, much less abide in the same room as those who identify themselves as conservative. Can you look me in the eye and say that you feel equal to someone wearing a red ball cap that bears the statement “Make America Great Again”? Or do you feel that such people are flawed, sensing that your own beliefs and ideals are somehow superior? If you want to live in a world where justice and equality are the backbone of civilization, do you mean to make it possible by including or eliminating those with whom you disagree? And just how do you plan to eliminate them from your just and equitable world?  Do you see the hypocrisy? Do you sense the self-deceit, the conflict and the inevitable injustice within the perspective of “Us” and “Them”?
Justice and equality will thrive when we begin to put aside our prejudices.
Impossible?
“Nothing is impossible, Virginia.”
“How can you possibly make it happen? Where do you even begin?”
“It starts with you.”

First, they came for the opposition…

Last night we got a glimpse at what Trump’s future agenda could be during a telephone interview on Fox News, preceded by a monologue and vilifying tirade against critics of the President delivered by Sean Hannity, who might be called Donald Trump’s new Minister of Propaganda on what amounts to State-sponsored television. Before speaking with Trump by phone, Hannity made wild claims and accusations which he accentuated by calling for the investigation and criminal prosecution of Hillary Clinton and many others, including various and former government officials such as the former Director of the FBI, James Comey and other individuals Hannity characterized as criminal conspirators in an attempt to seize control of the government.

In his accusations, Hannity even went so far as to cite specific Federal statutes under which each individual might be indicted. Before the interview with Trump, Hannity spun a narrative concerning the intent of the Mueller investigation, framing it as an attempted coup… making outrageous accusations against specific individuals, fabrications he sought to bolster with contextually cynical misrepresentations in cherry-picked and curiously edited video clips that, if you were at all familiar with the original context, you would immediately recognize as outrageously inappropriate in reference to Hannity’s claims.


The actual phone interview with Trump was every bit as bizarre, with Trump reinforcing the claim that the Mueller investigation was nothing more than an attempt to unseat a duly elected President, an attack by a shadowy cabal of professional government bureaucrats that Hannity and other extreme right wing pundits often and consistently label as “the Deep State.” If it did not represent a looming, dangerous, and dark perspective from a mentally unstable individual in a position of power, these characterizations and clear threats of retribution by the President and his allies against anyone who dares to criticize or investigate him for wrongdoing would be laughable. But, in fact, it’s not in any way amusing. It’s all getting very real… and I wonder if we are not on the verge of a moment in time, the fulcrum of an historical narrative that we will one day identify as the beginning of a sinister evolution.

“The only thing necessary…

…for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” ― Edmund Burke

So… with a false and thoroughly premature public dismissal of the Mueller report, before anyone beyond the Trump-friendly Attorney General, a man who was selected, one has to believe, for his recorded disdain for the investigation, has even had the chance to read its content, Trump declares himself vindicated and imagines himself free to pursue his campaign to flesh out the foundations of his autocratic political stronghold. And why wouldn’t he? Nancy Pelosi made it clear she is not interested in impeachment and the Senate? Trump territory, no spine to be seen therein to take a stand for democracy and justice. What’s good for corporations is good for the Senate and Trump has shown a willingness to play for pay and to dismantle those troubling regulatory agencies in the Federal government that corporations would like to have neutered and unable to inhibit their predatory practices in pursuit of profit.

Trump is free to act as though resistance is quite as it seems… futile. In a New York Times report by Robert Pear, also published on March 25th, we read, “The Trump administration broadened its attack on the Affordable Care Act on Monday, telling a federal appeals court that it now believed the entire law should be invalidated.” This sudden change in direction, a bold move by the Trump administration could entirely undermine and eventually destroy Obamacare, a move that is not only politically unsettling to his own party, but also threatens the stability of the insurance industry… to say nothing of the more than 100 million Americans who may lose their health insurance. But if Trump doesn’t want it? Consider it gone and to hell with the consequence.

In the Washington Post, Jeff Stein and Josh Dawsey reported on the same day that, “… at an Oval Office meeting on Feb. 22, Trump asked top advisers for ways to limit federal support from going to Puerto Rico, believing it is taking money that should be going to the mainland, according to senior administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share details of the president’s private remarks.”  Trump has never been shy about expressing his disdain for the people of Puerto Rico, acting almost as if he is ignorant… or even contemptuous… of the fact that they are citizens of the United States and not foreigners in another poor and powerless “S***hole country” of the Third World as he has so scornfully described some African nations in the past.

Again in the Times, we read a report on Monday by Peter Baker and Nicholas Fandos, “President Trump and his Republican allies went on the offensive on Monday, vowing to pursue and even punish those responsible for the Russia investigation now that the special counsel has wrapped up without implicating him or his campaign in a criminal conspiracy to influence the 2016 election.  Mr. Trump, grim faced and simmering with anger, denounced adversaries who have pounded him for two years over Russian election interference, calling them ‘treasonous’ people who are guilty of ‘evil’ deeds and should be investigated themselves. ‘Those people will certainly be looked at,’ he said.”  These chilling remarks are worthy of any dictator… but certainly not worthy of an American president, nor of any other leader in any nation of the free world.

By taking an unprecedented step in recognizing Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights and receiving Netanyahu as friend and ally, Trump not only bolstered the strong man of Israel’s shaky political underpinnings, but sent a message to another strong man in Russia, his old friend Putin, concerning Russia’s annexation of Crimea that America no longer stands up for oppressed nations around the world.  This sort of unsettling unorthodoxy is never surprising when it is preceded by the name of Trump… and that in itself should be an alarm bell, in that any single event prompted by such dangerous perspectives would normally be enough to rally protest and ensure censure, but as each day passes, marking the bold, uncontested crossing of yet another Rubicon by Julius Trump, our Congress does nothing and the Senate seems obsequious in its silent assent.

All the signs are there… dire threats to his critics and the press, unwillingness to even consider political consequences for himself or his party, the negation of our nation’s treaties and longstanding international alliances, and the embrace of dictators, murderous strong men, and similarly corrupt individuals within the private and public spheres of influence in America.  All that is required of his enablers is that they give him unquestioned loyalty… for which he is willing to provide an open hand and an unfettered, unimpeachable license to steal.

The question, America, is this… what are you going to do about it?