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.

Under the sun… nothing new, nothing new, only bigger. The coming storm and the Green New Deal…

“I, for one, do not believe that the era of democracy in human affairs can or will be snuffed out in our lifetime. I, for one, do not believe that the world will revert to a modern form of ancient slavery, or to controls vested in modern feudalism, or modern emperors, or modern dictators, or modern oligarchs in these days. The very people under iron heels will themselves rebel.”

These words spoken on November 11, 1940, by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in a speech commemorating Armistice Day, the annual celebration of the end of first World War were prophetic. Spoken a full year and some weeks before it was even understood that there would be another World War. In a time of peaceful sublimity for America, if not for the world, the words were composed at the height of New Deal successes following the Great Depression.
Then, more so than today, the American people still understood the tyranny inherent in the marriage of unbridled wealth and political power, the great house of cards that collapsed in 1929, when the exclusive, privileged world of the financiers, bankers and other wealthy financial predators collapsed under the weight of its own greed, taking most of the country and much of the western world along with it into devastating economic collapse.
The New Deal, a huge, multi-faceted government program that served the common welfare of all Americans, an ambitious program that was vilified in its inception as a socialist dream was an unqualified success, finally brought order into the economic chaos, rebuilding the nation, restructuring our priorities.
But today and once again, our economy is at the perpetual edge of collapse as another and more powerful breed of financial predators than those who caused the 1929 collapse threatens not only our financial system, but the very air we breathe, the water we drink, as they seek to establish a more crippling autocracy than the common welfare of our nation could ever sustain and must not continue to tolerate.  We do so at our own peril.
This is the reason and the necessity for the Green New Deal. And like the old New Deal, this Green New Deal has been labeled a socialist dream. but it may well be the last chance for a peaceful political movement to take us back to a proper and sensible path before inevitable environmental and economic collapse necessitates the kind of violence that will always occur when the rich become too rich at the cost of our common welfare as a nation… the most influential nation in the world… such that collapse here at home will have profound echoing effects worldwide.
The Green New Deal.  If you don’t know what it is… now is the time to find out. Ask me. I’ll tell you how. But don’t wait too long, lulled by the silence and the peaceful sublimities that so often precede the most violent of devastating storms.

“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?

It comes to this…

We expected too much from the Mueller report. It had already done much to expose rampant corruption within the Trump Presidential campaign, leading to the conviction of many prominent members of his campaign leadership, but the job is far from done. Trump’s Attorney General demonstrated reluctance to do his job in yesterday’s letter to Congress. Subsequently, Congress will have to do its job of oversight. And it’s obvious to anyone who has been paying attention to the abuse of power and the unprecedented levels of misconduct that it will take years for Congress to unravel the full extent of corruption within the Trump administration. Even when and if they do, a GOP Senate will continue to protect him because he gives them and their sponsors in the corporate world everything they ever dreamed of, such as a weak Federal government, unable to protect Americans from corporate crime… and tax breaks designed to make the wealthy few even more obscenely rich than they ever dared to hope.

Ultimately, it will take an unprecedented reformation of Congress and the Senate, drastic change that only an informed electorate and a clean sweep of our government through election can effect in order to finally fix the mess that we are in. Maybe, even more than Trump, America itself needs a full investigation. The whole nation, top down, bottom up…

In a democratic republic such as ours, what is the institution of justice if not an expression of our collective and prevalent morality? In any democratically elected government where a candidate for the highest office can publicly… and with confidence… declare, “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters…” then why are we surprised when he corrupts that office he attains through election? Why would we expect such a man to respect the office to which he is elected when he does not respect the normal constraints of morality… when he does not even respect the character of the people who elected him? More importantly, when a corrupt leader upholds those institutions that maintain systemic and visible corruption within our nation’s body politic, why would anyone believe the institutions that administer justice would actually work against him?

Richard Nixon was one of the most corrupt politicians our nation has ever produced, but he managed to rise to the highest office a man or woman can hold… and he did it in spite of what should have been obvious to even the most casual observer, that he pandered to the worst elements of American society. Any man who must publicly declare, “I am not a crook…” deserves close scrutiny at best. Instead, the American people gave him a pass until even his enablers could no longer sustain his power, not even for their own benefit as they had so often in the past. So it is now with Trump. What is it about America that permits men of such a corrupt and cynical nature to become so powerful and virtually immune to prosecution when their crimes are so blatant and visible as to make the concept of justice seem impotent against them, even worthy of contempt?

Maybe it’s a good time to step back and consider where our nation is going. We need to take a long and critical self-appraisal, a serious moral inventory in order to learn exactly who we are as a people, what we have become in relation to those ideals we say that we hold precious and dear. We need to figure out how we managed to screw things up so badly. Then we need to find a way to fix it. It’s quite possible that Trump is not the problem, but merely the symptom… and we’re not going to fix the problem until we finally admit… that we are it.

Is this really about free speech…

….or part of a plan to criminalize dissent and to foster a state-approved political perspective? It’s a reasonable question, since his signing ceremony linked to an executive order has given the dais in the White House to members of right wing organizations like Turning Point, USA, which pays college students to disrupt public meetings of organizations on the left like the Democratic Socialists of America and to spy upon and add professors with opinions they do not deem correct according to their skewed values to a national database which has led to intense public and private harassment of faculty members in colleges and universities across the nation.

In cloying terms during the ceremony, Trump introduced students, portraying them as victims of abuse for their politically conservative and religious views before giving them a national platform in the people’s White House. He then, in the manner of a third world strongman lacking only the iconically be-ribboned uniform affected by dictators, proceeded to threaten public universities with defunding.

Tomorrow, the headlines should read, “New Zealand bans military assault rifles, while in the US, Trump moves to criminalize dissent.” I personally believe our nation is on a very dark path. Please pay close attention. Incremental authoritarian trends are dangerous. Study the history of the Twentieth century and you will see how totalitarian states are born… not overnight, but by slow, inevitable, and unchallenged progression.

At the very least, please watch this unfortunate, purely partisan display and imagine where the rhetoric will take us…

Will democratic government perish…

….when the people lack the will or the wit with which to make intelligent decisions concerning representation and leadership? In an age of unprecedented bias in corporate-owned media, in which the underlying premises of accepted, proven facts can be utterly questioned and even altered in a constant drumbeat of propaganda, can the electorate be so fooled that they begin to believe every packaged lie that is given them?

The election of Trump and his subsequent and unbelievably bad behavior in office challenges the basic assumptions of our Constitution. What happens when… even after this behavior proves consistent and troubling… the public refuses to remove him from office in an election that may or may not be as reliably honest and secure from subversion as we have come to expect? After all, it appears that the constitutional remedies provided in the Articles of impeachment and the 25th amendment are not being seriously considered by the President’s cabinet or the leadersahip of the House and the Senate. What will happen if the “peaceful transfer of power” we have come to expect following our elections is finally challenged?

These are questions that seldom if ever came to mind before the Trump administration began to display an inherent and troubling disregard for both the moral constraints his predecessors respected and the mandates defined by our Constitution. The men who designed our government carefully structured its elements to ensure its lasting applicabilty, with every regard to providing constraints against the possibility of institutional corruption and the danger of autocracy, but they put down a rather large bet upon the idea of a democratic republic. That gamble hinged upon a participating and intellgent electorate.

In 1820, Thomas Jefferson wrote in a letter to William C. Jarvis, “I know no safe depositary of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.”

I believe this is the priority in response to our present dilemma, but like good wine, an educated electorate able to respond to the dangerous and anti-intellectual trends of authoritarian populists takes time.

If we start today……………

Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the Treasure Island Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada June 18, 2016. REUTERS/David Becker –

The better question…

….is not “Who is running for President in 2020?” but rather, “Who is not running for President in 2020.” According to Ballotpedia, a total of 581 hopefuls have filed as a candidate for the White House job thus far:

  • 12 Greens
  • 20 Libertarians
  • 76 Republicans
  • 195 Democrats
  • 278 Others (Whatever that means… Independents, Whigs, Social Democrats, Democratic Socialists, Elvis Impersonating Quakers, Antidisestablishmentarians, Billionnaire Boys Clubbers, Friends of Harry Potter… I don’t really know.)

Feeling left behind? If you feel like America needs your particular and extraordinary skills in the White House, you’ll need to get started right away as the field is growing exponentially and you’ll want some time to be able to stiff-arm, browbeat and otherwise hinder the competition and position your candidacy at the top from day one. Go right now to the Federal Election Commission website at:

https://www.fec.gov/

If you really want to run, you will need both a campaign manager and speech writer eventually, so you may want to consider hiring me, in which case, I would be willing to fill both positions… two for the price of one. My qualifications? As follows:

  • I’m not a lawyer and I firmly believe that what happens in Toledo, stays in Toledo… if you get my drift.
  • I do not now, nor have I ever knowingly spoken to, worked for, consulted with, or even smiled at any Russians.
  • My speechwriting is guaranteed to elevate your candidacy to the highest level possible… or to appeal to the lowest common denominator, electorate-wise, according to your particular audience on any given day or venue.
  • I have absolutely no idea how to run a campaign… and having never done it, I can sincerely state… without hesitation and with the utmost confidence… that in the course of my career, I have never lost a single election.

Not interested? You should be… I mean, everyone else is running, why not you? As the great Athenian philosopher and teacher, Plato once said, “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.” And isn’t that more true in America since 2016, than at any other time and place in history?