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Posts Tagged ‘politics’

The Symptoms

Recent events have, not surprisingly, stirred up discussions of amending the U.S. Constitution. The presidential elections of 2016 and 2020 have folks crying out for a Voting Rights Amendment, eliminating gerrymandering, abolishing the Electoral College, and guaranteeing free & fair elections. The events since the last election, leading up to the insurrection on January 6, have led to demands to strengthen checks and balances; clearer definitions of treason, sedition, and impeachment; and improvements in the mechanisms to remove a President who is either incapable, unwilling, or opposed to fulfilling the duties of the highest office in the land. Then there are the age-old battles over the 2nd Amendment; the definitions of speech; the role of religion; and the legality of the Senate filibuster, to name but a few.

I suggest to you that these are symptoms, symptoms of a greater flaw in the Constitution itself, a flaw traced back to the very forming of the Union and the penning of the document itself. The Constitution is too difficult to change, and that is its downfall.

The Root Cause

Amending the Constitution is extremely difficult. Article V requires two thirds of both Houses, or two thirds of the legislatures of the States, to agree to simply propose amendments. Then three fourths of the States must agree to enact anything. This has led to the Constitution being changed only 27 times, and only 15 times in the last 200 years. That’s far too few for such a long-lived Republic. In contrast, the Connecticut Constitution (written in 1818) has been amended 31 times; the Ohio Constitution was effectively rewritten completely in 1912; and the Colorado Constitution has been amended an astounding 152 times. The French have rewritten theirs outright multiple times, the last in 1958, and it has been altered 24 times since then. And as far as the UK goes, well, I don’t have enough time to navigate that maze of constant evolution. The U.S. federal government is clearly an outlier when it comes to revision.

I will admit, there are some benefits to having laws that are difficult to edit. Stability and consistency are important to a civil society. Many countries have capricious laws, with whichever tyrant assuming power rewriting everything to punish the “other side”. There is great comfort in having a solid system of laws that the people can understand and navigate. However, I challenge that it is a far greater risk to have an unchanging, unyielding system of laws, especially in a democratic society.

An Immutable Government

There are several reasons why I suggest this, the most obvious being the practical one. Situations change in 200 years. There’s no way that even the wisest man can predict the effects of a written paragraph two hundred years into the future. Concepts once of high import can become irrelevant. Unforeseen issues can crop up. Even the meanings of words and the application of grammar can change in 200 years. There was no way they could predict the affect of the Internet on free speech or the press. There was no way they could understand that muskets would evolve into assault rifles. It was doubtful they even foresaw that Europe would no longer be controlled by monarchs, or a United Nations would be possible, and in no way were they prescient enough to foresee a world facing the threat of nuclear annihilation.

Then there’s the problem of the courts. Having an inflexible Constitution gives the courts far too much power. The courts rely on one thing above all other, and that one thing is precedent. Every interpretation, every ruling, unless countered through an appellate process, becomes a precedent. This is especially true of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is the adjudicator of how this ancient document applies to modern situations, and those judgements become unyielding precedents. And frankly, some of these rulings (Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, for one) are terrible. Terrible precedents not only linger, they linger for a long time. Consider the worst ruling in the history of the Court: Plessy v Ferguson. That magnificent “precedent” stayed the law of the land … for 60 years! That’s three generations of opportunity lost for millions of African-Americans, all because of the inherent racism of the courts in 1896. But precedent it was, and precedent is God. The people never had a say otherwise. The largest counter, the greatest check-and-balance, to the Supreme Court is the ability to amend the Constitution. Yet that is a nearly impossible task. (Side note: Plessy was never explicitly overruled, it just got squeezed into oblivion by various civil rights rulings in the 50’s & 60’s.)

The Philosophy of Democracy

Finally, there are philosophical problems surrounding an unyielding Constitution. The first seven words of the document state “we the people of the United States”, yet that is no longer true, is it? It is “the long-deceased people of the United States”, who wrote the thing, for their people, in their time. It’s not for us, in our time. We have no ownership, no responsibility for it. It’s a relic of days long past, not a document of the present. It’s almost taken religious significance at this point, something to be held in absolute reverence. This makes us adherents to it, followers of its mandates, instead of us being its master and keeping the fate of our country in our hands.

In 1787, George Bryan, former governor of Pennsylvania, wrote an editorial in the Philadelphia Independent Gazetteer. He spoke, at length, about the immutability of the Constitution. “This appears to me to be only a cunning way of saying that no alteration shall ever be made; so that whether it is a good constitution or a bad constitution, it will remain forever amended. […] The consequence will be that, when the constitution is once established, it never can be altered or amended without some violent convulsion or civil war.” Of course, that is just what happened: it took a civil war for the passing of the first three, and the most significant, amendments since the first 20 years of the nation’s founding.

Bryan continued “If the principles of liberty are not firmly fixed and established in the present constitution, in vain may we hope for retrieving them hereafter.” Here’s an example of a liberty that is not fixed and established: the right to privacy. It’s not in the Constitution, only vaguely implied by stitching together other clauses. It should have been delineated in the Bill of Rights. But nobody thought it would be necessary. And now we have serious privacy problems in this Internet age. We’ll never get that particular liberty.

Bryan also foresaw the problem of entrenched power, a problem we certainly have today, with our lifetime Supreme Court appointments and members of Congress able to serve, unchallenged, for decades. “People once possessed of power are always loth to part with it; and we shall never find two thirds of a Congress voting or proposing any thing which shall derogate from their own authority and importance.” The Congress will never agree to term limits, or a balanced budget amendment, or anything else to reduce their power.

So this is where we sit. A document in a shrine, revered and immutable. An entrenched two-party system. A disengaged electorate, unable to set its own direction. An insurrection in the very halls of Congress. If the 3/5ths Compromise was the Constitution’s original sin, the stringent requirements to amend the highest laws of the land is its original flaw.

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The country needs to unite. We need to set aside the conflicts of the past and work as one to move the nation forward.

Um, no. Absolutely not. Not at all. At least, not yet.

We’ve just been through a significant traumatic experience. We’ve had an armed insurrection, a violent incursion into the U.S. Capitol, and the attempted kidnapping and murder of our senior-most elected officials, including the Vice President of the United States. The 45th President just led a campaign of not only lies, but of broadcasted hatred, lasting four full years of his term. We still have threats against the government and the people, from inside the country and, quite likely, amongst the ranks of the military, law enforcement, the federal government, and elsewhere. Unity is not possible right now.

Time for some brutal honesty. Our very society is broken: horribly, horribly broken. These travesties are not symptoms of some mild disagreements, differences in policies or dogma. Divides like these don’t come from tax codes or health care plans, they come from anger and hatred and manipulation and dishonesty. These are serious behavioral problems, and have less in common with public policy debate, and more in common with alcoholism, cultic thought, and spousal abuse. I’ve had personal experience with the first two, and know far too many who’ve had experience with the third. The parallels are glaringly obvious.

Addicts

One thing about alcoholics is true from case to case: they cannot meet any commitment. They cannot be trusted. Always with broken promises. Couldn’t get to work on time; couldn’t go to the Little League game; couldn’t remember your birthday or your anniversary or what day of the week it is. Everything they do or touch is compromised. They are dragged down by their addiction, every action they take is in service of their addiction, and through their inability to do jack squat, they drag down the entire family or entire company or whatever they touch. We’ve just had four years of a president who is addicted to himself, with all the corresponding behaviors of an addict: promises broken, a broken government, a fractured society, and 400,000 dead from a plague that would have been better handled by practically anyone with any level of competence whatsoever. The level of failure by the outgoing administration is outrageous and disgusting.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/its-kind-of-like-an-addiction-on-the-road-with-trumps-rally-diehards-11567762200

Cults

Belonging to cults warps one’s thought process. Cults feed their members lies, lies intended to manipulate their actions to the benefit of their mad philosophies or charismatic leaders. They also develop their own lingo, working to isolate their members from their family, friends, and general society. They convince their adherents that all others are “lesser people”, that they are not “worthy” of “understanding” the “truth”. They are taught not to trust what other people tell them, to disregard experts, and to especially mistrust the press. Cults do this to convince their members that only they are special, that only they matter, as long as “they” serve the Greater Purpose. This is horribly disruptive to families, friendships, societies, and, ultimately, to the adherents themselves. We’ve just seen the result of cultic thought amongst a wide swath of society, leading to violence, assault, and attempted murder. Five people are dead. That’s where cultic thought leads.

Cult Experts Warn That Trumpism Is Starting to Look Awfully Familiar

Abusers

Abusive spouses are the worst of the lot. Beyond the physical violence endemic in such relationships, they are also well versed in manipulative tactics. They continually gaslight, and trivialize, and deny. They divert and dissuade and obfuscate. Everything is “your fault”. “You’re” too stupid to understand, and only “they” know what’s best. You must obey them, even to your own detriment, because they are worthier than you. Everything they do or say is so they stay in power, so they come out on top, so they get what they want, while you sacrifice your own hopes and dreams and even your humanity. They do it out of disgusting selfishness. We’ve seen four years of this very behavior from the very top, and we’re seeing the results now.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/nov/25/trump-trauma-experts-abusive-relationship

Contrition Comes First

In all three cases, there is one thing that’s not possible, and that’s forgiveness, or unity. Sure, you may get some apologies, but these are shallow platitudes. You may get some promises to change, but these will be forgotten. You may receive pleas of forgiveness, but forgiveness is undeserved, because the pleas have no substance. They are diversions and distractions, meant to calm the situation, but the perpetrators will return to their old ways within a matter of days. I’ve seen it, this is what happens, over and over and over again.

What must come first is true contrition. Contrition is, first and foremost, an admission of guilt, an acknowledgement of what one has done, of the wrongs one has committed, of the lies one has told. In this case, there has to be an admission that there was no steal. The election was as free and fair as any we have had. There was no significant fraud. Donald J. Trump lost. He lost because he was a terrible president and hated by the majority of the voting public. That is a fact. There is no conspiracy, no deep state, no secret source known as Q. It’s all crap, a fabrication, a game. A game meant to anger and antagonize and divide, just to give miscreants and criminals an opportunity to seize power or line their own pockets. If you want unity, then first admit what was done was wrong, disavow this misanthropic nonsense, and stop supporting this narcissistic madman and his band of skeezy enablers.

The next step of contrition is to begin to act like decent human beings. Then ask for forgiveness.

Then, perhaps, we can have unity.

[I was going to post some photos of the riots to accentuate the point, but I couldn’t bring myself to do so.]

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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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Recap

Let’s review some events from the last few days:

  • TV and cable news channels over-covered the size of the crowd at Trump’s inauguration. In typical fashion, they dwelt far too long on an unimportant piece of trivia, instead of reporting on the important elements of the ceremony.  This is symptomatic of the standard laziness of most media outlets, and not surprising.

Yet at President Trump’s behest, the official White House press secretary stood in front of the press room … and blatantly lied. He not only lied about something that shouldn’t be important to anybody, but he did so with a level of rage that should be reserved for accusations of treason. Press secretaries don’t do things like that, they are trained to keep their cool under the most trying of situations. Sean Spicer isn’t some newbie, he’s a seasoned veteran of press rooms of all types. But there he is, blatantly lying in the White House briefing room.

So let me get this straight: the federal government is funded by taxpayer dollars. The federal government works for us. The federal government is now being prevented from talking to … us. That’s really what it is. This isn’t “stop talking to the press cuz the press is mean to Trump”, this is the government must stop talking to us. Lots of folks, both Trump supporters and not, hate political correctness and oppression of speech. So we combat that by hiring a guy … who then institutes gag orders on those agencies to stop talking to us? Here you have to ask … why? They won, these agencies aren’t going to make a difference in the coming agenda, they will become the coming agenda whether they like it or not, so why bother silencing them?

  • The White House has reaffirmed their position that millions of people voted illegally in the recent election. No evidence has been presented by any state election officials in any state, Red or Blue, to provide evidence to support this claim; no independent watchdog authority of any persuasion has come forward with any evidence;  and even fellow Republicans have stated there is no evidence of significant voter fraud

Again, why is President Trump even going down this path? His victory was verified, there were no legal challenges, he is President according to the U.S. Constitution and all applicable laws. Yet he continues to manufacture a voter fraud narrative out of whole cloth? For what possible purpose, especially when it would be so much easier to just stop wasting time talking about it and get on with the business of implementing his agenda?

The Question

So now I have to ask that one question I teased in the headline:

Trump supporters: is this really what you signed up for?

I get that you have a lot of complaints with the way things are. The Obama administration actually wasn’t that great. Sure, they had good economic numbers, but those statistics are broad and kinda suck, they don’t really reflect the realities on the ground. There are a lot of regulations that do waste money and hamper job growth (being in IT, I have to deal with Sarbanes-Oxley rules, a large number of which are ineffectual). Urban riots that hit the country in the past few years are certainly bad. The opiate epidemic that has hit many rural counties is horrific. I know I was less than thrilled with our choices this past election. I can definitely see the appeal of massive political change in this country.

But is this really what you wanted? A man so protective of his own image he’ll intentionally lie to the American people; will intentionally muzzle the most unimportant of administrative departments; and will manufacture “facts” out of whole cloth just to give him legitimacy?

I really want to know. I just don’t get it.

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