Category Archives: Politics

Politics is the process by which representative governments are chosen. This category includes suggestions for Democratic Party campaigning and general thoughts about the political process.

Toward a Working Democratic Message

The Democratic Party has failed to articulate a reason to support Democratic governance. “We’re not those lunatics” is not enough.

The Democratic Party believes that government can be a force for good. We believe that the government is able to  “establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.” We have to tell the people this, every day all day. Until they understand this there is no point to say anything else.

This is convenient, because the above quote comes directly from the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States. We stand directly in the tradition of the founders of the United States in our belief.

Unfortunately, a sizable portion of the American population has been convinced that the founders never intended any such thing, in spite of the evidence of their own words. This is proof that we Democrats have failed utterly to communicate our ideals and to link them to the roots of American governing and tradition. People who call themselves Conservatives, implying that they stand for American tradition, have convinced many people – enough to win most elections – that the framers wanted a crippled government that was barely able to collect taxes or deliver the mail. They have delivered the government they promised. By and large Americans are not happy with it, but somehow they believe that crippling the government even more will fix it.

This is not the fault of Conservatives. They are selling the exact message they intend to sell. Why they do so is not relevant. It is our fault. We have not sold our message.

When Democrats talk about government we talk about details. We publish white papers and talk about policy. We will do this thing and that thing. We will provide a level playing field for people regardless of their skin color or sexual orientation. We will build this or that. It’s all well and good, but it is an abject failure.

When Republicans talk about government they talk about a big picture. No details. Government is the problem, they say. Government can’t do anything right. Government is a burden on the American people. While they are selling this big picture we talk about gender equality and infrastructure.

Can’t we see? Can’t we admit the obvious? We are dying out here.

Republicans absolutely control 25 states, both the governorship and the legislature. For Democrats that number is 6.

Republicans control the Federal government. Republicans hold the presidency and both houses of Congress.

There is no elected statewide office in the country, from Governor to Natural Resources commissioner to Labor commissioner, in which Democratic control outnumbers Republican control. Not one.

If the Democratic party does not learn to present our message in a way that will make sense to, and give hope to, a majority of Americans, we might as well just turn off the lights and go home.

So what are we doing? We’re squabbling about whether the left, the far left, the center left, Liberals or Progressives, Black or White or Hispanic or some other subgroup has too much power, not enough power, whether we should … ah, you know. We’re squabbling about details.

We’re dying out here. Does anybody care? Does anybody want to fix it?

There are about 330 million Americans. Roughly 219 million of them are qualified to vote. We need to talk to all of them. Every single one. Yes, there are issues common to all of us. We have to talk on that level: what can we do for all Americans, and why should they want us to? We need to offer a vision of government which stands firmly in the tradition of the founders and which flatly denies and refutes the current prevailing view.

Government has a purpose. The United States Government was designed from the beginning to do all these things:

  • Establish Justice
  • Insure Domestic Tranquility
  • Provide for the common defense
  • Promote the general welfare
  • Secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity

It says so right there in the Preamble to the Constitution. This can’t possibly be that hard a message to sell. Why won’t we sell it?

When was the last time a Democratic politician told you that promoting the general welfare was as important and legitimate a function of our government as providing for the common defense? When was the last time that any American politician told you that? There is not one single place in our Constitution where providing for the common defense is mentioned alone. In every single case it is coupled with promoting the general welfare. Every single case. These are the twin fundamental functions of our Federal government.

If our government is obliged to provide for the common defense, and I am not aware of any dispute to that, then it is  equally obliged to promote the general welfare. Democrats have failed to make that case.

If the Democratic Party continues to fail to offer a competing message to the Republican message that government does no good and all bad, we are finished. Forever. Call the undertaker.

No details. No white papers. No twelve point plans. No policy wonks. One simple message: Government, the United States government, exists to make people’s lives better. It was designed that way from the beginning. Anybody who tells you different is lying to you. It’s right there in our Constitution, at the very beginning of our Constitution, in no uncertain terms. Government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the Earth.

This topic continues here

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Pobody’s Nerfect

Pobody’s nerfect. Nobody is perfect. Those of us who think that a good government can accomplish positive things for society absolutely must make peace with this.

Chica my chihuahua is ideal. She is not, however, perfect. She’s not always a good dog. Usually, but not always. She eats cat shit every chance she gets. We have several cats. She gets lots of chances.

Swap “person” for “dog” and that might be a pretty good description for the very best possible politician.

It’s easy for me to think of Chica as perfect. The world – my world, my life – is a better place with her than it would be without her. But to say she’s perfect is sloppy thinking. What she is, is ideal. No one could do her job better than she does it. Ideal is attainable.

Perfect is not attainable.

Chica perfectly matches my ideal of a companion dog. She’s that kind of perfect. She’s not a robot. We annoy each other from time to time. Cat shit breath is not that pleasant. So if perfect means without flaw, without misbehavior, there is no such thing as a perfect dog. Or human.

We want our politicians to be perfect dogs. We want them to always be good. We want our politicians to not have any bad habits. We want creatures – in this case humans – to never, on any day of their lives, do anything which is annoying, stupid, unhealthy, or just plain wrong, possibly on purpose. In the case of politicians we have an entire industry segment dedicated to watching their personal and professional lives, making collections of their every misstep to display at every opportunity. It is known as Opposition Research. OR. And for every professional there are thousands of volunteers.

“She voted for…”

“Oh yeah? Well He voted against…

“But she said…”

“And he said…” We hammer them with their mistakes for the rest of their lives.

I consider it a good day when I don’t say something stupid.

Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

Those of us who think that a good government can accomplish positive things for society have got to figure this out.

Besides personal perfection we demand policy perfection. We would gladly lose an election to a Nazi over the difference between a minumum wage of twelve dollars an hour or fifteen dollars an hour.

Hillary supporters and Bernie supporters and, I suspect, even Jill supporters although I don’t personally know one to talk with, share a number of objectives. We do not share all our objectives. So we have two choices: we can join together to attain our shared objectives, or we can refuse to cooperate because of the differences.

We all want to breathe clean air and drink clean water. We want our neighbors everywhere in the country to be able to do the same. We want to provide enough free public education that people can get decent jobs when they are finished with school.

We want our fellow Americans to have enough to eat. We want ourselves and others to live in safety and reasonable comfort.

We want all races, all religions, all genders and gender preferences to be treated fairly in work and in life.

We want, wherever possible, to live in peace with other persons and nations.

If we refuse to join together to work toward these objectives we will not see them attained in our lifetimes.

If we proudly refuse to vote for the “lesser of two evils” we will never vote. We will never never reach our goals. Because all people have flaws. If we focus our eyes on their flaws and call them evil, then we can never vote. For anybody. We have two choices: we can swallow our pride and vote for the greater good in spite of obvious flaws, or we can sit home and wait for the Messiah to run.

Because all humans are flawed.

Pobody’s nerfect.

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Fork in the Road

Republic or monarchy?

I see America as coming to a fork in the road. As of this writing the Trumpocalypse has not yet been formally ratified by the Chief Justice; I expect it to be; the road forks there.

One possibility is that Donald Trump will be a really poor President who steals everything that’s not nailed down but does so within a framework which can still be called on to produce reasonably legitimate elections in 2018 and 2020. In other words, throughout a Trump presidency we might retain a reasonable facsimile of a Constitutional Republic. That would be the best case. I’m no longer worrying about what damage they might do over four years. It is too late for that. If we  still have a republic afterward we can fix it. If our future is to be a functioning republic the best we could do right now is to focus on a strategy to win elections. To win elections we must form and communicate a clear message. I have offered some specific recommendations. You can see those here and here.

There is no guarantee that we will remain a functioning republic. I have come to doubt that we remain one today. I think we are already controlled by one or a few men, ruling by decree, and that the recent election was theater. If so, and if we continue on this road, our governance will become more like that of Russia, regardless of who is the boss. If we do go that way the main worry isn’t whether we are ruled by Putin or by Trump or by Mitch McConnell or by somebody I can’t even see from here. (OK, that’s hyperbole. Trump is a raving lunatic; if he is king it will matter. That’s another whole topic.) It won’t matter what they call it, be it East Russia or The Great and Free Republic of America. Our ruler will be the one who vanquished his competitors; by definition the king is the guy who won. Conversion of our republic into a monarchy or similar rule by decree will be (or perhaps already was) a major loss for almost everybody in The United States. We will live under an individual man. He will be the boss, over everybody all the time. For convenience I will call this person “king.” He may be Dictator but likely will call himself President. He’ll call his system something, probably Free Market Capitalism, or Movement Conservatism, or Evangelical Christianity.  Most monarchs these days like to get the adjective Democratic in somewhere, and often Republic as well. He will be king and we will be subjects.

We shouldn’t be that surprised. Throughout written history humans have mostly been ruled by kings.  Our Republic was an experiment. It had never been tried on this scale before. It may have run its course.

When people tell you they are Conservative and want honor their European traditions what they really mean is, “We want a nice sensible king. We will be the nobles. Churches will be the police and pick up anything of value that we miss.  The rest of you just… I don’t know. Eat cake.”

In a full out kingdom, election strategies as such aren’t very useful. Resistance will be everything. If we have a king today that doesn’t mean we can never have a republic again. Kings rise and fall; every self governed society on Earth was once ruled by a king. We just have a different problem to solve.

We can find lessons in history. The one I find most compelling is Ghandi. I believe that in today’s world only non-violent resistance has any possibility of succeeding. Arms are too powerful and too widespread to have any potential of success. As I look around today at the societies where people took up arms to free themselves, I see societies at war. Nobody ever wins. There are enough births and weapons are easy enough to manufacture that civil war can continue forever. It appears that Colombia is finally ending their 50 year war, but neither side is winning. People are just so tired, so very tired of war, and they have said, OK, we quit. Both sides. There is no possibility of victory.

The government in Syria has crushed their rebels in Aleppo, but that war rages on.

If our republic has been taken from us we cannot possibly free ourselves by arms. Any hope for a return to self-government lies in non-violent resistance.

And obviously my fork metaphor is just that, a metaphor. Despotic rule varies in detail and by degree. Our nation is geographically large. Ultimately one person or small group can only control a nation if they have the consent, or at least grudging obedience, of a majority of the people. It would be foolish to disregard elections as hopeless, or election strategy as useless. But there is more than one way to obtain obedience. Fear is one.

Kings govern by violence. Being king means never having to say Please. Murder, imprisonment, “disappearance”, and intimidation are among the means by which the monarch obtains obedience. We are already seeing this in the United States. Death threats were common in 2016 and show no sign of abating. How quickly we have become accustomed to them. Death threats have not always been a feature of mainstream politics in the United States of America. It used to be unheard of for reporters, scientists and college professors to be threatened. White people in this country didn’t used to use death threats against one another. It was America’s dirty little secret that death threats were a constant in the struggle for black freedom and equality, but since white people didn’t experience it we could pretend it wasn’t happening. Now death threat as tactic of governance has escaped from the racist underworld and become part of American mainstream politics. The nation is, right now, seeing governance through violence. “I will kill you” is government by violence. “Somebody should rape your wife and murder your children” is too. Sending epileptic reporters technological traps known to trigger seizures is too. Perhaps consent is too strong a word, but violence does discourage disobedience.

Kings, back in old Europe, had “Divine Right.” Listen to Steve Bannon. Is he not telling you that certain people (himself and his friends in particular) were ordained by God to rule over you?

For that matter, isn’t Ted Cruz?

The way a king established that divine right, most of the time, was by getting everybody else to agree he was the boss. Yup, that’s it. That’s all it takes.

Getting everybody to agree that you are the boss typically

Alexander Litvinenko’s grave

requires a fair amount of killing people who refuse to agree. Competitors, princes and once-trusted advisers have a way of turning up dead. Rabble rousers, reporters, writers, and other individuals who threaten to persuade too many people at once to doubt the king’s divine right also tend to show up dead, or just never show up again.

Look all over the world, today and forever. What I am describing could easily be seen as the human norm.

I cannot tell, right now today, which of the two countries above we live in, or where we are on the continuum between them. I can tell you that from where I sit it doesn’t look good, but I must also admit that I can be a pessimist.

Personally I intend to participate in acts of public disobedience and rejection of the new king wherever and whenever I can. Ghandi’s followers threw off the chains of England by annoying them to death, by refusing in every way possible to consent to their rule. Yes, a fair number of them died in the process, but fewer than would have died in warfare.

I think I will also continue to write of campaign communication strategy as though the next election will be real. It might be. It behooves us to be prepared for that eventuality. However, at best I think it will be necessary to remind our current government on a regular basis for at least the next two years that we do not consent to despotism. I think we need to be clear that we will not willingly be ruled by decree and that we demand to have the actual, operational right to elect representatives and govern ourselves.

Keeping a republic is only possible if we do our part. Elections will  only be real if we make them real. We must take care to elect people who will actually represent us and our needs. And that, again, will require a clear vision clearly communicated.

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The Man Who Started It

I almost wish I believed there is a Hell so there could be a place for Newt Gingrich. Newton Leroy Gingrich is the worst public figure in the history of the United States.

Newt is worse than Benedict Arnold. Trump would put Benedict Arnold in his cabinet. In fact he has.

Newt Gingrich is Joseph Goebbels. Lots of people get called that, but I submit that Newt is the best candidate in the United States. I will support that position.

Newt Gingrich singlehandedly destroyed the public conversation in the United States of America. I don’t see any way to get it back. You know all the insults, all the nasty terms Republicans use for everybody else? Newt Gingrich literally wrote the book on that.

In a concise memo titled Language: A Key Mechanism of Control which Newt wrote for GOPAC in 1996, Newt Gingrich did not just suggest using nasty language against Democrats, he prescribed the specfic words. He told them,

  This list is prepared so that you might have a directory of words to use in writing literature and mail, in preparing speeches, and in producing electronic media. The words and phrases are powerful. Read them. Memorize as many as possible. And remember that like any tool, these words will not help if they are not used.

Look at a calendar. Look at public records. Democrats started losing states almost immediately, and it has never stopped. And losing states means losing Congress. Not just because of gerrymandering, either. The voters who elect state governments elect the US Congress.

I said Newt Gingrich was America’s Goebbels. Here is my justification for that statement: Newt Gingrich wrote, in public where everybody can see and read it, the playbook of the right-wing takeover’s propaganda.

Propaganda works. Eight or ten million people died in ovens and gas chambers because of propaganda, as we are reminded over and over, often forgetting the over 60 million more who died on  battlefields fighting over it. Over propaganda. Propaganda works. We have got to get our act together. Newt Gingrich’s propaganda prescription redefined America and we’re dying of it.

We – the Democratic party – have to combat it fiercely, now, in the hopes that it’s not already too late.

This is not a battle of ideas. This is a battle of language. We’ve got to think, and think hard, how to sell a vision of inclusion, decency, and opportunity for all to live in reasonable comfort with good health care, but we’ve got to do it in short, repeatable ideas. Hold the position papers. Fight with words: short, punchy, smart, repeatable words. And not too many. Newt’s list of words fit on one page, because he knew, just like Goebbels before him, that repetition is a critical part of propaganda.

I have a couple of essays on the topic, and will be writing more. I believe it is essential, if we are to compete, that we use language as powerful as Gingrich’s.

I would give us a thousand point bonus if we could do it with language less brutal.

But I’m going to turn for the moment in a different direction. I seriously hope that history views Newt Gingrich in the way that the really nasty politicians of history are viewed. Machiavelli.

Occasionally one will still hear some old geezer say, “Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neil were friends.” Yep. Ask Joe Biden what it used to be like. Ask John Dingell. America was not like this.

Newt’s words did more than win elections at every level. He taught his followers the words of hate. He said, in essence, Memorize these words. Use them as much as you can. And then he listed words like “sick” and “twisted.”

Humans think in words. Words have meanings way down inside of us. He taught his followers to think of me – of us – in the words of hatred. And soon, sure as water falls when it rains, they hated us.

Democrats and Republicans never hated each other before, not since the parties were born. They squabbled bitterly, and did dirty tricks, but not even Nixon hated Democrats like your run-of-the-mill Republican today hates the Democrat down the street.

Newt Gingrich did this to us. On purpose. He appears to be proud of it.

Newt Gingrich is the worst man in the history of the United States of America.

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Media Recommendations for #TheResistance

As you may know, my starting position as a Democrat today is the following:

The Democrats lost the propaganda war. The Republicans defined us to America.

As evidence I give you America’s state and federal governments.

There are many reasons, as of course there must be. Here is one of them: It costs a fortune to own a media outlet in America today. Therefore, conversely, only people with fortunes can own media outlets today.

Media, plural of medium. Medium of communication. Tool for dissemination of information. Only people with fortunes are telling you anything. Any. Thing.

If we wish to compete, Democrats must establish on online presence of video, audio, and text, of news, education, and entertainment, in heads-on competition with all existing national media, starting now.

The various media empires are said to belong to corporations. Says so right on the website. But follow the corporate chain up, and somewhere up in the stratosphere is one billionaire or billionaire family. At the top of each media corporate chain is a billionaire. These are not faceless masses; corporations are not fungi. Every major media outlet chain in America today is primarily controlled, owned or funded by one, or a family of, very rich individual human beings.

It is not a “conspiracy theory” to say that rich people have interests, objectives, and value systems in common with one another. Rich people assign a high value to money and material wealth. The richer one gets the richer all get. They don’t have to hold secret meetings.

Every word that America has heard since the Reagan Administration has been funded by the same group of rich people. The Reagan Administration turned off the Fairness Doctrine. We can’t fix that. We can’t take the TV stations away from them, or the radio, not even NPR. They own it all fair and square. We can’t take the newspapers away from them; most newspapers are wholly owned subsidiaries of the same media empires. Billionaires are not going to give people ideas that will cost billionaires money. They simply are not.

Everything that the Democratic Party needs to do for the American people will cost billionaires money.

Quit waiting for current top-level media (TV, radio, newspapers) to give you a fair shake. It ain’t happening. As evidence I offer you the state and federal governments of the United States.

The Free Press, isn’t. Not the one that everybody is looking at. We can either take our minds and our destinies away from them, or we can accept the minds and destinies they give us.

The simple reality is that humans can only think with the information that is in their minds. Most of the people in North Korea really believe that they’ve got the best deal in the world. Their access to information is carefully controlled.

So is ours. Our access to information. Billionaires control it. But there are still sneak paths around them. We have to communicate to a mass audience without the help of so-call MSM, Mainstream Media. In fact, not only without their help, we’ve got to communicate to a mass audience in spite of everything the money media can do to drown us out. This is going to be very hard. We literally need to take it to the streets, but that won’t be enough.

We cannot let television control the conversation, because Trump is right about them: They only tell the story they came to tell. Even the wild cards, serious journalists like Joy Ann Reid, are carefully balanced in the overall programming so that they can’t adversely affect the desired outcome. And the same propaganda is repeated on their programs as anywhere else. Fact checking and debunking don’t work. More on this in a moment.

I would say that all network broadcast TV, and all cable TV, should be counted out. They are not our friends no matter what they might tell us. All broadcast radio. I don’t have an opinion about satellite radio because I have not explored it. Print can be consumed carefully, but Jeff Bezos is no kin to Robin Hood. We are still getting our every word from one set of voices.

We’ve got Twitter, in a way, for now. Twitter is a mixed blessing, but I think it has some power. That is good. We also need to pour  energy and money into online video, streaming video, and streaming radio. TV – Video – isn’t going away, but there is no real reason it should be controlled by broadcast / cable owner. The box on the wall could just as well watch YouTube. The seeds have been planted & begun to grow. I won’t watch conventional TV at all, but I watched the Young Turks on and off for a while before the urge to shout at them got too great, somewhere during the Great Progressive Circular Firing Squad of 2016. I doubt that it took billions or even millions of dollars to launch The Young Turks. We can do this.

If we had an online TV network where Joy Ann Reid was the standard and not the exception, the power of her presentation would grow exponentially.

We have got break free of private line TV as soon as possible. It cannot be fixed. Quit Tweeting at them. They know.

What humans hear goes into their minds. All of it. If people pretend to be giving you “balance” then you hear all the bullshit exactly as often as you hear all the facts, simultaneously, overlapping. It all goes in. Calling the bullshit doesn’t help. The people still heard it. Kelly Anne Conway told you, face to face: when somebody asked her why she’d tell her lie knowing she would immediately be fact-check corrected, she said, “I don’t care. The voters heard it.”

Her guy is on his way to the White House. I propose we pay attention when she tells it how she does it.

A quick paraphrase of an American news program (any American news program) goes like this: “Here’s some reported fact, but here’s a guy who says it’s fake.”

“Now here’s some reported fact, and here’s a guy who says it’s fake.”

“Now here’s a supposed fact. This guy says it’s fake.”

After that you get two people yelling over each other saying opposite things, and then a car commercial.

One of the people yelling has a remarkable bosom.

Stop. I submit that a sensible plan to deal with real problems cannot be sold in that marketplace. If we participate in that market we are fools. No wonder they treat us that way.

The (designated) entertainment programming drives home the same message. There are no people like me in TV America. None. You’ve got Duck Dynasty and snoots in suits. All my friends are people like me, working class, well read, well spoken. We live modest comfortable lives. We are Democrats. We are all over the heartland of this country. Did anybody tell you that? Did you ever see one of us on TV?

All those young guys at Trump rallies: they don’t know I exist. They don’t know that pride in self and job isn’t shown by looking down your nose at somebody else. They found out what men do by watching TV. When I meet one of these young guys they usually respect me. But I confuse them. They didn’t know men like me existed. If they don’t know you exist you are, by definition, not their role model. They want to grow up to be Duck Dynasty. They think they have an actual chance to become Donald Trump.

I’ve got a better life than these poor people do. I’ve got what a young working guy wants to have when he’s old. Because of Democrats. TV won’t tell them that.

Online. We have to take to the wires.

The big problem with online is that we’re too scattered. Fragmented. I’ve got somewhere between one and five hundred regular readers. I’ve got about 1500 (right this minute) “followers” @homemadeguitars. There are tens of thousands of others just like me out here, doing their best, offering good ideas, got forty-seven readers. Meanwhile Rush Limbaugh has some astronomical number of listeners, numbers like the grains of sand on the beach. We need to work on that. People whose minds do organizing and publicizing need to work on that. But – we can’t do it on the same airwaves as Limbaugh. His owners prefer  him, and not just because he sells ads.

Perhaps we need somebody with a database mind to put together a social search engine for Democrats or people who aren’t sure what Democrats are and would like to find out. Put my site and your site and his site – I know a bunch of us have them – everybody else’s who wants to contribute to the conversation. Google For Democrats. I’m not smart enough, but somebody out there is. I’d chip in a few bucks.

The old roads are blocked. We have to move cross-country.

We’ve got our own stars. Jon Stewart might be an online radio talking head if we asked him nice, who knows. We need to get a reach like Rush Limbaugh. Do we want to hear Joy Ann Reid nationwide, two hours every morning with nobody all day to contradict her? OK, we’re going to have to steal her away from MSNBC and put her on YouTube. Or somewhere else online. Maybe a new venue. Everybody think! We can do this!

Because nobody else is going to.

Anybody got any better ideas? I’d love to hear them. We’re all in this together.

— When we get our media going here’s the message I propose

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Recommendations


To end my Coup 2016 series, I offer some recommendations based on the following proposition:

The Democrats lost the propaganda war. The Republicans defined us to America.

Disclaimer: I cannot see the future. I cannot see all of the present nor learn all of the past. I write this as a citizen of the United States of America with no other claim of expertise. For more about me see this essay.

I think we as a nation are in trouble. I see what could possibly be a path out. If my plan works nobody gets shot or put in jail. Or at least not that many. This is all opinion. Thank you.

In simple terms: We have to define ourselves. In every city and town. We have to organize, speak out, and vote.

I hope you’re not disappointed. There is no other fix. And yes, from where we are right now, it can be done that way.


It took the Republican coup ever since 1980 to get where they are today. We’re not getting rid of them by Thursday. We need to be in it for the long haul but never too patient.

The Republican coup took root in one simple slogan: “The government is the problem.” They had a genuine Good Guy TV Star to pound that message home every day for 9 (counting the campaign) years. I have other essays expanding on this. For this essay I am going to pretend we all agree that’s how they did it.

They took that slogan and they sold it in every venue in America, every day, for (so far) 37 years. I’m not going into the history tonight. Ten thousand words wouldn’t scratch the surface. It worked.

Democrats are the party of government. It’s true. We can’t hide from it and stay Democrats. We believe that government can solve problems. That is our central point. All else is details. We cannot do anything in a society, or with an electorate, who believes that the government is the problem. We are beat before we come out of the gate.

They are mistaken. They have been fooled by a superb marketing campaign. There is probably no salesman on earth better than an American Billionaire. That is our competition. We have a better plan. We’ve got to get serious and sell it. Every place, every day. We’ve got to quit going down side avenues about our various races, classes, genders, generations, and sexual preferences. If the Democrats win we can work on the injustices; that’s what Democrats do. There is plenty of work to be done. But first we’ve got to sell the fundamental point:

Real government works.

Only the Federal Government speaks for all Americans. The government is the guy who throws flags on the field when the other team cheats, the government is the groundskeeper who keeps the field playable. The government is Good People doing Good Work to make Your Life Better.

The Government brings the drinking water to Phoenix.

The Government waters the produce growing in the Central Valley.

The Government is the Interstate Highway System and the Air Traffic Controller who kept you alive yesterday.

Real government works. The adjective “Big” is pejorative. We’re talking Government. The only adjective we need is United States. Maybe Federal.

We must take the Big Government attack on face to face: yeah, the government is big. There are 300+ million Americans. There are fifty states, some of which are closer to Russia or China than they are to Washington D.C. We have people under arms and people under fire dotted all around the world. The government is Big. Gotta be. Next question.

Real government Works. Until we sell that, we’re losing. Because Democrats believe, as did the men who wrote the Constitution, that this nation needs a functioning Federal Government. The Republicans disagree.


Here is how you take back the Federal Government: You take back the states. All power resides in the states. Notice the name of the country. The United. States. of America. They almost could have named it the (united) States of America. In fact, right now today that’s what it is, if that.

Every four years Democrats wake up and try to elect a President. Stop that. Congress is the President’s boss, and they are elected every two years. States draw the Congressional districts. States run the elections. States make the laws about how to apportion electors. Did you know that if Democrats had control of a state government they could pass legislation requiring Electors to be apportioned as closely as possible to the popular vote? Sure. State legislative majorities with a supportive executive could fix 90% of what’s wrong with the Electoral College. We’re probably stuck with the other 10%. We can live with that.

Democrats in the states could legislate Ranked Choice elections. Like Jill better than Hillary but Hillary better than Trump? Easy to write election laws that will account for that. Jill gets the honorable mention but Hillary gets the election. Way better than what we have now. If, that is, Democrats controlled state governments.

Right now we have about enough state governments to cover a baloney sandwich if the baloney isn’t too wide. Work in your county. I’m scared to death to stick my head out from under my rock, but I may try something with the county Democrats.

President Obama, in his farewell press conference, told us to work in every county in every state. People bitched. “Why didn’t the President make any suggestions?”

He did. He suggested the only plan with any hope of success. Do what he said or get used to Trumplandia. We have to work in every county in America. We have to work in every election in America. We have to tell the American people that in this great country there are problems that only a Federal government can solve. You know it’s true.

If we turned off the Bureau of Land Management tomorrow, click like a light switch, there would be riots Phoenix and Tucson in five days. Thirst. Dammit, the government WORKS all around us, all the time. Why do two thirds of Americans not know that, in fact rabidly disbelieve it?

Because a few very rich people benefit from that belief. They can afford to buy every TV transmitter and printing press on the planet, and nearly have. They have taken total control of the public conversation.

So far we have Twitter and blogs. We need to follow each other’s essays and ideas. We need shared thinking. And we literally must go to work at the county level. Every county, in every state. Next guy says “Red State” loses ten thousand points. It’s “my state.” And that’s where we work. Carefully at first.

There is more, of course. Americans not only don’t know that their government mostly works, they don’t know what it is supposed to do. Or how it is structured to do it. We have to teach all that, too.

Religion is a major problem. I don’t know what it is about humans and religion, but many humans strongly believe that since they know the One True Way everybody in the country should have to live under it.

Guns are a problem. Religion and guns have become flash points and I have no suggestions about that here, but we’ll have to deal with them some way as the marketing strategy grows.

Lots to do. Probably take 25 years. I’ll be 95, more or less.

Step One: Real Government Works and,

Step Two: Get to Work.

Media Recommendations here.

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Coup 2016: The Players

Preface: It is my opinion that units of the United States Republican Party have staged a coup, stripping the President of his powers while leaving him physically in place. It appears that they have also engaged the assistance of Russia and American TV to defeat the election process and install their party over all branches of government. The coup has installed a one-party kleptocracy as seen in Mexico, Russia, and other large impoverished nations. For details see: http://www.nopackagedeals.com/2016/12/15/coup-past-tense/

So if there was a coup, who is involved? We can’t be certain. Historians may debate this for centuries. Mitch McConnell is an obvious major player. He could easily be the leader.

At most of the turning points we see Mitch McConnell speaking. Many of his words were spoken to justify the actions he took. I doubt he would put himself out there like that for another person’s benefit.

I would think it would be impossible for McConnell to do what he has done without the knowing cooperation of Orrin Hatch, senior senator and Senate President Pro Tem.  Hatch has been another vocal supporter of stripping the power to appoint justices from President Obama. Since this is a central act in the coup, he must be involved.

Paul Ryan is obviously a central figure, but he has that crazy-eyed aura of zealot about him and there’s no telling what he might do. He is, in his own way, a Trotskyesque figure. True believers don’t all die of old age.

I am sure others who watch the day-to-day machinations more closely than I do could add names. Cruz is a spiritual brother to the coup, and is likely to benefit from it, but I wouldn’t bet they could stand to be around him. I doubt he’s in the inner circle.

As I have said before, if they didn’t leave Lindsey Graham out of the loop he is earning an Oscar right now. He appears to still think the Republicans are participating in the old American Government he got elected to. I don’t believe that they are. They aren’t even pretending to.

6/15/2017: I take back all the nice things I said about Lindsey Graham. Turned out he was earning an Oscar.

Jason Chaffetz has got to be in on it. Trey Gowdy. Probably at least some members of their relative committees. Turning the power of the House of Representatives into a full time televised extravaganza of electioneering and campaigning against a Presidential candidate has got to be worth something in the new world. It wasn’t a coincidence.

Is Pence in on it? How did the ruling Republicans manage to hang Pence onto Trump? Wild card.

There can be little doubt that James Comey is in on it. Having the cops on your side is handy in any criminal endeavor. Like Ryan, he reeks of zealot. It is educational to watch him squirm when forced to admit that, if Secretary Clinton were an expert on Classified documents, she would have known that none of the documents he criticized her publicly for having were classified. He didn’t respond, Right, she would have known they were not classified. He didn’t respond, Yes, or Correct. He hid behind “That would be a reasonable inference.” And he never told the public that it would have been a reasonable inference either. This event was never shown on television that I can find. You can watch it below, takes about a minute. This clip is lovingly lifted (unedited) from C-Span’s recorded Congressional hearings, the very same hearings that somehow led to Director Comey writing, 11 days before the election, his famed letter about more Hillary emails to investigate, He’s in it. I wonder if he’s also in over his 6’8″ altar-boy head.

6/15/2017 OK, I was wrong about Comey. 

https://www.c-span.org/video/?c4628441/marked-classified

I’m assuming they see themselves as the New Founding Fathers, many of them at least, saving America from the flaws of lesser persons, the Weaker Sex,  and members of lesser races. They claim also to believe that the United States was founded as a Christian Nation and that the separation of church from state really isn’t written into the Constitution, that’s just activist judges reading it there. Saving the Nation Body and Soul.

The original Founding Fathers numbered between 55 and 90 men, typically, throughout the meetings leading up to the war of independence and over the decade from then until the writing of the Constitution. They were able to hold a committee of that size together for over a decade and run a long plan, yes, a conspiracy, to throw off the chains of an existing government. I believe that it is happening again. I disagree with the current group’s reasoning.

There also have to be funders. I feel confident that the Koch brothers are involved. They are at least the second generation in their family to publicly denigrate and despise the ideals of the Enlightenment on which this country was founded. Sheldon Adelson, too, and – oh, you know, that usual lot of billionaires who own the country. Most of them aren’t shy. Their names are in the papers frequently. They are the societal equivalent of great white sharks: they don’t need to be protected from themselves, so they don’t see why we should be protected from them either.

A bloodless coup is not possible without a good propaganda machine. A bloodless coup works on the same principle as a magician on stage: you’ve got to distract the watching eye. You’ve got to get at least a significant number of people on your side. Imagine what coup planners could do if they had a multi-billionaire media mogul move into the country because his home country had single payer health care and all those horrible things? Oh, gee, look! There’s Rupert Murdoch and Fox News! What a handy coincidence!

Murdoch knew how to get viewers to his TV station: Tits. Babes. Short skirts. Cleavage. Pretty young faces. Pretty soon every lonely guy in the country has Fox News on all day. He doesn’t even know he’s hearing the words, he’s just admiring the scenery, but.. he hears them. And he starts to believe them. If those tits think Obama is a crook, Obama must be a crook. If she’s got a really important point to sell she can lean forward on the couch, expand the cleavage and let her skirt slide up a couple inches, and… it’s the Voice of God.

And if there is one thing American capitalists know how to do it’s imitate a money making idea. Little Fox Newses tell Americans everything they know today.

And into the midst of all this, more or less at the last minute, straight from America’s television screen comes Donald John Oh My God You’ve Got To Be Kidding Trump. And his children and pet weasels. And his own pet Ur-Murdoch, America’s answer to Joseph Goebbels, Stephen Bannon.

Trump’s pet weasels are lifelong Republican operatives to the core. Manafort. Stone. All of them. They are the rats burrowed into the very core of Nixonian self-righteous Republicanism, some of them there since the days of Ronald or before. And they have been, to a man, in and out of the Moscow – Kiev – Eastern Europe – Middle East – Asia big money axis. These are not your civilized Democratic Western Europe London – Paris – Berlin – Davos elite billionaires. These are scrappers. They have spent their lives in tough neighborhoods. They are not strangers in some strange land. When these people negotiate with Vladimir Putin they are traveling in their natural habitat, just surely as I am when out walking in the clear frozen air of a North Missouri prairie winter or buying auto parts from the O’dell brothers in their store just off the square in Richmond. Trump didn’t invent them, he’s just their current employer: they are all lifetime Republican operatives. They are very dangerous people. They have chosen him.

Many of Trump’s particular pet weasels are also generals. Military men. People with names like Mad Dog and Flynn. The exact same class of professional soldier from whom sprang Saddam Hussein, Muammar al-Gaddafi, and Abdul Fattah el-Sisi.

The Trump team didn’t get here until after the original coup. Could they smell blood in the water? Maybe.

It is an interesting mix, both those on the front lines and the ones in the shadows, those we know and those we have never heard of. I suspect that, if the American people don’t somehow manage to reverse this, before the dust settles there will be some brutal, although possibly invisible, power struggles. I hope we don’t reach the Polonium stage.

We could.

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Coup, Past Tense

There has been a coup. We didn’t notice.

The Constitutional Republic known as the United States of America, with its three co-equal branches of government, does not exist today, December 14th, 2016. It ceased to exist a few months ago. It was overthrown from within in a bloodless coup by members of the Republican Party. Whether it will be resurrected I cannot say. I can’t see the future. So far I can still see the past.

I am absolutely serious. I believe that I can prove my assertion with publicly known facts.

Although the signs were visible before the end, when future historians write of the coup that ended the United States First Republic I believe that they will date it to late February, 2016. The final coup was triggered by the death of Antonin Scalia, associate justice of the United States Supreme Court.

The President of the United States has few real powers. He is Commander in Chief of the military, but unless he is a madman that power is drastically limited. According to the original plan, only Congress can declare war, and even as that power has evolved (poorly in my opinion) there are few if any cases in American history of a president just launching troops into battle without at least tacit agreement of Congress. If a madman were President and attempted to turn the military against the people or other branches of government it would remain to be seen whether the generals and the rank and file would in fact follow his command. They might. They might not. In point of fact our military swears their oath of allegiance to the Constitution of the United States, not to the President or any government body.

The President’s main direct Constitutional powers are to appoint judges of the Supreme Court; to appoint lesser judges and other officials; to negotiate treaties; and to be the sole face and voice of the United States in dealings with the leaders and ambassadors of other nations. In some of these powers (but not all) the Senate, created as the Federal voice of the States, is given power to advise and consent. Congress specifically has no role in international contact. The President speaks, Congress says yes or no after the speaking is done. having only the power to ratify or not the agreements the President makes. He speaks for us to other nations as our sole voice.

The President has an obligation to see that the laws enacted by Congress are faithfully executed, but this is not so much a power as a job. It looks like a power, though, and tends to mislead the American people as to who is running the show. He’s like the cop on the street: your city council or state legislature doesn’t come arrest you for driving over the speed limit even though they made speed limits. The city council doesn’t come write you up because your grass is too tall. The cop is the face you see. Or the President. Both. The cop is an employee of the executive branch of whatever authority is writing you a ticket. If it’s a federal law the President’s employee is in fact the one who busts you. But Congress wrote the law. The President’s job is to enforce it.

That’s it. Those things. Be in charge of the military – originally in a country without a standing Army. Appoint. Negotiate. Enforce. The President of the United States has no other powers.

In February of 2016, after the death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, Mitch McConnell announced that the President no longer had the power to appoint justices to the Supreme Court, period. For some years now the President has not had the power to appoint judges, but nobody much noticed because it wasn’t the Supreme Court. The Republicans just said, Nope. Not seating your judges. End of discussion.

When McConnell said, Nope, not seating your Supreme Court justice either, we’ve already told you we’re not seating your judges, most people noticed. President Obama nominated someone anyway. McConnell stood firm: Mr. President, we have stripped that power from you. You are not going to seat any judges. Nobody did anything. The coup stood.

During the election campaign, when it appeared that Hillary Clinton might win the election, John McCain and various other Republican Senators announced that the President still would not have the power to appoint justices to the Supreme Court, not throughout her entire term. The Republican coup had settled that matter. McConnell was quieter himself during this time period, but he certainly wasn’t correcting the position the coup plotters staked out: Elect Hillary, no Supreme Court justices. Only Republicans have the power to appoint judges. Nobody even asked about lower courts. That’s been a done deal for years. So: coup, step 1. Take the power to Appoint. Unlink Presidency from Judiciary. Balance between branches shifts.

On March 3, 2015, the House of Representatives overthrew the President’s power to be our sole voice among the nations. They invited and received Benjamin Netanyahu, Boss of Israel, to come speak to them and listen to them. The President was pointedly not welcome.

There was a small buzz in the news for a day or two. I can easily find it with a Google search today. But… Big deal? Nah. Congress takes specific Constitutional power from President, in other news, chance of rain tomorrow.

On March 9th of that same year 47 Republican members of the Senate wrote a letter denying in plain terms the President’s power to negotiate with a specific foreign power. They sent their letter to the government of Iran. Paraphrased they said, Don’t make any deals with our President, because we’ll weasel out of them as soon as he’s not looking. Iran took a chance and made the deal with the President. We will see how it comes out.

Coup, step 2: Overrule the President’s power to negotiate with foreign countries. Done. Done again in case anybody missed it. Done. Other countries, don’t bother to have any serious conversations with our President, he’s no longer in authority. You are only to negotiate with Republicans. Done, done, done.

Although enforcement is not a Presidential power but a Presidential obligation, that, too, has been under attack. Regulations are the tool of enforcement. Congress passes, say, the Clean Air and Clean Water acts and creates the EPA. Now, under the Constitution the President has sworn an obligation to “see that the laws are faithfully executed.” When he tries to enforce the laws, if he steps across an invisible line the Republicans have drawn, the courts overturn his actions. Why? Because Congress has taken from the President the power to appoint. He has no link to the Judiciary. The courts know who the boss is.

So, Coup, item 3: Power to enforce, partly taken. The entire history of the Republic is the President’s obligation. He is supposed to enforce every law every Congress since the First Congress ever made unless some other Congress has explicitly revoked it or it timed out. The current Republican coup has in effect said, all laws passed before our coup don’t count. If they make things uncomfortable for us here at the top they seriously don’t count. Do not enforce them.

The new Republican Coup says, we’ll tell you which laws to enforce and which ones not to. We are the boss. The President’s so-called power to enforce the accumulated wisdom of 240 years of Congresses has been reduced although not entirely eliminated. In particular the laws he is not to enforce contain the answers to questions that Congresses have dealt with since, say, the Great Depression. Old people without money. Poisons in our air and water. People needlessly dying or being maimed on the job. The right of black people or uppity poor white people to vote. The coup plotters said, nope. Those laws don’t count. Don’t enforce them, we’ll sue you.  We’re starting over today. The law is what we say the law is.

The President’s job to enforce was an obligation to the nation. He still clings to shreds of it, to the outrage of the coup plotters. Enforcement is, for the moment, a skirmish area, but they appear to have eliminated that problem beginning very soon. Governments are big and hard to overthrow all at once without losing money. Gotta be careful here. So say, Coup, item 3 of 4, mostly done, pending inauguration.

The President does also have obligation to tell Congress how the country is doing and what laws they ought to consider to make it do better. You may remember the day he was doing that and a Republican member of Congress shouted, “You lie!” at him and was not disciplined by the House. This isn’t so much part of the coup as an unexceptional event in its aftermath.

And returning to The (supposedly) Big One: He’s Commander in Chief!

Does anybody in America think that President Barack Obama could command the United States Army or any unit thereof to go get Mitch McConnell and put him in handcuffs and jail him for the coup? I didn’t think so.

OK, so, Commander in Chief doesn’t count. Whatever power the President might have overseas, in terms of the coup Commander in Chief simply doesn’t count. He isn’t.

I have been observing this chain of events. A few weeks ago this little voice in my head said, Pssst! Doesn’t that look a lot like a coup? Not exactly, I thought, well, kinda but not exactly, but then… Russia.

Although the Congressional coup was already a fait accompli by the time the 2016 Presidential election came close, there appears to have been some threat to the new one party state. It appeared that Hillary Clinton might get elected. Given her lifetime in and around government, she’d have figured out what was going on right away. The might already know. President Obama may have told her. She may have just noticed. Whatever the specifics, she appears to have presented some threat to the coup, so the Republican Organization turned to a long time adversary, Russia, for help.

It is worth noting that the US and Russia have a complicated history. They have been our adversary in little wars but our ally in big ones. WWI, WWII – we and Russia were allies. In between times we and Russia stand chin to chin and beat our chests. We bought Alaska from Russia. So turning to Russia was not as crazy as it might sound.

As early as at least July of 2016, Russia attacked the Democratic Party and began releasing stolen information through Wikileaks. The Republican Organization worked this information into their campaign. As the campaign season progressed Russia extended their attacks to John Podesta and possibly other Democratic campaign sources. Certain members of the Republican Organization acknowledged publicly that they were coordinating with the hackers and distributors of the stolen information. On occasion Republicans gloated publicly about some damaging morsel stolen by the Russians that would be released in another day or two. Donald Trump on at least one occasion used statements from Russia before they were released elsewhere by the propaganda campaign. Oops. Everybody look the other way, quick.

When President Obama went to the Senate for help in protecting the interests of the Republic (which by then no longer existed) he was told in no uncertain terms by Mitch McConnell to keep his mouth shut about it, and he did.

I do not know what prevented the President from speaking out, but for whatever reason, he no longer felt that he had even the power to address the American people about an existential threat to their republic without permission from McConnell. He talked to McConnell, then he did not talk to us. McConnell told him not to speak out; he didn’t. These two facts are matters of public record. Barack Obama, the nominal President of the United States, the so-called Most Powerful Man On Earth, did not share the known facts of Russian interference in our election until after the election was over because the king of the Republican Organization told him not to. We now know that he had those facts at least by October.

There has been a coup. We didn’t notice.


Above the line are, except as noted, known facts. Mostly matters of public record. Below the line is conjecture.

I have no way of knowing how the coup plotters will organize the government, but I expect it to continue to look a lot like it does, for as long as they can keep it that way. Mexico’s government, for instance, from a distance looks a lot like ours. I think that Mexico is a likely model for what the US will look like when the dust settles, assuming the coup is not reversed. Mexico is, in a nutshell, a few very rich people and a lot of very poor people, governed by one party for decades.

We might develop more like Russia. The coup has engaged deeply with Russia already. Russia has a President and a Legislature and Courts… heck, on paper it’s just like us. In twenty years we may be just like Russia, I don’t know. Except we’ll still have more beaches. By then Russia may be vacationland warm, though, and Florida under water, so… who knows.

The difference between a one party kleptocracy and a republic can be subtle as viewed from outside. What I personally expect, at least for the near term, is a one party kleptocracy / bossocracy, owned and operated by the Republican Organization. Most third world bossocracies and kleptocracies hold elections. I expect us to continue to do so. But it is all in flux. The old order has been sent to the guillotine. Lucky it was just a piece of paper.

I don’t know who the members of the coup are. They are obviously Republican bigshots. Personally I see McConnell right in the middle. Trump is, I think, peripheral to the coup but important in the present moment. He’s a wild card. He’s not exactly smart but he’s cagey. He’s as dangerous as a cornered skunk. I’m pretty sure Paul Ryan is involved, but he is really weird, and getting weirder. He appears not to know that Trump is in the game. Or maybe he knows that he’s not. Another wild card.

I’m guessing they didn’t tell Lindsey Graham. I wouldn’t bet either way on John McCain. Reince Priebus may have thought it up.

I see it as a Central Committee type group, not containing all the Republicans in positions of power by any stretch of the imagination, but not just one or two either.

There are so many maybes and possibilities that I don’t want to stick them onto this essay. After I write a few of them down I’ll try to remember to come back and stick links on here. If it still matters. If anybody cares.

For details on Presidential powers see Article II of the United States Constitution. I have an annotated copy of it here:

First followup essay: The Players

 

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War Then and Now

War. War in the streets. Civil War! cries the headline. War.

One of my students casually mentioned to me recently that lots of his friends think we need a war here, you know, just to kinda straighten things out. Clear the air. Establish that white people who speak English poorly but as their first language are still boss, I guess. They are Trump supporters. He’s an 18 year old high school graduate, much of whose education was based on “Christian curriculum” before he became my student. He is a technically literate male. I don’t know his friends, but I think he met at least some of them in auto tech school. They are, I believe, regular rural Missouri kids living an hour away from Kansas City. They casually believe that a war here would be a good thing.

I fought in a war. Where I was we fought mostly in the woods, in dense ancient forests on worn ancient mountains. Periodically, usually in the small hours of the morning in the dark of the moon, a few thousand of them would run up onto a few hundred of us and kill as many of us as they could, while we killed as many of them as we could. These are literal numbers.  War is not a video game.  I’m talking about killing total strangers who are close enough that you can see the expressions on their faces while they die. I’m talking about finding out after that several of your friends died and will remain dead forever, but you were too busy to notice it at the time. I’m talking about spending days and days in the jungle sun surrounded by dead people who are getting smellier and smellier, their bodies reeking inflating balloons, black rotten blood bubbling out of the bullet holes you shot into them, while you wait for the shooting to stop long enough to bury them. I’m talking about sleeping in the mud in a tent you built this afternoon and will take down tomorrow morning for tomorrow after tomorrow… I’m talking about digging a hole and squatting over it to shit. Every time you have to shit. For months. Don’t even think “thank you for your service.” Please. I hate that phrase. I’m trying to pierce the jingoistic fog and express how horribly ugly war is. All war. Without exception.  Movies don’t tell you. TV doesn’t tell you. Video games don’t tell you. The only way to find out just how horrible war is is by simultaneously finding out you are in the stupidest predicament of your life. THESE IDIOTS THINK A WAR WOULD BE COOL! bundywar2 They saw it on TV, they played it on their computers. Under a layer of sanctimonious bullshit, a whole lot of American grownups appear to agree. The entire Cliven Bundy family does.  I’ll bet Ted Cruz does. Probably Donald Trump does too, although when he had the opportunity to find out how cool war is up close and personal back in ’66 through ’74 he turned it down. He “can’t remember” what his disabling condition was, he says, and I’ve seen conflicting reports, but he can golf OK at 70.

For myself, and for most others I know who were seriously wounded, wounding was not as terrible to experience or as horrible to recall as firefights. The onset, ambush, gunfire, rockets, explosions… lights, sights, sounds, smells, fears, the need to act… the aftermath, the dead on both sides all around you, survivors picking up the pieces… people who were only wounded a little now wandering over to the medics, who are all basket cases but still helping, for some disinfectant and a bandaid… dustoff birds in & out with your friends who might or might not survive… resupply birds in & out, like as not also carrying the wounded out on the return trip…. you shoot up a lot of ammo in a firefight… everybody kind of dazed… the fucking colonels flying in wearing clean pressed jungle fatigues, polished jungle boots, to strut around… colonels sleep in dry safe beds and wear clean clothes… None of us grunts have had a bath or a change of clothes in thirty-some days… there are quite literally no words. Roll another one.

Today’s wars aren’t quite like that on the surface.  Nowadays wars are mostly fought in cities, by invisible enemies with bombs, us bombing from the skies, them hand-delivering bombs under their shirts. The cities are indescribable scenes of horror, piles of rubble, rats ascendant… people starving and dying of thirst… Dead civilians outnumber dead soldiers by some ridiculous factor. Prime time TV in America ought to be live footage from Homs in Syria, homs-1from Sana’a in Yemen, interspersed with live footage from Somalia and the Gaza Strip. Americans need to take a close look at the unremitting grimness and misery of war. Yes, friends, American cities can look Just Like That.

As I write this we have, although not large scale combat, serious conflict on our streets, intense, angry, deadly conflict. Two black men have been murdered by police, in two different cities half a continent apart. Five cops have been murdered and another seven put in the hospital by one efficient sniper holding a monument to our sacred Second Amendment, an AR15, in his hands.

When we fought the NVA they used AK-47’s. That was a fearsome weapon in the sort of close quarters combat we did, and we respected it mightily. In early versions the AR15, or M-16 as we knew it, was an unreliable piece of shit that couldn’t be trusted in a firefight, so we were envious of the NVA and their indestructible AK-47’s. After investing a few thousand of our lives in their research project, Colt Inc. did some redesign work and was able to ship us new M-16’s that were as reliable as any AK-47. We used the improved version for the last 5 months of my part of the war, and it was a devastating man-killer. That’s the gun that America’s murderers choose today. The AK-47, although deadly at close quarters, isn’t a good long range rifle. American murderers prefer the AR15 because they can hide in a parking garage, or in the trunk of a parked sedan, and murder people from way far off and not have to face that death with their own eyes.

bundywarThe most recent previous mini-war was not in our streets, but on our Federally owned lands. One family has taken up arms against the United States of America not once but twice. Just like (and possibly including) my student and his poorly informed friends, many people think these pisspot revolutions were Great Things.

Of course, in the Bundy family’s second go-round one of their compatriots managed to get himself killed. There was (and I suppose still is) Much Outrage. He was Martyred! No, he wasn’t martyred. He chose to go to war. It was a tiny war, but it was a war. That is what it means to take up arms against a government. We call that “war.” So, in war, people get killed. It’s part of the deal. The good guys don’t all live, no matter who you might think the good guys are. And that, friends, is why it is a Very Bad Idea to bring war to the United States.

Many combat vets are permanently damaged by what they have seen and done. I am one of them. One of the ways this damage shows itself it in nightmares. My nightmares have been two: in one of them I have been drafted again and am back in the jungle in combat against a uniformed army made up of small Asian people.  I understand it to be the NVA although in world time there is no longer an N before the V… well, anyway, I’ve been drafted again and I’m fighting young, healthy, committed Asian soldiers. And the catch is, I am whatever age in the dream that I am in real life. So the next time I have that dream I’ll be 69, permanently addicted to synthetic thyroid hormone, and have fake knees. I will also be seriously annoyed that the damn government has drafted me again, and upset because they can’t find the records of when I served before, and meantime I’m getting into the same old firefights, but they’re harder because my knees hurt even worse than they did then, and I’m trying to help the child soldiers around me to not get killed… well, you get the picture. People and dogs who love me wake me out of the dreams and comfort me.

The other one is similar, but worse by orders of magnitude. Back in combat, check. Same age as in real life, check. Only in this dream the war is here. Here. Missouri. America. The United States. And… it’s real combat. Americans against Americans.  Not small Asians, but large, well fed, well armed Americans, at least at the start.  They don’t stay well fed – our food, water, and electricity delivery systems will collapse quickly and abruptly if serious war starts here.

People, I don’t know how to express this to you: we do not want to do this. Bringing war to the United States again will be a much worse idea than it was in 1861. There are more people. We are less able to feed ourselves. Most of us don’t even have direct access to water. We don’t want to do this. We really, really don’t want to do this. There are absolutely no words for how horrible war is.

Please.

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A Conservative Person

After listening to me rant about the madness of Conservatives in America, my VA psychiatrist quietly said, “You are conservative. Very conservative.”

After I spluttered and gasped for a while, I thought about what he said.  He was absolutely right.

I live in a modest house.  I drive a modest car at modest speeds.  I obey traffic laws, including speed limits, as a matter of course.

I do not wear flamboyant clothes.  I dress for comfort and utility.  My needs are modest and easily satisfied.  I am warm, well fed, and comfortable.  I see no reason to pursue wealth or fame for their own sakes.

I take responsibility for my own actions.  I dispose of my trash where trash belongs and return as much of it as possible for reuse.  I prefer not to waste.

I am somewhat resistant to change, especially change for no reason except It’s New! Improved!

I proudly claim my state’s long time motto: I am from Missouri. You will have to Show Me.  I am not easily swayed by fancy words; I require evidence.

I ruined my first marriage.  I take responsibility for helping this one to succeed.  It is succeeding.  This makes my happy.

Although I often fail, it is always my objective to address other people with at least a modicum of courtesy, and to reason rather than insult in discussions.

I give of what I have to those who have less.

I try to live by my religious beliefs and leave others to do the same.

I do not think that humans are perfectable.  I think that each of us is forever flawed and can only do our best with what we have.

I believe that the United States Constitution is sufficient to provide the framework for a workable, liveable republic.  I don’t think it is the only framework that could work, but it’s the one we have, and we’ve been trying to operate under it for a long time, and I think it is overall satisfactory and should continue to be our framework.  I can think of a couple ways it might be amended to improve its function, but not unless or until some semblance of sanity and meaning becomes again ascendant in our nation’s political life.

I believe that many problems can be solved, or at least ameliorated, but that solving or addressing them requires clear thought and reasoned discussion.

I recognize that, for at least 300 years, since the early works of Isaac Newton, humans have used a structured thought process which we call “science” in a serious, ongoing attempt to understand the world and universe we live in and thereby to improve our lot within it.

I believe that language is the fundamental tool which allows for humanity to flourish, and that honesty and courtesy are the twin lubricants which enable us to work and live together.  But no, honesty does not require that you tell your wife she looks fat in that dress.  That is the “courtesy” part.  We conservative people know that extremes are very dangerous.

I believe that perfection is an unattainable goal.  All things, all people, all constructs, all ideas are forever and inevitably imperfect.  Only the universe is perfect, because by existence it defines perfection.  This entire paragraph outlines an assumption; I can’t prove any of it.

That said, I seek perfection in the things that I do, comfortable in the knowledge that when I fall short I will have the very best I am capable of.

I am a conservative person.

That is why I am so outraged by this thing in America that has taken the title of Conservatism to itself.  Or sometimes “Movement Conservatism”.

Movement Conservatives are agitating for a Constitutional Convention.  The foundation document on which the United States has been based since its inception is not good enough for them.  They want to throw it out and change it.

I could end this essay right here, although I’m not going to.  Real conservative humans oppose needless change, change for no reason.  These people have the unmitigated gall to call themselves Conservatives and yet they propose to throw away the very foundation on which 250 years of Americans have built a reasonably functional republic.  Whatever they are they are not conservative.  There has never been a more radical proposition.

People who claim to be Conservatives want to inject their religion into the governance of the United States of America and into the governance of the various States therein.  This would be a change as radical as when the Puritans departed England to create a theocratic society on a continent then occupied by other people.  It wasn’t an accident that this experiment resulted in, among other things, so-called witches being burned and drowned.  It was inevitable.  It is the absolute opposite of conservative to be advocating such madness today.

Conservative people are satisfied with enough.  Warm, well fed, educated, and left alone, a conservative person will go on with his and her life largely unnoticed, accomplishing those things which matter to him or her.  The Koch brothers are not conservative.  They are radical anarchists, using their vast, largely inherited wealth in an attempt to destroy the government of the United States because it imposes modest limitations on their ability to acquire ever more money and power.

Paul Ryan is not conservative.  I don’t know what motivates him, although he does proudly proclaim his fealty to fiction writer Ayn Rand and her magnum opus Atlas Shrugged.  If you have never read it, Atlas Shrugged is an unabashedly anarchist novel in which the Good Guys, at the end, create a non-governed Utopia where everybody just does good and treats each other fairly without any rules or umpires and life is perfect.  In its own way it is similar to Karl Marx’s fictional Worker’s Utopia.  Marx, too, predicted that under his proposed system the State would “wither away.” That one didn’t work either.  Ryan is an anarchist attempting to destroy the United States government.  Unlike the Koch brothers it’s not obvious what he has to gain by it.  I suspect, but do not know, that he believes if he destroys our republic the Kochs and their ilk will reward him handsomely.  If I were him I wouldn’t bet anything I couldn’t afford to lose on it.

When I was in high school I thought Atlas Shrugged was pretty cool.  It is the sort of simplistic Utopian slush that appeals to young people, people who are first trying out independent thinking but have not yet found out how complex the real world is.  For Paul Ryan, as the third highest elected official in The United States of America, to still advocate such childishness is embarrassing.  To be conservative is to be realistic.

There’s a Senator from Florida, a previous presidential candidate named Marco Rubio.  He’s a theocracy fan, advocating one particular offshoot of Christianity. Or no, I think he was going to two conflicting churches at once.  Something.  I can’t keep up with other people’s religions and don’t particularly care to try, but when Marco gets in front of a TV camera his religion comes bubbling out.  It would be acceptable if he wasn’t trying to run a non-sectarian country.  But he is.  He claims to be a Conservative.  Somebody asked him recently if his party should acknowledge the reality of science.  He replied that he didn’t think he was qualified to answer that question.

Marco. We’ve been doing science for 300 years.  It’s not a new thing.  Us conservative people like stuff that’s been around a while and been proved useful.

I could call out each of them by name.  Ted Cruz wants a government which forces all Americans to live by the dictates of his particular (different from Marco’s) extreme interpretation of Christianity.  Mitch McConnell is a flamboyant phony who will tell you on Monday that Black is White, on Tuesday that it is Green, on Wednesday that it is Orange, and on Thursday that he never mentioned black or any color.  The only saving grace is that he doesn’t work on Friday.

Theocratic Conservatives go to a bunch of different churches.  While there is some overlap, the only important thing they agree on is the name.  They call themselves Christians.  But since they can’t agree on the theology, if they get religion included in our laws and government it’s likely to turn out ugly, with one group after another being the current witch to burn. Shia’a. Sunni. Amish. Methodist. Catholic.  And of course the eternal scapegoat, Jew.  I prefer to conserve the traditional American way: no state sanctioned religion. It is a system that has served us reasonably well for a long time now.  I am, as I said, a conservative person.

All I’m going to say here about the economic lunacy which currently masquerades as Conservative doctrine is that old-line Republican George Herbert Walker Bush was absolutely right about it: he took one look and said, “Voodoo economics.”  Big-C Conservative economic doctrine is just another example of their actual anarchy.  It is another tool in their project to destroy the functioning government of our republic.  For more on this Google “Kansas”.

These self-proclaimed Conservatives have no respect whatsoever for language or meaning.  Their most egregious affront to language, though, is calling themselves Conservative.  It is not just false, it is Alice in Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass, Jabberwocky crazy.

There is no inherent conflict between being conservative and being liberal.  The entire pretense that the two are opposites is as fake as all the rest of their positions.

Liberal means open minded, open to new ideas, given to mercy and kindness.  Conservative means modest living, thinking before you act, not changing things just to see them change.  Look before you leap.  The two characteristics actually go together quite well.

Now: I know that I can’t rehabilitate the word conservative.  Like awesome and gay it is forever changed.  We can’t put that toothpaste back in the tube.  I’m not pleased by it but I’m not that stupid, either.  This word is gone.  However, for just the next paragraph, for just these few seconds, I ask you to see that word and think of the conservative guy I described at the beginning, and think of the obsolete, dictionary meaning of the word conservative.

I submit that, if we are to solve any of our problems, the best way to do so would be to approach them in conservative ways with a liberal mindset.

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