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Posts Tagged ‘history’

Yesterday’s events at the U.S. Capitol were shocking, but not surprising. The Era of Trump had no other possible conclusion. He is a man of no integrity, and it is not a surprise that his followers would have none as well. 

He is also a wannabe tyrant, and this is exactly how tyranny works:

  • Defame, degrade, accuse, allege.
  • Inflate then demonize then attack the powerless. Attack the press, attack the scientists, attack institutions of learning, attack the arts.
  • Form your own press. Form your own facts. Make your own culture. Indoctrinate the children to your views.
  • Foment distrust, then foment conspiracy, then foment protest, then foment violence.
  • Then ascend to true, dictatorial power.

This has been the pattern throughout the post-monarchial age. It’s the new way to form tyranny, replacing the royal inbreeding of yore. Pol Pot, Benito Mussolini, Adolph Hitler, and a slew of African, South American, Asian, and Eastern European dictators followed the the same pattern, with only slight variations, over and over and over again. Millions have died, billions have been oppressed, as a result. Fascism is a horrible thing to behold, and leaves terrible scars.

But it’s all over now. We won, democracy won, it’s over.

Um, no.

Watching yesterday’s domestic terrorist attack on the U.S. Capitol, I was reminded of November 9, 1923 and the Munich Putsch, known to Americans as the Beer Hall Putsch. Two thousand Nazis marched on the city, but were stopped by police in a violent clash. 16 Nazis were killed, Adolph Hitler was arrested, and other conspirators fled to the hills.

Munich Marienplatz (Wikipedia)

Everyone thought it was over. Ten years later, Hitler was the Chancellor of Germany.

So what happened? Oof, so much.

The penalties for these criminal activities were woefully light. A number of judges involved were Nazi sympathizers and wanted leniency. Hitler was only sentenced to five years in prison, the lightest punishment for such an offense per German law. In the end, he only served 8 months, being released on good behavior, and many others were released outright or served light sentences.

Hitler used his time in court to espouse his philosophies, to the delight of allied judges. His remarks received extensive coverage in the newspapers. He likely gained more followers in his trial than if he just slunk into the shadows. The Putsch was a great propaganda victory for the Nazi Party, accelerating their position in national discourse.

The Nazis killed in the Putsch were treated as martyrs for the cause. They were idolized. Mein Kampf was dedicated to their memory. An annual march (held, ironically, every 9/11, due to the way Europeans write calendar dates) was held in their honor, right up until the fall of the Third Reich. These deaths became a catalyst for cultic indoctrination into the Nazi Party.

All of this happened during an era of great economic challenge for Germany. WWI reparations posed a heavy burden, most directly in terms of hyperinflation. Things were bad for the German people, and financial hardships led to discontent, distrust, and contempt for leadership. This made the climate ripe for the rise of a fascist state.

If one were to put this into a mathematical formula, it would resemble Martyrdom + Propaganda + Economic Failure – Justice = Tyranny. There are obviously deeper and broader factors, but this is a close approximation.

Capitol Putsch (unknown Twitter source)

What does this mean for the United States of America and our current situation? It means we cannot take this lightly. It means we must apply the appropriate level of honest justice to every piece of this seditionist, MAGA movement.

— Those who refused to follow the orders of law enforcement, committed acts of violence against law enforcement, trespassed onto the capitol grounds, committed acts of vandalism or theft on capitol grounds, made threats of violence toward sitting members of Congress, or acts of seditious conspiracy per Title 18, must be found, arrested, and dutifully tried for the appropriate crimes. This must be a nationwide manhunt, involving law enforcement and the court systems within jurisdictions across the country, within the auspices of the law. These individuals must not be left free or given lenient sentences for convenience. Follow the letter of the law and due process, hold trials, and assign the appropriate punishments per existing statutes. There must not be any plea bargains for the convenience of the court, this is a serious matter and must be treated seriously.

— Speaking of law enforcement, there is concerning evidence that police and sheriff’s departments across the country are sympathetic to seditionist causes, or employ white supremacists (the core of this movement). This is not to say that all cops are bad, it is to say that there is enough anecdotal evidence to suggest something is seriously wrong. One need look no further than the difference in response between Black Lives Matter protests and an actual assault on the U.S. Capitol by white rioters. It certainly appears there is dereliction of duty involved, if not in specific response during the incident itself, then in the preparation for what would undoubtedly be a very tense day. Law enforcement agencies must follow up on evidence of collusion or racism by officers, and if it is appropriate, implement the proper correction action including dismissal or referral to criminal prosecution if warranted.

— Anecdotal evidence exists that the U.S. military has also been infiltrated by MAGA sympathizers. The lack of staging of National Guard troops in the District, as a contingency in the event of mass public unrest, is outrageous. It represents an immense failure in judgement at the very least, and suggests it was an intentional act by military commanders or civilian authorities. If there is evidence of intentional actions to prevent appropriate security measures to the U.S. Capitol by members of the Armed Forces, courts martial must be convened.

— Attorneys who have advocated for illegal, improper, or unethical practices or accusations must be held accountable by authoritative bar associations. Bar associations have the authority to regulate the actions of attorneys, and must take actions in these cases. There is a vast difference between ensuring due process for the rights of your client, and using knowledge of the law to circumvent said laws for the profit of yourself or your client. If any attorney has violated the ethics rules of their bar association in support of this movement, they must be disbarred.

— Other civilian authorities must be held accountable if they have worked towards these seditious acts. Whether it’s the Secretary of the Army blocking the staging of National Guard troops, or the Attorney General ordering agents to stand down from a proper investigation, or a media spokesperson blatantly lying to the American people, there needs to be accountability. This could be criminal charges or at least an exposure of their actions to the American people. They must not be let off the hook to become media consultants or lobbyists in the future.

— Donald J. Trump must be impeached. There is no other recourse at this time. Even if he is leaving the White House, there must be a conviction by the duly convened Congress. This would not only prevent him from ever holding elected office again, it would also be a permanent statement in history that his behavior is not to be tolerated. We can never have another President Trump, or else our country is doomed. It would also help to shut him up, stop spouting his garbage, although that would still be a tall order

— Finally, the Executive Branch must be depowered. It is evident that the Presidency has too much authority. Over the decades, the Congress has granted more and more power to the President, giving up their own. This course must be reversed. We need the restoration of checks-and-balances in our federal government. We dodged a very significant bullet, we need to close the gaps before the next tyrant comes along.

This Matters

Now I know what people will say: that I’m advocating a witch hunt. No, I’m not. I am well aware that criminal justice has been used throughout world history to persecute political opponents. That is a tremendously dangerous road to travel, and we must not do that. I am advocating for the use of solid investigatory and evidentiary processes. I’m advocating for the application of appropriate, extant laws, and the enforcement of ethics rules of the various professions. I’m advocating for legal thoroughness. I am also advocating for the harshest possible penalties under those laws, for this is a broad and deep seditious conspiracy against the government of the United States, and not simple vandalism or civil unrest.

This is all necessary. The reality, though, is none of this will be enough. 48% of the voting public supported this administration. That’s a tough pill to swallow. Even if every single MAGA member at the Capitol was arrested and thrown in prison, they represent a tiny fraction of Trump’s support. There needs to be systemic changes elsewhere to fix the problems that led to MAGA. There are legitimate economic concerns across this country, including in the oft-neglected rural communities. Media outlets in this country (and beyond) are failing their duties regarding journalistic integrity to tremendous profits, and that is a nearly impossible nut to crack thanks to the sacredness of the First Amendment. Election interference and voter disenfranchisement are serious problems requiring solutions. Education needs to be fixed, it’s shocking how many people fail to understand basic civics. These are long-term problems caused by long-term neglect, and will not be easy to fix.

Bottom line: we have a choice to make. Do we allow the January 6th attacks on the Capitol to stand, in the hopes that the MAGA movement is a flash in the pan and it will all just “go away”; or do we learn the lessons of the Munich Putsch and put an end to sedition in this country for the next 150 years.

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Also: Angry = Malleable

Polls tell us that people voted for Trump because they’re angry: angry at the economy for leaving them behind; angry at the government for not helping; angry at politicians for doing nothing. It’s understandable, the economy is clearly not serving middle class America. Plus there’s a drug epidemic out there, the threats of terrorism are real, and some parts of the country can’t even drink the water. Yep, lots to be angry about.

There’s a real problem with that, though. When you’re angry, you’re stupid. Science says so.

Anger is a powerful emotion. It evolved in humans as a mechanism to protect oneself, or one’s food, or one’s mate, or one’s offspring. It — like it’s counterpart, fear — is a knee-jerk reaction to a threat. Something threatens you, and your instincts gurgle up one of these two emotions, depending on your likelihood of survival. If your instincts think you can beat back the threat, then anger wells up, raising adrenaline and endorphins, giving you more strength than you normally might have. You can then bellow in rage or outright attack to fend off the threat. Fear is different: if your instincts think you have no chance of survival, they’ll use that nasty feeling in the pit of your stomach to convince you to run away or hide.

Here’s the rub: neither of those emotionally-driven reactions are controlled by the mind. They’re not, because the mind is too slow. You’ll be sitting there, pondering all the options, while that sabre-tooth tiger gnaws on your bones. Your instincts must work, and they must work now, or you’re a dead proto-human.

Let’s fast-forward the clock 10,000 years. Most of the immediate threats to our lives no longer exist (the only one left is, well, Man). So … what good are the strong emotions of Fear and Anger? Well, they’re kinda worthless today, but we’ve had them for sooooo long now, they’re hard to shake. They crop up at the worst times and, because they shut off the thinking mind, they make us stupid.

In some cases, they short-circuit our well-being. An overwrought anger mechanism is the worst sort of demon one can have. You’re a walking Rage Monster, ready to fly off the handle if someone looks at you funny or takes the last Hot Pocket. If you’re self-aware, you seek counseling or find an outlet to keep from tearing yourself or your family apart. If you’re not self-aware, well, you’re probably going to end up in prison. You’re certainly not going to walk around making sane life choices.

The other thing that’s bad about anger is it’s easily manipulatable. You can use all sorts of trickery to trigger an anger response, and media outlets (who are more marketers than journalists) are experts at it. It’s even worse in a crowd, there’s a reason demagogues are successful.

So let’s now couple these two things together: anger makes us stupid, and it’s easy to manipulate people through anger. Here’s the earth-shattering conclusion:

People who are stirring up your anger are doing so to manipulate you into making stupid decisions.

That’s the key story of The Trumpocalypse: between the various right-wing media outlets, the Republican Party, the Christian Right, and Donald Trump himself, enough of the voting public was manipulated into making the stupidest decision of our lives.

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His Fraudulency, The President of the United States

It’s been seven days since America proved, by actual vote, that it’s lost its mind. I am still utterly disgusted. Not disappointed, but actually disgusted. I know things suck in many parts of the country. I know economic statistics belie the misery of underemployment. I know there are a lot of reasons to suspect that America is up against the ropes and isn’t living up to its potential. And there is definitely something wrong with our political institutions, especially the two major parties. Still, I have to ask:

What in the world were you thinking?

I hate to break the news to you, but Donald Trump is a fraud. A masterful marketer? Yes. A reality-show diva? Absolutely. A wizard at real estate? Without a doubt [edit: but many doubts exist]. But in terms of having the knowledge, the skills, the temperament, the dedication, the wherewithal, the understanding, or even the fundamental class & decency necessary to hold the highest office in the land? Absolutely not. In all these terms, he’s a total fraud. You have been duped, my fellow Americans, and you’ve screwed us all accordingly. You elected a snake-oil salesman as President of the United States of America.

This is a man who made his billions riding the vagaries of the real estate market. That’s … pretty much it. He bought low & sold high at the right times, that’s his only primary skill. The rest? It’s all fluff and nonsense. Sure, he has a team of high-powered lawyers to screw over contractors and protect his interests. Sure, he has clever accountants who know how to ride the tax system. But what has he actually contributed to society? Nothing. At least Ross Perot created a couple of early-era tech companies, resulting in thousands of highly paid jobs. At least Michael Bloomberg ran a respected financial research company, providing millions of investors, large and small, with quality information. What did Trump do for anyone other than his immediate family and close circle of sycophants? Create crappy service-sector jobs cleaning toilets and carrying golf clubs Yippee.

Beyond that, what is he? He’s a masterful marketer and self-promoter, that’s what he is. Trump-this and Trump-that, all of these products essentially frauds. Most things with his name on them are just license arrangements, he’s only directly involved in a handful of businesses. He’s nothing but a trademark. He’s the Wizard of Oz: a big, bloated head, floating around, trying to scare people. Behind the curtain? A very small and unimportant man. He’s all show and no do; all bluster and no muster. He has done nothing but promote promote promote, always about himself, never about others. Even his charitable works are under serious suspicion. He’s even screwed over veterans’ causes. First rule of being a president is you must care about the country and its people. He has never, in his sordid history, shown the least concern about anyone or anything other than his own brand.

Shouldn’t a president have some knowledge of how the world truly works? If you think he (or she) should, have you ever listened … I mean really listened … to anything Donald Trump says? Stereotypical marketing blather, that’s all. His statements on how to “make America great again” contain as much understanding and wisdom as an Axe Body Spray commercial. His quotes are right up there with “I’ll paint any car for $99.95” and “makes your colors bright and your whites white” (hmmm, that last one may have been a poor example for a completely different set of reasons). There’s even serious evidence that he’s functionally illiterate. Why would you want such a person in high office? For the lulz?

Finally, shouldn’t a president at least have some dignity? The president represents the entire country. The job simultaneously requires strength and gravitas, neither of which Donald Trump has ever shown. He is weak-willed and goofy, he has skin as thick as a ripe peach and all the seriousness of a bag of gummy worms. He sends vitriolic tweet storms against low-grade comics who pick on him on TV, and spent his debate appearances defending his own penis size. He’s his own caricature, a walking punch line, a joke of the worst sort. This is even before considering his constant stream of insulting remarks made over the last 18 months. How is any of that presidential? Sure, it makes the average fourth-grader laugh, but how does that represent our country, our values? If you voted for Donald Trump as president, you clearly have as much respect for the country as you have for a high school pep squad.

I don’t get it. I honestly do not get it. I do have a suspicion as to where this country is heading, though. Four years from now, it’s gonna look something like this:

 

 

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Book Review

There was only one topic I wanted to discuss in a blog post on Jimmy Carter, and that was how a Presidency could fail. It is as important, if not more so, to study failure as it is to study success. I scoured Amazon & Google for books on the Carter presidency, hoping to find a treatise on how it went so wrong.

Unfortunately, I found myself knee-deep in the right-wing hate machine. Boy, how conservatives use the failings of Jimmy Carter’s presidency as as a way to prop up their own agendas. Book after book after book is set up to just drag the 39th president through vitriol-laden mud, leaping to grandiose conclusions about “character” and “socialism”. Here’s a man, a guy who truly cares about people, whose character is almost above reproach (especially compared to most politicians), treated so harshly by such an abundance of writers, all to “prove” how right-wing ideals are just so great for this country …

Mattson Book

Anyway, before I get too high on my political soapbox, I eventually came across “What The Heck Are You Up To, Mr. President?” by Kevin Mattson. His book isn’t an analysis of the entire Carter presidency, but it is an insightful piece on the infamous “malaise speech” of 1979. Through interviews and research, he assembles not just a narrative on the crafting of the speech, but a collage of the various bad decisions leading up to it. It’s not hateful, or condescending, or serving some personal agenda. It is a fair analysis, a decent read, and, in my opinion, helpful for anyone studying not just the Carter presidency, but leadership in general.

Unbiased, analytical approaches to contemporary political events are rare. They do exist, though. You just have to dig a little deeper to find them.

——————–

Kevin Mattson at Ohio University

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