Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Making war on the people

April 2, 2017

Article from the Arkansas Democrat Gazette by Philip Martin

We don’t need our best and our brightest involved in politics; genius should be out curing cancer and writing novels that sound the black depths of the human heart. It doesn’t take any particular talent to serve in a state legislature or even in Congress (Jefferson imagined an amateur government might be run by yeoman farmers and tradesmen); they just need to be reasonably honest and, as Harry Truman said, “work in the interests of the common people and not in the interests of the men who have all the money.”

Governance is more like medicine than music. The prime directive of its practitioners should be to do no harm to the body politic. Certainly there are times when tough measures are called for, but any scars that are inflicted should be in service of achieving a greater good. We might disagree on what actions our elected representatives should take at any particular point in time, but we have a right to expect that they govern with a degree of empathy for the folks back home.

Ha.

We all know an individual American’s worth directly correlates to the bank account size. Money buys access, money changes minds. Money warps reality in ways that are absurd until you consider who stands to benefit from the absurdity. Poor people just don’t matter to some of those who are supposed to protect us. Our government is free to make war on the poor and powerless.

Most of us have become something less than citizens. We are more like crops to be harvested or resources to be exploited. Fictive personalities have been granted a better set of rights than you have because those stateless corporations have the ability to write much bigger checks to the people who pass laws than you can. So these corporations have been given the right to sell information they’ve surreptitiously gathered by spying on you.

You might think that your information belongs to you. Too bad. You’ve been outbid.

At the same time, a lot of these lawgivers have decided that the privacy of the world’s most public self-proclaimed billionaire matters more than national security. Despite promises to comply with decades of electioneering tradition by releasing his tax returns, despite real questions about what foreign entities might hold the note on his gilded existence, our president won’t tell us about his finances.

Because, as he’s said, he’s president and you’re not.

And if you want quality health care, prepare to pay for it. Or get yourself elected to Congress. Because these people are beholden to super-citizens like insurance companies and pharmaceutical firms. Because they have bigger things to worry about than whether you can afford to get sick. (Besides, if you amounted to anything, you’d have plenty of money to pay your doctor. After all, do you really need an iPhone or a curved-screen TV?)

The world is a hard place and you probably shouldn’t expect these denizens of marble halls to help you out. Because they’ve either got theirs or are in the process of getting same. And because you’re dumb enough to let them operate as they do, to let them get away with not doing the right thing.

To be fair, the world is a complicated and nuanced place and it’s sometimes hard to decide which course is the right one to take. So it’s not surprising that human beings might look to professional explainers, for people who can make the world seem simpler. While there are plenty of people willing to try to do this in exchange for your attention (which they can sell to advertisers), most of them are guessing just like the rest of us. And worse, their guesses are incentivized by third parties who have their own versions to propagate. Most of us prefer to hear stories that reassure us and flatter our sense of ourselves as decent and smart. Any problems we have are most decidedly not our fault—they’re the fault of whoever the professional explainer finds convenient to demonize.

Some of us understand this and take into consideration that the talking heads on television—whether they’re paid by MSNBC or Fox or by the taxpayers—are entertainers whose mission is to convince us that what their corporate sponsors would do is precisely the best thing.

This is how they get you to vote contrary to your own interest.

That’s your right, and it’s sometimes a noble thing. I can think of many things I would gladly support with higher taxes. You probably can too—most of us want a government able to protect us from threats we can’t handle on our own. Most of us would prefer old people not starve, that sick people not be denied medical attention.

Most of us believe there are some legitimate functions of government. A lot of us would prefer a government that doesn’t overly intrude on our daily lives.

I don’t think it’s wise to put much trust in government. Not because everyone who seeks or holds office is venal and corrupt but because it is so easy for human beings to rationalize whatever course they’d prefer to take. For cultural and psychological reasons, lots of us desire firearms; so someone provides the rationale that lots of firearms somehow makes society safer.

For cultural and psychological reasons, lots of us feel uncomfortable around people whose sexual identities seem less rigidly defined than our own; so someone provides the rationale that these people are disturbed and morbid, that they represent a threat to the way others would live.

For cultural and psychological reasons, some of us would prefer not to deal with vocabulary and nuanced argument; so someone provides the rationale that feelings trump facts and that there’s something unreliable and effete about thinking too much about anything.

This is why so many of us believe things that are demonstrably untrue; because someone has cynically supplied us with a set of talking points with which we can argue any absurdity. They’ve set us against each other, to squabble about what scares us most. We’re playing their game.

Maybe they’re smarter than we think.

pmartin@arkansasonline.com

Read more at

http://www.blooddirtangels.com

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I Underestimated Us (from March 2016)

March 3, 2017

By Philip Martin

Philip re-posted this on Facebook in March of 2017

I thought it would never come to this, that there was a bottom to be struck from which we might rebound. Now I’m not so sure. There’s a lot of evidence that suggests we are an infantilized nation, uninterested in hearing any message that doesn’t pay tribute to our not-so-secret image of ourselves as the best, brightest and most persecuted people on the planet. I thought that when it came down to it, the American people–the everyday folks who watch Jeopardy! and work the Sunday crosswords–would not be having any of this cult of personality strongman jive.

I thought we were too smart for that, that we’d seen the movies about Lonesome Rhodes and Howard Beale, that at least enough of us knew about Father Coughlin and Gerald L.K. Smith and that there were limits to how far we’d let some amusing con man go before we’d yank hard on his chain and tell the boy to settle down. A fake reality TV star with special-effects hair? The American people might string him along a while for laughs, but eventually he’d push it, he’d refuse to disavow the Ku Klux Klan or passively plagiarize Il Duce, spend a week apologizing and then drop out.

Yeah, Ronald Reagan was an actor, but it’s not fair to compare him to Donald Trump, for whatever you think of Reagan, when it came down to statecraft there was a deep seriousness to the man. You mightn’t have agreed with his philosophy, but as The Big Lebowski’s Walter Sobchak once said of National Socialism, at least a guiding ethos was present. Trump offers nothing more or less than his super-powered self–he’ll bat his eyes to melt Putin’s heart, he’ll make those rapey Mexicans pay to build their own wall. He’ll make us all winners again.

And sure, it’s not surprising he did all right at first. After all, name recognition is what matters more than anything else. And Trump’s name is everywhere; if he’s good at anything aside from inheriting money it’s self-promoting. I stayed in one his hotels eight years ago, and every week I still get emails inviting me to enjoy a special rate to return or to play golf on one of his courses.

He’s got a sense of humor and he’s utterly shameless–he made his own bad taste a trademark, and his brand is so ubiquitous that some people even believe he’s whatever he says he is: smart, handsome, a good businessman, a scratch golfer. It’s disapppointing, but a lot of Americans support Trump simply because he’s rich. (Because you know, the rich are always doing stuff for the little folks, like leaving $100 tips and moving their manufacturing plants to China.)

(Not that Trump supporters will listen, but there are any number of ways to become a billionaire, and one of the easiest ways is to inherit $200 million. As a lot of people have pointed out, though Trump is worth about $4 billion now, if he’d just stuck his inheritance in an index fund and spent his time walking the earth he’d be worth about $13 billion.)

But the real reason people support Trump is because he doesn’t require anything of them but their free-floating anger. I’m not ready to give Trump credit for doing this on purpose, but at times it seems he’s conducting a kind of Stanley Milgram-type experience on the body politic. He rants all this racist, extremist ugly stuff because it’s what frustrated people who don’t like to be challenged want to hear. He doesn’t believe it any more than he believes in the common sense of common folk, but it’s working so he’d be a fool to change. And a lot of his supporters understand how unworthy Trump’s message is, but they don’t care because he’s not coming for them. He’s after the other guy.

Trump is like a professional wrestler in that while he engages with reality, he does so in a odd, almost metafictional way. He understands he’s fake, and that at least some (most) of his potential audience knows he’s fake. He’s playing a character called Donald Trump. But he’s also real; he’s been validated–animated like Frankenstein’s monster–by poll numbers and primary results. He knows he can really be the nominee, despite the GOP’s best efforts to stop him. (And it’s saying something that a lot of serious people don’t think Trump’s the worst the Republicans have on offer this time around.)

While a lot of Democratic partisans might see that as the best thing that could happen for presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton, that doesn’t give me a lot of comfort. Nobody has tomorrow promised to them, and I’m not at all comfortable with the Donald getting that close to the big chair. I don’t imagine a Trump presidency will be any worse than disappointing to all involved (especially to Trump himself). I think that the legislative and judicial branches would frustrate Trump at least as much as they have Barack Obama, but I’d rather not play chicken with the Constitution, and I’m not all that curious to see if he nominates Howard Stern or Judge Joe Brown to the Supreme Court.

(It would be funny to see Trump govern more or less like the moderate Democrat his history would suggest he might be. There’s absolutely nothing to suggest he’d take any steps to make the federal government smaller.)

Frankly, you all are scaring me. This should have been put to bed a while ago, the grownups should have swooped down and taken us in hand. But the problem is, there really aren’t any grownups anymore, are there? We’re a nation that lives on fast food and idiot television. The only kind of thinking we like to do is magical. We can’t even be grammatical in our anonymous comments.

Someone told me we get the government we deserve. Let us pray that isn’t true.

Garrison Keillor weighs in on Trump’s victory

November 9, 2016

Article published in the Washington Post by Garrison Keillor on 11/9/2016


So he won. The nation takes a deep breath. Raw ego and proud illiteracy have won out, and a severely learning-disabled man with a real character problem will be president. We are so exhausted from thinking about this election, millions of people will take up leaf-raking and garage cleaning with intense pleasure. We liberal elitists are wrecks. The Trumpers had a whale of a good time, waving their signs, jeering at the media, beating up protesters, chanting “Lock her up” — we elitists just stood and clapped. Nobody chanted “Stronger Together.” It just doesn’t chant.

The Trumpers never expected their guy to actually win the thing, and that’s their problem now. They wanted only to whoop and yell, boo at the H-word, wear profane T-shirts, maybe grab a crotch or two, jump in the RV with a couple of six-packs and go out and shoot some spotted owls. It was pleasure enough for them just to know that they were driving us wild with dismay — by “us,” I mean librarians, children’s authors, yoga practitioners, Unitarians, bird-watchers, people who make their own pasta, opera-goers, the grammar police, people who keep books on their shelves, that bunch. The Trumpers exulted in knowing we were tearing our hair out. They had our number, like a bratty kid who knows exactly how to make you grit your teeth and froth at the mouth.

Alas for the Trump voters, the disasters he will bring on this country will fall more heavily on them than anyone else. The uneducated white males who elected him are the vulnerable ones, and they will not like what happens next.

To all the patronizing B.S. we’ve read about Trump expressing the white working-class’s displacement and loss of the American Dream, I say, “Feh!” — go put your head under cold water. Resentment is no excuse for bald-faced stupidity. America is still the land where the waitress’s kids can grow up to become physicists and novelists and pediatricians, but it helps a lot if the waitress and her husband encourage good habits and the ambition to use your God-given talents and the kids aren’t plugged into electronics day and night. Whooping it up for the candidate of cruelty and ignorance does less than nothing for your kids.

We liberal elitists are now completely in the clear. The government is in Republican hands. Let them deal with him. Democrats can spend four years raising heirloom tomatoes, meditating, reading Jane Austen, traveling around the country, tasting artisan beers, and let the Republicans build the wall and carry on the trade war with China and deport the undocumented and deal with opioids, and we Democrats can go for a long , brisk walk and smell the roses.

I like Republicans. I used to spend Sunday afternoons with a bunch of them, drinking Scotch and soda and trying to care about NFL football. It was fun. I tried to think like them. (Life is what you make it. People are people. When the going gets tough, tough noogies.) But I came back to liberal elitism.

Don’t be cruel. Elvis said it, and it’s true. We all experienced cruelty back in our playground days — boys who beat up on the timid, girls who made fun of the homely and naive — and most of us, to our shame, went along with it, afraid to defend the victims lest we become one of them. But by your 20s, you should be done with cruelty. Mr. Trump was the cruelest candidate since George Wallace. How he won on fear and bile is for political pathologists to study. The country is already tired of his noise, even his own voters. He is likely to become the most intensely disliked president since Herbert Hoover. His children will carry the burden of his name. He will never be happy in his own skin. But the damage he will do to our country — who knows? His supporters voted for change, and boy, are they going to get it.

Back to real life. I went up to my home town the other day and ran into my gym teacher, Stan Nelson, looking good at 96. He commanded a landing craft at Normandy on June 6, 1944, and never said a word about it back then, just made us do chin-ups whether we wanted to or not. I saw my biology teacher Lyle Bradley, a Marine pilot in the Korean War, still going bird-watching in his 90s. I was not a good student then, but I am studying both of them now. They have seen it all and are still optimistic. The past year of politics has taught us absolutely nothing. Zilch. Zero. Nada. The future is scary. Let the uneducated have their day. I am now going to pay more attention to teachers.

Fat, Drunk and stupid

November 9, 2016

I have a bad feeling about this.

Election days—in this country, in my experience—are supposed to be hopeful days. They usually feel restorative, even if the candidates I favor seem bound to lose. (I am used toand probably more comfortable—being in the minority.) But it seems the best case today is that a clear and present danger might be avoided and a competent but divisive caretaker elected, largely by people who feel they are voting in self-defense.

I don’t want to rehash everything—Hillary Clinton has been targeted and harassed for more than three decades, and much of what some people believe about her simply isn’t true. But she was a problematic candidate from the very beginning, and she’s had trouble articulating a compelling case why she should be president other than she’s better than the alternative and that her years of service somehow entitle her to the position.

And though that’s reason enough to vote for her, it’s not enough to make some of us feel good about it. Clinton is a firewall candidate, maybe our last best hope, but it’s disturbing that so many of us are willing to support a man who quite plainly and transparently represents the worst aspects of our anti-intellectual, fear-driven society. It’s neither my job or inclination to make predictions, but my best guess is that Donald Trump will come perilously close to winning the presidency today.

If he does win, I do not think he will put me in prison immediately. But I would not put it past him to try.

Some of you would enjoy that. I know because you’ve told me so. Unless a whole lot of people are having a lot of fun with the pollsters, Trump will win Arkansas. He has the support of a governor who, in ordinary circumstances, would probably not suffer his boorishness at his dinner table. He has the affection of an attorney general who seems to believe that the people of Arkansas have positioned her to try out for the cable league shout shows. We have seen what some people will sell themselves for; we should remember those Republicans who put “team” before country.

For the last time, I want to say it plain: Trump is unfit to be president. He lies. He cheats. He’s a bad businessman and a bad American. He’s a bully who keeps score and you shouldn’t trust him around your teenage daughter, much less the nuclear football.

If you support him out of fear, you should be ashamed, for nothing noble is ever achieved from fear. If you honestly believe that for all his flaws and lies and craven advantage-taking he still represents the best way forward for this nation, then I can do nothing for you, son. The propaganda worked on you. Lee Atwater—I hope to God in heaven—is weeping because his plans worked too well.

But hey, it’s all over now. Tomorrow we’ll know, and most of us are going to accept it. There will be some grumbling, but I hope no real drama or ugliness. On Wednesday we can let this gothough some won’t. Some are already running for 2020, and don’t care how damaging this neverending campaign is to the quality of American life. Whoever the president-elect is, there’s going to be a ginned-up machine raking cash away from the scaredy Americans.

There’s going to be someone on the radio or the Internet sobbing about how someone’s coming to get their guns and that Sandy Hook was some false put-up job.

You have to be a grown-up, you have to understand that most conspiracy theories are comic book-level narratives spun by cynical people hoping to get rich off the naivety of those susceptible to that kind of story-telling. A lot of things that happen aren’t planned in secret by a cabal of insiders. Some things are, but usually we find out pretty quickly because human beings have trouble keeping secrets and any plan with a lot of moving parts is liable to fall apart at any time.

The real way to rig an election is to gerrymander congressional districts so even if a majority of Americans vote for the other party you’ll end up with more House seats. (As an institution, the U.S. House of Representatives is about as irritating and insensible as the Baseball Hall of Fame.) The real way to rig an election is to collect and spend enough money to scare off any challengers. The real way to rig an election is to enact legislation designed to change the composition of the electorate by making it difficult for certain demographic groups to exercise their right to vote.

If we were genuinely interested in having as many eligible Americans as possible participate in the democratic process, we’d make it easier to vote. We’d have registration drives in homeless shelters. We’d let people vote on the Internet or through the mail. We’d accept a little more risk of voter fraud—which, despite what you may have heard on your favorite news channel, is virtually non-existent under the current system—in exchange for a higher turnout.

I’m not saying I’m for those things. I don’t necessarily want to encourage people who aren’t terribly interested in politics to vote. I sure don’t want to shame them into it. Our Constitution ought to be strong enough to guarantee the rights of the apolitical to ignore the ladies and gentlemen in the bad (pant) suits turning rhetorical cartwheels on the periphery of the American attention span. I’m sick of people who want me to vote for them telling me how brave and honest and close to God and overall worthy they are—I’d prefer it if they’d just drop off their résumés and stay off the TV.

Anyway, tomorrow is coming. And no matter what happens, no one is coming to take our guns. No one is going to make us any greater than our spirits will allow. Make no mistake, we are getting what we deserve. We need to start taking this stuff seriously, we need to stop listening to those who tell us we’re the best and the brightest and that nothing is our fault.

To paraphrase Dean Wormer, fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through history, America.

—––––– › –––––—

Philip Martin is a columnist and critic for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Email him at pmartin@arkansasonline.com and read his blog at blooddirtandangels.com.

Politics – as usual?

November 4, 2016

Here’s a timely little article pulled from the Log Cabin today (11/4/16)

Jefferson/Adams was Clinton/Trump of it’s day

Politics are such a torment that I would advise everyone I love not to mix with them. Wait, that’s not me talking in 2016. That was Thomas Jefferson, writing to his daughter in 1800.

In other words — if it makes us feel any better, if perspective can perchance calm our nerves — the 1800 presidential campaign was just as vicious as what what we’re seeing now.

Incumbent President John Adams and his surrogates slimed Jefferson as a God-hater who, if elected, would close the churches and import French revolutionaries to wreak violent havoc upon the land and foment “the insurrection of the Negroes in the southern states.” Adams’ surrogates called Jefferson “an open infidel” who, if elected, “will be a center of contagion to the whole continent.”

One pro-Adams tract (akin to a superPAC TV ad) warned the people of Delaware that “if Jefferson is elected, the morals which protect our lives from the knife of the assassin, which guard the chastity of our wives and daughters from seduction and violence, defend our property from plunder and devaluation, and shield our religion from contempt and profanation, will be trampled upon and exploded.” If Jefferson is elected, Americans would become “more ferocious than savages, more bloody than tigers, more impious than demons.” And the top pro-Adams newspaper (the Fox News of its day) blared the slogan “JEFFERSON — AND NO GOD!!!”

Jefferson finally gave up trying to fact-check his accusers: “It has been so impossible to contradict all the lies that I have determined to contradict none; for while I should engage with one, they would publish 20 new ones.”

But Jefferson and his allies slimed Adams as a war-mongering dictator who wore “a mask for monarchy,” who, if re-elected, would whack the average citizen with higher and higher taxes in order to support a massive military buildup and thus burden “an enslaved and impoverished people.” Indeed, “the foundation for monarchy is already laid.” A vote for Adams was framed as a vote for “war and beggary.”

Jefferson’s surrogates, in their mass-produced pamphlets (the social media of their day), also slimed Adams as a rank hypocrite, because even though Adams routinely denounced slavery, he still had three slaveholders in his Cabinet.

Jefferson’s face is on a coin today, and Adams stars in an HBO series, but back in their day, voters basically saw that campaign as a choice between the lesser of two evils. (Which should sound familiar.) One disgruntled pro-Jefferson guy wrote, “Now I don’t know that John Adams is a hypocrite, or Jefferson a Deist” — a synynom for a God-hater — “yet supposing they are, I am of the opinion the last ought to be preferred to the first (because) a secret enemy is worse than an open one.”

And even though Washington D.C. was a brand new city, people already hated its partisan fervor. One government official wrote, “No stranger can be here a day and converse with the proprietors without conceiving himself in the company of crazy people.”

So. Do we all feel a lot better knowing that, as William Faulkner famously said, “The past is never dead, it’s not even past”? That America (then and presumably now) can survive even the most twisted lies and slanders?

Oh well. It was worth a try.

Copyright 2016 Dick Polman, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Dick Polman is the national political columnist at NewsWorks/WHYY in Philadelphia (newsworks.org/polman) and a “Writer in Residence” at the University of Pennsylvania. Email him at dickpolman7@gmail.com.

Trump’s not Hitler, but…

October 4, 2016

This article is from the Arkansas Democrat Gazette dated October 2, 2016 – The author is Philip Martin.

In his book The Coming Victory of Democracy published in 1938, Thomas Mann wrote that “in a democracy which does not respect the intellectual life and is not guided by it, demagoguery has free play and the level of national life is depressed to that of the ignorant and uncultivated … [i]f the conception of culture and its level are determined from below, according to the ideas and understanding of the mob—this, precisely, is nothing but demagogy; and we have its perfect example in the so-called Kultur speeches of … Hitler.”

I’m not saying Donald Trump is Hitler, though lots of people are, or at least rolling the idea around in their minds. For instance, in the New York Times last week the venerable critic Michiko Kakutani wrote a review of Volker Ulrich’s Hitler: Ascent, 1889-1939 that—though she never mentions the Republican presidential candidate—is interpreted by many as a veiled comparison between Trump and Hitler.

(I’ve just started Ulrich’s book; so far it’s a measured deconstruction of the accreted monster mythology that obscured the historical Hitler. This is important; we should keep in mind that even the worst people may possess a full complement of emotions. Understanding a Hitler capable of love and kindness is necessary if we are to fathom the potential for evil-doing in ourselves.)

It’s not unusual that people see Hitler in Trump. Hitler has become an all-purpose symbol for anything we wish to dismiss. Yet when talking about a notorious celebrity rising to political power through mendacious attacks and scapegoating, the analogy might be irresistible, even if it’s not especially helpful. While only in the fevered imagination of Trump and his most-blighted followers is America a hellish place in anything close to the truly terrible shape that Germany was in in the aftermath of the Great War, it’s undeniable that a lot of Americans are disappointed and disillusioned. Economic numbers may say one thing, but there is still a pervasive feeling of discontent among many people in this country.

A lot of us feel economically insecure. A lot of us worry about whether our jobs will last and whether our children will be able to enjoy the lifestyle our parents took for granted. All this talk about black lives mattering irks the kind of people who think of themselves as no beneficiary of any privilege. People who have trouble making their mortgage and car payments are bound to bristle when they feel their pain dismissed while others are put forward as a victimized class. They are bound to respond when someone tells them that their struggles are compounded by institutional favoritism and government appeasement.

Even if there’s no empirical basis for these suspicions, people will respond to someone who confirms their biases, who tells them what they want to hear. And if you’re hurting in America, maybe you respond to the guy who tells you it’s not your fault and he can fix it.

Because it might not be your fault.

It’s quite possible to do what you’re supposed to do, to work hard and study, and still end up living from paycheck to paycheck in this country. Or living without a paycheck. Just because you’re not living in the Weimar Republic where you’d better spend a 50-million mark note today because tomorrow a gallon of milk might cost a billion marks doesn’t mean you’re not experiencing real trouble.

The only thing that inoculates us from the promises of would-be demagogues is an understanding of the inherent complexity of the world. Nothing is as simple as a reductionist soundbite; there are unforeseen consequences and hidden costs implicit in every policy decision. Bright-line rules might be necessary in some cases, but if your goal is justice or even fairness you have to at least consider why other people behave the way they do and believe the things they believe.

While there are a minority of Trump supporters who openly subscribe to the tenets of National Socialism, the overwhelming majority of his backers would want to punch you in the face if you called them Nazis. By their lights, they’re seeking to secure the blamed blessings of liberty for themselves and their posterity. They want an America for Americans—just like the Germans wanted a Germany for Germans.

What’s dangerous is the idea that some Americans are more real than other Americans, and that—like pornography—Americanism is easily identified if difficult to define. What’s dangerous is the idea that there ought to be religious, racial or ethnic tests for Americanism. We are not a white nation, we are not a Christian nationwe are a mongrel nation comprised of people of various cultural traditions pledged to tolerance. There’s nothing American in suggesting that we’d be better off if we were less diverse.

And while people are easily frightened, there’s nothing American in suggesting that we ought to exchange long-held principles for the illusion of safety. You can’t enjoy your freedom without being a little brave; to live in the world requires that we accept and assume certain risks. It’s obvious there is a chance that you can die violently in America, but there are limits to what government can do; there’s no way to assure anyone of absolute safety.

Just as there’s no way to assure everyone of a fair break. There will be winners and losers, and some people will have advantages that others don’t. Some will be born into wealth, some into desperate situations. Luck and connections factor into an individual’s chance for success—usually more than talent or diligence.

Some people see Trump’s wealth as evidence of his fitness for high office. That’s always been part of the American equation—we tend to envy, worship and suck up to rich folks while nursing the notion that someday we might find ourselves miraculously transformed. (It’s more often expressed in the negative, as in, “If you’re so smart how come you ain’t rich?”)

Most of us know why we’re not rich—or at least why we’re not richer. But in this country most of us are relatively comfortable, most of us have the luxury of indulging in a little laziness. Common sense does not trump critical thinking. What you know in your gut is likely superstition or prejudice.

Donald Trump isn’t Hitler, and supporting him doesn’t make you a Nazi.

But maybe it wouldn’t hurt you to read a little history.

pmartin@arkansasonline.com

http://www.blooddirtandangels.com/

Three Mile Island – Steve Brooks

April 4, 2009

Here’s a link to a story written by my friend Steve Brooks. It’s a good read. Steve says that the Statesmen (in Austin TX) refused to publish it so he just sent it out in his newsletter… He said it was okay to forward it so I thought I’d save it for posterity on the Happenstance website.

Three Mile Island Story

Steve Brooks Website

Democracy? Republic? or Oligarchy?

January 20, 2009

I hope this flixxy video stays up for a long time…. it’s very educational.

http://www.flixxy.com/political-systems.htm