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Impeachment.  The process has finally begun.

We all thought that the Mueller investigation would make a clear case for impeachment, but there was too much reading between the lines in his long thesis. His presentation to Congress was uneven to the point of impotence, surprisingly for a man of such stature.  Or perhaps putting kids in cages and separating from their parents, violating fundamental human rights, would have been perceived by the political establishment as a high crime.  Bush blew past the Geneva Conventions on torture with no repercussions, so no dice on kids in cages as a rationale for impeachment.  Instead, Trump openly admitted to colluding with a foreign power to dig up dirt on a political opponent who was  engaged in the 2020 political campaign.  Trump forced the reluctant hand of Nancy Pelosi to act on impeachment of a despicable President.

Even for those who look at American institutions with a healthy skepticism given its uneven record on producing political outcomes that represent the will of the majority while protecting the rights of the minority, the impeachment is vitally important to the future of the republic.  There is a lot more at stake than getting rid of Donald Trump, a hollow man who fills the deep void of his being with the very worst human emotions that most of us try to avoid. His narcism requires anger, spite, and hatefulness as fuel and corruption and corrupting those around him to serve his ego and his financial interests comes as second nature.  His corruption has seeped into the institutions and basic norms that have allowed the United States to function, however imperfectly, as the longest standing Constitutional Republic in human history. 

Getting rid of Trump is thereby the first, and most immediately necessary, step in de-corrupting our system of government.  We need to do so not because we like or dislike Trump, but because we have some fealty to the rule of law and a deep appreciation of the separation of powers laid out in the Constitution. Any institutional healing process will need to further expunge lawless Trump appointees, reversal of norm-shattering policies, and the establishment of new constraints on the power of future Presidents to behave in such a manner.  

Before Trump, we took our institutions and the rule of law largely for granted. Yes, there were politics, often nasty in their attempts to sway public opinion, but much of what our civics classes taught us held true.  There was some sense of permanence to the notion of the United States and its 3 co-equal branches of government, competing institutions that balance power.  Trump's actions have shown thus far that this system is actually a good deal more fragile.  Bad actors who show little respect for others and the norms that history and good practice built.  Compromised players in the system will offer little resistance and find themselves complicity in destroying the institutions and relationships that they once held so dear.  

Of course, Trump is not purely an anomaly and is largely a creation of the times.  Money has so inundated the political system it has often drowned out the notions of representative democracy.  If corporate and big money donors can have their say with representatives who do their will and not the will of the people who voted for them, we have broken the system.  The twentieth century saw the rise of an Imperial President who has an incredible amount of power rapped up in the leadership of the Defense and Intelligence agencies.  The War Powers Act and other Congressional and Judicial decisions tried to maintain some balance, but it is clear that the Executive Branch has gotten out in front of the other 2 branches of government.  And let us not forget the Mitch McConnell as minority and majority leader of the GOP in the Senate has instituted a scorched earth politics that have undermined the basic norms of the "world's greatest deliberative body," going so far as to steal a seat on the US Supreme Court.  

These issues need to be corrected so that the system never produces a viable candidate for President with such autocratic proclivities. But it all starts first with upholding the rule of law and maintaining the basic integrity of our elections.  The Republicans will need to choose how they want history to be written about themselves, what legacy they want to impart to their children and grandchildren.  They need to be able to answer the basic question of every generation, did you leave it better than the way you found it?  There is little doubt that the Democrats will impeach because the case has already been made public by Trump himself.  The real question is will the system of checks and balances hold?  Will Republicans fulfill their obligations with history and future generations looking on?  

Impeachment.  The time has come.  Is this political generation up to the challenge or will they fail again?  


 Politics    

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"..And would it have been worth it, after all,

Would it have been worth while,

After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,

After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor—

And this, and so much more?—

It is impossible to say just what I mean!

But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:

Would it have been worth while

If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,

And turning toward the window, should say:

               “That is not it at all,

               That is not what I meant, at all.”

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot


Have you ever lived in a dictatorship?  I have and it feels strange for someone who group up in a democratic republic. There are almost always two realities that people live in.  One reality is similar to the reality I know where people live their lives expressing their thoughts freely.  The other less familiar reality is beyond the line where free speech is drawn, expressing thoughts about the royal family.  Fealty to the autocrat or the royal family comes almost second nature.  Praise in the form of a love of a parent is often expressed. Criticism is either projected onto some other source for the problem or delivered with a double entendre that could easily be explained away as referencing some thing other than the dictatorship. Indeed the Chinese living under the Communist Party have become quite adept at this double meaning speak on social media.  Where is truth in all of these leaps of logic and word games?  Truth can purposefully difficult to ascertain with controlled narratives by autocrats and loyal subjects who have been conditioned to deprioritize truth to the point where its pursuit has lost much value.  

The Diminishing Importance of Truth in American political life.

The American Press has nearly always had a muckracking strain going back to the founding of the Republic. The Progressive Era ushered in a new professionalization of journalism with standards for truth-seeking and truth-telling as we would recognize them today.  The same generations that valued good government, relatively more equal economic outcomes, eliminated de jure racial segregation also created a journalism industry committed to getting the story right, challenging those in power for answers, and pursuing an investigative path in order to ascertain the truth.  These public services are widely viewed as essential elements to the functioning of a democracy.

All of politics is filled with the stretching of truth and the presentation of facts and arguments beneficial to your side of the argument.  A free press referees such discourse, fact checking and challenging leaders and those who aspire to leadership.  As mass media arose, progressive era sensibilities ensured that there would be rules to the road for such fair play and truth seeking.  In 1949, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) published the "Fairness Doctrine," which called for two important principles for those who held licenses to broadcast on public airwaves"

(1) that every licensee devote a reasonable portion of broadcast time to the discussion and consideration of controversial issues of public importance; and

(2) that in doing so, [the broadcaster must be] fair – that is, [the broadcaster] must affirmatively endeavor to make … facilities available for the expression of contrasting viewpoints held by responsible elements with respect to the controversial issues presented.

Furthemore...

The personal attack rule stated that when personal attacks were made on individuals involved in public issues, the broadcaster had to, within one week of the broadcast, notify the person attacked, provide him with a copy of the broadcast (either script or tape), and allow him an opportunity to respond over the broadcaster’s facilities.

The political editorial rule required that when a broadcaster endorsed a particular political candidate, the broadcaster was required to provide the other qualified candidates for the same office (or their representatives) the opportunity to respond over the broadcaster’s facilities.

(Congressional Research Service)

Why did we lose these principles to truth seeking?

We lost these principles and practices for a number of reasons:

  1. A move away from good government/journalism - as political ideology became the over-riding impetus of political life, the scorched earth political discourse (mostly though not exclusively from the Right) meant many were willing to bust the social norms necessary for good government and journalism to exist. 
  2. Reagan's FCC ended the Fairness Doctrine - This move away from valuing balanced journalism came directly from Reagan's FCC which did away with the Fairness Doctrine in 1987.
  3. Cable TV not beholden to the Fairness Doctrine - Fox News was created a couple of years later.  As a cable entity, they would have likely not been held to the Fairness Doctrine, but they could have felt pressure from other credible media sources who were participating in such processes, especially those around endorsing candidates and making political attacks.
  4. Rise of internet social media - Distributed media and information sources creates the space to say anything and to quickly share unverified or blatantly false content. 

Where Do We Find Ourselves in Relationship to Truth?

Al Gore wrote a book called the Assault on Reason in which he described our current sad state of political discourse and the disregard of science and rational thought in our politics.  He was in some ways decrying his victimization by the blowhards of conservative talk radio or the yellow journalism of Fox News that confronted him whether in his failed Presidential bid or in his efforts to convince climate skeptics of the science behind climate change.  The Fox Newsification of a third of the electorate set the stage for a large group of Americans to deprioritize truth to maintain ideological and theological position that fails to hold up to the scrutiny of truth.  Trump laid a claim on this audience demanding that in many cases they sacrifice long-held conservative values, in addition to forgoing a commitment to the truth, all for allegiance to him personally.  

While he assault on truth didn't start with Donald Trump, his personalization of its adherents is new as is the scale and scope of his disregard for the truth The Washington Post noted last week that Trump has lied an astounding 10,000 times in his Presidency.  His followers seem immune to the constant churn of lies big and small.  While some lies may seem inconsequential, the assault on truth matters, whether about his inauguration crowd-size or his most claim that doctors are committing infanticide by killing live babies when speaking about abortion.  Folks are being asked to believe what their very eyes are telling them is untrue.  If you can convince the public to do so, you have created the fertile ground for an autocracy.  

Indeed, the hardcore Trump supporters exhibit the very same phenomenon that I witnessed in the dictatorship.  They will not speak ill of him.  They compromise themselves, their integrity, and their own truth.  How many choose this path and how many of us are willing to fight these attacks on truth with vigor over a sustained period of time will determine how the republic moves forward, and whether we will in fact maintain our democratic nature.  If we falter, we will live in a sad, strange place that hardly resembles democracy, where we trade our integrity and ability to speak freely.  Living in a world of lies to support a dictator, we will be left to say only to ourselves.

               “That is not it at all,

               That is not what I meant, at all.”

 

 

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The ideas of tribal beings.

The human condition is one of conceptualizing and sharing ideas.  The unique identity of each human means that our conceptualization of reality will differ across individuals.  From the early cave paintings to the notion of human rights, human beings ability to posit and consider various conceptualizations of the world is what largely sets us apart from our fellow travelers on Earth.

Humans are also well beyond social beings that we see in a variety of species, but rather have as distinguishing characteristic, a tribal element to their condition.   Humans can and do organize themselves around a shared idea with a multitude of others who share the same idea and with whom many have never met.   These organizing ideas for tribes can be the cause of great accomplishments, from the construction of the Great Pyramids to sending humans to the moon. Tribally-embraced ideas can also stir great passions by their adherents, passion that can boil over to violence when confronted by another tribe with a different set of conceptualizations of the world.  

Interestingly, it is often the more ideologically or geographically similar tribes that have the most passionate disagreements.   The ethnic/religious and other tribal disagreements can be the most terrifyingly intense between those who know each other well, as opposed to engagements where there is little commonality in perspective.  For example, the theological and military wars between Catholics and Protestants or Sunni and Shia experienced greater intensity in our human history than inter-religious wars between the Christians and Muslims.  The devil you know is usually worse than the devil you don't know.  

Spirited debate is the heartbeat of a democracy. 

Humans still immerse themselves in tribal violence.  In the course of human existence, modern liberalism settled on democracy as a means to facilitate peaceful decision making that respects the notion that each citizen has their own distinct set of ideas about how the human social world works, and more importantly how it should work.  We lived millennia in which there were little acknowledgement of the universality of our ability to conceive the world, and that we ought to respect that ability and the outputs of such thinking.  

Instead of allowing tribal disagreements to break out into violence, democracy seeks to bound our disagreements and channel them to a corporate decision making of the whole.  As such spirited debate is the very heart of a democracy, that debate is both a precursor to decision-making and a means to surface different ideas about what should be done. 

There is an assumption wrapped up in democracy that the citizens have the intellectual development required to hold and understand facts about the biological and sociological world. Effective mass public education is required is thereby necessary to maintain a democracy, or a decision making of the whole.  Facts must be established and accepted by all parties.  

Our American democracy finds itself struggling on both points:

  • Facts are under a constant assault by conservative media outlets making spirited debate across the political spectrum difficult as those with like views further self-isolate.  
  • The tribal factionalization of the American left to center-left hurts its ability to build effective movements and perform winning electioneering.

We will explore both in this series.

Part 2: https://wethepeople.care/page/view-post?id=254 

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So you wanna be President?  Who doesn't?!

On an almost daily basis, a new entrant emerges on the Democratic side for President.  Each candidate announcement sets off a range of speculation from the mass media talking heads and the social media chattering class. Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes shift their coverage on Trump/Russia collusion and the government shutdown to allow candidates to preview their campaigns with an initial TV appearances.  Twitter polls and already heated Facebook conversations speculate on the preferred candidates and which candidates are supposedly dealbreakers for their votes in a general election.  

The understandable Democratic zealotry to remove Trump from office in one way or another, has potential candidates announcing earlier than in any other campaign season.  This elongated campaign will invariably suck up much of the oxygen around social change activity and transfer to campaigns, punditry, and electioneering.   In this series, I offer a few cautions as we head into this new period in our history.

Progressives:  Steward Our Energy and Attention 

A full year away from the first primaries, we progressives need to keep our eyes on the current challenges.  The immediacy of the government shutdown certainly helped focus our attention to begin the new year, but there's still so much to do over the next 18 months before the fall election period.  Where we do not believe we will achieve a legislative win, we can frame the issues for the 2020 election and beyond.   Here's what rises to the top in terms of a legislative agenda and a framing of issues:

  • Securing Democracy - HR 1 is an excellent start in confronting the political corruption from the influx of significant sums of money and addressing some of what is fundamentally broken in our democracy.  Issues address include: Automatic Voter Registration, Restoration of the Voting Rights Act, Public Financing of Elections, An End to Gerrymandering, and A Constitutional Amendment to Overturn Citizens United.  These measures would restore faith in the democratic process and create a more just political playing field.   
  • Medicare for All - Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and other progressive coalitions are actively engaged in education and canvassing efforts, pushing the universal health care agenda.  There is broad public support and multiple Democratic candidates are now on board with a measure that Bernie Sanders's first brought to the fore.  We certainly must defend the gains of the ACA, encourage all states to accept Medicaid expansion.  And we must continue to education why the United States should join most of the rest of the world in provide health coverage to all citizens.
  • Green New Deal - There is a growing movement with new entrants like Sunrise who are lifting young voices and taking an adamant stand around the Green New Deal set of policies to fully address the impending and immediate threats of climate change.  In her few weeks on the job, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez provided tremendous exposure to this agenda which also includes economic justice issues.  We need to figure out in greater detail what this agenda means at state and local levels and start implementing.  
  • Immigration Reform - With all the talk about the the wall and border security, it would seem that there is an opportunity to put forward a new framing as opposed to just reacting to Trump administration racism and xenophobia.  I hear many Democrats expressing their support for border security without fully embracing the notion that we need to be welcoming of immigrants.  Immigration reform has been on the table for years, but perhaps now there is an opening to move in a bipartisan manner.  

With firm control of the House and dozens of wins in state legislatures and governorships, progressive and Democrats should keep the focus on issues and making some headway..  Yes, campaigns can help amplify issues, but there is also the risk that a particular policy solution gets solely associated with one candidate and one campaign.  More to come on this topic..

Added a post  to  , democracy

first includes lots of basics, necessary for to function: automatic , restoration of the , of , An End to , A to Overturn #Citizensunited. We call this #Goodstart!

#democrats 


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Week after week, Trump depraves the basic norms of our democracy and human decency. 

Our smaller example happened on Friday when Trump tweeted out ahead of the employment numbers suggesting they were positive.  There are of course, laws against doing so, but this also breaks a fundamental norm about the independence of the data and the departments that collect it. If the data becomes politicized, we will have less trust in the data.  This is what a conspiracy theory President wants.  If you can't trust the numbers and the government that produces them or the law enforcement agencies, that you will have to put your trust in him.  Dictatorships start with these kind of obfuscations of reality that create fear. 

The truth is that if any other President would have done a preview of the employment numbers, the news would have covered it as a major scandal and Congress would have launched an investigation with at least a hand slap admonishment that said don't do it again.  The systems would have fought to protect the norm necessary for a functioning democracy.  For Trump, it was Friday morning quickly to be eclipsed by further news on his starting a trade war with our allies and more foreign policy schizophrenia with an announcement that the North Korea summit was still on.  Even with phrenetic schizophrenia of this President, we must make sure that any undermining of basic norms of our democracy go challenged fully.  It is exhausting for sure, but I fear our failure to challenge is institutionalizing Trump's disparagement of what we need to function as a democratic republic. 

And yet this tweet is nothing compared to the news that barely made the news this week.  The number of deaths in Puerto Rico was seventy times the number originally reported.  4,756 of our fellow citizens died making the hurricane Maria the worst national disaster in our history.  We know Trump's emergency management skills amount to throwing paper towel rolls at victims and that there are still Puerto Ricans without power 8 months later, but the Harvard University study that determined this new death toll is staggering to comprehend.  A hurricane on US territory lead to more deaths that 9/11. 

Activists have rightfully questioned, "where is the outrage?"  Certainly, Hurricane Katrina awakened the nation's conscience about how racial disparities showed themselves in a natural disaster.  George W. Bush was widely ridiculed for his poor management of the disaster and support of his ineffective FEMA chief “Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job.” Except he wasn't and the country let both of them know it.  Brownie didn't last long and Katrina began the long slide of Bush's approval numbers into Sarah Palin territory.  Just 13 years ago, we were better than this.  We've got to be be better than this now and hold folks accountable for poor management of our government for a function that must be done well in a world where climate change ensures the frequency and severity of natural disasters to only increase.  

___

We are Better Than This.  And this is only getting better to the degree that we resist the degradation of our democratic norms and that we fight growing injustice. 

 Resistance is a marathon, a test of our civic endurance, requiring ongoing sacrifices from all of us.  50 years after his death, I'm reminded that Bobby Kennedy let us know that sacrifice is usually not one act of heroism  but rather a sustained, laborious set of daily and weekly struggles necessary to make the change we want to see in the world.  

We come from a people who were willing to sacrifice their comfort and willing to endure the scorn of their peers in the fight for Independence, against slavery, for women's suffrage, for basic worker rights, for civil rights, for the environment and health care.    We have reached one of those moments in our history again.  We can't sit idly by but rather participate fully in our resistance and build a newer world based on justice, then peace. 

 

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“Our is in serious danger. is either totally by the Russians or is a towering fool, or both, but either way he has shown himself unwilling or unable to a campaign to divide and undermine our democracy.”

Added a post  to  , democracy

is lying about . Yet again, the man breaks any we have as a . When the sitting President attacks the previous with no evidence. It is a lie intended to distract us from the closing in on the investigation. #resist

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We call upon the Electors to fulfill their Constitutional Duty to protect against interference from foreign powers. Tag a friend who agrees. #electoralcollege

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We often hear that technology is value-neutral. The argument goes that the new technologies and communication tools can be used for good and for evil. I actually disagree. The communication tools themselves lend themselves to the different forms of social and political arrangements. For example, the invention of the printing press fundamentally changed who had access to learning and how quickly ideas could spread. Its no coincidence that the printing press marks a historical inflection point bringing an end to the Middle Ages and combining with the changing cultural movement of the Renaissance to yield the Enlightenment and the Modern Era. Today's information and communications technologies are having no less dramatic of an effect on our society.

From my current location in Bahrain, I am only a short trip across the Persian Gulf from Iran. I have watched from this relatively safe distance as the Iranians used facebook, twitter and other Web 2.0 technologies to organize themselves during the Presidential Campaign. As it became clear that the election results were corrupt, Iranians (primarily younger and more urban) organized themselves through these technologies to hold mass demonstrations to protest. Iran and the Muslim world had not seen such an outbreak of demanding that the government accede to the popular will since the first Iranian Revolution in 1979.

Over the last month, we've seen the conservative side of the power elites and their militia groups attacked protesters beating and indeed killing those who would raise their voice in protest. Such violence has altered the tactics of the opposition from mass protests to quick, creative and impactful actions organized using the same social network technologies that were employed in the presidential campaign. For example, quick protests lasting 5-10 minutes are organized ahead of time online and dispersed before police and militia can arrive.

The opposition movement is now heading into a period of more muted opposition. Nonetheless, the movement can sustain itself by continuing to be connected through social networking technologies. Online meetings will take place to avoid notice and violence. Creative protests can be devised and disseminated. The distributed energy of the committed masses can stay one step ahead of a centralized government. With sustained activity, Iran could one day be the Muslim democracy that its people want it to be.

Dictatorships the world over must be look at Iran with worry. Countries lead by dictators are having a tougher and tougher time controlling their populations. These difficulties arise because social networking technology lends itself to decentralization, to the easy formation of action networks based on shared interests, and shared leadership. The technology is not value neutral, its empowering the next wave of democracy and human freedom.

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