Sunday, January 29, 2023

What Explains America's Pervasive Violence?

  It is all around America, every day.  Sickening violence by our law enforcement officers we commission to protect us.  American on American with firearm violence at an all time high to mass shootings.  Turn on the TV.......and  many of our favorite action/adventure shows depict physical and sexual violence.  Go the the movies.....action adventure films with car crashes and shootouts.   Go to the stadium or sporting event and we are bashing one another on football fields and boxing or wrestling rings.  Go to computer games and more of the same.  It simply is an obsession with us.  


 

I am wondering if our competition via capitalism and cult of individualism in our politics and economic system are an expression of our need to dominate and win at all cost or a result of some innate need to inflict harm out of resentment, fear or survival impulse?  I don't have the answer and our social scientists and psychologists don't seem to either.  It starts early, such as as bullying among our kids in school.  And expresses itself all through our aging process. 

There is no doubt that the culture of Trumpism, to attack and dominate has either unleashed, released our violent urges or Trumpites have modeled such behavior and many of us want to mimic it for some reason or other. 

It is time for a national reckoning on cause and effect and an examination of solutions, culturally and politically.  This atmosphere in which we live is untenable.  For many life  is unlivable, in too many cases literally due to violence done to them.

 

Cruelty is a companion of violence, often a precursor to it.  The ideology of our far right in the political sphere exhibits it every day.  Political leaders in Texas (Abbott) and Florida (DeSantis, Scott) embody the worst of it with their repeated abuse of migrants and citizens alike.  Toughness in the far right culture is a key positive attribute to these people and a small cabal of these types now dominate the leadership in our House of Representatives and are cheered on by many.  

 

I for one find this culture of cruelty oppressive and  intolerable.  But it now dominates our everyday lives.  Ironically the far right espouses the dominance of religion over our politics but the religion they advocate is punitive and fear inducing, not a religion of love and forgiveness.  Our religious leaders have failed us and we cannot depend on them to aid in the humanizing and gentleness of our society.  Our political leaders on the right undermine efforts to create a society that values caring and support for one another.  

I have no answers, but despair is unacceptable.  Hope resolves to perfect the human condition, the goal of liberalism is the answer.  We need to empower more advocates for liberalism in every sphere of our society, political, social, religious and commercial.  Be a liberal.  Support liberals, vote for liberals, worship with liberals and do business with liberals.  That is a beginning. But liberals must remind themselves and be reminded by conscientious conservatives that liberalism can also transition into oppression as world history reminds us.  There is a fine line between freedom, tolerance and oppression.

Let me propose a possible solution to the current environment of violence with which we Americans live.  What is missing from our national culture and governance is the concept of Social Responsibility.  Lawmaking and governance must factor this concept into both lawmaking and administration of government at all levels.  It is sometimes discussed but never has there been an attempt at evaluating government and civic action into the world of commerce/capitalism from the viewpoint of the social impact institutions in those sectors as well as religion.  

So, I'd propose we explore methods of creating oversight of all actions and policies through some sort of Social Responsibility Commission.  Possibly this Commission would have term limited members appointed or elected representing citizens from every State or geographic region of the U.S.A.  It should be non-partisan but consist of representation of both liberal and conservative viewpoints. Cases would be brought much like they are to courts with citizens able to bring cases that are considered to violate the Common Good or the Social Responsibility of the offending institution or organization.  

The Commission should have the authority to either create rewards or sanctions on the acting organizations/institutions whose actions are brought before the commission by citizens.  A clearing house would be needed to screen the issues/actions brought by citizens for their merit for action by the Commission, lest it be overwhelmed by trivia or manipulation.  

What has been missing in our litigation system is this concept of the common good/social responsibility.  This concept, roughed out here would require extensive work to assure fairness and relevance to citizens rights and well being.  The Commission would be a new forum to provide our citizenry the opportunity to have public discussion about issues and actions that impact our daily lives. 

Give it some thought.  I know many of you can greatly improve on this very crude blueprint to save our democracy from self ruin.


Wednesday, January 25, 2023

It's Time To Laugh After So Many Covid/Trump Era Tears


 Matt Friend (@themattfriend) / Twitter'Disgusting, like a dog': See the unbelievable Trump-MSNBC segment (Comedian Matt Friend) - YouTube  

Go to MSNBC, Ari Melber to see the most hysterical impressions of Bernie Sanders and Trump you'll likely ever see.

Thursday, December 22, 2022

How Do Americans Feel About Democracy?

 Democratic ideals in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution  (article) | Khan AcademyThis image depicts a partial democracy; all men, all white.  Americans have moved it forward since the founding of our country.  Do we want to continue with this form of governance?

Pew research tracks how Americans and others living in declared democracies feel about their governing system.  On July 4 , 2022 Pew surveyed citizens about their government.  It is interesting to me that  76% of older citizens  age 50+ responded felt that the U.S. either stand above all other countries or is among the greatest countries;  27% of citizens age 18-49 agreed.  So, it would appear that the longer Americans live here the more we appreciate their country and its government.  Most appreciators are Republicans.  More skeptics lean Democrat.  Puzzling that the Jan. 6 attackers  on the Capitol and Democracy were likely not Democrats.

This Pew study reports that about 2/3 of us say our openness to people from around the world is essential to who we are, with younger people leaning toward this view.

Among the 17 self declared democracies, U.S. citizens ranked #13 believing democracy works well with 58% not satisfied. 85% of us feel we need major changes or need to be completely reformed; most say they are not confident the system can change.  Ironically, about 2/3 of us, from both Parties were confident of our future with Democrats being the most confident.

Another Pew survey reported  in December 2022 looked at satisfaction with democracy and political efficacy, studying the attitudes of citizens of 19 democracies.  The U.S. ranked 16th among those feeling not satisfied with the way democracy was working.  Only 38% were satisfied. The top 6 satisfaction levels ranged from 79% to 57%.  In the U.S. 49% of those satisfied were Democrats or leaned Democrat; 25% of Republicans and R leaners were satisfied. 71% of Americans felt that few political systems allow people like them to have influence. 70%  of them are dissatisfied with democracy  The survey was taken prior to the midterms.  This explains a lot to me about the rise of authoritarianism in America.

Another Pew  study reported on Dec. 7 2022 that 85% of Americans feel our system needs to be completely reformed or need major changes.  We were # 4 of 17 democracies surveyed with the strongest negative feeling. 82% of us are economic optimists, 87% economic pessimists.   

A 2017 Pew study  across 38 countries reported that between 78% to 68% of citizens of democracies supported the idea of democracies and 17% to 30% did not.  49% supported rule by experts, 26% rule by a strong leader and 24% rule by the military.  In the U.S. 14% on the left supported the idea of a strong leader without constraints, 23% in the center felt that way and 27% on the right.

An overwhelming majority in the U.S. believe we are not a model democracy to follow.  46% of us believe our country is run for the benefit of all of us.

Probably an overwhelming number of statistics to absorb but the net net is that while there is hope for our democracy, we have lots of work to do to achieve close to our democratic ideals and ideas.  Which of course is the whole challenge of having a democracy.  It takes work from all of us, work that many of us do not want to do.

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Democrats Answered "What Have You Done For Me Lately?"

This is a “People Power” Moment: It's Time for a Revolution in the Name of  Democracy – UC Press BlogVoters asked Republicans "What Are You Going To Do To Me Now?" So the Red Wave didn't materialize and Blue washed over the electorate. The Call To Activism site listed these Biden administration wins for our citizenry: 

.  The Inflation Reduction Act including lowered RX drug prices

.  CHIPS and Science Act

.  PACT Act for veterans

.  First major gun safety laws in decades

.  Took out the leader of al Qaeda

.  Historic job growth

,  Significant reduction in the national deficit

.  Historic low unemployment

.  Expanded the NATO Alliance and major support for Ukraine

.  American Rescue Plan leading fasted jobs recovery in history

.  First African American woman on the Supreme Court

.  Major infrastructure investments

,  Life saving interventions to mitigate the tragedy of the Covid pandemic

.  Applying the Rule of Law to Jan. 6 insurrection participants and planners

Voters rewarded Democrats with a major historic mid-term election success.

Writer Thomas Clay Jr. and I  point out that the Trump Insurrection administration:

.  Lost 5 million jobs 

.  Killed more Americans than the Nazi's

.  Attempted a coup

.  Got impeached twice

.  Got banned from social media

.  Received and filed more lawsuits that any other President

.  Supported efforts to suppress the vote

.  Stole national security secrets and mishandled classified documents

.  Potentially endangered national security

.  Flushed and destroyed national documents in the White House

.  Voiced more documented lies that any other President 

.  Welcomed the support of avoid racists and fascists and supported them

.  The First President to face state and federal indictments for illegal behavior

.  Advocated falsely that the election he lost was stolen from him

And with this record managed to maintain the support of friends and family members who refused to disavow him and refused to support Joe Biden. 

AMERICAN VOTERS SHOWED WISDOM IN THE MID-TERMS BEYOND MY EXPECTATIONS.

 


Thursday, October 20, 2022

Cast A Fact Based Vote On Nov. 8 2022

Image result for graphic on voting in 2022Republicans are trashing the truth with their bullshit about key issues American voters care about in casting their midterm elaections votes.  Here is some solid truth to drive your vote on November 8 on inflation and crime increases.

INFLATION

We're all feeling it.  The receipt and the grocery store and the gas station.  Food bought for home use is up 13% in the past year. The Consumer Price Index has a target of a 2% annual increase. Republicans tell us it is Joe Biden's and our federal legislator's fault.  NO IT IS NOT.  Data and research tells us it is over 50% caused by increases in corporate prices and resulting profits.  This is hard data from the non-partisan Economic Policy Institute.  And a more than 25% increase in their non-labor costs.  Things like increases in fuel and transportation of goods,  supply chain disruptions,  WTO limits on stockpiles of goods and Covid as well as the impact on the flow of goods like wheat from the Ukraine invasion.  No, Joe and your Democratic Representative/Senator didn't cause these factors.

Democrat's Solutions

Dems are instituting solutions: Such as, major changes in the tax law for 2023 to give taxpayers lower taxes to mitigate the impact of inflation on family budgets, the Inflation Reduction Act and the most recent increases in our petroleum reserves.  Short and long term solutions.  What are Republicans doing?  Nothing but opposing these measures.

 

CRIME

 Always a Republican attack tool, implying the centers of recent increases are our heavily minority populated cities.  Here is the latest data from state crime data and and FBI.  Much of the recent crime increases are seen in violent crimes.  With most of the violence involving guns/firearms.  Guess who adamantly oppose reforms to our gun laws?  Not, Democrats, nor even much loved law enforcement officials, advocating major changes to reduce gun violence  through mass shoots.  No, the leading, top 10 states with the highest per capita violent crimes of murder are Mississippi, Louisiana, Kentucky, Alabama, Missouri, South Carolina, Arkansas and Tennessee, all red states.  Only two blue voting states are on the top 10 list, New Mexico and Georgia.  If you look at violent crime data (murder,  armed robbery, assault, rape), added are Arizona, Michigan, South Dakota.   Crime a big city problem?  Yes, but  the two leaders in violent crimes per capita are Anchorage and Memphis, ahead of the big minority populated cities you usually think of such as NYC, Chicago and LA, who certainly have crime issues they are dealing with.  Oh, and did you know that overall, crime rates are about half today of the rate in 1990 ?

Democrat's Solutions

No, we are not supporting defunding police departments.  Quite the contrary; we are advocating adding crime mitigation with increases in social workers and violence prevention training and staffing.  Democrats are aggressively advocating gun reforms including such measures as increasing the age to purchase, background checks, safety locks on guns and in many cases, limitations/banning of  the purchase of weapons of war by citizens/civilians. 

So, my appeal to all rational voters out there is know the facts on the roots of our major issues and the role our parties play in proposing and initiating government measures to address solutions.  

Vote with critical thinking on November 8. 

 


 

Monday, August 29, 2022

American History Explains Alternative Facts

 Kurt Andersen's brilliant survey of magical thinking in the American historical psyche finally explains to me the evolution of how we got to Trump, Q Anon and all of the current madness.

He explains that it starts with the Enlightenment period in Europe where individuality and intellectual freedom permitted people to believe any damn thing they wanted. They founded the Age of Reason in Europe.  That included freethinkers but it also included the tightly wrapped Puritans who settled in the northern part of what became America and fortune seeking capitalists populating the southern part. Puritans were separatists from the Anglican church, whereas the Pilgrims believed they could coexist with Anglicans and possibly reform that Church.  The latter group populated New England later than the magical thinking Puritans.

Thus, the creation of a sort of Christianity- believing colony which was to be a Utopia, also dedicated to the myth that their religion would be the eternal salvation of the "savages" who greeted them on the eastern shores. Puritans were full of zeal about the end times and certainty about their path to god.  Andersen's analysis of history cites the Puritans as the founders of the Age of Unreason and the tribe to whom we can trace our current Fantasyland segment of society.

And the settlers of Jamestown whose vision was a commercial boom town there and endless riches from  finding vast quantities of gold, neither of which worked out for them, at least, right away. Their legacy is associated with the current capitalist segment of our modern society who have their own form of magical thinking about the pursuit of riches.

Andersen traces our history's connection to the evolution of Protestantism from stiff necked communities of worshipers to charismatic preachers introducing deep emotion and passion into belief and worship with many settlers attracted to camp meetings and chaotic gatherings of believers anxious to find the secret of their salvation through praising and pleading with a deity to grant them eternal life and forgiveness. In the early American years,  snake handling and speaking in tongues came in to vogue as means of worship.

This populists approach to religion and worship led the creation of all forms of bizarre new belief systems such as Latter Day Saints, Seventh Day Adventists, Christian Scientists and Evangelicals, side by side with mainstream protestant communities. 

In early colonial life great fear of so called satanic behavior enveloped communities leading to Witchcraft trials and marginalizing of women.

These aberrant communities of colonists developed side by side with groups of pragmatic realists who began the the process of founding a country based on enlightenment values of freedom, rationality, the rule of law, self governance and freedom from religion for those so inclined. The founders were representative of the reality-based segments of our culture.

From the aberrant communities and the inevitable con-artists in every society came quack medicine, side by side with science-based medicine.  Also, faith healing came into vogue, a weird confluence of religion and medicine.  During this period, as Euro-Americans pushed west, lo and behold the gold so many fantasized would enrich them was discovered and the gold rush had a pretty formidable run.

Andersen equates a prophet of the 17th century named Anne Hutchinson who asserted whatever you want to believe is true to our Kayne West.  Boundaries between fantasy and reality are fogged up, blurry. Thus the creation of myth stories such as Washington's Cherry tree and the myth stories of our early history which are mixed with historic fact teaching in our schools. And the mixing of magic and actual science with medicine and invention.  We dared to imagine that nearly everything was possible.

This mix of fantasy, entrepreneurial ambition and science led to America's industrial revolution and world envy for our innovation. Nearly anything was possible in the American Dream, including the belief that nearly anyone could become rich.

But romanticism and showmanship fueled the American imagination. The majesty of the West became and major obsession with the glories of our great outdoors featured in art and public obsession.  Thus the legends of the Wild West, Buffalo Bill and victories over the resistance of the First Americans evolved into traveling road shows and theater.  Our current gun culture is traced to that period of our history.  

The American belief that nearly anything is possible led to  P.T. Barnum and the huge popularity of traveling shows of the weird, strange and outlandish.  And through our history, belief in conspiracies and  imaginary plots conceived by evildoers and Satan worshipers were abundant. According to Andersen 200 persons were imprisoned, accused of Satanic victimization of children in the 1980's. 

Our science fiction literature and film flow from this mix of reality and fantasy. As do also our theme parks and Las Vegas, not to mention most TV, including so called reality TV which is usually far from reality.  The allure of escapism from reality surrounds American's daily.

Conspiracy beliefs are a small industry in the current day around events like JFK's assassination and 9-11.  Skepticism has resulted in accusations of fake staging of the moon landing and cover ups on alien visitations. According to Andersen, only a third of Americans understand that Co2 is a cause of our global warming crisis threatening our future. 

 Americans love their fantasy films and theme parks including those devoted to biblical stories, not to mention fantasy computer games which followed the 60's psychedelics and fantasies about the counterculture  and New Ageism. Feeling dominated reason.  Fantasy dominated reality.  UFO culture flows from that, according to Andersen, as does our addiction to youth culture and plastic surgery. We are taught to do our own thing.  Realists respond that you are entitled to your own beliefs but not your own facts.

Kurt Anderson further tells us that  today two thirds of us today believe angels and demons are active in our lives.  More than half of us, according to his research believe there is a heaven and a personal deity with human, male nature. A majority of us believe the bible stories are literal. 

Thus, a neurosurgeon can build a huge TV audience pitching unproven fake cures and remedies and a TV con man; no,  two show business con men can be elected President and many believe the most recent was the actual winner of a closely monitored and audited election. Oh, and super-realist computer genius Bill Gates funds a creationist pseudo-science according to Anderson.

So, here we are, America The Beautiful, mixing truth with fiction and reality with fantasy. This is not new.  It connects back to our origins and has a lot to do with innovation of dreamers and  American inventors and entrepreneurs.  I strongly urge you to read Fantasyland.  

Tragically, our magical thinking and fantasy is a bad mix with our politics, governance and civics. The fascism we face might not be so fanciful.


 



 

 


Wednesday, July 20, 2022

How Do We Live With These Fascists?

Image result for Graphic of A Broken American FlagThere is much talk these days about a pending civil war. I for one do not feel that I need to engage these anti-democracy people in any kind of combat as a foot soldier for democracy.  They are just not worth giving up a life for.  I guess I'll just have to depend on our federal military to take that risk should these deplorable fascists launch such a war against what is left of our union. 

I will continue to engage them in mental, verbal and intellectual combat, knowing that convincing them that democracy is a better way to live is next to impossible.  They want authoritarians to make decisions for them rather than engage in the hard work of participating in self government.  These people are authoritarian personalities either genetically or culturally.  That is the way they want to live.

They are going to have to decide if they can live with neighbors who value self governing and or as their 60's moral majority predecessors used to tell us liberals, "Love it or Leave it."

The elections of 2022 and 2024 will likely determine if we will choose democracy or fascism.  I have been warning those around me for many years now that fascism was on our horizon.  It has been lurking in the nooks and crannies of American life for many decades.  Racism has been a major driver to keep it churning inside the American experience.

We are largely dependent on the roughly one-third of our citizenry who do not participate in our elections to join with the plurality of us who believe self government and democracy serve us best.  If we can mobilize enough of the non-participants to join us as the polls, we have a chance to return the fascists to their red communities to suffer in silence.  If that mobilization does not materialize, we pro-democracy Americans will have to either craft ways of surviving fascism or defeating it. 

We pro-democracy Americans will have to become strategic rather than election to election tactical as the promoters of fascism through such decades-old organizations of the Republican Party as the Federalist Society and movement conservatism have done.  Democrats and Liberals have failed to establish long term  strategies on the offensive, looking decades forward as have the Republicans and conservatives.  We have a myriad of  groups competing for funding working various niches of the pro-democracy world who could unite into a much more powerful force for progressive change and reform but haven't.  Their competition rather than cooperation has produced defensive tactical actions each election cycle which has reduced their effectiveness to incremental slowing of fascism but not outright defeat.  But movement conservatism has powered its way through liberal incremental defenses to the point of national crisis evident at this very moment.

We may now have to settle for a grinding pro-democacy education and marketing  process spanning several decades ahead to overtake the fascists.  They were quite clever in embracing Trump and powering his cult like following.  They know what they are doing, but so do we.

Good governance has not been enough to convince the American electorate at large that democracy is of value to their lives.   It is going to take education, persuasion and marketing of pro-democracy thinking aimed at future generations to build the support needed to sustain the success of liberalism and democracy.  Republicans and movement conservatives have done very astute marketing.  Liberals, Democrats and pro-democracy Americans have created laundry lists of policies which are unmemorable and as communicated, unconvincing as our current affairs would suggest.  

Let's unite on the pro-democracy side and build a strategic program.  Or, wallow in the misery of cruel, selfish and punishing fascism.