LikeTheDew.com https://likethedew.com A journal of progressive Southern culture and politics Tue, 24 Mar 2020 12:04:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.3.2 https://likethedew.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/cropped-DewLogoSquare825-32x32.png LikeTheDew.com https://likethedew.com 32 32 LikeTheDew.com http://likethedew.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/dew3_mh4feed.png https://likethedew.com 88 31 A journal of progressive Southern culture and politics 110899633 This Time, We Should All Be Single-issue Voters https://likethedew.com/2020/03/24/this-time-we-should-all-be-single-issue-voters/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=this-time-we-should-all-be-single-issue-voters https://likethedew.com/2020/03/24/this-time-we-should-all-be-single-issue-voters/#respond Tue, 24 Mar 2020 12:04:49 +0000 https://likethedew.com/?p=73200 A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a school-marmy essay about Bernie Sanders’ socialism. That’s what I thought a lot of people would be talking about between now and November. Little did I know that Sanders’ campaign would implode and a novel coronavirus would explode a few days later.

I don’t know what we’ll be talking about until November but I know what we should be talking about while social distancing, incessantly washing our hands, sheltering in place, strategizing our toilet paper purchases and whatever else it takes to survive a COVID-19 pandemic. The first obligation of any government is to provide for the public health and safety of everybody under its jurisdiction. That ranks ahead of the economy, immigration, the state of the judiciary, the president’s re-election prospects and everything else. Those things don’t matter if the people who normally would have an interest in them are dead or dying in great numbers. I don’t know of anybody who disputes that, from doctrinaire libertarian fans of a minimalist “night watchman” state to authoritarian thugs like the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte.

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A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a school-marmy essay about Bernie Sanders’ socialism. That’s what I thought a lot of people would be talking about between now and November. Little did I know that Sanders’ campaign would implode and a novel coronavirus would explode a few days later.

I don’t know what we’ll be talking about until November but I know what we should be talking about while social distancing, incessantly washing our hands, sheltering in place, strategizing our toilet paper purchases and whatever else it takes to survive a COVID-19 pandemic. The first obligation of any government is to provide for the public health and safety of everybody under its jurisdiction. That ranks ahead of the economy, immigration, the state of the judiciary, the president’s re-election prospects and everything else. Those things don’t matter if the people who normally would have an interest in them are dead or dying in great numbers. I don’t know of anybody who disputes that, from doctrinaire libertarian fans of a minimalist “night watchman” state to authoritarian thugs like the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte.

I’ve lost track of the number of news stories I’ve seen reporting that the administration was caught flatfooted by the coronavirus outbreak. And even if you dismiss every single one of them as “fake news,” the president himself is on record publicly dismissing the threat as insignificant and the coverage of it as a Democratic Party “hoax.” Until he wasn’t, claiming that he knew all along that COVID-19 was a dire emergency.

the buck stopping on Trumps desk story image

I leave it as an exercise for the reader to decide whether Trump’s performance is a failure to discharge the highest responsibility of his office. I have my own views about that, but I’m not here to peddle them. My point is that this isn’t a normal election cycle where we have the luxury of debating the wisdom of socialism versus capitalism, tax policy, the size of government, health care, the environment, racial and gender discrimination and whatever else your favorite issues are. We have to put all that on hold while we make a national decision about a single question: Is Donald Trump failing in his duty to discharge the highest responsibility of his office?

It isn’t like this thing hit us out of the blue nor will it be the last pandemic of this magnitude we’ll ever see. Never mind the 1918 Spanish flu that killed about 675,000 Americans. That was a long time ago, but the one we’re struggling with now is the fourth one since 1957, when the pandemic flu put me down while I was on a Coast Guard cutter somewhere between Cape May, New Jersey, and Groton, Connecticut. I wasn’t afraid I was going to die. I was afraid I wasn’t. There were two more after that, one in 1968 and another in 2009. These things happen regularly, and as the world’s population gets more mobile, there’s every reason to think they’ll keep happening maybe more often than before.

So I’m thinking that for this election, we should all become single-issue voters. We can’t do the usual balancing tests where we ask whether the fact that a candidate sucks on one of our priority issues is outweighed by the fact that he or she is golden on another. Can’t do that this time because nothing outweighs public health and safety. That’s the big Job One. Face planting on that is disqualifying, full stop.

If anybody reads this, somebody’s bound to say that I’m politicizing a national crisis. To which I say, damn straight I am. And if you think there’s something wrong with that, it can only be because you’re operating with a corrupt idea of what politics is, equating it with mere craven partisan advantage. But here’s the thing. While the highest obligation of a government is to ensure public health and safety, under our system of self-government, it’s the highest duty of the electorate to elect not Democrats, Republicans or Bull Moose Party members to office but people of whatever party who’re capable of meeting that obligation and to remove them when they don’t. If Trump gets this all wrong, there are plenty of people he can point the finger of blame at, notwithstanding the famous sign on Harry Truman’s desk that said, “The buck stops here.” That’s a colorful and bracing story. But if you’re qualified to vote and want to know where the buck is really going to stop in November, go look in a mirror.

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Seniors – Vote Your True Interests https://likethedew.com/2020/03/22/seniors-vote-your-true-interests/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=seniors-vote-your-true-interests https://likethedew.com/2020/03/22/seniors-vote-your-true-interests/#respond Sun, 22 Mar 2020 16:52:22 +0000 https://likethedew.com/?p=73188

Just before the 2018 mid-term elections, seen as a repudiation of Trump policies and a clear victory for the Democrats, the non-partisan AARP indicated that there were key items of concern for seniors. I’ve grouped them: healthcare (Medicaid, Medicare, insurance, caregivers) and financial (taxes, savings, pensions, fraud, Social Security). These will still be key to voting this November.

Healthcare

Trump has never backed away from his advocacy to repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Repeal would harm seniors 50-64 by abolishing the preexisting conditions clause and cutting ACA funding enabling 20 million Americans (many 50-64) to receive coverage. Trump and the GOP have no clear replacement plan, instead focusing on reducing the number currently covered via regulation. 

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Just before the 2018 mid-term elections, seen as a repudiation of Trump policies and a clear victory for the Democrats, the non-partisan AARP indicated that there were key items of concern for seniors. I’ve grouped them: healthcare (Medicaid, Medicare, insurance, caregivers) and financial (taxes, savings, pensions, fraud, Social Security). These will still be key to voting this November.

Healthcare

Trump has never backed away from his advocacy to repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Repeal would harm seniors 50-64 by abolishing the preexisting conditions clause and cutting ACA funding enabling 20 million Americans (many 50-64) to receive coverage. Trump and the GOP have no clear replacement plan, instead focusing on reducing the number currently covered via regulation. 

Leading Democrats are all over the board with some advocating Medicare for all (Sanders)and others incremental Medicare expansion and/or expansion of the ACA (Biden). Democrats’ healthcare plans would positively impact seniors, but to differing degrees. 

Traditional Medicare is currently a national PPO with a very broad network… but not always. Medicare Advantage is a much stricter PPO, limiting choice of MDs and hospitals. Even in traditional Medicare, in certain medical specialties there’s an access problem (psychiatric services, for example). In many communities, it is also very difficult to find primary care MDs willing to take new Medicare patients. 

And, it’s not a sure thing for existing patients, either. Let’s say you are turning 65 and you already go to Dr. Smith. If he takes Medicare, fine. If not, you are suddenly forced to either pay the tab 100% yourself or find another doc. Voluntary “opting in” to Medicare ala Joe Biden does nothing to solve this problem.

On the other hand, under Medicare for All the Federal government would be the insurer for all Americans, guaranteeing broader political support for the program, leading to long-term financial stability (currently a major issue). If Medicare for All (per Sanders) were implemented with every physician compelled to join, it would also significantly expand the number of physicians available for seniors. 

 Expanding Medicaid, another Democratic priority, would have a major impact on younger seniors 50-64. These individuals are caught in the age discrimination gap whereby employers hire few new employees 50-64, looking instead for reasons to terminate existing older employees.

Per the Commonwealth Fund (2-7-19), people 50-64 have higher under-insured rates (26%) versus the general public (23%). In other words, over a fourth of this group is currently making a bet on not getting a major healthcare problem before they get on Medicare at 65.

Financial

Traditionally, the GOP has been the party of fiscal austerity and balanced budgets. However, with supply side economics and vastly increased military expenditures, this is no longer true. Plus, to keep Trump in rather than anything altruistic, the GOP endorses emergency pandemic spending.

The recent tax cuts are a good example of how the GOP is apparently unconcerned about deficits going up, creating a future burden for seniors and their children. According to the respected Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, the Trump tax cut will “add $1.7 trillion to deficits over the next ten years.” 

The following chart illustrates how the deficit has risen since 2015 (and will continue to go up), proving both parties are addicted to deficit spending (even more so with the truly needed COVID-19 spending).

Trillion-Dollar Deficit Return This Year  (2020) created by @FixtheDebt
Chart does not include the trillions more expected to be spent related to COVID-19

Social Security is another major financial issue for seniors. What is being done to make sure that we have money to ensure that the trust fund will not be depleted?

Proposals to tax all income have been opposed by the GOP. Currently, high wage owners making over $132,900 in wages pay no additional tax. And items like capital gains, a major source of wealth for the rich, are not taxed at all for Social Security purposes. The main GOP alternative is to raise the retirement age yet again, as was done under Reagan. Or, to have benefits reduced in future years.

Seniors should do their own analysis of where their state and Federal representatives stand on healthcare, earned benefits, and financial matters. AARP recommends the following four web sites for non-partisan political fact checking and information:  Votesmart.org;  RealClearPolitics.com;  Ballotpedia.org; and Politifact.com.

We are now in 2020, an election year, facing a clear choice on the direction of our nation. Inform yourself and vote.

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Boomer remover https://likethedew.com/2020/03/19/boomer-remover/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=boomer-remover https://likethedew.com/2020/03/19/boomer-remover/#respond Thu, 19 Mar 2020 19:42:38 +0000 https://likethedew.com/?p=73181 Yes, some kids, believing they are immune to COVID-19, actually appear to be celebrating the spread among the “Boomers” who will die at higher rates, out of the possible 2.2 million US deaths that could result given the botched US response.  It is reported the kids are calling COVID-19 “Boomer Remover.” Now some people seem shocked by this.  Me, not so much.

Before I tell you all why, let me salute the pre-med student Jayde Powell who has come up with the idea of “Shopping Angels” to help the locked-in old folks get groceries.  

Not all the kids are infected with “affluenza.”  I want my tax dollars to go to Ms. Powell, extinguish any student debt she has and pay for the rest of her medical education.  Sure, she may go to work for “Big Pharma” after graduation, but I doubt it.  She seems to have something inherent, is it okay for me to call it “values” (not politically correct these days, apologies), that guide her judgment.  I will follow her career and hope to get the chance to vote for her one day as she takes her values into office seeking to do good, save lives and I expect, oppose war.

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Yes, some kids, believing they are immune to COVID-19, actually appear to be celebrating the spread among the “Boomers” who will die at higher rates, out of the possible 2.2 million US deaths that could result given the botched US response. It is reported the kids are calling COVID-19 “Boomer Remover.” Now some people seem shocked by this. Me, not so much.

Before I tell you all why, let me salute the pre-med student Jayde Powell who has come up with the idea of “Shopping Angels” to help the locked-in old folks get groceries.

Not all the kids are infected with “affluenza.” I want my tax dollars to go to Ms. Powell, extinguish any student debt she has and pay for the rest of her medical education. Sure, she may go to work for “Big Pharma” after graduation, but I doubt it. She seems to have something inherent, is it okay for me to call it “values” (not politically correct these days, apologies), that guide her judgment. I will follow her career and hope to get the chance to vote for her one day as she takes her values into office seeking to do good, save lives and I expect, oppose war.

This Boomer also attends lectures weekly at a local college in physics, biology and chemistry—where every week the senior scientist from a leading university around the world, upon finishing their talk on the latest research they are doing, put up a photo of their “team” of supporting researchers—the people they say do the real work. I swear it looks like a bunch of 14-year-old kids to me! Black, white, brown, yellow, all races and creeds shown in those photos and working together to save and improve lives. And these kids are on teams that may win the Nobel Prize for contributing to saving lives! I sure would like them to get some of my tax dollars, too, but not even Boomers get to have input on that. Not too many Boomers in the audience, except a few professors and me, but a lot of student kids who are also pursuing science education attend. Too, bad, cause the lectures are free and open to the public. When we exit at 5 pm, you do see many folks scurrying to the Friday night football game, however. Gotta get a good seat!

On the other hand, the Wall Street Journal notes that a “generational war” is erupting in America pitting the survival of the old against selfish, thoughtless, dangerous behavior of many of the young.

Sure, being an old guy, it is tempting for me to blame this on the kids. But is that fair? After all, it is the old who send the kids off to wars based on lies. Wars that have no objective except to act, as Gen. Smedley Butler found after his long Marine Corps career, as “a bagman for Wall Street.” You can read Gen. Butler’s book, War Is A Racket for free online—just Google it.

Or, as an old guy, who is accused of contributing to Climate Change which many of the kids think deprives them of a future. Some kids appear to think, you old folks polluted the world and leave us one with no way out. What goes around comes around?

Or, as an old guy you didn’t do enough to help us kids get an education without being burdened by outrageous debt; or support a system that enabled us to have affordable health care, or kept locking us up for trying to have a good time and getting a good buzz on.

Maybe the kids are not as stupid as old guys think? Maybe they actually want to live, to have a future, to live as they wish so long as they don’t hurt anyone else? Maybe they are right?

I think an argument can be made for most of the above positions. But I think the real reason many kids are manifesting a disregard for the lives of others, is simple: that is what we old folks have educated them to believe is right.

Even before 9-11 the old lady, Madeleine Albright, representing the “good” President Bill Clinton as his Secretary of State, said killing 500,000 kids in Iraq using sanctions “was worth the price.”

Lesley Stahl on U.S. sanctions against Iraq: We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: I think this is a very hard choice, but the price–we think the price is worth it.

60 Minutes (5/12/96)

None of the old folks in America seemed to care.

Lesson taught the kids of America: “its ok to kill kids, kids,” just like when I was a kid and I was taught by the old folks of my day when they wanted me to go kill in Vietnam: “We had to destroy the town in order to save it.” How did that ever make sense?

Since 9-11 the old folks have taught the kids: “it is ok to invade other countries, sure we will kill a lot of folks, but it is worth the price.” For 20 years we old folks have immersed our kids in the idea the highest form of public service is going around the world killing people who did nothing to America. We old folks have shown the kids by example: see someone in camouflage fatigues? Stand and applaud their “service.” We old folks teach the kids, send in your taxes without which the wars can’t be fought, and be a good American! Don’t question why America, since 9-11-2001, has spent about $120 billion on biological weapons, according to expert Francis A. Boyle (in an email to me), but did not have the money for a COVID-19 vaccine. Pay for the bombs, pay for the wars! Forget about funding education, or health care! Come on kids! Get on board!

Well, old folks, “Mission Accomplished!” Maybe now we old folks, because COVID-19 is teaching us the error of our ways, seek desperately to return to the ancient wisdom, like “honor your father and mother.” Maybe. Maybe we should have been training the kids in the ancient wisdom like, “don’t kill,” or “love your enemy.” But, what do I know? I am just a stupid Boomer.

Maybe we should ask the kids, who taught you to be so callous about the lives of your fellow human beings? Maybe they will just tell us to look in the mirror.

At least in this time of pandemic we are talking about compassion, something we routinely ignore otherwise. Some say it will blossom more under this duress. I want to believe.

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Stop Tightening the Thumb Screws, A Humanitarian Message https://likethedew.com/2020/03/18/stop-tightening-the-thumb-screws-a-humanitarian-message/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=stop-tightening-the-thumb-screws-a-humanitarian-message https://likethedew.com/2020/03/18/stop-tightening-the-thumb-screws-a-humanitarian-message/#respond Wed, 18 Mar 2020 19:23:06 +0000 https://likethedew.com/?p=73174

U.S. sanctions against Iran, cruelly strengthened in March of 2018, continue a collective punishment of extremely vulnerable people. Presently, the U.S. “maximum pressure” policy severely undermines Iranian efforts to cope with the ravages of COVID-19, causing hardship and tragedy while contributing to the global spread of the pandemic. On March 12, 2020, Iran’s Foreign Minister Jawad Zarif urged member states of the UN to end the United States’ unconscionable and lethal economic warfare.  

Addressing UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, Zarif detailed how U.S. economic sanctions prevent Iranians from importing necessary medicine and medical equipment. 

For over two years, while the U.S. bullied other countries to refrain from purchasing Iranian oil, Iranians have coped with crippling economic decline. 

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U.S. sanctions against Iran, cruelly strengthened in March of 2018, continue a collective punishment of extremely vulnerable people. Presently, the U.S. “maximum pressure” policy severely undermines Iranian efforts to cope with the ravages of COVID-19, causing hardship and tragedy while contributing to the global spread of the pandemic. On March 12, 2020, Iran’s Foreign Minister Jawad Zarif urged member states of the UN to end the United States’ unconscionable and lethal economic warfare.  

illustration of Corona Heads by © Emad Hajjaj

Addressing UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, Zarif detailed how U.S. economic sanctions prevent Iranians from importing necessary medicine and medical equipment. 

For over two years, while the U.S. bullied other countries to refrain from purchasing Iranian oil, Iranians have coped with crippling economic decline. 

The devastated economy and worsening coronavirus outbreak now drive migrants and refugees, who number in the millions, back to Afghanistan at dramatically increased rates. 

In the past two weeks alone, more than 50,000 Afghans returned from Iran, increasing the likelihood that cases of coronavirus will surge in Afghanistan. Decades of war, including U.S. invasion and occupation, have decimated Afghanistan’s health care and food distribution systems.

Jawad Zarif asks the UN to prevent the use of hunger and disease as a weapon of war. His letter demonstrates the  wreckage caused by many decades of United States imperialism and suggests revolutionary steps toward dismantling the United States war machine.

During the United States’ 1991 “Desert Storm” war against Iraq, I was part of the Gulf Peace Team, – at first, living at in a “peace camp” set up near the Iraq-Saudi border and later, following our removal by Iraqi troops, in a Baghdad hotel which formerly housed many journalists. Finding an abandoned typewriter, we melted a candle onto its rim, (the U.S. had destroyed Iraq’s electrical stations, and most of the hotel rooms were pitch black). We compensated for an absent typewriter ribbon by placing a sheet of red carbon paper over our stationery. When Iraqi authorities realized we managed to type our document, they asked if we would type their letter to the Secretary General of the UN. (Iraq was so beleaguered even cabinet level officials lacked typewriter ribbons.) The letter to Javier Perez de Cuellar implored the UN to prevent the U.S. from bombing a road between Iraq and Jordan, the only way out for refugees and the only way in for humanitarian relief. Devastated by bombing and already bereft of supplies, Iraq was, in 1991, only one year into a deadly sanctions regime that lasted for 13 years before the U.S. began its full-scale invasion and occupation in 2003. Now, in 2020, Iraqis still suffering from impoverishment, displacement and war earnestly want the U.S. to practice self-distancing and leave their country.

Protester’s sign decries sanctions, “a silent war” by Campaign for Peace and Democracy, 2013
Protester’s sign decries sanctions, “a silent war”

Are we now living in a watershed time? An unstoppable, deadly virus ignores any borders the U.S. tries to reinforce or redraw. The United States military-industrial complex, with its massive arsenals and cruel capacity for siege, isn’t relevant to “security” needs. Why should the U.S., at this crucial juncture, approach other countries with threat and force and presume a right to preserve global inequities? Such arrogance doesn’t even ensure security for the United States military. If the U.S. further isolates and batters Iran, conditions will worsen in Afghanistan and United States troops stationed there will ultimately be at risk. The simple observation, “We are all part of one another,” becomes acutely evident. 

It’s helpful to think of guidance from past leaders who faced wars and pandemics. The Spanish flu pandemic in 1918-19, coupled with the atrocities of World War I,  killed 50 million worldwide, 675,000 in the U.S. Thousands of female nurseswere on the “front lines,” delivering health care. Among them were black nurses who not only risked their lives to practice the works of mercy but also fought discrimination and racism in their determination to serve. These brave women arduously paved a way for the first 18 black nurses to serve in the Army Nurse Corps and they provided “a small turning point in the continuing movement for health equity.”

In the spring of 1919, Jane Addams and Alice Hamilton witnessed the effects of sanctions against Germany imposed by Allied forces after World War I. They observed “critical shortages of food, soap and medical supplies” and wrote indignantly about how children were being punished with starvation for “the sins of statesmen.” 

Starvation continued even after the blockade was finally lifted, that summer, with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. Hamilton and Addams reported how the flu epidemic, exacerbated in its spread by starvation and post-war devastation, in turn disrupted the food supply. The two women argued a policy of sensible food distribution was necessary for both  humanitarian and strategic reasons. “What was to be gained by starving more children?” bewildered German parents asked them.

Jonathan Whitall directs Humanitarian Analysis for Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors without Borders. His most recent analysis poses agonizing questions: 

How are you supposed to wash your hands regularly if you have no running water or soap? How are you supposed to implement ‘social distancing’ if you live in a slum or a refugee or containment camp? How are you supposed to stay at home if your work pays by the hour and requires you to show up? How are you supposed to stop crossing borders if you are fleeing from war? How are you supposed to get tested for #COVID19 if the health system is privatized and you can’t afford it? How are those with pre-existing health conditions supposed to take extra precautions when they already can’t even access the treatment they need?

I expect many people worldwide, during the spread of COVID – 19,  are thinking hard about the glaring, deadly inequalities in our societies, wonder how best to extend proverbial hands of friendship to people in need while urged to accept isolation and social distancing. One way to help others survive is to insist the United States lift sanctions against Iran and instead support acts of practical care. Jointly confront the coronavirus while constructing a humane future for the world without wasting  time or resources on the continuation of brutal wars. 

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Hope for the Best; Plan for the Worst https://likethedew.com/2020/03/18/hope-for-the-best-plan-for-the-worst/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=hope-for-the-best-plan-for-the-worst https://likethedew.com/2020/03/18/hope-for-the-best-plan-for-the-worst/#respond Wed, 18 Mar 2020 18:32:51 +0000 https://likethedew.com/?p=73167

For all our technological and cultural advances, humans have a glaring weakness – an Achilles Heel, if you will. It’s our difficulty comprehending and working with situations where actions and consequences are experienced separately in time and/or space.

It’s why we scald ourselves in the shower, turning the water too far in one direction, and then freeze by turning too far, too quickly in the other direction. It’s why we build subdivisions even as a housing boom is already ebbing and shopping malls as brick-and-mortar storefronts are vanishing. It’s even the reason Union and Confederate forces clashed in a number of battles fought after Lee’s surrender at Appomattox.

Back then, our problem was news traveled too slowly. Today, it moves too fast. Worse yet, it arrives without context. The implications are clear in Americans’ responses to the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).

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For all our technological and cultural advances, humans have a glaring weakness – an Achilles Heel, if you will. It’s our difficulty comprehending and working with situations where actions and consequences are experienced separately in time and/or space.

It’s why we scald ourselves in the shower, turning the water too far in one direction, and then freeze by turning too far, too quickly in the other direction. It’s why we build subdivisions even as a housing boom is already ebbing and shopping malls as brick-and-mortar storefronts are vanishing. It’s even the reason Union and Confederate forces clashed in a number of battles fought after Lee’s surrender at Appomattox.

Back then, our problem was news traveled too slowly. Today, it moves too fast. Worse yet, it arrives without context. The implications are clear in Americans’ responses to the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).

We’re inundated daily with facts and figures from around the world on rates of infection, recovery, and mortality. It’s become our new language. We’re not all citing the same numbers with the same time stamp, mind you, but that’s not our biggest problem. That would be the misguided attempt to extrapolate what numbers from China, Iran, Italy, and elsewhere in America mean without proper context.

As those facts arrive from Asia and Europe, we focus instantly on how many people are confirmed sick and how many have died. From this, we do our back-of-the-napkin calculations of survival rates/mortality rates. Many of us are alarmed. Many are dismissive. Few are rational.

The first best thing we can do is to stop drawing conclusions like we’re somehow all experts in contagious disease. Beyond that, we can slow down and wait for a more complete set of facts as the basis for those conclusions. And let prudence be our guide in the meantime. Even though we aren’t virus experts, we can apply common sense and reason to how we think about its spread.

The analogy that comes to mind is a tsunami-caused earthquake. Near the quake’s epicenter, we feel tremors and see the effects almost immediately. But the tsunami may take minutes, hours, or even up to a day to hit land. Data points about COVID-19’s health impacts are the earthquake. We felt it almost immediately once news leaked out of China, and we’ve been compiling and tracking that data around the clock ever since. But, while the virus spreads alarmingly quickly, it hasn’t crossed the Asian and European continents, nor the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, with the same speed as the news about it on the internet and the news shows.

We face the same risk as the shower example, but with much more at stake. We see data coming in today from China and assume it applies directly to where we are now in the US. But we’re two months behind them. What we see there are numbers improving, and it’s really tempting to want to breath a massive sigh of relief and get on with our lives as normal.

But, the numbers and encouraging images from China now come after the extremely aggressive measures Chinese officials took in January and February to stop the spread of COVID-19. Through massive lockdowns, quarantines, electronic surveillance, rapid construction of new hospitals, and other measures, China seems to be succeeding at getting a handle on the epidemic. But we’re looking at their situation on the other side of the curve, while trying to feel better about our place here on the just-getting-started side of the curve. That’s extremely dangerous.

Add to our time lag the incomplete causal analysis on which we’re relying for making choices about how seriously to take things. We look at countries at various points in the spread. Italy, for example is in dire straits, with doctor’s forced to choose which patients to save and which to let die. The news from China and from Korea is encouraging. From Italy, things are grim and getting worse. Experts conjecture it’s the higher median age of Italian citizens and their highly social culture which make them more vulnerable to COVID-19. But these are unproven theories, not facts.

Meanwhile, here in America, we have friends perhaps more frightened than is helpful, but also many more who seem dismissive of it all. I see smart people ignoring voluntary recommendations and mandatory orders from public and health officials, even as the number of confirmed cases in the US has increased by 700 to 900 cases each of the last three days. Unlike the Italians, we’ve not yet reached the point where emergency rooms and hospitals are taxed to the max. But, conventional wisdom is we have even less capacity in our country than they have in theirs. And, we may yet have to travel much of the road Italians are on before we get to the point we’d like to be like China.

Choosing between the deepening crisis of Italy and the apparently more hopeful story out of China and other Asian nations, crisis deniers are betting their lives on the latter.

As in any crisis, we should draw our hope from the best-case scenario. But we must plan and execute our actions to combat the worst. Your life and the lives of your loved ones may very well depend on it. Mine does too.

CDC ()
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Amendment 4 – Will Florida’s x-felons finally get to vote? https://likethedew.com/2020/03/16/amendment-4-will-floridas-x-felons-finally-get-to-vote/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=amendment-4-will-floridas-x-felons-finally-get-to-vote https://likethedew.com/2020/03/16/amendment-4-will-floridas-x-felons-finally-get-to-vote/#respond Mon, 16 Mar 2020 18:09:46 +0000 https://likethedew.com/?p=73161 “These restrictions are not required by the plain language of Amendment 4. Nor are these restrictions what a supermajority of voters contemplated when they voted Yes on Amendment 4.” – American Civil Liberties Union (Florida)

The U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals got Florida’s case to decide the legality of adding on financial requirements (poll taxes) not referred to or required by Amendment 4. Recently, the Court of Appeals in Atlanta found that Florida unconstitutionally prohibited the voting rights of former felons who could not pay court fines/fees. This ruling may have a major effect on which party wins the 2020 Presidential election.

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“These restrictions are not required by the plain language of Amendment 4. Nor are these restrictions what a supermajority of voters contemplated when they voted Yes on Amendment 4.” – American Civil Liberties Union (Florida)

The U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals got Florida’s case to decide the legality of adding on financial requirements (poll taxes) not referred to or required by Amendment 4. Recently, the Court of Appeals in Atlanta found that Florida unconstitutionally prohibited the voting rights of former felons who could not pay court fines/fees. This ruling may have a major effect on which party wins the 2020 Presidential election.

Before 2018, Florida law prohibited convicted felons from voting for life, affecting an estimated 1.6 million Floridians. On Nov. 18, 2018, Floridians voted almost 2 to 1 to amend the Florida Constitution to rescind the ban (with a few notable exceptions, like murderers and sex offenders). Florida voters have clearly spoken regarding reintegrating these individuals once they have paid their debt to society. There is absolutely no reason why these citizens should not be immediately registered. 

The change was to take effect 1-8-19, at least in theory. However, newly elected Governor DeSantis and other GOP big wigs have purposefully delayed implementation (per the “legislative action’” they dubiously claim is needed). Thus, the Governor signed SB 7066, a party-line vote bill violating the spirit of Amendment 4. Senate Bill 7066 forces former felons, many indigents, to fulfill all financial obligations before they can get their right to vote restored. It has been estimated that 80% of felons have such obligations. Since then, implementation of Florida’s Constitutional Amendment 4 had been tied up in the state and federal courts (and the case may yet go to the Supreme Court).

If we look at partisan politics, it’s obvious why the GOP went this route, taking the low road. Vox looked at 2016 Florida election data and issued a report in Nov. 2018: “Had all ex-felons been eligible to vote in Florida in 2016, we estimate that this would have generated about 102,000 additional votes for Democrats and about 54,000 additional votes for Republicans, with about an additional 40,000 votes that could be cast on behalf of either party.”

Over 21% of African Americans of voting age in Florida were disenfranchised before the Amendment passed. Frankly, as a former Republican County Commission Chair in a rural Georgia County, I understand why DeSantis and the others in the Florida legislature are worried. They have played the race card for years and now it is clearly going to come back and bite them in 2020.

But, understanding why they are worried and supporting their actions are quite different. We should all be 100% against their stalling, which is yet another example of despicable, un-American, unconstitutional voter suppression of minorities.

Frankly, America’s low voting rates are an embarrassment when compared to other democracies. Further, the misleading and clearly incorrect statements (unsubstantiated voter fraud and the like) by our elected officials at all levels to justify this horrible situation are equally embarrassing, undemocratic and unworthy of our elected officials. These officials simply want to discourage voting by non-whites and the poor.

Ideally, we are supposed to be a fair, unbiased nation which encourages all of its citizens to vote, regardless of party affiliation. Actions like those of DeSantis and his ilk betray our cherished ideals, as do obvious attempts by both parties to gerrymander voting districts. I know; gerrymandering by a political opponent on the state level is the reason I left office after two terms. My district looked like a horseshoe, splitting my suburban community in two while adding a majority of rural voters.

The effort to obtain approval of Amendment 4 should not have been a partisan effort, but it clearly was. The GOP putting financial hurdles in the way of voting is just an unconstitutional updated 2019 poll tax. Hopefully, when this case eventually reaches the Supreme Court, SCOTUS will do the right thing. But, with 4 right-wing members having been appointed by Republicans who lost the popular vote in their own elections, that’s not a given.

It’s time for the GOP in Florida and other states to wake up. Look beyond short-term interest group politics and to your future. Now, before lasting damage is done to your brand. Otherwise, with the rapidly changing demographics in states like Florida, Texas and Georgia, the GOP is in danger of becoming a permanent minority party within the next few decades.

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American Unexceptionalism & COVID-19 https://likethedew.com/2020/03/13/american-unexceptionalism-covid-19/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=american-unexceptionalism-covid-19 https://likethedew.com/2020/03/13/american-unexceptionalism-covid-19/#respond Fri, 13 Mar 2020 19:37:57 +0000 https://likethedew.com/?p=73152

During the SARS-1 epidemic scare in 2002-4, America invaded Iraq. If you followed science, you would know that SARS-1, was a coronavirus that caused an acute respiratory disease that killed on average about 11 out of every 100 infected (but sometimes more depending on health care infrastructure), and was a pandemic bullet the world barely missed. Due to heroic work of doctors, nurses and scientists, it was contained. Had it not been contained ... Next time you see a doctor or nurse or scientist, you should thank them for their service.

SARS-CoV2, the coronavirus now raging and causing the disease called COVID-19, is not as deadly, killing about 2 or 3 out 100, but is much more infectious than SARS-1, so it is probable that a lot more people will die than died from SARS-1, which was “only” 774 worldwide, because SARS-2 will spread to a lot more people, and it’s already killed more than 3,700.

Scientists were close to a coronavirus vaccine years ago but the money dried up.

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During the SARS-1 epidemic scare in 2002-4, America invaded Iraq. If you followed science, you would know that SARS-1, was a coronavirus that caused an acute respiratory disease that killed on average about 11 out of every 100 infected (but sometimes more depending on health care infrastructure), and was a pandemic bullet the world barely missed. Due to heroic work of doctors, nurses and scientists, it was contained. Had it not been contained … Next time you see a doctor or nurse or scientist, you should thank them for their service.

SARS-CoV2, the coronavirus now raging and causing the disease called COVID-19, is not as deadly, killing about 2 or 3 out 100, but is much more infectious than SARS-1, so it is probable that a lot more people will die than died from SARS-1, which was “only” 774 worldwide, because SARS-2 will spread to a lot more people, and it’s already killed more than 3,700.

Scientists were close to a coronavirus vaccine years ago but the money dried up.

Rather than spend its money on health care, or science or medicine, America decided to spend one trillion dollars on making more and “more useable” nuclear weapons, increasing already obscene war budgets and continuing multiple wars far flung across the earth. Apparently, having missed the bullet of SARS-1, politicians and “leaders” in their arrogance and ignorance, a deadly combination, decided what America needed, on top of its nuclear arsenal capable of killing every human being several times over, was more nuclear weapons.

In a magnificent show of bipartisanship, Obama’s $1 trillion new nukes program, morphed into Trump’s “more and more useable nukes” program. Just last week it was announced America’s new mini nukes (if they are smaller, you can possibly use them without destroying the world, runs the argument, and what’s the use of having them if you can’t use them?) have been deployed into the world ready to use.

Coronavirus vaccine? Sorry, no money for that.

Decisions have consequences.

Disease kills more people than any other single cause. “American Exceptionalism,” another manifestation of arrogance and ignorance, provides no immunity to disease.

While America has caused worldwide destruction at an unprecedented pace with its “war on terror,” viruses, bacteria and fungal infectious agents have been mutating, readying to strike humanity. It is almost as though these common enemies of all humanity had a brilliant strategy: get humans fighting and killing one and other, get them to take their eye off the ball, and then strike! A united humanity, using their minds rationally for scientific and medical advancement, could have been prepared, been ready and defeated the infectious enemy—a divided, warring humanity is ready for defeat.

It is somewhat curious to see that America, dropping tens of thousands of bombs on other humans, and sitting on a huge arsenal of nuclear weapons capable of killing all of humanity, is essentially defenseless against submicroscopic killers. Of course, America could drop its nukes and probably wipe out the SARS-2 virus by wiping out most of humankind, including most of America. Some of the sicko psychos in America’s perpetual war complex probably lust for doing so (they will scurry to safety to Raven Rock so the government can continue while the people expire—sorry, Trump, you would not be allowed in, having just met with a guy who tested positive).

Arrogance and ignorance. That dangerous combination has infected American society. Our heroes are not doctors, nurses and scientists that save lives, but killers and destroyers of lives. The “War on Terror” is really a fight against kids who have grown up on the receiving end of American bombings and invasions, and who have grown up seeking revenge against those who destroyed their families, towns and countries. These kids could have been doctors or nurses had they not been blinded by hate and desire for revenge. We all knew it, in our hearts, because had we been on the receiving end of such an onslaught, we too would have lusted for revenge.

Well, having sown the wind, we are now reaping the whirlwind.

Disease and death are the common enemy of all humanity, including the terrorists, the communists, the left, the right or whatever other group of humans you have been propagandized into thinking are your enemy. The ancient wisdom is right: we are all brothers and sisters. We are all either one species united against our common enemy, or we are united by infectious disease in our own demise, because, as bad as it will be here in America, in those “hell-holes” of war torn places around the world, bombed near back to the Stone Age by America, there we have created perfect incubators for infectious disease to grow and spread.

Thus ironically, America’s wars are poised to defeat America. The next SARS—SARS-3—may already be out there, among those weakened and compromised by endless war, mutating and growing, preparing to break out. Is it too much to hope that America will turn its face from war, learn from its present epidemic, salute its true heroes, doctors and nurses and scientists and ask them for guidance? Ask them, what should we spend our tax dollars on? Asking the power-hungry, arrogant, deluded psychopaths and narcissists of the military-industrial complex is revealed as a complete, though foreseeable, failure.

America’s greatness was to proclaim that all humanity were created equal and ought to be brothers and sisters, using their God-given gifts of reason and intelligence, not for war, but for discovery and advancement. Sometimes it takes great loss for learning to occur. Pain is the greatest teacher.

I hope, that after this great winnowing from SARS-2 passes, America will have learned that to be great again it must renounce war, destruction and death, and pick up and do the hard work of discovery, science and medicine. Oh, and before I forget, develop a coronavirus vaccine, maybe with the money saved from ending spending on nuclear and other bombs or weapons of mass destruction in our bioweapons labs. Yes, I think that could actually make America great.

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Alibiing the Bernie Bros https://likethedew.com/2020/03/13/alibiing-the-bernie-bros/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=alibiing-the-bernie-bros https://likethedew.com/2020/03/13/alibiing-the-bernie-bros/#respond Fri, 13 Mar 2020 15:26:45 +0000 https://likethedew.com/?p=73143

Perhaps you have noticed the uptick in alibiing for the bad behavior of the Bernie Bros. Two excuses are currently making the rounds on social media.

The first is the plea that the supporters of Bernie Sanders are rude because they are pious, aggressive because they are outraged, and rhetorically intemperate because they are politically innocent. That denial of individual moral responsibility is of course the same excuse offered for the evil done by the members of every mass movement intent on imposing its beliefs on the rest of society. True Believers can believe themselves to be engaged in a holy cause, blind to their own unconscious motivations and unable to restrain their worst impulses because they have submerged their wills in the functional equivalent of a hive mind.

Those offering the first excuse often note that the disinhibition of online communication makes the formation of virtual mobs very easy. What those offering this alibi fail to acknowledge is that it is these factors which make the bad behavior of the Bernie Bros more rather than less obnoxious. They obviously derive as much satisfaction from the chaotic circulation of similar messages as they do from the specific content of any particular message. The jouissance is in attacking the victim not the victim’s ideas.

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Perhaps you have noticed the uptick in alibiing for the bad behavior of the Bernie Bros. Two excuses are currently making the rounds on social media.

Caricature of Senator Bernie Sanders

The first is the plea that the supporters of Bernie Sanders are rude because they are pious, aggressive because they are outraged, and rhetorically intemperate because they are politically innocent. That denial of individual moral responsibility is of course the same excuse offered for the evil done by the members of every mass movement intent on imposing its beliefs on the rest of society. True Believers can believe themselves to be engaged in a holy cause, blind to their own unconscious motivations and unable to restrain their worst impulses because they have submerged their wills in the functional equivalent of a hive mind.

Those offering the first excuse often note that the disinhibition of online communication makes the formation of virtual mobs very easy. What those offering this alibi fail to acknowledge is that it is these factors which make the bad behavior of the Bernie Bros more rather than less obnoxious. They obviously derive as much satisfaction from the chaotic circulation of similar messages as they do from the specific content of any particular message. The jouissance is in attacking the victim not the victim’s ideas.

The second excuse is that the Bernie Bros are not a real phenomenon, that the stereotype of the rude, aggressive, rhetorically intemperate, social media mobbing Bernie Bro is simply a reflection of the fact that Sanders supporters are more likely to use social media. Thus the supporters of rival Democratic presidential candidates are just as abusive but less numerous. A rather naïve content analysis of sampled twitter posts is being used to support the claim.

What the second excuse elides is that larger numbers matter because they affect the frequency and intensity of online mobbing. For that reason alone you are more likely to be targeted for a social media pile-on by Sanders supporters than Biden supporters.

Research on workplace bullying by Maureen Duffy and Len Sperry suggests another possible reason. Victims of workplace mobbing are typically high achieving employees committed to doing their jobs while the perpetrators are typically lower achieving “yes men” who present various degrees of malignant narcissism. If you have even been subjected to online mobbing by the Bernie Bros or their counterparts among Trump supporters, you will no doubt recall recognizing symptoms of malignant narcissism.

What Duffy and Sperry also point up is that workplace bullying is more likely to occur in organizations that ignore or minimize the problem. Here the parallel is to the Sanders Campaign, which has largely failed to discourage the excesses of its militant followers. Bernie Sanders deserves a measure of credit for saying publically that his followers should be responsible: “If there are a few people who make ugly remarks … I disown those people, they are not part of our movement.” The problem is that his angriest supporters still think they are a part of his mass movement. There is no evidence that his other followers have ever bothered to call them out. Instead they have exhibited the bystander effect. Or worse, they have endorsed some version of the alibiing.

Do the Bernie Bros even matter now that the 2020 Sanders campaign is a spent force? In the near term many are still doing their schtick, which will unintentionally or intentionally benefit the 2020 Trump campaign. Over the long term, the problem is that they have been politically socialized to think their incivility is a legitimate form of political participation. Alas, we are likely to see more of it in future elections.

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A Sneeze and a Prayer https://likethedew.com/2020/03/11/a-sneeze-and-a-prayer/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-sneeze-and-a-prayer https://likethedew.com/2020/03/11/a-sneeze-and-a-prayer/#respond Wed, 11 Mar 2020 20:22:31 +0000 https://likethedew.com/?p=73134

I read on al.com today that 20 people had been tested for coronavirus in Alabama. Twenty. The upside of that I suppose is that Alabama, with its nearly five million residents, can declare itself free of the virus that causes COVID-19.

While residents of The Heart of Dixie assume the what-you-don’t-know-can’t-hurt-you position, discourse concerning the Coronavirus Pandemic appears to have taken on a political tone. Fox News, other conservative “news” outlets and our Wonderful President imply that the whole virus thing has been concocted by evil liberals and their media tool to create panic and help defeat the Wonderful President in the upcoming election.

In Alabama everybody who drives a truck – or BMW, for that matter -- with a rebel battle flag or Trump sticker on it looks with disdain upon people who take precautions with the illness and want more testing. That means this isn’t really political, it’s Darwinian. A lot of people in Trump Country are going to get sick and maybe even die from this virus. All the while they remain certain that the Wonderful President continues to do “all he can for us.”

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I read on al.com today that 20 people had been tested for coronavirus in Alabama. Twenty. The upside of that I suppose is that Alabama, with its nearly five million residents, can declare itself free of the virus that causes COVID-19.

Sepia colored photo of couple kissing while wearing surgical masks - Story Crop

While residents of The Heart of Dixie assume the what-you-don’t-know-can’t-hurt-you position, discourse concerning the Coronavirus Pandemic appears to have taken on a political tone. Fox News, other conservative “news” outlets and our Wonderful President imply that the whole virus thing has been concocted by evil liberals and their media tool to create panic and help defeat the Wonderful President in the upcoming election.

In Alabama everybody who drives a truck – or BMW, for that matter — with a rebel battle flag or Trump sticker on it looks with disdain upon people who take precautions with the illness and want more testing. That means this isn’t really political, it’s Darwinian. A lot of people in Trump Country are going to get sick and maybe even die from this virus. All the while they remain certain that the Wonderful President continues to do “all he can for us.”

If you are a Trumper and you find yourself questioning the veracity of the Wonderful President on this issue, you should ask your preacher for discernment. You know, the guy you “follow,” who told you that “gun rights” is written in the literal Bible or that Democrats want to take away your “freedom of religion because they believe in separation of church and state.” The same guy who told you that Jesus did not include gays and Hispanics when he commanded that you love your neighbor as yourself.

Maybe your spiritual leader will tell you it is no longer necessary to handle snakes to prove your faith…you can simply stand in front of the pulpit and let people sneeze on you.

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Will Real Socialism Please Stand Up https://likethedew.com/2020/03/10/will-real-socialism-please-stand-up/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=will-real-socialism-please-stand-up https://likethedew.com/2020/03/10/will-real-socialism-please-stand-up/#respond Tue, 10 Mar 2020 17:03:26 +0000 https://likethedew.com/?p=73121

Bernie Sanders calls himself a socialist, but efforts to divine just what that amounts to are all over the place. The country is ill-served by the confusion. His candidacy offers an opportunity for a national debate about socialism but his campaign, to say nothing of his entire public life, would be wasted if we go at it without a reasonably clear understanding of what we’re debating.

I’m going to neither defend nor attack Sanders’ socialism. Instead I’m taking him at his word about this and I’ll just try to construe it as plausibly as I can.

Much of the media commentary is unhelpful because it’s focused almost entirely on the institutional landscape historically associated with socialism. For example, the reason that New York Times columnist Paul Krugman says Sanders isn’t really a socialist is that he doesn’t support nationalizing industries and enterprises, a centrally planned economy and other such features that Krugman takes as defining.

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Portraits of John Locke and Thomas Jefferson, and photos of Abraham Lincoln and Bernie Sanders.
Left to Right: John Locke, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Bernie Sanders.

Bernie Sanders calls himself a socialist, but efforts to divine just what that amounts to are all over the place. The country is ill-served by the confusion. His candidacy offers an opportunity for a national debate about socialism but his campaign, to say nothing of his entire public life, would be wasted if we go at it without a reasonably clear understanding of what we’re debating.

I’m going to neither defend nor attack Sanders’ socialism. Instead I’m taking him at his word about this and I’ll just try to construe it as plausibly as I can.

Much of the media commentary is unhelpful because it’s focused almost entirely on the institutional landscape historically associated with socialism. For example, the reason that New York Times columnist Paul Krugman says Sanders isn’t really a socialist is that he doesn’t support nationalizing industries and enterprises, a centrally planned economy and other such features that Krugman takes as defining.

Instead of concentrating on institutional organization, we’ll get a better handle on Sanders’ beliefs if we consider socialism’s guiding principles. Thinking about the view that socialism rejects is a good way to get at its basic principles.

The classic statement of what socialists oppose is John Locke’s 1690 Second Treatise of Government, to which Thomas Jefferson’s 1776 Declaration of Independence is heavily indebted. Locke’s Treatise rests on the core belief that we all have a natural, pre-social property right in ourselves. When he says that we own ourselves, that includes all our natural abilities. Since we own ourselves and all our natural gifts, whenever we apply them to something not already owned by someone else, the property right that we have in ourselves extends to whatever we’ve deployed our abilities on.

Locke’s view that we make unowned things our property—he was talking about unclaimed land primarily—by “mixing our labor” with them has come in for a lot of abuse. Putting that aside, the important point here is that on Locke’s story a society’s aggregate wealth can be resolved without remainder ultimately into the holdings of individuals exercising their natural property rights in first acquisition and exchange.

In contrast to this, socialism rests on the principle that a society’s aggregate wealth is a social product that can’t even in theory be resolved into discreet holdings assignable to individuals. Whatever Locke might have thought about some fanciful pre-social world, in the real world people’s individual abilities are a matter of blind luck, a gift of the genetic lottery. And what people make of their gifts is the joint result of countless accidents of history and myriad people’s actions, most of which we can’t possibly disentangle. So if there’s any owner of a society’s aggregate wealth, it can only be the society as a whole. Socialism is it-takes-a-village on steroids.

With that rough distinction between socialism’s guiding principles and its natural rights counterpart in hand, here’s what makes it so hard to pin Sanders’ socialism down just by surveying his policy proposals.

On the natural rights story, the public sector is a tactical departure from the default private sector populated by all the property-owning wealth creators. Abraham Lincoln, free-labor Whig turned Republican, expressed this view succinctly when he said, “The legitimate object of government, is to do for a community of people, whatever they need to have done, but can not do, at all, or can not, so well do, for themselves in their separate, and individual capacities.”

On socialist communitarian principles, the positions of the public and private sectors are exactly reversed. It’s the private sector that’s the tactical departure from the default public sector where the machinery for allocating the society’s common holdings resides and operates.

Leaving aside the most doctrinaire expressions of the two competing principles, like the former Soviet Union, on the one hand, and our Gilded Age of the Robber Barons, on the other, historically there’s been a lot of overlap between socialist societies and ones based on some concept of individual natural property rights. America didn’t become a socialist society when the excesses of the Robber Barons yielded to the reforms of the Progressive Era, the New Deal and the Great Society. We’ve never fully abandoned the Jeffersonian belief in unalienable rights bestowed on us by our Creator. Nor do socialist societies with heavy tax burdens and generous publicly funded benefits abandon their principles when they embrace market economies permitting brain surgeons greater earning power than chimney sweeps.

Focusing on these basic principles instead of institutional organization helps clear up at least two features of Sanders’ position.

First, he’s been pretty unforthcoming about the cost of his policy proposals, and doesn’t flinch at estimates as high as $60 trillion over ten years. Nor does he seem troubled when his halfhearted attempts to explain where all that money would come are easily picked apart. That suggests that he doesn’t think of enlarging the public sector to a degree rarely seen in our history as reaching into people’s pockets for money that belongs to them to pay for his initiatives. To his mind, it’s just reallocating social wealth that at the moment is very badly distributed. Since society’s aggregate wealth is the social product of the society as a whole, society, through the political process, gets to funnel it into whatever purposes it deems worthy. And as long as the political process is fair and transparent, nobody can claim an invasion of their extra-social, natural property rights, since there aren’t any.

Second, this story helps makes sense of Sanders’ claim that while none of his proposals are “radical,” enacting them would take a “political revolution.” It’s only in a global context that they’re not radical since other advanced societies accept them. But they are radical in American political culture, insofar as it’s still informed by the natural rights view we inherited from John Locke and Thomas Jefferson. So when Sanders says that America needs a “political revolution,” that can’t mean mere tactical departures from our default natural rights principles. That’s not revolutionary. It must mean discarding those principles in favor of the competing socialist principles. That’s what a real debate about socialism has to be about.

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Is the Creator interfering in the 2020 elections? https://likethedew.com/2020/03/08/is-the-creator-interfering-in-the-2020-elections/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=is-the-creator-interfering-in-the-2020-elections https://likethedew.com/2020/03/08/is-the-creator-interfering-in-the-2020-elections/#respond Sun, 08 Mar 2020 18:08:43 +0000 https://likethedew.com/?p=73115

The creator, noted grantor of our rights to be free from government abuse in the Declaration of Independence, appears to be interfering in the 2020 election!  What?!?  Where can your author get that idea?

Well, here is the thesis.  It appears the Creator created humans with free will and the capacity for reason.  This gave us a choice:  be smart or not.  Up to you, don’t blame anyone else.

Over many generations of humans, smart did not make much progress.  But finally, with the “Age of Reason” a few hundred years ago, humans learned:  science seems to work, maybe we should try it.

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The creator, noted grantor of our rights to be free from government abuse in the Declaration of Independence, appears to be interfering in the 2020 election!  What?!?  Where can your author get that idea?

Well, here is the thesis.  It appears the Creator created humans with free will and the capacity for reason.  This gave us a choice:  be smart or not.  Up to you, don’t blame anyone else.

Over many generations of humans, smart did not make much progress.  But finally, with the “Age of Reason” a few hundred years ago, humans learned:  science seems to work, maybe we should try it.

The real scientific revolution began after WWI when most of humanity learned—science having discovered anti-biotics could cure many infections that used to kill more people in war than the combat did.  In fact, WWII was the first war where more people died from combat than infection or disease!

Wow!  From this, many humans decided, post WWII, to become scientists or doctors and use their reason to save lives instead of taking them!  This revolutionized human existence.  From a race of killers emerged a competing vision of humanity:  a race of healers using reason and science to improve humanities’ chance of survival.

Of course, not everyone got on board.  Science is hard.  You have to work at it.  You have to hurt your head studying math, learning to use technology, long hours in the laboratory accompanied by low pay compared to many other professions.  For many, it was simply too much work, so they coasted on the backs of those willing to do the work.

In the seven decades since WWII, a strange thing happened.  Though benefited by the advance of modern medicine and science, many humans began to take it for granted.  Then the next generation assumed it would always be there.  The next generation turned from science and reason to the easier path of faith or superstition.  Today many are anti-science, a “lifestyle” choice made possible because it is backstopped by science.  If your prayers and hopes don’t cure you, you can always go the hospital.  In this vein, it has been reported that the number of Americans (formerly the most rational and scientific peoples of the world) who believe the world is flat is rising!

COVID-19 enters stage left, just as anti-science seems to have spread like, well, COVID-19, among the electorate and is most pronounced among America’s “leaders” or politicians.  Public health and science budgets have been slashed while making more nuclear weapons got a $1Trillion boost!  (At least they see science benefits in the killing business.)  And so, a dumbed-down population, armed with declining public health infrastructure faces a highly contagious viral assault. 

Here is where the Creator can be seen interfering in the 2020 election.  The most recent mortality figures (March 3, 2020)  show that: “the most significant risk factor for dying from COVID-19 is age. According to China CDC, people above the age of 80 have a 14.8 percent chance of dying from the disease; people in their 70s, 8 percent; people in their 60s, 3.6 percent; and people in their 50s, 1.3 percent. Once below this age range, the risk of dying drops to between 0.2 and 0.4 percent.“  So the kids are all right!  That’s the good news!

The bad news, or maybe good news, depending on your take, is that per the US government:  “The average age of Members of the House at the beginning of the 115th Congress was 57.8 years; of Senators, 61.8 years, among the oldest in U.S. history.”  Mr. Trump is 73, Joe Biden 77; Bernie Sanders 76.  Now the joint Northwestern/Princeton Political Science study of the US Congress tells us the longer one is in office, the more corrupt they become.  As for Trump and corruption, his record speaks for itself.  Mr. Biden and Mr. Sanders also have records of voting for wars they let others go fight and were in Congress and other public offices during decades of public health budget reductions.

You think the Russians are meddling in the 2020 elections?  Me, I think the Creator is.  Turn your back on the Creators ancient wisdom:  “Do not kill, love your enemy.”  Reject the Creator’s gift of reason and capacity for science?  Whittle down your “choices” in elections to the corrupt and the war mongers?  Maybe, just maybe, even the Creator gets fed up.  Enter COVID-19?

[Full disclosure:  your author is in the age group with an 8% fatality rate given current stats. He acknowledges a Creator, but not an interventionist god—he concedes he may be wrong on that.]

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The New South? https://likethedew.com/2020/03/08/the-new-south/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-new-south https://likethedew.com/2020/03/08/the-new-south/#respond Sun, 08 Mar 2020 15:49:36 +0000 https://likethedew.com/?p=73093

Last year, I attended the ACLU’s annual meeting held at the Temple in Atlanta. Long ago, I had read about the 1958 bombing of the Temple and why it was bombed. Jacob Rothschild was the head rabbi at the time and a very prominent leader in the fight against segregation, racism and bigotry. Attending the Temple event got me to reminiscing about the bad old days in Georgia and the South.

In Sept. 1963, just 57 years ago, four young girls were murdered in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. Twenty other people were injured.

Less than a year later, my liberal Jewish/Italian family moved from a hard hat area of New York to Cartersville, GA. Back then, Cartersville was not the thriving exurb on the expressway that it is now. At the time, Cartersville was a sleepy little textile mill town, about an hour from Alabama or Atlanta by state roads, with more in common with the former (including 100% segregated schools). 

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Last year, I attended the ACLU’s annual meeting held at the Temple in Atlanta.

Long ago, I had read about the 1958 bombing of the Temple and why it was bombed. Jacob Rothschild was the head rabbi at the time and a very prominent leader in the fight against segregation, racism and bigotry. Attending the Temple event got me to reminiscing about the bad old days in Georgia and the South.

In Sept. 1963, just 57 years ago, four young girls were murdered in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. Twenty other people were injured.

Less than a year later, my liberal Jewish/Italian family moved from a hard hat area of New York to Cartersville, GA. Back then, Cartersville was not the thriving exurb on the expressway that it is now. At the time, Cartersville was a sleepy little textile mill town, about an hour from Alabama or Atlanta by state roads, with more in common with the former (including 100% segregated schools). 

It was the old South. Not only were my brother and I the only Jews in the high school, I was the only one in the Senior class not born in the region. I was a fish out of water, dressing, acting and sounding differently than all of my classmates. And, I had typical NYC bravado. So, even though I had one of the top SAT scores in the high school, I ended up hanging with the toughest kids in town versus the smartest.

I did things that I’m not proud of. To get along, one of the things that I as a 16-year-old learned to ignore was open, blatant racism against blacks. When other kids used the “n” word, I knew that it was wrong (and something that I would never say myself). But I said nothing to remand them.

Eventually, I went to UGA and then GSU. Along the way, I married a very progressive Georgia peach (whose ancestors had fought for the South) and subsequently I finally learned that not every WASP born here was racist.

The South was changing. After graduation, I worked for the poverty program trying to right some of the wrongs done to low income Southerners, especially blacks. I eventually went to work for the state when Jimmy Carter was Governor, becoming Director of Health Planning for Georgia. I wanted to be a part of the New South, a phrase which was used frequently at the time. 

Jimmy was elected President, a high point. But then he lost to Reagan, destroying both my idealism and desire to work in the public sector. My wife, three children and I left Georgia when I became a very successful corporate nomad in 1981. I subsequently lived in Louisiana, Kentucky, Texas and finally California. But, all of my three children and eight grandchildren still lived in the South. So, in 1997 we bought a lake home in rural Georgia.

However, between 1981 and 1997, I noticed that Georgia seemed to be going backward in many areas. The confederate flag still flew over the statehouse. Instead of being more accepting and inclusive, it was more divided with many of the natives resenting newcomers, especially immigrants. Many Democrats who were white still acted like Dixiecrats.

In the last few decades since, the state has gone from blue to red. However, many of the same folks just changed parties (Dixiecrats, like former Gov. Deal). Plus, it has become fashionable in the GOP (formerly my party) to use “code words” that are racially loaded versus saying the “n” word. 

And, the desire to eliminate poverty and suffering under Jimmy’s tenure as Governor no longer existed. Now, the dominant party appears to be much more interested in right wing cause célèbre like ending all abortions and keeping Confederate Monuments to the “War of Northern Aggression”. Or, making sure that people can use their religion as an excuse to openly discriminate against gays.

Demographically, Georgia is rapidly changing  in favor of the Democrats. In my opinion, Stacey Abrams, an African American, would have won the last election if not for Kemp’s questionable, self-interested deletion of a half million people off the voter rolls. 

I’m hoping that I live long enough to once again see the New South become a commonly used phrase in Georgia.

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Super Tuesday and its aftermath https://likethedew.com/2020/03/08/super-tuesday-and-its-aftermath/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=super-tuesday-and-its-aftermath https://likethedew.com/2020/03/08/super-tuesday-and-its-aftermath/#respond Sun, 08 Mar 2020 14:30:57 +0000 https://likethedew.com/?p=73096

OXFORD, Miss. - Back at the beginning of the 20th century, muckraking journalist Charles Edward Russell noticed how U.S. senators, as a political class, all seemed to look alike.

“Well-fed and portly gentlemen, almost nobody in that chamber had any other reason to be there than his skill in valeting for some powerful interest,” Russell observed. “We had no Senate; we had only a chamber of butlers for industrialists and financiers.”

Another muckraking writer, David Graham Phillips, taking his cue from Russell, would go on to publish a damning series of articles in Cosmopolitan called “The Treason of the Senate” in which he called the Senate “an eager, resourceful, indefatigable agent of interest as hostile to the American people as any invading army could be, and vastly more dangerous: interests that manipulate the property produced by all, so that it heaps up riches for the few; interests whose growth and power can only man the degradation of the people.”

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OXFORD, Miss. – Back at the beginning of the 20th century, muckraking journalist Charles Edward Russell noticed how U.S. senators, as a political class, all seemed to look alike.

“Well-fed and portly gentlemen, almost nobody in that chamber had any other reason to be there than his skill in valeting for some powerful interest,” Russell observed. “We had no Senate; we had only a chamber of butlers for industrialists and financiers.”

Cosmopolitan, March 1906

Another muckraking writer, David Graham Phillips, taking his cue from Russell, would go on to publish a damning series of article in Cosmopolitan called “The Treason of the Senate” in which he called the Senate “an eager, resourceful, indefatigable agent of interest as hostile to the American people as any invading army could be, and vastly more dangerous: interests that manipulate the property produced by all, so that it heaps up riches for the few; interests whose growth and power can only man the degradation of the people.”

Applied today, Russell and Phillips’ indictment could be expanded to much of the political class in Washington, D.C., whose sycophantic loyalty to their billionaire donors, Wall Street and the mega-corporations that actually run America, is fully endorsed by a fawning corporate media.

This is what Bernie Sanders is up against in the race for the Democratic 2020 presidential nomination, folks.

He’s all alone now, save for the millions of mostly young ground troops who are trying to make his message heard beyond the megaphones of CNNMSNBC, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the rest of the elite established media. “Running Bernie Sanders Against Trump Would Be an Act of Insanity”, “Bernie Can’t Win”, and “Bernie Sanders’ Agenda Makes Him the Definition of Unelectable” are the messages screaming through those megaphones.

House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (SC-06)

He came into the South with the strong tailwind given him by his victories in New Hampshire and Nevada and shared victory in Iowa. Then in marched South Carolina’s black political boss James Clyburn, a 27-year-veteran congressman, House Majority Whip, and the be-all, end-all of black politics in his state.

Clyburn gave Biden a rousing endorsement that not only won the candidate the South Carolina primary but helped catapult him to Super Tuesday victories across the South, where huge black populations loom large in Democratic primaries.

Clyburn may be black, but he’s also establishment. Otherwise, why would he endorse a candidate whose record includes working with erstwhile segregationist South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond to make the nation’s criminal justice system more punitive, who opposed busing in the fight against school segregation, who called for cuts in Social Security on the Senate floor, who crawled in bed with Big Pharma, the credit card industry, and the banks rather than stand up to them on behalf of the people, a candidate who even eulogized Thurmond as a “brave man” whose legacy is a “gift to us all”?

Biden came out of Super Tuesday re-invigorated after his poor beginning in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada, and the rest of the centrist political establishment rushed to stand beside him, Bloomberg, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, and O’Rourke. Black congressman Bennie Thompson in Mississippi, as establishment now as Clyburn, also joined the growing ranks of the elite in the Biden camp.

Sanders’ alleged fellow progressive, Elizabeth Warren, also dropped out of the race, but instead of throwing her support to Sanders she went on national television to criticize him and his supporters.

Sanders went on national television, too, before the discredited Rachel Maddow, who spent much of their time together pummeling him with questions about why young voters didn’t turn in larger numbers to support him. Sanders pointed to the traditionally low turnout among such voters, but what he should have done is point to an investigative study this past week by the crusading Facing South web magazine in North Carolina that much better explained that turnout.

“Republican-led legislatures in the South have continued to erect barriers to voting that disproportionately affect youth,” Facing South’s Benjamin Barber reported. “They include strict voter identification laws and registration restrictions, as well as closures of campus polling places.”

Citing statistics from the Campus Vote Project, Barber reported seven of 17 states passing laws requiring voter IDs in recent years will not accept student IDs. This includes South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. “In Tennessee, a faculty ID is an acceptable form of voters identification but a student ID is not. And in Texas, student IDs from public universities are not accepted for voting while gun licenses are.”

The corruption in U.S. politics is so endemic it’s hard even for the experts to see it for what it really is. What it really is, folks, is a special American brand of fascism that is creeping across this land. It knows no party and no allegiance other than to the almighty American dollar that is its god.

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Joe Manchin and the Democratic Party https://likethedew.com/2020/03/03/joe-manchin-and-the-democratic-party/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=joe-manchin-and-the-democratic-party https://likethedew.com/2020/03/03/joe-manchin-and-the-democratic-party/#respond Tue, 03 Mar 2020 13:33:57 +0000 https://likethedew.com/?p=73086 Senator Manchin has received a lot of criticism in WV for his politically courageous vote to impeach President Trump. He’s been holding Town Hall meetings to fight back (see WV Gazette, 2-19-20). Before criticizing Manchin, people should review the facts about Trump:

  • Trump clearly was guilty of “high crimes and misdemeanors” regarding his actions towards the Ukraine. Extorting the President of another nation to convince him to investigate domestic political rivals is the worst thing a President has done in a century. And, Trump admitted that’s exactly what he did in his “perfect call.”
  • His obstruction of justice was crystal clear in the Ukraine case, as cited in the articles and testified to by witnesses before the House.
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Senator Manchin has received a lot of criticism in WV for his politically courageous vote to impeach President Trump. He’s been holding Town Hall meetings to fight back (see WV Gazette, 2-19-20). Before criticizing Manchin, people should review the facts about Trump:

Joe Manchin official Senate photo
  • Trump clearly was guilty of “high crimes and misdemeanors” regarding his actions towards the Ukraine. Extorting the President of another nation to convince him to investigate domestic political rivals is the worst thing a President has done in a century. And, Trump admitted that’s exactly what he did in his “perfect call.”
  • His obstruction of justice was crystal clear in the Ukraine case, as cited in the articles and testified to by witnesses before the House.
  •  Even though for political reasons the Democrats didn’t add it to the articles of impeachment, Trump clearly obstructed justice in Mueller’s Russia investigation. Per the Mueller Report, Volume II, page 182: “If we had confidence…the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice we would so state”; “we are unable to reach that conclusion”; “it also does not exonerate him”.

Despite the above, Trump has recently risen in the polls. His base in WV and elsewhere refuses to acknowledge his flaws. 

My best friend is a retired blue-collar worker from a coal mining family who grew up on the WV-PA line. He loves Trump because he “tells it like it is.” My opinion is that Trump says whatever helps him personally at the time, true or not. For example, his pledge to have Mexico pay for a wall versus his current policy of unconstitutionally taking money from Congressional military appropriations.

As for the Democrats, leave the impeachment effort behind. The 2020 question for the Democrats is strategic: “where do we go from here?” Even though they won big time in the 2018 mid-terms, the seeds of self-destruction are still there.

The progressive wing of the Democrats is pushing for more leftward movement on items like Medicare for All and student loan forgiveness. These are policies that I personally support, but they must be thoroughly explained, including how they are to be paid for.

Further, the Party must be broad enough to include other views. What remains of the moderate wing, including Senator Manchin, is convinced that the Dems should fill the centrist hole created by the abdication of the GOP in its rapid capitulation to all things Trump. But, certain elements of the left wing of the Democratic Party has been gunning for moderates like Senator Joe Manchin who are simply reflecting their constituents in their voting.

If the Democrats waste their time fighting amongst themselves about which wing of the party should prevail (as they currently are on social media), the party will destroy itself yet again. Therefore, if they want to win in 2020 and beyond, it’s up to the Democrats to come up with internally agreed upon broad policy proposals to make the lives of ordinary Americans better… especially the blue-collar Trump Democrats in WV as well as the rust belt state hard hats already angered by continued plant closings. And then aggressively, unabashedly sell these proposals to the voters in every state, especially the swing states. In other words, learn from Hillary’s mistakes and win key electoral states (Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and so on). 

Medicare expansion (full, my preference, or partial) is a good start, as is higher education financing and infrastructure revitalization. But, explain how these ideas can be financed without turning us into Greece. And, declare upfront that big corporations and the wealthy need their unpopular Bush, Obama and Trump tax breaks taken away to pay for it. 

Many parts of the nation voted blue in 2018 for the first time in my memory. It is up to the Democrats to give these voters and “swing” independents solid policy reasons to continue that blue trend.

Appeal to the common working person, the people the Democratic Party abandoned to concentrate on special interest politics. Stated another way, can the Democrats restrain themselves from snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory, as usual?

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Donald Trump’s plan for America: Make it ignorant https://likethedew.com/2020/02/27/donald-trumps-plan-for-america-make-it-ignorant/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=donald-trumps-plan-for-america-make-it-ignorant https://likethedew.com/2020/02/27/donald-trumps-plan-for-america-make-it-ignorant/#respond Thu, 27 Feb 2020 21:15:41 +0000 https://likethedew.com/?p=73076
 

On February 10th, the White House released its budget for the fiscal year 2021. It broadly showcases the values promoted by Donald Trump and the vision he has for the future of the United States of America. Budgets are the practical extension of genuine commitments. Politicians, as a group, are famous for making promises that they do not deliver on. Empty promises are often rhetorical flourishes meant to generate votes.

The proposed budget is alarming in what it presents as the actual priorities of the White House. Trump’s budget for 2021 includes funding “for the orderly closure of the [National Endowment for the Humanities].” Eliminating the NEH does not fit a fiscal purpose but an ideological one. This is to say that it has been a staple to Republicans and Democrats since its founding in 1965, its cost is modest and easily funded, its 65,000 grants have high levels of success, but it’s being cut, because the White House prefers ignorant subjects, not informed citizens. 

 
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On February 10th, the White House released its budget for the fiscal year 2021. It broadly showcases the values promoted by Donald Trump and the vision he has for the future of the United States of America. Budgets are the practical extension of genuine commitments. Politicians, as a group, are famous for making promises that they do not deliver on. Empty promises are often rhetorical flourishes meant to generate votes.

Animation of MAGA cap morphing from Make America Great to Hate, All, War, Pollute, Unjust, Sick, Selfish, Unequal, Unfair, Lie, Fear, Cruel, Bully, Sexist, Thuggish, Stupid, Ignorant

The proposed budget is alarming in what it presents as the actual priorities of the White House. Trump’s budget for 2021 includes funding “for the orderly closure of the [National Endowment for the Humanities].” Eliminating the NEH does not fit a fiscal purpose but an ideological one. This is to say that it has been a staple to Republicans and Democrats since its founding in 1965, its cost is modest and easily funded, its 65,000 grants have high levels of success, but it’s being cut, because the White House prefers ignorant subjects, not informed citizens. 

Trump’s budget gives about $2 million to the military budget every minute, 24/7/366 (it’s a leap year). That means every two hours around the clock military expenses well exceed the entire annual budget for the NEH. 

The NEH has supported numerous life-enhancing projects. This includes more than 7,000 books (16 Pulitzer Prize and 20 Bancroft Prize winners among them). It is a commitment to increasing and strengthening teaching and learning. To stimulating original research and scholarship, and creating opportunities for lifelong learning. The NEH is dedicated to the preservation and access to American culture and its artifacts and the understanding of humanity as a whole.

Donald Trump is intentionally ignoring the essential records of American history, including the papers of American Presidents like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, of significant writers, thinkers, and heroes like Martin Luther King Jr. 

Why would Trump want to prevent 2,400 teachers a year from attending workshops that cover important topics on American history and enhance the educational experience of 350,000 students? Why would Trump stifle the chronicling of America through the database of newspapers at the Library of Congress? Why would the dialogues on the Experiences of War project, which uses humanities to help military veterans and their families talk about difficult issues raised by war and military service, threaten Trump? 

Trump sees democracy as a thorn in his side, he is threatened by checks and balances, and truth and knowledge undermine and expose his lies. Facts and history expose his corruption at every turn. When the public learns from the past it makes it harder for him to lie. Trump hates the NEH because it is effective in preserving the past and in educating the public, and both of these public goods are obstacles to his dishonest goals and the predictability of his persistent failures.

Wisdom is the ultimate protection of democracy, and with Trump as President it is under attack. If we do not start protecting America’s history, we will lose it. Even worse, we risk undermining the great thinking and principles that have promoted equality and championed peace. The attacks are not just on the national treasures and the institutional norms and values they support; it is an attack on the American Dream itself. Can we make the promise of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” great again? Can well push back against and stop the destructive force of Trump’s plans and policies? The lessons of history have told us how to overcome reckless tyrants, it is time to save America.

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