The Left is Not Extreme – Editorial, The Week in Review

Analysis, Commentary, Opinion
02.22.2020

The Left is Not Extreme

If you listen to the right-wing politicians and pundits spout their invectives against the policies of Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and their supporters who number in the tens of millions you would come away thinking that the progressive wing of the Democratic party are raving lunatics.

Even some of those people who are contending for the Democratic Party’s nomination for president from time to time slip into this irrational fervor.

Universal Healthcare, otherwise known as single-payer or Medicare for all, this is not a radical idea.

Free college or trade school tuition, this is not a radical idea.

Forgiving people their student debt this is not a radical idea.

We have to be careful not to get swept up into heated arguments with those who oppose these policies, because these are not radical positions, and we are not extremists for wanting to see them enacted. Democrats in particular need to hold the line against other democrats who are made nervous by these policy proscriptions, we have to normalize them, and this should not be too difficult because they are normal policies.

Universal Healthcare: There are eighteen countries that offer true universal health coverage: Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

These so-called “first world” countries are all our allies and our biggest trading partners, if they can do it so can we. They have figured out the problem. They all have different systems tailored to the individual needs of their societies. They are leading the way, and it is long past time we figured this out for ourselves.

What is extreme is to promote the belief that universal healthcare is not doable by the United States, that is the extreme position. The we can’t do it position is the position that flies in the face of so-called “American exceptionalism.”

We need to confront the naysayers with the truth, and just tell them to relax. We believe in America, we can do this.

Free universal college tuition is less common than universal healthcare but there are seven industrialized countries that offer this to their citizens: Norway, Finland, Sweden, Germany, and France, Ireland and Australia. If America is going to continue to promote itself as first among equals in the so-called free world, it is time that we move past the nay-sayers, and hold fast to the position that America can do, because America can do anything.

These countries have different ways of funding these programs, but here is how Australia does it.
If you are accepted to a college or university, and you complete your degree program, and you subsequently become employed in a job where you earn more than 50k per year, then you are subject to a tax that funds the entire program.

If you do not complete your degree, or do not become gainfully employed, or if your circumstances change and you lose your earning power due to some unforeseen circumstance than this tax does not apply to you.

If you go to college, and your degree pays off, if you are earning well then you pay in.

This is simple, it is not radical, this should be easy to normalize.

Some people balk at the idea of forgiving the current load of student debt, they get really incensed by it, as if this proposal involves some kind of crime.

The current load of student debt is 1.5 trillion dollars.

The 2017 Trump tax-cuts cost the country 1.9 trillion dollars.

The second round of proposed Trump tax-cuts are projected to cost the country another 1.4 trillion.

The difference between the tax-cuts proposed by the Republican party and the proposal to eliminate student debt is this.

The tax cuts benefit the wealthiest Americans, allowing them to keep more of their money, without requiring them to put it back into the economy, the stimulative effect to the economy is negligible.

The 1.5 trillion dollars in student debt, is held by Americans who are solidly in the middle class, from the working poor to the upper-middle range. Almost forty-five million Americans are carrying student debt. The average monthly student loan payment (which includes principle and interest) is $393 dollar.

Americans spend 17.5 billion dollars per month servicing their student loan debt. If those revenues were freed up to be used by middle class Americans, it would go directly into the economy. It would be the biggest single economic stimulus for our economy that you could possibly imagine.

This is not radical; it is sound economic policy.

The left is not extreme, we just make sense.

Presidents Day – Presidents Speak for Themselves, a Reflection

Presidents Speak for Themselves
A Reflection
Presidents are human beings.

They have all been men (so far), flawed men, everyone who has ever held the office, has been flawed. Some have had heroic attributes. All of them have had craven moments.

There have only been forty-four of them, until now, now we are living through the chaotic and criminal presidency of the 45th.

A couple of other presidents have barely made it into office, only a handful have won the office while failing to earn the popular vote, the 45th is one of them.

The forty-third was appointed by the Supreme Court, it was the first time that ever happened. Nevertheless, all of our presidents have legitimately held the office…until now.

Today the occupant of the oval office, the forty-fifth person to do so Is Donald J. Trump. When he took the oath of office I was prepared to accept him, even though he lost the popular vote. I was prepared to accept him, but I quickly realized that I could not, because there is certain intrigue surrounding his victory that has tainted it for all time. There was foreign interference by the Russians, the conspiracy of his campaign to collude with them and defraud the people of the United States. There was other domestic malfeasance such as; voter suppression, and other shadow campaigns, by actual candidates, and run by anonymous groups on social media platforms that took from the majority of the people the candidate that they preferred.

I was prepared to accept him, just as I had accepted Regan, and Bush who were also elected to the highest office, without my support, or my enthusiasm, or my vote.

I accepted them because I believed that they would uphold the rule of law (even though plenty of illegal things were done during their administration, done in their name and in the name of the American people).

Despite the flaws of those Presidents I believed they would support the American system, the separation of powers, the separation of Church and State, the freedom of the press, and an independent judiciary.

By and large, they did.

The forty-fifth president has not, and will not.

Donald Trump is seeking to undermine the courts, at every turn. He actively undermines our institutions and works to undermine the rule of law. He continues to solicit foreign interference in our elections, and he has turned the instruments of law enforcement against his political rivals.

He dismantles our alliances, pulling out of treaties, starting trade wars, usurping the powers of Congress, and lying through his teeth, to the American people, about what he is doing and what his motives are.

His has declared National Emergency so that he can manage his political problem. He has assumed emergency powers, this is the path to a dictatorship.

This weekend he referred to himself as our king.

He must be stopped.

Consider George Washington, did you know that the city of Cincinnati was named after him. Cincinnati was named after Washington, in his day our first President was affectionately called “The Modern Cincinnatus,” a Roman general from the time of the Early Republic, (c. 519 – c. 430 BCE), who was granted emergency powers by the Senate of Rome, twice, so that he could defend the Republic. He was given the title Imperator and given supreme authority, and on both occasions, upon the resolution of his mission, he laid that power down.

In the same way George Washington set the standards for all future presidents, by refusing to be called anything other than Mr. President, eschewing such titles as Highness, Majesty, Excellency. He served two terms, then he laid down the gauntlet of power, suggesting that to hold power longer would lead the country to an imperial presidency.

Forty-five presidencies later, we are faced with the criminal and corrupt regime of Donald J. Trump.

It is the duty of any person who has ever sworn the oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, to oppose this man and his criminal regime right now.
He has called the free press an enemy of the people.

This kind of rhetoric makes him a threat to the Republic. The power of his office makes him a threat to humankind

Donald Trump should listen to the words of these presidents, and we should listen to him. We should take seriously the things he says and does in our name.

The words of the presidents:

1st George Washington (Two Terms)
“If men are to be precluded from offering their sentiments on a matter…reason is of no use to us; the freedom of speech may be taken away, and dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep, to the slaughter.”
A Real President – April 30, 1789 – March 4th, 1797

2nd John Adams
“The liberty of the press is essential to the security of the state.”
A Real President – March 4th, 1797 – March 4th, 1801

3rd Thomas Jefferson (Two Terms)
“The only security of all is in a free press. The force of public opinion cannot be resisted when permitted freely to be expressed. The agitation it produces must be submitted to. It is necessary, to keep the waters pure.”
A Real President – March 4th, 1801 – March 4th, 1809

4th James Madison (Two Terms)
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
A Real President – March 4, 1809 – March 4th, 1817

5th James Monroe (Two Terms and Last of the Founders)
“Free people seldom intrigue together; because there is no motive for it. Between the leaders however of a free people, and the neighboring monarchs, such intrigues have often taken place, and always will take place, whilst liberty is odious to monarchs, and men can be found base enough to betray her.”
A Real President – March 4, 1817 – March 4th, 1825

6th John Quincy Adams (Lost the Popular Vote)
“The freedom of the press should be inviolate.”
President – March 4, 1825 – March 4th, 1829

7th Andrew Jackson (Two Terms)
“As long as our government is administered for the good of the people, and is regulated by their will; as long as it secures to us the rights of persons and of property, liberty of conscience, and of the press, it will be worth defending.”
March 4th, 1829 – March 4th, 1837

8th Martin Van Buren
“There is a power in public opinion in this country – and I thank God for it: for it is the most honest and best of all powers – which will not tolerate an incompetent or unworthy man to hold in his weak or wicked hands the lives and fortunes of his fellow-citizens.”:
A Real President – March 4th, 1837 – March 4th, 1841

9th William Henry Harrison
“There is no part of the means placed in the hands of the Executive which might be used with greater effect for unhallowed purposes than the control of the public press. The maxim which our ancestors derived from the mother country that “the freedom of the press is the great bulwark of civil and religious liberty” is one of the most precious legacies which they have left us. We have learned, too, from our own as well as the experience of other countries, that golden shackles, by whomsoever or by whatever pretense imposed, are as fatal to it as the iron bonds of despotism. The presses in the necessary employment of the Government should never be used “to clear the guilty or to varnish crime.” A decent and manly examination of the acts of the Government should be not only tolerated, but encouraged.”
A Real President – March 4th, 1841 – April 4th, 1841

10th John Tyler
“The guaranty of religious freedom, of the freedom of the press, of the liberty of speech, of the trial by jury, of the habeas corpus…will be enjoyed by millions yet unborn…”
A Real President – April 4th, 1841 – March 4th, 1845

11th James K. Polk
”Thank God, under our Constitution there was no connection between Church and State, and that in my action as President of the United States I recognized no distinction of creeds in my appointments office.”
A Real President – March 4th, 1845 – March 4th, 1849

12th Zachary Taylor
“As American freemen, we cannot but sympathize in all efforts to extend the blessings of civil and political liberty, but at the same time, we are warned by the admonitions of history and the voice of our own beloved Washington to abstain from entangling alliances with foreign nations.”
A Real President – March 4th, 1849 – July 9th, 1849

13th Millard Fillmore
“The law is the only sure protection of the weak, and the only efficient restraint upon the strong.”
“Church and state should be separate, not only in form, but fact – religion and politics should not be mingled.”
A Real President – July 9th, 1850 – March 4th, 1853

14th Franklin Pierce
“While men inhabiting different parts of this vast continent cannot be expected to hold the same opinions, they can unite in a common objective and sustain common principles.”
A Real President – March 4th, 1853 – March 4th, 1857

15th James Buchanan
“The country is indebted for the clause prohibiting Congress from passing any law respecting an establishment of religion or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press or of the right of petition. To this we are also indebted for the bill of rights which secures the people against any abuse of power by the Federal Government.”
A Real President – March 4th, 1857 – March 4th, 1861
16th Abraham Lincoln (Assassinated, Ended Slavery)
“Whenever this effect shall be produced among us; whenever the vicious portion of [our] population shall be permitted to gather in bands of hundreds and thousands, and burn churches, ravage and rob provision stores, throw printing-presses into rivers, shoot editors, and hang and burn obnoxious persons at pleasure and with impunity, depend upon it, this government cannot last. By such things the feelings of the best citizens will become more or less alienated from it, and thus it will be left without friends, or with too few, and those few too weak to make their friendship effectual. At such a time, and under such circumstances, men of sufficient talent and ambition will not be wanting to seize the opportunity, strike the blow, and overturn that fair fabric which for the last half century has been the fondest hope of the lovers of freedom throughout the world.”
A Real President – March 4th, 1861 – April 15th, 1865

17th Andrew Johnson (Impeached)
“Notwithstanding a mendacious press; notwithstanding a subsidized gang of hirelings who have not ceased to traduce me, I have discharged all my official duties and fulfilled my pledges.”
Impeached President – April 15th, 1865 – March 4th, 1869

18th Ulysses S. Grant (Two Terms)
“Let us labor to add all needful guarantees for the more perfect security of free thought, free speech, and free press, pure morals, unfettered religious sentiments, and of equal rights and privileges to all men, irrespective of nationality, color, or religion.”
A Real President – March 4th, 1869 – March 4th, 1877

19th Rutherford B. Hayes (Lost the Popular Vote)
“I am not liked as a President by the politicians in office, in the press, or in Congress. But I am content to abide the judgment the sober second thought of the people.”
“But at the basis of all prosperity, for that as well as for every other part of the country, lies the improvement of the intellectual and moral condition of the people. Universal suffrage should rest upon universal education. To this end, liberal and permanent provision should be made for the support of free schools by the State governments, and, if need be, supplemented by legitimate aid from national authority.”
President – March 4th, 1877 – March 4th, 1881

20th James A. Garfield (Assassinated)
“In the long, fierce struggle for freedom of opinion, the press, like the Church, counted its martyrs by thousands.”
A Real President – March 4th, 1881 – September, 1881

21st Chester A. Arthur
“If it were not for the reporters, I would tell you the truth.”
A Real President – September 19th, 1881 – March 4th, 1885

22nd and 24th Grover Cleveland (Elected Twice, Serving Two Non-consecutive Terms)
“Officeholders are the agents of the people, not their masters. Not only is their time and labor due to the government, but they should scrupulously avoid in their political action, as well as in the discharge of their official duty, offending by a display of obtrusive partisanship their neighbors who have relations with them as public officials.”
A Real President – March 4th, 1885 – March 4th, 1889, March 4th, 1893 – March 4th, 1897

23rd Benjamin Harrison (Lost the Popular Vote)
“God forbid that the day should ever come when, in the American mind, the thought of man as a ‘consumer’ shall submerge the old American thought of man as a creature of God, endowed with ‘unalienable rights’.”
President – March 4th, 1889 – March 4th, 1893

25th William McKinley (Assassinated)
“Equality of rights must prevail, and our laws be always and everywhere respected and obeyed. We may have failed in the discharge of our full duty as citizens of the great Republic, but it is consoling and encouraging to realize that free speech, a free press, free thought, free schools, the free and unmolested right of religious liberty and worship, and free and fair elections are dearer and more universally enjoyed to-day than ever before. These guaranties must be sacredly preserved and wisely strengthened. The constituted authorities must be cheerfully and vigorously upheld.”
A Real President – March 4th, 1897 – September 14th, 1901

26th Theodore Roosevelt (Two Terms)
“To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.”
A Real President – September 19th, 1901 – March 4th, 1909

27th William Howard Taft
“The intoxication of power rapidly sobers off in the knowledge of its restrictions and under the prompt reminder of an ever-present and not always considerate press, as well as the kindly suggestions that not infrequently come from Congress.”
A Real President – March 4th, 1909 – March 4th, 1913

28th Woodrow Wilson (Oversaw the end of Women’s Sufferage)
“Publicity is one of the purifying elements of politics. Nothing checks all the bad practices of politics like public exposure.”
A Real President – March 4th, 1913 – March 4th 1921

29th Warren G. Harding
“We must not abridge the freedom of speech, the freedom of press, or the freedom of assembly because there is no promise in repression.”
A Real President – March 4th, 1921 – August 2nd, 1923

30th Calvin Coolidge
“The freedom of the human mind is recognized in the right to free speech and free press. The public schools have made education possible for all and ignorance a disgrace.”
A Real President – August 2nd, 1923 – March 4th, 1929

31st Herbert Hoover
“Absolute freedom of the press to discuss public questions is a foundation stone of American liberty.”
A Real President – March 4th, 1929 – March 4th, 1933

32nd Franklin D. Roosevelt (Four Terms)
“Freedom of conscience, of education, or speech, of assembly are among the very fundamentals of democracy and all of them would be nullified should freedom of the press ever be successfully challenged.”
A Real President – March 4th, 1933 – April 12th, 1945

33rd Harry S. Truman (Two Terms)
“Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.”
A Real President – April 12th, 1945 – January 20th, 1953

34th Dwight D. Eisenhower (Two Terms – Hero of the Second World War)
“Censorship, in my opinion, is a stupid and shallow way of approaching the solution to any problem. Though sometimes necessary, as witness a professional and technical secret that may have a bearing upon the welfare and very safety of this country, we should be very careful in the way we apply it, because in censorship always lurks the very great danger of working to the disadvantage of the American nation.”
A Real President – January 20th, 1953 – January 20th, 1961

35th John F. Kennedy (Assassinated)
“Without debate, without criticism, no Administration and no country can succeed-and no republic can survive. That is why the Athenian law-maker Solon decreed it a crime for any citizen to shrink from controversy. And that is why our press was protected by the First Amendment–the only business in America specifically protected by the Constitution–not primarily to amuse and entertain, not to emphasize the trivial and the sentimental, not to simply “give the public what it wants”–but to inform, to arouse, to reflect, to state our dangers and our opportunities, to indicate our crises and our choices, to lead, mold, educate and sometimes even anger public opinion.”
A Real President – January 20th, 1961 – November 22nd, 1963
36th Lyndon B. Johnson (Two Terms, Passed the Civil Rights Act)
“Democracy is a constant tension between truth and half-truth and, in the arsenal of truth, there is no greater weapon than fact.”
A Real President – November 22nd, 1963 – January 20th 1969

37th Richard Nixon (Two Terms, Resigned)
“You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore, because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference.” ~ Last press conference before resignation…
Resigned the Presidency amid Charges of Corruption and Obstruction of Justice
January 20th, 1969 – August 9th, 1974

38th Gerald Ford (Un-elected)
“I believe in the first amendment and the absolute necessity of a free press.”
President – August 9th, 1974 – January 20th 1977

39th Jimmy Carter
“When people are intimidated about having their own opinions, oppression is at hand.”
“We live in a time of transition, an uneasy era which is likely to endure for the rest of this century. During the period we may be tempted to abandon some of the time-honored principles and commitments which have been proven during the difficult times of past generations. We must never yield to this temptation. Our American values are not luxuries, but necessities – not the salt in our bread, but the bread itself.”
A Real President – January 20th, 1977 – January 20th, 1981

40th Ronald Reagan (Two Terms)
“The First Amendment was not written to protect people and their laws from religious values. It was written to protect those values from government tyranny.”
A Real President – January 20th, 1981 – January 20th, 1989

41st George H. W. Bush
We know what works: Freedom works. We know what’s right: Freedom is right. We know how to secure a more just and prosperous life for man on Earth: through free markets, free speech, free elections, and the exercise of free will unhampered by the state.”
A Real President – January 20th, 1989 – January 20th, 1993

42nd Bill Clinton (Two Terms, Impeached but not Removed)
“The road to tyranny, we must never forget, begins with the destruction of the truth.”
A Real President – January 20th, 1993 – January 20th, 2001

43rd George W. Bush (Two Terms, Lost the Popular Vote in the First)
“I consider the media to be indispensable to democracy…that we need the media to hold people like me to account. I mean, power can be very addictive and it can be corrosive and it’s important for the media to call to account people who abuse their power, whether it be here or elsewhere.”
A Real President – January 20th, 2001 – January, 20th 2009

44th Barack Obama (Two Terms)
“We have to uphold a free press and freedom of speech — because, in the end, lies and misinformation are no match for the truth.”
A Real President – January 20th, 2009 – January 20th, 2017

45th Donald Trump (Lost the Popular Vote, Elected with the Aid of a Foreign Adversary, Impeached but not Removed)
“The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, AABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!”
A Fake President, Failing – January 20th, 2017 – One year and one month in, and it cannot be over soon enough.

These words speak for themselves. One of these quotes is not like the others.

The despot uttered it should be removed from office, not because he made this statement, but for this sentiment and his many other crimes.

Vote him out of office, it is the only way to save the Republic.

Remember This:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
– U.S. Constitution, First Amendment

Keep it Positive – Editorial, The Week in Review

Analysis, Commentary, Opinion
02.15.2020

Keep it Positive

This has been a dismaying week in politics for me as a Democrat.

As the political contest has gotten real, and because support for the field of candidates is split three to five ways, things are getting ugly.

It can’t go on like this or there is no chance we will achieve anything resembling unity in the months ahead.

There is a good chance that at least a third of democrat voters are going to feel like the nominee of the party does not represent them, if they refuse to support that person, for whatever reason, because he or she is a democratic-socialist, or because he or she raises money from super-pacs, because he or she might be worth a billion dollars or more, because she is a woman or he is gay, because they are too young or too old, or Jewish or whatever, then we will have ceded the field, and engineered our own defeat.

For all of us out hear in the audience, now is the time to listen, and if you are going to speak up, so it to demand that the candidates, all of them, remain positive.

Admonish your friends if you hear or see them running down the candidates they do not prefer. There is no place for this. It is not the time to be pandering to those people who love to put forward the notion that democrats and republicans are all the same, we are not.

That kind of false equivalency is poison, and the more often it is repeated, the more people believe it, and the more likely it is that the orange menace will be reelected.

Do not play into it.

Keep it positive.

Frank Herbert – Author

I was fifteen years old the first time I read Dune. I had been an avid reader since I was eight years old, when I began reading novels in the third grade. I read the books that inspired me over and over again, I read all kinds of things, but at that point in my life I read mostly fiction, and with that said, at the age of fifteen, I found Dune to be somewhat dense, and challenging.

I had taken that first copy from the carousel of the library at the alternative high-school I was attending. I read it, perhaps not as carefully as I should, but as carefully as I could, and I went to see the motion picture when it came out later that year.

I found David Lynch’s adaptation to be one of the worst movies ever made, and with that Dune passed from my thoughts for a time.

In the summer of 1988 I was visiting a friend in Montana, and I picked up a copy of Dune from the bookstore in Bigfork. I needed something to read on the bus ride home to Minneapolis.

Four years later I was able to engage the book in a completely different way, after the first two pages I was hooked. I was nineteen years old, and in the intervening years I had learned enough and grown enough to understand what Frank Herbert was getting at.

Dune changed my life.

I would read it and all six books in the original Dune series, eight times in sum, as well as everything else Frank Herbert wrote on my quest to absorb his wisdom.

He was a giant.

I have given away dozens of copies of Dune throughout my life, and recommended it to more people than I can count, always with the words this book will change your life.

Many of them came back to me to tell me that it did.

Frank Herbert wrote science fiction, but he wrote science in his fiction had less to do with spaceships and laser beams (though it had those things), and more to do with the science of politics, religion, ecology and psychology.
What is most significant about Frank Herbert’s writing is this: he opens a window for the reader on what it means to be human, and he asks open ended questions about the range of human potential, in a way that allows the reader to believe in those possibilities for themselves.

Frank Herbert is inspiring.

He makes the reader believe that we can do more, be more, see more of the world than our sense sallow…if we are disciplined, if we are attentive to the world around us, and if we cultivate within ourselves the desire to live a life without fear.

He died thirty-four years ago today, when he passed a heroic light left the world.

 

Given First – 2020.02.11
Frank Herbert

Fyodor Dostoyevsky – Author

When I was still a teenager and began to move away from reading science fiction, fantasy, and my comic books, when I got past the authors I had been introduced to in school, the so-called American Classics such as Lewis, Fitzgerald and Steinbeck, it was then that I discovered Dostoyevsky.

A whole new dimension of literature opened up to me, literature became philosophy.

Through the great Russian novelist I came to understand the power of narrative, and its effectiveness at conveying certain truths that are universal to the human condition.

For whatever reason there are no authors more adept at this function than the Russian’s, with Dostoyevsky being the foremost at the craft.

His influence on me was profound.

From Crime and Punishment and Notes from the Underground, to The Idiot and the Brothers Karamozov, which are perhaps his most famous works in English, I spent years all through my twenties and into my thirties tracking down his cannon, until I was left with translations of his notebooks to read, which I did.

I purchased the notebook for A Raw Youth, at a used bookstore in Minneapolis (Majors and Quinn). It was the first one that I discovered, In its pages I could see the way he constructed the arc of his stories, and developed his characters from ego to id, and I found an Imperial Ruble, tucked into its pages, a bookmark left behind by whoever was last to read to it.

The note was wrinkled and faded but still a treasure to me.

I considered Dostoyevsky to be the father of existentialism, and through him I learned to love Dickens, who Dostoyevsky considered to be the greatest author of all time.

It has been one hundred and thirty-nine years since he died, and his influence has not waned.
Given First – 2020.02.09

Dostoyevsky

Why I am Supporting Bernie Sanders – Editorial, The Week in Review

Analysis, Commentary, Opinion
02.08.2020

Why I am Supporting Bernie Sanders

With all of our eyes on the presidential campaign, and the nominating process in the Democratic Party, with all of the interested parties taking up positions and staking out ground in loosely organized “caucuses,” such as the so-called “progressive-caucus,” we have to be mindful of the fact that there is a lot more at stake in 2020 than the presidency.

We need a Democratic president to sign Democratic bills into law, but if we seriously hope to get any of our bills to the signing desk, we need to keep control of the House of Representatives, we need to increase the majority of the democratic caucus in the House and we need to take control of the Senate, we need to send Mitch McConnel packing.

This is why it matters who we pick for our standard bearer.

Even if we lost the presidency, taking control of the Senate would put more power behind progressive causes and give us more effective oversight over the executive branch. We need a candidate who can generate that enthusiasm and get people to the polls, and we need to stick together.

It is not just the presidency that is on the line in this election, it is Congress, and it is not just the 2020 Congress that is on the line, it is the make up of Congress for the next five elections.

The most important thing the legislature will do in the next congress is redistricting, following the apportionment of Congressional seats after the census. If we are serious about pursuing our progressive agenda for the long term, we must control this process. If we want the government to respond to the will of the majority on any number of things: from taxation to gun control, from executive oversight to a woman’s right to choose, from criminal justice reform to the War Powers Act, from…you name the issue, if we want to be governed by the will of the majority we must control this process.

The apportionment of electoral college votes follows the apportionment of congressional districts. We cannot eliminate the electoral college unless we are able to pass constitutional amendments, I will address these numerical challenges shortly.

If we want to see more equitable representation of the majority in the electoral college right now then we must control congressional apportionment and redistricting. If we have simple majorities in congress, and a democratic president who is willing to act, we can make the apportionment process fairer. Even if we don’t have a president willing to change the apportionment laws in US Code Title 2, simple majorities in congress will help us to create congressional districts that represent the people on a more equitable basis.

Keep this in mind, until we get the number of votes in congress, in the House and the Senate, and in State Houses across the country, unless we get a sufficient number of Governors and a President willing to pass a constitutional amendment there won’t be any constitutional amendments and the struggle for justice and equality will have to take place through the legislative process.

There are two ways to amend the constitution: the process either requires that two thirds of the members of both houses of congress vote to approve it, and then it must be ratified by two thirds of the states, or that two thirds of the states call for a constitutional assembly to amend the constitution in which proposed amendments must be ratified by three fourths of the states.

People talk about passing constitutional amendments all the time, but this is a very difficult process and if want to see it happen, to do this we would need:

1. 290 votes in the House of Representatives, the house is currently divided 233D to 197R, there is one independent (who typically votes with the republicans, and there are four seats currently vacant.
2. 67 votes in the Senate, the Senate is currently divided between the democratic and republican caucuses 53R to 47D (this includes independents who caucus with the party most closely aligned to their values) with a tying vote going to the republican voce president.
3. 34 States to ratify, State governments are currently divided between democrats and republicans 26R to 24D, while their legislatures are divided 67R to 37D

These numbers represent the numerical hurdles the people would have to cross in order to affect enduring changes to the structure of our democracy. We cannot pin our hopes on this, it is pie in the sky thinking.

If we intend to do this then we are back to where we began this essay, the absolute need to control the redistricting process after the census, we must have a willingness to change congressional apportionment if we win both chambers of congress and the presidency in November.

We must elect a president who is willing to sign into law enforceable provisions to restrain presidential power, to enforce the authority of congress to engage in oversight, and to reshape the federal judiciary including the addition of justices to the Supreme Court.

We are in a precarious time, and we must hold together, we cannot attack each other with broad labels intended to vilify one another, we cannot afford to pit so-called democratic socialists against so-called corporate democrats, so-called liberal progressives against so-called pragmatic progressives. There is too much at stake to allow ourselves to be divided this way.

We have to resist it.

I know a lot of people who like to pretend that both parties are the same, and they may have a point, but here is the truth: it is not the parties that are the same, the Democratic party and the Republican Party have radically different platforms.

It is the politicians who are the same, because it is the nature of these politicians, regardless of what side of the political spectrum they are on, it is in their nature to be feckless, cowardly, deceptive, ego-maniacs those are the unifying characteristics of all politicians.

This is not to say that they completely unreliable, that they do not love their families, or that they are all wicked people, but it is to recognize that the power of high office attracts the highly corruptible.

There are two tasks in front of us right now, as voters who care about our liberal and progressive causes, as people who ant to see the Voting Rights Act reinstated and expanded, who want to see structural changes to our representative democracy that takes big money out of politics and returns power to the people, who want to see a woman’s right to equal pay, equal treatment under the law and the right of self-determination to be protected, who want to enforce the separation between Church and State, if we want to curb the rise of white nationalists and domestic terrorists; the first thing we have to do is hold together through the next nine months, and we have to bring more people into the voting process, we have to these things thoughtfully, carefully and deliberately, even if the party does not nominate the candidate we prefer.

With that being said, when I look at the field of candidates running for the Democratic Party’s nomination for president, when I look at the size and strength of their respective coalition’s, when I weigh them against each other, I have to conclude that our best bet is to support the candidacy of Bernie Sanders, not because I support all of his ideas, though I am in favor of most of them, it is because he is steady, his support is steady, his message is good, his vision is good for America, and if we all get behind him we will win.

Corruption – Editorial, The Week in Review

Analysis, Commentary, Opinion
02.01.2020

Corruption

We have this tendency to want to talk about our American lives in terms if generations, the designations are largely arbitrary.

This trend kicked off in the post war era, when the so-called greatest generation kicked the next era with a baby boom.

This is important; the greatest generation did not call themselves great, but that generation of Americans sacrificed, they put everything on the line to keep the world free from Nazi tyranny, and the threat coming from the Empire of Japan.

After the war ended and all the soldiers came home, a lot of babies were born, and those kids who were a notoriously selfish bunch had to have an appellation in reference to themselves, and they settled on the characteristic that defined them all, the baby-boomers.

Bill Clinton was the first president to come from that group of entitled, shortsighted, greedy generation, then we got George W, Bush, and now we have Donald Trump.

I left Barack Obama out of the mix, because, his upbringing shielded him from the worst of the boomer’s corruption. He was a decent, hard-working a family man, as John Mc Cain said of him, a good president and doesn’t deserve to be lumped in with the other dunces.

Those other guys, and the overwhelming majority of our elected representatives are all boomers, and this is what I have to say, the boomers have destroyed America.

They’ve been in charge for a while now, and they have been driving us to this end ever since they took the reigns of power; they have been gleefully pitting us against each other, selling out the country’s future the same way the sold out their kids.

They demanded their inheritance before their parent’s were dead, they squandered it on coal and oil, poisoning our air, and water, and soil, all to boost their 401K’s their stock market portfolios, they are planning to strip their children of their Medicare and social security to finance a winter home in Arizona or Florida.

The spoiled children of the greatest generation have lived up to the expectations of their parents; corrupt to the bone.

Saint Thomas Aquinas, Patron Saint of Philosophy, Angelic Doctor of the Church – A Reflection

Saint Thomas AquinasWhen I finally made it to university, I went to a place named for this man, The University of Saint Thomas, in Saint Paul, Minnesota and I studied philosophy there.

It was a grand place, it felt like a university, with its tall stately buildings made from massive blacks of light tan stone, Minnesota sandstone quarried from the hills nearby, when I passed through the arches into the quad I felt like I had arrived.

I studied philosophy, theology and the classics during my time there. Saint Thomas prepared me for advanced studies elsewhere, I continued my theological work, though not as exhaustively as he, his Summa Theologica remains a unique achievement in the history of Western thought, more important for the mode of thinking he transmitted his ideas through, than for the conclusions that he made. His work bridged the gap between the ancient philosophers: Socrates, Plato, Aristotle (and others), re-employing the tools of logic, and discursive reasoning that allowed Europeans to leave the Dark Ages, clearing the way for the Renaissance, the Enlightenment and the Age of Reason that followed.

Saint Thomas died on March 7th, 1274. In 1969 the Church moved the day we celebrate his feast to January 28th, we celebrate his sainthood today. He was Italian by birth, and a member of the Dominican order, a scholastic, and he was famous in his day. He died while making a pilgrimage on the Appian Way, death took him at the Cistercian abbey of Fossanova, and the monks there knowing that he would be famous, and a saint of great renown, coveted the relics of his body.

They boiled his carcass down and polished his bones, preserving all of the water for distribution in the relic-trade, they refused for years to turn his body over to his Dominican brothers, parceling out his bones and the water bit by bit over time, keeping his skull until the very end.

The University of Saint Thomas has a vial of that water in its collection of sacred artifacts, as silly business, really, and beneath the dignity of the intellectual giant that Aquinas was known to be.

There is a prayer that Thomas wrote, it is carved into a column of the main entrance to the school grounds, and I read it every day or recited it aloud every day that I attended classes on the campus in Saint Paul.

It is a prayer that I carry with me still, as if it were written in my heart:

Grant, O Merciful God
That I may ardently desire,
Prudently examine,
Truthfully acknowledge,
And perfectly accomplish
What is pleasing to thee
For the praise and glory
Of thy name
Given First 2020.01.28

Take Out the Trash – Editorial, The Week in Review

Analysis, Commentary, Opinion
01.25.2020

Take Out the Trash

You heard the impeachment managers from the House of Representatives, it is time for the Senate to do their work and clean out the oval office.

Donald J. Trump must go!

Sadly it is not likely to happen. The GOP has turned into a cult of personality, it is not the Grand Old Party anymore, it is now the Great Oligarchichal Party of America, completely unmoored from its founding as the party of Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Eisenhower.

It has become the party of anti-intellectual no-nothings, totally corrupt, self-dealing self-serving garbage, and we have to throw the bums out.

We all know that the republicans in the Senate are faithless, craven cowards. They have abandoned their oath of office, which they never meant to uphold, and they are planning to sell out the constitution for their personal short term political gain.

We must hold them accountable. If they are unwilling to hold Donald trump accountable, the rest of must hold them all accountable, take our country back, and uphold the rule of law.

This means we have to stick together.

We have to stay unified, all the way through the campaign season which is now in full swing.

We have to get behind and stay behind the candidate who captures the momentum, we have to stop letting our idealism get in the way of progress.

Let the republicans have their moment over the next few days, because it is their moment, and there is nothing we can do about it. Let them have it, they can stew in their garbage until the next election when we clear them all out in a clean sweep.

Remember people, this election year is a census year, and whoever control congress controls redistricting, if we let that slip away we give up the whole game for the next ten years.

Trump is getting to be acquitted, not in the interest of justice, but because fifty four Republican Senators are not able to bear witness to Trump’s corruption through the filters they have set up to blind themselves to their own.

Reflection – Ursula K. Le Guinn, Author

Ursula K. Le Guinn

It has been two years since this great thinker moved on to the next world.

She was a hero of mine.

The first book of hers that I ever read was titled The Lathe of Heaven. It was science fiction, but it was so much more. The book spoke to me about the nature of reality, of consciousness, of what it means to be a human being.

She took the title from the writings of the Taoist, Chuang Tzu (book 23, paragraph 7):

To let understanding stop at what cannot be understood is a high attainment. Those who cannot do it will be destroyed on the lathe of heaven ~

Her book, which then recapitulated this warning, took me outside of myself and allowed me to see the world in a different way.

I was sixteen years old at the time, and without realizing it I found that I had been introduced to Taoism (the esoteric tradition), which provided me with a perspective that would shape the course of my life.

I read many other books and articles written by this great lady. When I was in the Navy I found great comfort in the Earth Sea Chronicles, in which she introduced a hero whose greatest enemy was himself, but not himself exactly; his enemy was the shadow of guilt that most if not all human beings carry with them, because they are unable to ask for and accept forgiveness for the things they have done that have hurt or harmed other people, even their adversaries, because they are not able to forgive themselves.

They books were so simple and brief that they could really be seen as fairytales for children to read, and indeed they can be read on that level, but the story is so masterfully crafted that its depth lingers right below the surface.

Two years ago today one of our great luminaries departed from our world, leaving a legacy of literature to light the way for us.
Given First – 2020.01.22