A Meditation: Who Are You?

[NB: Byline check, thanks./~Rayne]

I’ve had this tune stuck in my head for days now while pondering existential crises in the U.K. and the U.S. as well as the full-blast firehose of news this week. Though a British band, The Who asked the right question giving me pause.

The capper in the course of my meditations —  of all bloody things — was this fragment from a speech given late last November by that well-known survivor Rod Rosenstein:

… I visited the nation of Armenia in 1994, just as it was emerging from seven decades of Soviet domination. I gave a talk about public corruption at the University of Yerevan. After I finished, a student raised his hand. He asked me, “If you cannot pay bribes in America, how do you get electricity?”

It was a pragmatic question that illustrated how that young man had learned to think about his society. Corruption may start small, but it tends to spread like an infection. It stifles innovation, fuels inefficiency, and inculcates distrust of government.

We aim to prevent corruption. …

Both this snippet and The Who’s tune brought to mind another couple memorable exchanges I’ve had in the past with co-workers from abroad. One chap I’ll call PDV lived in the Netherlands and loved to visit the U.S., coming over at least once a year to marvel at the profusion of choices we had.

It was early 2000, well before the election, and I remember PDV telling me that one thing he really enjoyed about the U.S. was our freedom. I laughed because I thought he meant the myriad beers he giddily described being offered in one of our chain restaurants, or the ridiculous number of choices in dried pasta in an American grocery store, both of which he had remarked upon in our previous chats.

“No,” he told me. “Your society is free. When you go to the airport there are no dogs, no military personnel except travelers, no police armed to the teeth like military.”

And now we take our goddamned shoes off, allow our bodies to be scanned, tolerate the armed personnel with dogs as if we were sheep being herded.

The other co-worker from overseas I didn’t know as well. We communicated less frequently, I think in part because he felt less connected to the rest of the global business. It made sense; he was in South Africa, nearly half the globe away from my location. I tried to make him feel comfortable during his visit to the U.S. – this was in 2000 – but the smallish company town in which my facility was located wasn’t yet up to world standards.

Not a place one could easily find rusks for breakfast let alone crumpets.

What struck him as odd when he visited was our openness. Not just the manner in which we greet each other, especially here in flyover country where our passive-aggressiveness is well hidden beneath our Midwest niceness.

When I asked him to explain what he meant he said, “You leave everything out.” We didn’t take in our outdoor patio furniture or our grills. We didn’t lock up our personal effects. He said it wasn’t like that where he lived in Johannesburg at the time; if anything was left outside, it disappeared.

I didn’t have anything to say to that. I couldn’t imagine living in such a suffocating fashion.

And yet now years later I have to monitor everything I do with my electronic devices, hide my traffic with various tools, avoid cameras and Blueray and other IoT devices to prevent losing personal information. No one’s stolen my bike from my porch or my gas grill from my deck but somebody knows my age, name, location and they’ve sold it repeatedly without my express permission.

Who are you? the song asks. Somebody knows, and it’s worth a fortune to them; they’ve stolen that information.

~ ~ ~

It wasn’t The Who that entrenched the question into my brain pan. It was the other way around, a moral and ethical question which wouldn’t leave me alone as I watched miserable wretch after miserable wretch compromise themselves this past week.

The question may even have started to embed itself when I revisited Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations  this last month and asked, What is Rudy Giuliani?

He’s not ‘America’s Mayor’ – unless America has become a bat shit insane and lawless place.

He was there at the scene in 2001 when our collective consciousness was hacked and we began to destroy our open society with a police state.

Is this who we are, weak-willed and servile, giving up our freedoms for the illusion of safety and security, failing to question to whom we yield these freedoms?

Because Rudy Giuliani is among the last people we should seek as an authority on security. He is wholly corrupt, the very thing we should be avoiding if we are a free and open society. He conducts his business in the dark, without oversight, which is appealing to a certain kind of client, abusing the faith and trust some have awarded him by simply surviving the demands 9/11/2001 placed on him as a mayor.

In retrospect perhaps he survived not because he was good but because he was so very bad. We have to ask ourselves what didn’t survive but should have had better leaders with integrity lead us through that time.

Did we really survive?

~ ~ ~

2000 and 2010 did serious damage to us; our country arrived at a fork in the road and it took the turn for the worse. Imagine if instead we had refused to accept the SCOTUS appointment of George Bush in 2000 as president. Imagine if our nascent government surplus had become a means for providing health care for all. Imagine if President Al Gore had been able to promulgate his intended policies to halt climate change.

2010 exacerbated the damage begun in 2000 with the aggressive gerrymandering of states so that the public’s true desires were suppressed at the polls in subsequent elections. We have become a nation in thrall to an oppressive minority, one which is willingly corrupted in order to retain its power over what was the largest economy in the world. Gains made for personal freedom have been few and squelched whenever possible.

We are not the government now in place; they do not truly represent America. They are what a rigged system created by corruption permits us.

What is left of us?

~ ~ ~

Which brings me to that question beating a tattoo in my head: Who are you?

By you I mean the person in the mirror. I mean the persons reading this post, which is in itself another mirror. I mean us, the plural you, the collective we, us.

Who are we?

We aim to prevent corruption, said Rosenstein, and yet I have no faith in this statement from him. I can’t see what he has done to prevent what is happening around us now, a steadily increasing occupation by a transnational organized crime syndicate masquerading as a political party, in league with other crime syndicates abroad which are proxies for hostile nations.

I can’t see how his boss Bill Barr is doing anything to prevent corruption, especially when he perverts and corrupts the First Amendment by claiming from a podium that secularism causes increasing drug use after meeting with the head of a pro-Republican media organization. Not to mention his own role in obstructing justice with his gross misrepresentation of the Special Counsel’s report and his lies to the Senate before that during his confirmation hearing.

I don’t see how our law enforcement is stopping a slide toward a wholly transactional society, when Trump can admit to soliciting foreign aid for his personal benefit on camera with an implied return and our top law enforcement and Senate leadership do nothing but blink like deer in the headlights, offering mealy-mouthed platitudes instead of adherence to ethics and faithful application of the law.

The easier question may be who are we not. I hope we are not these corrupt functionaries holding the places meant for persons with real ethics.

We aim to prevent corruption, Rosenstein said. Note how he didn’t say we stop corruption.

If you read the rest of his speech you’ll note he focused on disproportionate and inefficient enforcement, working on consistency to avoid “piling on” in relation to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

And yet here we are, nearly a year later, digging through a mound of corruption, staring at multiple acts of bribery or extortion as well as violations of federal election laws.

Does this look like we’ve aimed to prevent corruption? Had it not been for a determined and concerned whistleblower we might never have realized there was the possibility of rampant corruption here and overseas involving the White House.

Is this who we are, a nation whittled away down to one brave person who felt their personal ethics required more of them than to simply allow this to continue unchecked?

~ ~ ~

My social media timeline is filled with people who are upset about Trump’s agreement with Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. We do not know the terms of the agreement, only that Trump has consented to Turkey’s incursion into northern Syria to attack the Kurds. There is no apparent benefit to the U.S. and definitely no benefit to the Kurds obtained — The Art of the Deal at work once again.

We can’t rule out there was another quid pro quo involved in this agreement because Trump has properties and businesses inside Turkey, having failed to divest them to avoid conflicts of interest.

ISIS members have escaped because their Kurdish captors have been attacked.

There are atrocities recorded – non-combatants including multiple children killed, a human right activist murdered. Our own troops have been pinned down under Turkish attacks, ordered to stand down and not fire back nor protect the Kurds who have been our allies.

We are both collateral damage and party to war crimes. We have been led into this by a man who is corruptly compromised.

Is this who we chose to be?

~ ~ ~

Every day is a chance to make a new choice, to pick a different way forward. Most of us believe we choose every day not to be a society like the one Rosenstein alluded to in his speech, a place where corruption has infected our thinking and we accept it as a way of life.

(Though I refer to him I’m not at all convinced Rosenstein is above a banal form of corruption by complacency. Someone should ask him if merely surviving is enough, if that’s all he wants for an epitaph on his tombstone: He was a survivor – until now.)

I can’t imagine having to arrange to bribe someone to order a service or product, but we do already accept applications on our phones which direct us to goods or services based on payments those providers made to the application developer. When is this a service versus a system of bribery and extortion?

I can’t imagine bribing a school to obtain an education for myself or my children, and yet some people have and do though only a few have been caught out and punished for it, and nominally at that. When does it become commonplace for bribes to be paid in education, or to punish the well-meaning ineligible voter far more harshly than those who engage in bribes?

I couldn’t imagine compromising on the ideal of one citizen, one vote. Yet I know I didn’t get engaged to deter this ideal’s collapse until too late in my own state. It was like a slow-motion train wreck watching a GOP majority legislator elected to office only to trash the idea of a representative republic right here, up close and personal. It’s not as if they were brilliant; I participated in a debate with our local GOP state representative who proved he was as dumb as a box of rocks. But corruption isn’t smart – it’s persistent, determined, ruthless, and often has the money their ethical opponents don’t. Smart didn’t overcome this, expecting everyone to play by the Marquess of Queensbury’s rules in a bloody street brawl.

I should know better now, having become an activist while watching our slide toward fascism after 9/11; engaged in tracking the tech industry only to find it riddled with misogynist and hebephilic scum. And yet a lack of imagination kept me from seeing the big picture.

I couldn’t imagine living in a country where our leaders openly talk about their own corrupt practices on television, ask for foreign interference in our democracy for personal benefit, and the people don’t take to the streets like they did in South Korea or Romania.

Yet here we are – me, typing away at my keyboard, you reading these pixels. Neither of us in the streets as they are in Hong Kong, fighting to preserve what’s left of their democracy.

Who are we?

Who are you?

122 replies
  1. Rayne says:

    Still meditating on this theme. There was a statewide election yesterday in Louisiana. It’s a very long way from Turkey but the problem is evident even in elections for state office. The governor’s race is now in a run-off. Republican Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser won re-election. The GOP has taken a majority of the state senate seats.

    In short, Louisiana has not repudiated the party of Trump – the party of gerrymandering, of voter suppression, of racism, the party that elected and stands behind a corrupt and incompetent president. Louisianans are perfectly comfortable enabling the fascist transnational party of organized crime in their backyards.

    We’re not all of use from Louisiana, but are we like them, willing to support the party proven systematically corrupt just because they look like our neighbors?

  2. P J Evans says:

    I was just reading a quote from Sarbanes, about the Watergate investigation:

    You go into a grocery store and see a whole section of nice-looking tomatoes. You pick one up and it’s rotten on the bottom. You figure, all right, it’s possible to have one rotten tomato. You pick up another tomato and it’s rotten. After eight or ten rotten tomatoes you wonder about the whole grocery store.

    I think it’s time to wonder about the whole grocery store. Certainly many Republican politicians have no trouble with things like voter suppression, gerrymandering, bribery, and foreign interference. I would hope that voters are not okay with that, but a lot of them seem to think that it’s just the other guys who are rotten. And the media are not helping – they ignore the rot and claim it’s fine.
    I’m not sure about all of the Democrats, but I think many of them are still honest.

  3. Nehoa says:

    I had just finished reading an article sent to me, “Russian-style Kleptocracy is Infiltrating America,” by Franklin For in the Atlantic (March 2019) when I saw this post. The article describes how Russia was looted by the new elites there and how the looters parked their money in the U.S., the U.K. and other “safe” havens. It also noted that the looters were using their wealth to influence the institutions in those countries to help protect their fortunes. Lawyers, accountants, lobbyists, banks and politicians were all being corrupted. Clearly in the U.S. the GOP became a willing participant in the process, and when the Roberts court issued Citizens United, the floodgates for foreign dark money burst wide open corrupting our political process even further.
    The troubles that we have today in Trump’s America have old roots, but looted foreign money really exacerbated the problems and became turbocharged after CU.
    I hope the the New York AG rips open the NRA and determines where their money has come from over the last 10 years. That might help to kick start the process of pushing back the tide of dark money. We need to articulate the role that CJ Roberts has played in enabling the corruption of our country. I would include his alternate-world reasoning on the gutting of the Voting Rights Act in 2013.

    • rip says:

      Britain (no longer Great), especially London, was particularly hit by the influx of manufactured money (roubles). Paris and other European capitals have seen ridiculous amounts paid for properties that have usually had an understandable fluctuation in value.

      Now New York City and other US metropolitan areas are hit by the influx of bogus buyers. Vancouver, BC, Canada as well as others have seen this from Chinese investors.

      With the inability of the regulatory systems to keep up with the fraudulent transfers, these will continue and increase. One possible outcome is a debilitating inflation. Perhaps this is a goal for some?

      • BeingThere says:

        It’s been noted that Brexit, for some, is all about protecting the offshore tax havens. The EU is looking into them (the tax Haven’s and loopholes) and there’s a movement towards restrictions being mposed on hiding and hidden money.
        Putin & cronies have much cash stashed away via these channels, which aside to sanctions, could be locked out of reach. Likewise the wealthy (Tory) establishment is being pitched the same fears as an excuse to leave the EU to retain access to that cash.
        Some of the details collected up here: https://badboysofbrexit.com/

        • BeingThere says:

          Appols for grammatical typos, auto correct jumped in unnoticed while editing. The link above is to a site by minister of European parliament Molly Scott Cato MEP

      • Lulymay says:

        They were also purchasing time shares at a very nice resort in the Canary Island when I was there back in 1994.

  4. Rob Gargett says:

    I’m half tempted to quote Shrek: “Grab your torch and pitchfork!” However, I’m not a subversive, and besides, the NSA and Secret Service prolly have your number. So, I’ll refrain. Other than that, nice day if it don’t rain. Keep fighting the good fight, Rayne!

    • Rayne says:

      Think again about the label ‘subversive’: what are you saying about the nature of fighting an openly corrupt and illegitimate presidency?

      Nice to see you again, been a while. Folks in this community will recognize you as CanuckStuckInMuck — you might wish to revert to that username.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Echoing Rayne’s comment, I would say Trump is the subversive. Most of his corruption has not been legal, either, it’s just been hidden, so there’s no cover there once the sun starts to shine.

      I suspect his big hope is that what he has done in public, because he’s been so open and notorious about it, is his get out of jail free card. I’d like to think not.

      • BobCon says:

        It’s worth noting that law enforcement is heavily biased toward treating even pacifists like the Quakers as subversives rather than openly violent white supremacy movements.

        There has been a grudging admission after multiple mass shootings that definitions of subversives might need changing — maybe the disturbing “joke” video of Trump on a killing spree shown at a Trump resort will help shift the dial another millimeter.

      • Mainmata says:

        No question that Trump’s entire behavior and belief system is subversive both to the rule of law and what some people call long-standing governance norms. OTOH, he was also an inevitable outcome of the GOP’s degradation into a party of oligarchs, white supremacists and blatant corruption. Even Gingrich and DeLay just accelerated the political extremism that emerged during the Reagan administration.

        Rayne’s essay was a very good one. I would only add that a lot of people in Washington and in politics generally knew that Trump was grossly corrupt and ignorant but chose to either look away or enable him. Our country would really be in trouble if Trump wasn’t so incompetent and lazy. But the GOP will inevitably nominate a competent criminal one of these days and, if the Democrats get the trifecta in 2020, the paramount role and power of Congress needs to be re-established to prevent the unchecked abuse of power.

        • Rayne says:

          Ask a New Yorker if they knew Trump was corrupt since the late 1970s.

          The problem was and is combination of incuriosity and unearned trust by middle America, combined with the ability of the entertainment industry to produce mirages. The Apprentice is the biggest single reason why Trump was elected. Joe SixPack believed what they saw on TV without questioning its veracity. For 13 years this mangled tangerine hellbeast was invited into America’s homes as ‘The Boss’ of a ‘Successful’ organization. Never mind that it was all illusion, a mobbed-up Hitler-apologist under tens of thousands of dollars of makeup and wiggery.

          And he serves the GOP whether they want to admit it or not. Even the NeverTrumpers weren’t able to develop a compelling argument for the party now and future. They can’t admit they are fucking racists who can’t welcome brown people into the party at the risk of losing control, though many people of color are more traditionally conservative than the Democrats for whom they end up voting.

          • Tom says:

            I think that Donald Trump has been acting the role of President for the past several years in the same way as he acted the role of being a successful businessman in “The Apprentice”. When he tweets messages referring to his “great and unmatched wisdom” he reminds me of a hammy old actor who is bored with his part in the play and so tries to amuse himself (and throw off his fellow performers) by adlibbing his lines, mugging for the audience, and playing to the galleries.

  5. Worried says:

    Who are we??
    Just returned from a vacation trip to Maine and Massachusetts to visit wife’s family.
    I try to avoid family political discussions because of the downside.
    While there my wife’s sister (mid fifties) and my wife’s aunt (mid seventies) expressed admiration for Donald Trump.
    Didn’t have the guts to ask Why?
    Inexplicable to me how We (especially women) could have a favorable view of a person who is a cross between Henry F. Potter (IAWL) and Narcissus (less the personal beauty).

  6. skua says:

    I’m going to risk treading on toes.
    The fantasy that we live in a fair enough and just enough society is a strong narcotic.
    And, to the extent we are privileged, that fantasy is so convinient.
    Who wants to do the often unpleasant and distressing work of creating a fairer and more just society?
    So much easier and nicer to convince myself that dad is receiving good care at the nursing home and vist him in the late afternoon and have a cup of tea with him, rather than haul my sleepy ass to the facility and observe how he is being toileted and showered in the mornings and discover that is terrifying him.
    A life of convinience and niceness with a surfiet of spectating and consuming might, if reality intrudes, become unpleasant.
    The opportunity cost of the fantasy is significant.

    • Rayne says:

      True, that, though women, people of color, LGBTQ+, disabled people all know this isn’t a fair or just society.

      We’d like to think we’re making progress toward being one, though. Trump is a sign that a substantial portion of our population would rather give into the illusion of a made man who became wealthy by pulling up his own bootstraps AND he’d ensure their illusion of a white dominated society will continue under his benevolent autocratic corporatist leadership.

      Pick your illusion, the mirror describing who you are.

    • bmaz says:

      Hi there Skua, so what the fuck is your solution? Give up on democracy and the Constitution? So, yeah, screw that “treading on toes”. Go fight for the concepts you purport to believe in, and do not pitch this defeatist crap. American democracy and the Constitution depend on citizens not being lame lambs.

      • Worried says:

        We the People….
        We have a document guaranteeing our rights as citizens of the United States of America.
        That document does not require each citizen to protest, march, “fight”, to attain those rights. They are given.
        It is a document supporting the free will of each of us to do what is within our capabilities and conscience, for better or worse.

        • Worried says:

          Well……timed out on my editing
          I was trying to add that everyone confronts different situations in life and each of us tries to deal with that in our own, learned way…..

                • bmaz says:

                  Again, thank you for your contributions to this blog. Particularly, the help with Constitutional things is really swell. Is that civil enough for you? Also swell is that you can cite the Preamble. Very helpful.

                  • Worried says:

                    We are all individuals with our own history.
                    Depending upon your situation (if you are young) you can “fight the good fight”.
                    If you have different circumstances, like (assumed by me) Skua then it is very, very difficult.
                    We’re lucky, think about the landscapers.

      • skua says:

        Don’t know where you are reading “defeatist crap” in what I wrote.
        I’m pointing at the severe downside of believing “we live in a fair enough and just enough society”.
        The solution I offer?
        Extending on what you say ,”Being lame lambs has very negative consequences because the wild dogs are out”.
        To be neither defeatist or Pollyanna-ish: We can and may fail in our endeavors. History is full of peoples who were reduced to servitude, who came to lack even the ideas of basic liberties.
        Don’t know about everyone else but I get some motivation to change things from considering the possible future that more Presidents like Trump would bring with them.
        Reading further in this subthread:
        I don’t think that words on parchment are to be relied on. It is the actions of people who embody those words in their lives that create the liberties we have.

    • joejim says:

      “Is this who we are, weak-willed and servile, giving up our freedoms for the illusion of safety and security, failing to question to whom we yield these freedoms?”

      I visit inmates, and gradually learn the workings of prisons. So much cruelty, stupidity, and random pioneering on the part of enforcement. In any of the situations where I go, I’d lose my status instantly, by questioning. It is not done. Nor is reporting.

      Members of Congress were not allowed access to the detention centers at the border. Forbidden to take pictures. Much of our institutions of incarceration have quite successfully attained netherworld status.

      Nobody seems to know what to do about it. Among my main motivations in visiting inmates, is simply witnessing, and having the capability of reporting on them, even if I maybe never will. Lots of the people I see are very reasonably scared for their personal safety, and there is nobody to tell. Everyone is scared of solitary, where you can go because someone randomly hit you in the face, and there’s nobody to tell.

      I notice how homelessness, poverty, addiction, and mental illness are now an autobahn to jail. Even the cops hate putting sick people in shackles, but they have nobody to tell either. It is so hard to even budge things. The worst, is that so few outside of these places treat it like reality.

      If I am frustrated, what must it feel like to learn that your warden (not a judge) has decided you will spend the next 25 years in 23 hour a day solitary, and that the only people you will ever see, will be miserable staff who express their hatred of you every time you are in contact, because they think prison is about punishment, and there is nobody you can tell about it.

  7. MB says:

    “a steadily increasing occupation by a transnational organized crime syndicate masquerading as a political party, in league with other crime syndicates abroad which are proxies for hostile nations”

    Can’t be more succinct than that!

    Looking backwards, there are plenty of milestones to point to, (even pre-dating the 2000 election). By decade from most recent to less recent:


    1) the Tea Party tsunami of 2010,
    2) the Citizens United decision,
    3) swift-boating John Kerry during the 2004 election (thanks to Jerome Corsi),
    4) the whole Rumsfeld/Yoo torture cabal,
    5) lies about WMD leading to the Iraq War,
    6) the SC decision for the 2000 election.


    1) Bill Clinton’s capitulation to the late-1990s GOPers regarding banking de-regulation which led to 2008
    2) Bill Clinton’s pulling the Democratic party “to the center” to the detriment of labor unions and blue-collar workers and the beginnings of widespread corporate corruption becoming acceptable to the Democratic party
    3) Bill Barr, GHWB’s attorney general, pardoning criminals in the Iran-Contra matters
    4) The first Gulf War

    1) Ronald Reagan mainstreaming trickle-down economics
    2) The Iran-Contra matters
    3) The election of Ronald Reagan, the first movie star president, who successfully promoted image over ideas as a presidential “quality”
    4) Grenada, Panama as low-level military “test excursions” carried out solely through executive decision


    1) Well, Nixon and Watergate and all that was contained therein.
    2) FBI abuses by J. Edgar Hoover
    3) Lies to the public about Vietnam by Nixon
    4) Ronald Reagan’s severe crackdown on anti-war protestors as Governor of California
    5) The War on Drugs starts


    1) Nixon and Kissinger delaying Paris peace talks to ensure Nixon’s election in 1968
    2) LBJ’s lies about the Gulf of Tonkin to start the Vietnam war
    3) JFK, RFK and MLK assassinations
    4) Eisenhower’s farewell speech warning about the looming military-industrial complex


    Too young to remember anything personally. I’m sure there’s tons of examples to be listed.
    So, in my lifetime, I’ve seen the progression from a democratic republic to a corpotocracy to clear signs of neo-fascism. Not a great trend!

    • Rayne says:

      Probably need the end of the Fairness Doctrine as well in that otherwise excellent list.

      Although this democratic republic has always been aspirational. Too many marginalized people are still denied the right to vote, taxed without representation.

      • MB says:

        Hmm…slipped below my “milestone radar”. Make that item #5 in the 1980-1990 category. That was under Reagan’s watch in 1987.

        • Rayne says:

          Can’t tell you how many times I’ve butted heads with folks about bringing back the Fairness Doctrine (“but mah free speech!”). Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) submitted the Fairness and Accountability in Broadcasting Act at least two terms in a row only to see it die on the vine each time. She’s now passed on, sad to say, and no one has taken up her mantle.

          But now here we are, not only with Fox News continuing to propel propaganda on cable, reverberated by other broadcast networks, but Sinclair of the Swift Boating infamy now owning+operating too many broadcast TV stations, poised to do damage in 2020. The FAB Act was written for this very problem and it would still not be enough because of social media platforms.

          We need a new Fairness Doctrine but one that encompasses all bandwidth regardless of network — broadcast, cable, wireless.

            • BobCon says:

              I have the sneaking suspicion that a Democratic administration could cave in Zuckerberg’s world simply by forcing Facebook to submit to an audit of its claimed audience and refund advertisers money it charged based on wildly inflated numbers, and then charge realistically going forward.

              I bet the bogus numbers behind its video scam are only the tip of the iceberg, and a government that values truth over corruption would never settle for something in line with the recent $40 million deal they cut.

    • rip says:

      Thank you for your time-line, MB – in the spirit of EW. Mirrors most of my life and recollections.

      Personally though I think that non-democratic skulduggery was in place and active ever since the Declaration of Independence. We are witnessing our own spotlight-of-history but chicanery and worse has been present forever.

      Every now and then we get a glimpse that things could be better, even Johnson and the Great Society or our best president Obama. But they are not a complete answer and they cannot change our human instincts.

      • MB says:

        All too true Rip. However with the advent of the internet, the smart phone, Fox News and now insanely brazen politicans, it’s a particularly toxic brew. Skullduggery no longer on the margins but up front and center.

    • Valley girl says:

      MB- your timeline leaves out Women’s Lib and the ERA, and women’s rights more generally. But I’m not sure what to suggest by way of dates (milestones) b/c the struggles for equal rights for women in the US has been going on for decades, nay, two plus centuries.

      • MB says:

        Yes, that’s not a single “milestone” event per se, but 1960s-early ’70s sounds about right for a mention. Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique in 1963. Our Bodies Ourselves published in 1973. Jeez, come to think of it, Roe v. Wade was in 1973.

        • P J Evans says:

          It was about 1972 or 1973 when banks were forced to start treating women as individuals, not appendages of their husbands, and they could get accounts and credit cards of their own.

          • MB says:

            Amazing – I never knew that. I have no memory of the credit card situation in the early ’70s. I certainly didn’t have one – being in high school, at the time…

            • P J Evans says:

              I didn’t get one until the 80s, IIRC. American Express, actually – and by the time their fees priced me out of it, my credit was good enough to get a bank card.

        • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

          You could do interesting timelines of Roe v Wade, along with Lennart Nilsson’s remarkable scientific photography of fetuses and embryo’s.

      • Lulymay says:

        A thought then: can you ever imagine, in to-day’s so-called “enlightened” society, that a woman will be the presidential candidate representing the Republi-con party? Because I can’t and we have the same problem in my country. We’re a week away from another Federal Election and all our very own Con party can offer up is just another jeebus fearing bible thumper. Fortunately for us, we have more than two parties – like many European countries – and many of us are hoping for an end to the antiquated First Past the Post system.

  8. Wm. Boyce says:

    You ask the personal (Who are you?) and the collective. (Who are we?)

    I can only say that I am a dinosaur – one who was at every protest in San Francisco in an attempt to stop the ongoing catastrophe begun by W in Iraq. I say ongoing because the creature’s sentencing of the Syrian Kurds to death is only the latest installment of reality TV known as American Imperialism.

    “We”, as a society, in my opinion, are in steep decline. Not only your valid dates of 2001 and 2010 figure largely in our decline, but 2007, when Mr. Jobs’ company rolled out the “smart phone.” I call it a “prayer book,” which it must be, as everyone is so avidly staring into it all the time. Crossing the street and getting killed, driving whilst texting or whatever, and killing more people, ignoring your dining partner while staring at the next prayer coming in, it has fundamentally altered our society.
    Social media now substitutes for action; physical action, getting on the phone to Congress, attending protests, organizing in general. People stare, and do nothing.

    The Times ran an article reporting on the majority (54 percent) of people who take no part in politics, including voting. Many are so beaten down economically, they could care less about the fights in D.C. But this doesn’t bode well for the future, unless somehow a real populist gets elected and is able to effect economic change through lessening wealth inequality.

    And Paul Krugman’s recent column (Luckily, Trump is an Unstable Non-Genius) details how much of our Republic is already gone:
    “…He has the backing of a party whose elected representatives have shown no sign of democratic scruples. He has de facto state media in the form of Fox News and … the Murdoch empire. He has already managed to corrupt key government agencies, including the Justice Department.
    ‘Indeed, these advantages are so large that the assault on democracy may yet prevail. The only reason it might falter is … Trump’s own deficiencies.”

    People on this blog are way above the average American citizen in their awareness and concern, and may have forgotten how low the political awareness median has become. Even in the Electoral College, this clown should never have gotten close.

    • P J Evans says:

      One of the good signs is that he’s never gotten even to 50% approval in polls; impeachment is currently higher than that. Only the GOP gives him high marks, and even that is starting to slip.

      (I wonder how many people are going to see Brian Mast’s (R-FL) “birthday greeting” to the US Navy and then discover it’s a very fine picture of a Russian navy ship.
      https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2019/10/13/1892230/-The-Traitor-In-Chief-Strikes-Again-That-s-a-RUSSIAN-BATTLECRUISER )

      • Tom says:

        I think I can top that. This past spring, the Canadian Department of Veterans Affairs posted a video on its federal government website to commemorate the 74th anniversary of VE-Day. Through stupidity, ignorance, and/or bureaucratic sloppiness, the video included clips of German soldiers wearing the familiar coal scuttle helmet and peaked forage caps at the same time as the video voiceover asked viewers to remember the sacrifices of Canadian troops in WWII. See story by reporter Tom Spears in September 19, 2019 issue of The Ottawa Citizen, “Angry public reactions after Veterans Affairs video mixes up Canadian and German soldiers–soldiers who were actually Wehrmacht”.

  9. schepaitis says:

    What an amazing post! So many ideas here that resonate but I never could have articulated them as well. Many thanks.
    The Rosenstein quote really caught my attention because in 1996 I began teaching a violin student from Armenia. She was immensely talented but had the same sort of trust issues and warped view of reality. I struggled to find a way to teach her until a mentor said to me “It’s her culture so you can’t fight it. Just try to understand from her perspective.” When I could do this I could understand what she was missing about life in America and anticipate what she needed to understand before she went off and did crazy and/or illegal things. I am happy to say that she is now happy and successful and using her gifts working for a nationally prominent string instrument company. I still cannot imagine what she went through growing up in a world where nothing was true and only money talks. I fear we are headed to a similar place if things don’t change direction quickly.

    • Valley girl says:

      I am very interested to know what some of your struggles were in teaching this violin student, and at that level she was. Once upon a time I tried to learn to play the violin, and a good friend plays in a string quartet (summer weekend gig) and still takes lessons from time to time to undo bad habits. We’ve talked a lot about this. The violin is my favorite instrument (and Beethoven string quartet C-sharp minor is my favorite piece of sublime music).

      • schepaitis says:

        Thanks for asking a great question. Her main problem was an inability to connect her very innate and intuitive musicianship with the practical skills needed for further advancement. She could make an audience cry with that beautiful tone but would quickly get lost in the second violin part of a Beethoven quartet. The ability to do both those things is a hallmark of great musicianship. It was also one of the things I had struggled with in my early career and eventually came to grips with it. In her case, the cultural dysfunction mirrored the musical one. She trusted no one, didn’t return library books until the librarian came to me to find out where they were, and lots more that I will not go into.
        Her epiphany came when I was trying to teach her how to count that wonderful cadenza at the end of the slow movement of op.59 no.1 (not the C# minor but just as hard). I watched her eyes glaze over and she was silent for a full two minutes. She finally understood it as a math problem, connected that with her gypsy soul, and was able to play it both correctly and emotionally. After that, I witnessed a lot of the cultural dysfunction begin to fade and she started asking me questions about things like how long you could keep a library book. Amazing, how it all goes together. There’s a lot more, but I’ll save it for the book that I’ll never write.
        I hope this answers some of your questions.

        • Valley girl says:

          Thanks for the reply. Pertinent to your reply (but getting OT) –A fascinating article in the NYT starts with this:
          ~~Before Western composers came up with a way to notate them, the length of rests in music were often dictated by buildings…~ and expands on the theme, the role of silence in music. Article includes illustrative audio clips- one from Haydn’s “Joke”quartet, e.g.

          • schepaitis says:

            Thanks for the article. I hadn’t seen it. Great music is filled with examples of silence used to magical effect. And in each case it has to do with how what comes before the silence is transformed by the silence into what comes after. Those are the parts John Cage left out.
            During my student’s lapse into silence (which I knew by then not to interrupt) she processed what came before into what came after. I had seen this before, but never so dramatically and never with such a profound and lasting effect. And all I could do was stay out of the way and watch.

  10. OldTulsaDude says:

    I don’t know about others, but for me the turning point in my understanding of the daunting nature of political power came on May 4, 1970, at Kent State University, when the Ohio National Guard shot and killed 4 student protesters. That effectively ended the protests against the Vietnam War, a movement larger than anything we have seen since.

    The Louisiana elections show that little has changed since those times – the same people who supported the war have progeny who still believe that the Vietnam War was righteous – and they vote Republican.

    In their worldview, the enemy in 1970 was hippies; today, it is libtards.

    • Yogarhythms says:

      Ry, Thank you for this thread. Old TD 13OCT2019 9:17PM.
      I was on payroll of National Peace Action Coalition, San Francisco’s 24APR1971 March against Washington. Largest peacetime march over 1,000,000. The marches declined after that march due to Federal subpoena’s from Michigan grand jury for all supervisors and mangers in San Francisco to report to Michigan. The next weekend SF Fire Dept response to report of fire destroyed offices and all file cabinet files with water. Protests have never stopped. When we stand up together we have already won.

  11. Cranny says:

    Trump is so unAmerican; it makes my skin crawl.

    Bottom line: “a steadily increasing occupation by a transnational organized crime syndicate masquerading as a political party, in league with other crime syndicates abroad which are proxies for hostile nations.”

    Ethel Kennedy where are you? Get your best red dress on and go help Jane! Your husband is twirling in his grave. The ground rumbles thereabouts.

  12. Pajaro says:

    The song I can’t get out of my head, lately, is CSNY’s Four Dead in Ohio. “Tin Soldiers and Nixon coming…we’re finally on our own….”
    Feeling like the ol’ 1970’s dread of things to come.

    Alarmed lately of the red-necks with American flags flying on their pickups (usually detuned diesel spewing black smoke), the Aryan (& Nazi) flags flying too, and those with full window 3%’ers and other militia symbols. Trump’s base, yet in a primarily D state.

      • OldTulsaDude says:

        If you were of age and living the the U.S. in 1970, it is impossible to forget that day or to overemphasize the effect it had. And no one was ever held accountable. It wasn’t the day the music died; it was the day the country died.

        • Pajaro says:

          OTD, that was my graduating year from H.S., I was headed to a 4 year Air Force ROTC scholarship, pilot candidate. Really shook me to the core. Que the Harry Chapin song…”She was going to be an actress…”

          • P J Evans says:

            Same year as my brother, then. He fought his draft board for a CO classification. To this day, he has no firearms in his home, and he worked for the co-op extension service in horticulture.

            • Pajaro says:

              I’m not so sanguine, this could be the turning point. Especially given the inability of congress, especially the house majority to act in an effective way.

              • P J Evans says:

                The House has sent a couple of hundred bills over to the Senate this year, where Mitch is letting them age in his in-basket. They’re doing a lot. It’s the (SENATE that’s sitting on its hands.

      • Valley girl says:

        Now that you’ve mentioned it, that CSNY song is going to be stuck in my mind. I am of that generation. Wow indeed.

        • rosalind says:

          there’s a new documentary on David Crosby out now “David Crosby: Remember My Name” directed by Cameron Crowe that you might find interesting. He visits the museum at Kent State and talks about the song “Ohio”.

  13. Dysnomia says:

    People talk about Trump as though he’s the source of the problem, as though if only we could get rid of Trump everything would be alright again, but it won’t be. I don’t mean to defend Trump of course, he’s horrible, but Trump is just a symptom, a sign that things have gotten out of control.

    I think Rayne hit on an important point when she asked whether we’re so servile as to tolerate the continuing expansion of the national security/police/surveillance state. Yes we are (and I mean the collective we here). I think the problem is an authoritarian culture. And it’s not just Trump, or the Republicans, or the state, though they are symptoms of and exacerbate the problem.

    Almost all of us are raised in authoritarian families, are educated in authoritarian schools, spend most of our waking hours in authoritarian workplaces, and are ruled by an authoritarian state. Our culture, going back to our upbringing and education, breeds a submissive/servile populace, in whom the most prominent trait is respect for and deference to authority. We’re conditioned to allow other people to do our thinking for us and make our decisions for us, and to limit our own personal participation in the decision making process to casting a ballot once in a while, and maybe a polite protest in extreme circumstances.

    I think the solution ultimately has to be that we stop being willing to delegate our decision making power to others and start managing our own lives, workplaces and communities ourselves. We keep telling ourselves that if we can just elect the right people, everything will be alright, but that’s a lie. Politicians and public officials and corporate executives and capitalists and media personalities will not save us. They’re part of the problem. Our perceived need for them is part of the problem. To create a free society we’ll need to ditch them.

    • PhoneInducedPinkEye says:

      I agree that the processes which affect our rules, rights, and lives are far too distant and abstracted from most people’s daily comings and goings, and this distance has negative consequences.

      That being said, I’m wary of granting too much leeway to local actors to decide what’s ethical without some clearly defined governing boundaries. That’s how we end up with “bathroom laws”, voter ID, abortion provider restrictions, etc.

      Basic rights need to be applied equally everywhere, or the subversion will happen piecemeal. Not that it isn’t already.

  14. PhoneInducedPinkEye says:

    This post has stuck with me throughout the day. It seems we have come full circle – the founders envisioned a system granting most representation to well-off white men, and here we are now in minority rule where 40% of strategically bounded voters is enough to perpetuate this structure.

    I’m pessimistic anything will change for the better in the next fifteen years – but thirty? Maybe. Taken in large enough steps of time, our progress towards compassionate maturity as a country and species mostly seems to have a positive direction.

    That’s no help to the people suffering here and now though. I’m just not sure enough people care to the point where they are willing to buck idealogical lines and do the right thing.

    • Pajaro says:

      Yes, but it is a fight we must make. History shows there are many such mountains to climb, yet they are climbed

      • Vicks says:

        Yes and how we tackle these “mountains’ is a key difference in cultures.
        Conservatives use this type of bullshit for manipulation.
        “Background checks won’t stop all mass shooting, so what’s the point?”
        “We are too dependent on big oil so why bother?”
        Conservative masses have been groomed to respond to fear-mongering in a way that isn’t rational to anyone unless you are invested, and IMHO it is this intentionally planted sense of fear and powerlessness (and unfairness) that leads to justifying bad behavior.
        Look at Guiliani for craps sake, I think the key to his ability for total corruption is his ability to believe the total crap he is spewing in public. It’s almost as if the cognitive dissonance snapped whatever resistance America’s mayor once had and turned him into a conspiracy nut, fighting invisible forces and just like the tin foil hat folks Rooty has no business being anywhere near the levers of power.

        • Vicks says:

          Every successful movement I know of has started at the bottom and worked it’s way up through people who felt they were larger than their lives indicated.
          Every authoritarian regime has started at the top and suppressed its way down through people who felt powerless.
          My all time favorite quote
          “Life is like a grindstone, whether it grinds you down or polishes you up, depends on what your made of.”

          I would like to alter the last part to “depends on what you THINK you are made of” to accommodate those who think change is impossible

          • bmaz says:

            Really? One only need go back a decider so to know that the “Tea Party”, a sadly successful effort, was built from the top down by lobbyists and operatives, and made to look like a grassroots effort that never was. Frankly, most of what people now blithely think of as “grassroots by the people” is not even close to that.

            • Vicks says:

              Are you helping my point or criticizing it?
              The tea party was as you say an “effort” and the power came from the top down,
              In my slightly red at the time (but now solid purple) neck of the woods they and their dirty millions were able to buy their way into a majority on our local school board but because of f’ing amazing grass roots opposition they were almost defeated that first round and the constant resistance made sure their moronic ideas were epic fails.
              The Tea Party wasn’t a “movement” it was an effort to build/take power.
              Any movement for real change has to GAIN momentum as the truth gets out there.
              I stand by my original post that any SUCCESSFUL movement has started at the bottom by people who felt lager than their lives indicated.
              My little community took on Koch brother money and (eventually) won.
              That’s power few may have realized they had at the time

    • Rayne says:

      I disagree. There’s no separation between the fascists and the degradation of climate. The most immediate thing we can do is reduce and eventually eliminate the use of fossil fuels. If every American committed as an individual to reduce fossil fuel consumption by 10% a year we might have a chance. If we elected a government committed to ensuring this reduction and more, we’d have an even greater chance.

      It will require remaking our global economy from one which is thoroughly centered on fossil fuels. But if we have the science to establish and sustain human occupation in space, the know-how is already here and in need of rapid scale up. Imagine what we could do if 10% of our military budget was shifted to NASA for the purposes of a ‘moon mission’ to replace fossil fuels.

      Realizing this effort won’t come without difficulty. The fascists have proven they will attack when they are threatened — it’s what we are struggling against even now.

    • Mary M McCurnin says:

      Please tell me what to do to make a difference. I seriously need to figure what to do to help but I cannot find an answer. I have a checklist of things I have done over the years. It is getting harder to know what is effective.

      • bmaz says:

        Start at your local state legislative district. They are, within some distance, your neighbors. And the people who show get heard. And the statewide party cares what they think. That is what separates real base level activity from astroturfing things that pretend to be. The local people are great and accepting. At least here, you get to tell them views on more national things that they may not be quite as informed on as people who frequent this blog. It is all a good thing.

        Not a great answer, I know, but I have seen that it can work. And know of no better answer.

        • Mary M McCurnin says:

          That is a good answer, bmaz. I live in a neighborhood filled with unionized state workers. I will get back on the horse by contacting one who I worked with to help a Democrat (Ami Bera) get elected to the house.

          • BobCon says:

            I find it’s helpful to read about the civil rights movement. There are a couple of good trilogies which approach the subject in very different ways. There are the graphic books March about John Lewis, and there is the Parting the Waters series by Taylor Branch.

            If things look hard now, imagine what people like Lewis, King, Bob Moses and Diane Nash faced. And they most definitely weren’t about wishing and hoping — they were organizers, planners, and strategists. There are all minds of practical lessons from their work.

        • posaune says:

          A great starting point is the local school board. (not to endorse Karl Rove, but that was his first step — plant right wingers in the school boards)

          • Rayne says:

            Any seat, up and down the ticket, even dogcatcher. Leave none uncontested and unsupported. In other words, re-institute Howard Dean’s 50-State Strategy.

    • Molly Pitcher says:

      Divide and conquer. Split the job between us all. I personally would rather go down swinging, than roll over and let the bastards win.

      Stiff upper lip Mary M McCurnin

  15. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    One complication is scale:
    In 1960, Idaho had about 67,000 residents
    California had about 15,720,000
    A ratio of about 16 : 1

    Today, Idaho has about 1,900,000 (and more by the day, many of them transplants from… wait for it!… California)
    Meanwhile, California has around 40,000,000
    A ratio of 20 : 1

    The center cannot hold given such disparities.

    It raises the question, ‘can democracy scale? and if so, what are the parameters to allow it to function?’ Politics, like economics, is a human endeavor. We all grew up in an era where scale as assumed to be ‘efficient, economical’ [i.e. ‘economies of scale’]. Now, sustainable agriculture is showing us that some very key things in life simply don’t scale; it is their nature to function optionally at a smaller scale. It is improving the quality of smaller systems that inevitably leads to better outcomes overall. But our trade laws, tax laws, etc all value scale over quality, and they privilege capital over labor.

    Meanwhile, millions of Americans are eating crap food produced by industrialized farming. Also, they are sleep deprived, get too little exercise, and are walking around with elevated cortisol levels, which translates to impaired immune systems.

    Meanwhile, without unions, or social organizations (Rotary, Chamber of Commerce), many people don’t have the experience of operating by group rules, and participating in local decisions. I long ago mastered Roberts Rules of Order, but haven’t used it in years: I have dropped out of organizations that required that kind of mastery.

    Because of our economics and political rhetoric, the value of government services, social goods, has been profoundly under appreciated, underreported, and under-recognized. People did not realize what they were losing.

    On the upside, there are millions of people buying fresh veggies, cutting back on sodas, and taking time out for yoga, or some simple do-at-home-in-front-of-tv movement.

    The entire conversation on the left is profoundly different from even six years ago: inequality is now viewed as a legitimate topic, and Medicare for All has at least pushed the Overton Window on the health care topic.

    A man who just survived a heart attack at age 78 continues to articulate a vision that attracts millions, and one of his colleagues is a 70 year old grandmother. That grandma co-wrote ‘The Two Income Trap’, which lays out very clear timeline about how the American middle class has been looted almost out of existence.

    Meanwhile, CO Senator Michael Bennet has written ‘The Land of Flickering Lights’, in which he explains how Citizen’s United came to be (badly, disastrously) decided, how SCOTUS nominees used to be approved by unanimous consent back when CA had about 20,000,000 residents. Last year, due to the myopic ambition of Mitch McConnell, Brett Kavanaugh barely mustered 51 votes.

    The Republicans still cannot distinguish between tactics and strategy. Meanwhile, the Millennials and the Gen-Xers are not going to put up with corrupt government going forward, mostly because for them it is a life-or-death issue. Climate change is really just another word for corruption, and they’ve started to show that it’s a cost they are not willing to bear.

    If people get healthier and figure out how to carve out more time, if they have more experiences in unions and local organizations, they’ll fix a lot of things. Democracy has worked because it is inherently human to collaborate, communicate, organize, cooperate, and exchange. We’re in dark days, but we may pull through yet.

    • P J Evans says:

      Back in 1787, VA had a population of about 750K. Delaware had about 60K. They were aware of large disparities: that’s why they set up the government the way they did.
      Part of the problem is states drawing boundaries so as to maximize the power of one group at the expense of all others.

  16. Stacey says:

    Some years ago I became familiar with Howe and Strauss’s work on the generations, particularly their “The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy” which traces the generations back through American history noticing a pattern of 4 phases to a repeating cycle, with each generation going through a predictable aspect of the destruction/rebirth phases such that the Millennials are the ones ‘for whom the bell tolls’ as it were. Meaning, they will be the generation that will have the burden and the moxie to handle the crisis that is coming, as they will be of the age and requisite position in society at that time.

    I know that people have always spent a lot of time on the ‘kids today…yada, yada, yada…’ but seriously every one of the Parkland Florida students that spoke publicly in any setting after the shooting was impressive as hell! Greta Thunberg standing there and handing adults everywhere our asses at the UN recently! The young folks who occupied Wall Street. Many examples of a generation that is showing themselves to be no shrinking violets!

    When you read the material on the generations that Howe and Strauss lay out in their work, there is a ‘bigger picture’ view that comes into focus that feels less paralyzing than our current tendency to view everything as the worst it’s ever been and getting worse.

    For instance, not to make us give Bill Barr anything approaching a pass, but even he is not the worst AG our country has lived through. I think Regan’s Ed Meese has that one sown up. Rachel Maddow did a very nice expose about him the other day, as that creature in the White House gave Meese a medal.

    Perspective is critical in avoiding the hand-wringing paralysis that can make any crisis deadly!

    • 200Toros says:

      Thanks for bringing that up, I read The Fourth Turning years ago, fascinating stuff. The authors make a pretty compelling case of how to interpret the cycles of history. I see they have some vids out there, gonna watch those, see where they think we’re at in the process now.

  17. milestogo says:

    It can be difficult knowing how to best defend our democracy. I vote democratic, give to certain strategic causes, and occasionally contact my representative but I feel fairly powerless against so much corruption.

    But I will never stop. If my new startup is a successful as I expect it to be, I’ll probably run for office as my next endeavor. Perhaps an understatement and there are obvious exceptions but running for office seems to be much easier for the rich.

  18. TimH says:

    On Turkey/USA… a Turkish friend of mine says the quid pro quo was Erdogan allowing major military base access for USA.

    • Rayne says:

      Color me skeptical. I don’t think Trump agrees to anything that doesn’t include something for him personally. I could believe Erdogan is holding nuclear weapons hostage at Incirlik AFB as they were a concern during the so-called coup, but Trump might simply shrug at this because he wouldn’t be able to use them therefore they’re of no use to him.

      Trump’s mired in a massive scandal about hidden transcripts of sensitive meetings and here’s yet another meeting for which we have no transcript. He doubled down rather than try to remediate the damage to his image, increasing the damage with greenlighting the attacks on Kurds. What was in it for him?

  19. Michael says:

    Not sure what you mean. U.S. military had access to air bases in Turkey *years* before tRump was on the scene.

  20. Jenny says:

    Rayne, thank you for your insightful post. Late last night reading the book “The Wisdom of Native Americans,” Complied and Edited by Kent Nerburn), the author quotes of Ohiyesa ( anglicized name – Charles Alexander Eastman).

    Even though he had come to believe that white civilization was, at heart, “a system of life based on trade,” he felt that it was the task of the best people, both Indian and non-Indian, to help America find a shared vision. As he said at the end of his autobiography, From Deep Woods to Civilization, “I am an Indian; and while I have learned much from civilization, for which I am grateful, I have never lost my Indian sense of right and justice. I am for development and progress along social and spiritual lines, rather than those of commerce, nationalism, or efficiency. Nevertheless, so long as I live, I am an American.”

  21. dude says:

    I have to agree on citing Kent State as a pivotal moment and the crystallization of the mostly white community dividing between “Love-it-or-Leave-Its” and “Hippies” ever after. Things had been hardening up until that moment to be sure, but this event seems to me to be the peak for violence that had been building since the assassinations in 1968 and the riots in Chicago. I think street protesters who saw violence in Chicago with police may not have imagined not just force, but deadly force would later come from the Official “armed militia”. I feel Kent State drew a line in the sand among the generations which, until now, most of white America didn’t want to cross again. The conservative community points to the Weather Underground bombings, Charlie Manson or even Patty Hearst in rebuttal— but those came afterward. That doesn’t make them any less potent in the minds of the so-called Silent Majority. It has become simple tit-for-tat in our memories.

  22. Charles says:

    Rayne asks:

    “Is this who we are, a nation whittled away down to one brave person who felt their personal ethics required more of them than to simply allow this to continue unchecked?”

    We the People are the ultimate guardians of democracy. Our institutions are badly damaged. Our Justice Department in particular has been compromised since the moment Jeff Sessions and Rod Rosenstein set foot in it, and our judiciary is increasingly dominated by ideologues and incompetents. Our laws are so complex that they are easily perverted by ideologues and incompetents: contrast the complexity of Medicare (www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/STATUTE-79/pdf/STATUTE-79-Pg286.pdf 138 pages) with the ACA (906 pages http://www.congress.gov/111/plaws/publ148/PLAW-111publ148.pdf.) Medicare has survived most of the attacks directed against it, while the ACA is in danger of repeal.

    Most of the people inside the existing institutions have gone along with terribly wrong things and stayed silent. How could the United States establish concentration camps for refugees if agents had spoken up? How could William Barr’s obvious abuses have occurred without the passivity of many ordinary people around him. We are still learning how Robert Mueller’s professional caution translated into danger for the nation. And yet… and yet there have been brave people who have sacrificed their comfort, their safety, and perhaps more to protect their country.

    I have spent 25 years trying to defend all of the elements of a free society–fair elections, equality under the law, civil liberties, a free press, and so on–and have witnessed how The People have squandered those elements on selfishness, indifference to the sacrifices of others, and vicious infighting. We have come close to going over the brink. If Newt Gingrich had had his way, it would have been President Gingrich in 1999. Barbara Lee stood absolutely alone when it came to the Patriot Act, with her courage perhaps preventing that legislation from being even worse. And so on.

    I have hope that Trump’s rise means the fall of the whole corrupt mess that brought him to power. We the People can do this. For that reason, I live in hope and work toward that end.

    • Tom says:

      Yes, it’s important to live in hope. Maybe I’m being naïve but I think that, thanks to Donald Trump, it will be a long. long time before any Presidential candidate runs for the Oval Office on a pledge to ‘run the government like a business’, or ‘drain the swamp’, or ‘hire the best people’, or with a promise to build a wall or anything else, or to repeal and replace a certain piece of legislation. I also think that Trump has effectively trashed Bill Barr’s theory and practice of the Unitary Executive by running amok with Presidential powers in a way that Louis XIV might have envied. The same with a President having family members and relatives in government roles. My prediction is that even future Republican aspirants to the White House will want to run as the un-Trump candidate.

      • Rayne says:

        Yes, it’s important to live in hope.

        If we are seriously committed to this republic — if we can keep it, as Ben Franklin said — we must be willing to do more than show up at the polls, especially if we are dealing with a transnational organized crime syndicate. It’s not enough to do the minimum.

        Talk about ‘living in hope’…the nation’s founders knew they were signing their death warrants when they signed the Declaration of Independence. They hoped they would not be hung or shot for their protestations let alone their rebellion against an autocratic monarch. I don’t think need to go that far given that this is NOT a conservative country but a liberal one under occupation by a corrupt minority. But we must acknowledge keeping this democratic republic will take more than voting every four years, or even every two. We must insist on better vetting of candidates by both media and ourselves before we commit our nation and Constitution to their care.

        • Charles says:

          I very much endorse this, Rayne.

          The appearance of autocracy is usually a response to a power vacuum created by the withdrawal of The People from the life of their democracy. We have ahead of us the hard work of training people to be real citizens: learning to educate themselves, think critically, and take risks in speaking out. The Tea Party, as misguided as it was, represented people trying to do that. The emergence of the Indivisibles and similar groups is a healthier example.

          I really think that the survival of not just our democracy, tattered as it was, but of the whole world depends on us defeating this international crime syndicate.

          I also agree that organized crime is the correct framing. I’ve always been uncomfortable with the focus on Russia the country.Sure, Russia is basically run by organized crime. But I think we’re seeing manifestations of something similar in Cyprus, Saudi Arabia and Turkey (especially with their connections to Al Qaeda and successor groups–terrorism is a kind of not-for-profit organized crime, often financed by more conventional forms of organized crime), perhaps in Israel, China, and other countries. There are so many nexuses in the Trump Administration that it’s a kind of roadmap to global crime.

          Break Trump, and a lot of dominoes will fall.

  23. 200Toros says:

    Excellent post Rayne, as usual. The “who are you?” moments of our times I have come to hate are those moments when you’re speaking with someone you have always thought of as a kind, intelligent, caring person – and find that they are a MAGA cultist, or even a less-fervent trump enabler. Who are you? I thought I knew you! The cognitive dissonance, the tortured mental gymnastics they have used to justify their position is hideous to behold. The sickening feeling if it is a family member. I hate those moments.

    • Rayne says:

      Imagine finding you’re sleeping with one, mingled your genes with a MAGAt. Suddenly works like Invasion of the Body Snatchers take on an entirely new meaning, a kind of body horror in which an alien force (exposure to right-wing media) has sucked out the brains of someone you’ve known and cared about for decades only to find they’ve been hollowed out and left a moron who can’t argue their way out of a wet paper bag.

      The horror of it. The dread question, “Who are you?!”

      • P J Evans says:

        I didn’t ask my friend who moved to Oregon who he voted for. I know he was an R in the 80s, and filed (but didn’t run, AFAICT) in the giant recall as a Libertarian. (He’s not normally that kind of crazy, and I didn’t see any political stickers on his car. I liked the “Weird Load” sticker, though.)

      • 200Toros says:

        The more I think of it, the more I think: This post goes to the heart of it, one of the best posts, ever. Something we need to be asking ourselves, every damn day. Who are you? I can’t sleep tonight…. Much love to you Rayne – you inspire…

  24. errant aesthete says:

    A post that will linger long after this day, this time, this place. Thank you, Rayne, for prompting what we need to do – measure our resolve, tally our commitment, meet our edge.

    Maybe it was the music back then…as previously mentioned, CSNY’s Four Dead in Ohio. “Tin Soldiers and Nixon coming…we’re finally on our own….”

    How prophetic that song was…is again. It was that spark that led me back through the music of “then” and “now.”

    “The Top 25 Songs that Matter Now”, The Music Issue 2019 of the New York Times Magazine.

    It’s beautifully and thoughtfully articulated and rendered and to my mind, worthy of inclusion as it provides a kind of cultural timestamp to what so many are capturing here.

    “It usually takes a while — a decade or two — before we can look back at a particular era of American life and see it as something coherent, something whose every aspect is marked by one overarching mood. It takes a certain amount of hindsight to notice how all the wildly different reactions people had to the moment were still, in the end, reactions to the same thing; all the different poses they adopted were still being struck against the same backdrop.

    But this era — this year, and the last one, and one or two before that — might be an exception. There’s an oddly strong in-the-moment consensus on how everyone is feeling these days, and it is not good…”

    From there we pivot to song 01:

    “Born in the USA,” released in 1984 by Bruce Springstein. When people ask, “Is Born in the USA Patriotic?” This answer satisfies, “Born in the USA is something better. It’s a thoughtful critique of America’s government when they get things wrong (which, let’s face it, is most of the time), without detracting from the fundamental glory of America, the country. The confusion comes from misguided ideas about what constitutes patriotism.”


    What differentiates this song from the twenty-four significant others that “matter now” in 2019 is Springstein himself whose own trajectory is movingly chronicled in a tribute entitled “How Aging – And the Age – Can Change a Song’s Meaning,” by poet and essayist, Hanif Abdurraqib.

    “The song matters now in a different way than it did in 1984, largely because of the artist behind it: Springsteen, trying to wrestle not only with the song’s current legacy but also with how it might be co-opted decades from now, when he won’t be around to make sure people understand the ache behind the song’s fury.”


  25. WCIslander says:

    Ten years ago, I started to crack. Not knowing what was happening, I fell into the abyss of “normallacy”. Two years ago, I shattered. Since then, I have been working towards understanding and taking back control of my life.

    After this past week as the drops of the taps dripping got louder and more frequent, I realized that all of the current ‘news’ is no longer current. The event has already passed; so I cannot change that. This has energized me. I no longer need to put the powerful emotions of my being into negativism of things I cannot change. It is time to step outside that erroneous zone and accept those things I cannot change, past and future.

    All my speculations and assumptions regarding the future are just hopes and dreams. Those are not reality either. My mind is now able to focus on what is happening in this moment. I am able to think without the constant nonsensical chatter that has distracted me for all these years. I am clinging onto this courage, to change the things that I can.

    The now and the future I see, based on a clearer mind, is so much more aligned with my true values and I know these are values shared with the majority throughout the world. I believe that that the majority of This Earth inhabitants have the wisdom to know the difference between good and evil, right and wrong.

    • punaise says:

      hang in there, WCI!

      My only quibble or coda to your final sentence is that far too many of the people who can distinguish between good and evil fail to act accordingly, i.e. many Republicans.

  26. punaise says:

    I was recently granted dual citizenship with an EU country (OK: France), and the question of identity is embedded in that act. It’s nominally an escape valve, but one we don’t plan to use. Not that I don’t imagine dystopian futures (fascism here, climate havoc everywhere)… but we have to fix this mess here.

  27. swmarks says:

    “Time Has Come Today” Chambers Brothers, 1967.

    George Chambers died today. He was one of the brothers in the band. Just listened to the song again and it fits this thread and this time.

  28. Michael says:

    Wish I could say I have a bolt hole. Nice to have a plan. Some years ago I decided that AU would do nicely – I had bonded with a bunch of Aussie A.F. guys in Vietnam. Lately, AU joined Britain and Canada in spooning with the Dark Side (attacks on encryption/security). Also the political climate there is dodgy, to paint it kindly.

  29. pswebster says:

    You guys are trippin…it isn’t that bad…in fact…it is really getting good. You guys have been living so close to this corruption that it little registers to you how what is now being uncovered to the public with Gulliani , his buddies, the exruskies extending the dough, the new state dept talkers…you all have bee so close to this you are missing the tzunami taking place now. This is BECAUSE you all have been so diligent: rayne,bmaz, marcy, jim…all of you have carried us, the uniformed, along. Thank you.

  30. Honeybee says:

    Who are we? Don’t know about all of the rest of y’all but I am a person earnestly seeking the truth of what the heck happened here in this country mercilessly harassed and cyber whipped for most of this young century. And for what? Don’t expect you to print this. Any ideas?

  31. skua says:

    On Trump’s “Don’t be a fool” letter to Erdogan:
    Who is the target audience?
    Trump’s base or the addressee? Both?

    Trump’s base have shown themselves to be nondiscriminatory about what they consume from Trump.
    They will probably taste “unmatched wisdom”.

    Erdogan may well have culturally specific pressures to respond to the insults in the letter in publically visible ways. Not being Turkish I don’t know. It could be that, for people of high status, the culturally prescribed response to a public threat from an idiot bully is to ignore it as being beneath contempt. Or perhaps something more concerning is required.

    The letter also reaches a wide range of onlookers.
    The unsuitability of 45 for his position is made starkly blatant.
    The light that his behaviour throws onto the American character, or American stereotypes, highlights flaws.
    The troubled nature of US society and politics and how that intersects with an abandonment of a recent-as-last-week ally to an invasion by Turkish military forces, with the consequent killings and torturing, is impressed onto onlookers.

    The need for America to be returned to competent leadership is clear.
    Please keep up your good work to that goal.

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