Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Impeachment and the Presidency

Impeachment and the Presidency
Peter Schultz

            Like the presidency itself, the men who wrote the Constitution saw an impeachment process as necessary but dangerous. They knew that such a process could and would be used merely for partisan purposes and that such a process could and would cause intense divisions in the nation. On the other hand, they saw the necessity for providing for a constitutionally established process to remove culpable presidents or otherwise, as Ben Franklin noted, assassination would become a means of “removal.” If we look at the results of the impeachments of Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, it is safe to say that those men did their work well as both impeachments were intensely partisan attacks on presidents some thought of as illegitimate.

            Johnson, charged with a lot of things, most importantly chose to violate a law that was clearly unconstitutional, the Tenure of Office Act, passed by Republicans to keep Johnson from firing Stanton, his Secretary of War, as the Secretary of Defense was called when our politics was more honest. As John F. Kennedy wrote in his book Profiles in Courage, Johnson’s presidency was saved by the votes of seven Republicans who broke ranks with their colleagues, the most important vote – because it was most dramatic – coming from Senator Ross from Kansas. For his troubles, Ross had his reputation sullied and was not returned to the Senate. He even had to move from his home state to the New Mexico territory, where he was eventually made its governor. Eventually, people came to see that Ross’s vote was the right one and he regained his well-deserved reputation for integrity. The Tenure of Office Act was repealed twenty years later and it was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in dicta when William Howard Taft was chief justice.

            Bill Clinton’s impeachment was even worse in that not only was he impeached and tried on trumped up – sorry for the unintentional pun – charges but the Republicans never actually intended to remove Clinton from office. That would have made Al Gore president and Gore would have run as an incumbent in 2000 and would have been entitled to serve two full terms as he would have become president more than halfway through Clinton’s second term. This impeachment was all smoke and mirrors and political theater aimed at allowing the Republicans to win the presidency in 2000. They weren’t even successful in that except that they had the Supreme Court and certain Florida officials on their side. The people, who chose Gore, weren’t fooled by the Republicans’ dog and pony show of an impeachment.

            And now we have the Trump impeachment, another attempt to remove a sitting president for merely partisan reasons. It will fail and it will in large part thanks to the process that was created in 1787 making the Senate the body to try impeached presidents. Senators have six-year terms, only 1/3 are up for reelection in any election year, and conviction requires a 2/3s majority. All of these provisions serve to protect Trump and rightly so insofar as his impeachment is as clearly partisan as were those of Johnson and Clinton.
            Two things are remarkable here. First, that the men who wrote the Constitution saw clearly the possibility that any impeachment process could and would be used for merely partisan purposes, arousing passions of such intensity that Franklin said would have led to assassinations were they not redirected into constitutionally approved processes. And, second, having seen these possibilities but still seeing the need for a removal process regarding the presidency, they were able to create a process that has, in at least two cases so far, worked as intended in short circuiting merely partisan attempts to remove sitting presidents. The Constitution is hardly a flawless document, especially when it comes to the presidency, but in this way it has proved to be more than adequate.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

The Democratic Oligarchs, Their "Deep State," and the Constitution

The Democratic Oligarchs, Their “Deep State,” and the Constitution
Peter Schultz

            There is a link below to an article on the Greanville Post relating to the Democrats current endorsement of what is being called “the Deep State” as populated by patriots, defenders of the Constitution, and defenders of democracy. Some response seems called for.

Actually, this alleged “change” by progressives endorsing bureaucratic government isn’t really a change. The progressives were always in favor of a pervasively powerful bureaucracy rather than a government that rests on the active, day to day consent of the governed. They thought this would offset the power of the wealthy they knew would arise from the creation of an economy devoted to the creation of ever more wealth. They were wrong about that as the wealthy just occupied the bureaucracy, thereby helping to create an oligarchy. 

And that is all that’s going on here: oligarchs defending their power, their status, as the many begin to realize that they, the many, are being screwed by “their” government. The lies told by the likes of the Clintons, the Obamas, and the Bushes, only play for so long and then the many realize they’re being screwed over and the progressives lose legitimacy and authority. So then they pronounce their faith in the bureaucracy, rechristening it “patriotic,” “defenders of the Constitution,” “defenders of democracy,” allegedly. The progressives were never “republican,” small “r”, in any real sense, but elitists looking to take control from the people, the many. And of course those who oppose them are, as Hillary put it, “deplorables” and undeserving of power. From their perspective, it’s not that Trump deserves impeachment for his acts; he deserves impeachment because he can’t be a legitimate president given his rejection of the ruling elites. So, one need not be concerned with Trump at all to be concerned with how the Democrats are behaving as they are, not surprisingly for an oligarchs, trying to kill the republic the Constitution aspires to.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

The Unsayable

The Unsayable
Peter Schultz

            In an excellent book The Spirit of Disobedience, Curtis White has the following critique of what is labeled our “Culture War,” which he says should be called our “Culture Theater.”

            In discussing this Culture War and its “warriors,” White points out that “The Maher/Coulter/O’Reilly oppositions are nothing more than public spectacle, political circus, the semblance of difference where there is none….They are the summons to fundamental change that means everything will stay the same.” [p. 87]

            As White points out, these “warriors” never say that which cannot, legitimately, be said: “You cannot say that the ruling order has no moral right to rule and hence no legitimacy. You cannot say that the order as a whole is spiritually bankrupt.” [p. 81, emphasis in original]

            And you cannot say that “Business, politics and legalized violence are a fluid whole.” You cannot point out that our governance is “indistinguishable from organized violence for profit.” [p. 82], even though if you examine Dick Cheney’s career, for example, it is clearly true. Cheney, Secretary of Defense, congressperson, vice president, head of Halliburton, and orchestrator of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, as well as other military actions that were not inconsistent with profit making for the likes of Halliburton, et. al. The “fluid whole” of business, politics and legalized, profit-making violence is there for everyone to see; that is, if you care to look at it and call it for what it is.

            So, the likes of Maher, Coulter, and O’Reilly always disavow any idea that they think our political, social, and economic order is spiritually bankrupt, illegitimate, even when, as after 2008, our economy was actually bankrupt. Why was it bankrupt? Not because our ruling order was thoroughly corrupt. Rather, it was bankrupt because of “mistakes” that were made, just as the Vietnam War and the invasion of Iraq were “mistakes.” And, if we take care, we can in the future avoid those “mistakes.” Nothing fundamental has to change; we just have to have a “do-over,” a “mulligan,” and we will get it right. Why? Because our ruling elites are not only well intentioned but also humane and just. Besides, everyone makes “mistakes,” don’t they?

            And here is another version of what is unsayable. This is from a book by John W. Dower entitled The Cultures of War. It is rather long but worth quoting in full. It is explaining why George Bush, for example, was never held accountable for the grave strategic debacle he created in Iraq.

            “What shielded the Bush administration from accountability…was… the inviolate nature of the national ‘security state’ that was spawned by World War II and the Cold War. Forty years prior to September 11,…Lewis Mumford…was describing this Leviathan as a ‘priestly monopoly of secret knowledge, the multiplication of secret agencies, the suppression of open discussion, and even the insulation of error against public criticism and exposure through a ‘bi-partisan’ military and foreign policy, which in practice nullifies public reaction and makes rational dissent the equivalent of patriotic disaffection, if not treason.’ The security state, with its holy writ and labyrinthine complexity, amounted to a profane theocracy.” [pp. 439-440]

            Like any theocracy, dissent, real dissent is seen as apostasy and cannot be allowed. Say these things and you will be marginalized, ostracized, and certified as either psycho or a traitor. It is an interesting state of affairs.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Trump's Opposition: Mutating Toward.......

Trump’s Opposition: Mutating Toward……
Peter Schultz

            That Trump’s opposition is mutating is illustrated by their increasingly shrill cries, cries that seem to echo those of Trump’s supporters when, in reference to Hillary, they bellowed, “Lock her up! Lock her up!”

            We shouldn’t be surprised by this, I think, insofar as this seems to be a fairly common phenomenon among the self-righteous who possess and/or think they deserve to possess a great deal of power. When the efforts of these types are resisted, or are not recognized as legitimate, they become increasingly frustrated and begin to imagine that their enemies are fanatics beyond habilitation or rehabilitation, beyond anything but the naked exercise of power. Thus, cries of “Lock him up! Lock him up!” are heard throughout Trumpland.

            This phenomenon has been noted among torturers who, when they are unsuccessful in “breaking” their prisoner, begin to feel as if they were being victimized. The tortured are torturing the torturer! With predictable results. Similarly, this phenomenon is visible in escalations during war, especially among military forces that are deemed “superior” to their allegedly “lesser” – that is, weaker and more backward – enemies. The allegedly superior forces, feeling victimized, resort to ever-greater force to try to prevail, with predictable and ghastly results.

            Much of the rhetoric of the anti-Trump “resistance” carries with it an implicit assertion that Trump and his supporters are “lesser” than they, the resisters; that is, less educated, less socially respectable, less cultured, less rational, etc. Hillary called Trump supporters “deplorables,” indicating that she and her supporters are superior to her enemies in the Trump camp. She and her supporters should have prevailed – and even should prevail now. Hence, impeachment is justified if for no other reason than to right “the wrong” done in the 2016 election. Because Trump is “less,” hence “inferior, he should not be president and he cannot be a legitimate president.

            This mindset often leads to extremism, to a kind of fanaticism by which the “superior” stakes all on defeating, oppressing, subduing the “inferior.” As a result, those who like to think of themselves as superior undermine the ground of their alleged superiority. Doing battle with an alleged “beast,” they become beastly themselves. And it becomes a question of exactly who is more deplorable.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Threats to the Republic: The Clinton and Trump Impeachments

Threats to the Republic: The Clinton and Trump Impeachments
Peter Schultz

            There are at least two problems with the Trump impeachment, as there were with the Clinton impeachment as well.

            First, the Clinton impeachment was not a genuine attempt to remove Bill Clinton from office, a fact that is I suspect true of the Trump impeachment as well. Why would the Republicans have wanted to remove Clinton from office more than halfway through his term – meaning Al Gore could have served two full terms if he had been elected in 2000 – and prior to the 2000 presidential election for “offenses” that hardly endangered much more than Clinton’s marriage? Clinton was guilty of bad behavior and of trying to cover it up, but as majorities of the people repeatedly opined, the Republican attempt was merely a manifestation of partisan or party electoral politics. The same is true of the Democratic attempt to impeach and remove Trump from office. Except among those blinded by “Trump hysteria” or those willing to play “smoke and mirror politics,” there is no good or adequate reason for removing Trump from office, especially now that the Democrats control the House of Representatives and given the anti-Trump animus evident in the mainstream media.

            Secondly – and more importantly – both of these impeachment attempts trivialize – and hence marginalize – that process, which has consequences for our republican scheme of government. The impeachment process was created in order to provide a means, within constitutional processes, to hold presidents accountable and to remove and ban them from office should that seem necessary. Monarchs could not be held accountable or be removed by any ordinary process. Removal required revolution and/or regicide. But because the men who drafted the Constitution knew they were creating a powerful and, hence, a dangerous office, one with some monarchical attributes, they wanted a means – without involving revolution or assassination – of holding presidents accountable and removing and banning them from office. That is, our founders knew that the presidency as created was an office whose misuse or abuse could undermine the republican form of government created by the Constitution because presidents had the means to aggrandize themselves and their office, e.g., through abuse of the commander in chief powers and/or the pardoning power.

            In other words, the impeachment process was adopted to deal with what was once called an “imperial presidency” and, more recently, a “unitary executive.” But there is little or nothing in either the Clinton or the Trump impeachment proceedings that reflect such concerns. That is, neither Clinton nor Trump has been charged with seeking to establish an “imperial” or a “unitary” presidency.  Rather, the focus was and is on allegedly bad or illegal behavior, but not behavior that rises to the level of having grave political consequences that would, if unchecked, undermine the Constitution’s republican scheme – or what’s left of it.

            We have however witnessed such grave actions, e.g., when Nixon claimed while making war in Laos and Cambodia that a president could constitutionally make war wherever, whenever, and however he wanted. Or when Reagan undertook to make war in Nicaragua despite the legally established opposition of the Congress, while trading arms for hostages in violation of the clearly established policy of the United States. We have also witnessed such behavior when Bush Jr. decided that he had the authority to invade and occupy Iraq with or without the approval of the Congress, and that he could do this based on manufactured “intelligence.” And of course we have witnessed, so to speak, such behavior repeatedly by the CIA and other agencies, under presidential guidance, attempting to overthrow and overthrowing legitimately established governments for a variety of reasons, with or without congressional approval. Such misuses and abuses of power seem tailor made for the impeachment process as a means of preserving a republican scheme of government, and especially from aggrandizing presidents.

            To use the impeachment process to deal with allegedly bad or illegal behavior that doesn’t endanger our republican scheme of government trivializes that process, while doing nothing to fortify our republican institutions. In fact, insofar as the impeachment process has become merely part of our partisan, electoral politics, being used to overturn election results or to influence future elections, just so far does that process undermine our republic which is already in need of life support. Given that this process has been used in this way by both the Republicans (against Clinton) and the Democrats (against Trump), one could and maybe even should get the impression that neither party wants to revive or resuscitate our republican scheme of government. Our Orwellian oligarchs are content, it seems, to subvert, to kill that republic – even while waving flags and singing “God Bless America.” It is a weird situation.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Conventional Wisdom v. Crazy Wisdom

“Conventional Wisdom v. Crazy Wisdom”
Dr. P. Schultz
September 2, 2009

         One of my favorite authors, Tom Robbins, makes a distinction between ‘conventional wisdom’ and ‘crazy wisdom.’ Here is what he wrote:

            Crazy wisdom is, of course, the opposite of conventional wisdom. It is wisdom that deliberately swims against the current in order to avoid being swept along in the numbing wake of bourgeois compromise, wisdom that flouts taboos in order to undermine their power; wisdom that evolves when one, while refusing to avert one’s gaze from the sorrows and injustices of the world, insists on joy in spite of everything; wisdom that embraces risk and eschews security, wisdom that turns the tables on neurosis by lampooning it, the wisdom of those who neither seek authority nor willingly submit to it. [Wild Ducks Flying Backwards, p. 180]

         We are, generally speaking, submerged in conventional wisdom. It is all around us and it permeates us intimately. In fact, if we are not careful, it will mold us, affecting how we think, how we talk, and how we act. One example drawn from a recent experience.

         My daughter, a single mom of 37 years, wrote on Facebook that she had read somewhere that the pursuit of happiness had to be abandoned at times or one could burn out or go crazy. One of her friends responded that, yes, enough is often enough, so let go of happiness and don’t go crazy.

         My response was as follows, basically: the danger is in thinking that happiness is something that has to be pursued.  Of course, we learn this from a very young age and it is even there in that document that signaled the “birth of our nation,” the Declaration of Independence. All human beings – because that is what Jefferson meant by “men” – have the right to “the pursuit of happiness.” But what if this is wrong? What if happiness is not something to be pursued? What if happiness can be found, at almost anytime; e.g., in a smile, in a beautiful woman or man [or both if you are bisexual!], in a child, even in a classroom [yes, I know that is stretching it but it happens]?

         The conventional wisdom says “pursue” happiness but if happiness is not pursuable then we need to ask: what is it that we are pursuing? My answer [and that is all it is]: SUCCESS AND SECURITY. Alright if you want to continue this pursuit, as it is your right to do so. But don’t forget that in that pursuit you have abandoned the possibility of happiness which lies in a different arena altogether.

         Conventional wisdom, as demonstrated by the death of Ted Kennedy just recently, tells us that one of the best ways for human beings to live is to go into politics, “make a contribution,” help save the planet, stand up for immutable principles. Kennedy’s life was celebrated but so was his choice of lifestyle, as it were. He chose to enter politics, we were told over and over and over, and wasn’t that noble of him? Just as his brothers chose the noble life so too did Ted and we should be thankful that he did that.

         But, as also demonstrated by Ted Kennedy’s life, very often those people who have gone into politics do things that indicate what we like to call a “lack of character.” But what if it is not a “lack of character” but rather a lack of happiness? What if the public life, the political life is not satisfying to human beings because it requires sacrificing happiness for, let us say, POWER. Or as I like to say FAME, the only kind of immortality we humans can be certain is available to us.  What if the noble life is not and cannot be satisfying to human beings? What if being famous is, ultimately, unsatisfying just as it seems, from the behavior of those we call “stars,” that it is unsatisfying to live your life as a “star” or even with a “star?” Are any human beings unhappier than our “stars?” What if it is better for human beings to live simply, not grandly, to live peacefully, to live lightheartedly, not seriously? Kurt Vonnegut wrote in his last book something like the following: “I don’t care what anyone tells you. We humans were put here to screw around.”

         Tom Robbins once more:

         The fact that playfulness – a kind of divine playfulness intended to lighten man’s existential burden and promote what Joseph Campbell called ‘the rapture of being alive’ – lies near the core of Zen, Taoist, Sufi, and Tantric teachings is lost on most westerners; working stiffs and intellectuals alike. Even scholars who acknowledge the playful undertone in those disciplines treat it with condescension and disrespect, never mind that it’s a worldview arrived at after millennia of exhaustive study, deep meditation, unflinching observation, and intense debate. [p. 179]

         The material in this course, Political Issues, reflects the thinking of Robbins and others. Where do we look for crazy wisdom? Well, we are mistaken if we think our politicians provide access to this wisdom. In fact, they are in the business of not only maintaining but even of manufacturing conventional wisdom, e.g., “Axis of Evil” or “the war on poverty” or “the war on drugs.” The same could be said for what is called, appropriately, “the mainstream media.” Fox News is merely the clearest example of how the mainstream media maintains and helps to manufacture the “truths” of conventional wisdom. It is no accident that one has to look to the Comedy Channel to cut through “truthiness,” as Stephen Colbert calls it, to cut through the bullshit, to expose the absurdities of taking one’s bearings from conventional wisdom.

         Another “place” to look for crazy wisdom is in what we like to call “fiction.” By this I mean novels and movies and even some television. Ever wonder why the politicians are so concerned with controlling what we see and read in these venues? Well, it is because they know that these venues are the home of crazy rather than conventional wisdom and, hence, they know that these media threaten their power, their ability to control us. It is an old expression: “I care not who makes the laws of a country, if I can write its music” with “music” being understood broadly to include all the above. Bruce Springsteen knew something like this when he sang, “We learned more in a three minute record, baby, than we ever learned in school.” And Eldridge Cleaver knew this too when he wrote in one of his essays, “Convalescence,” that rock n’ roll was changing society because it reminded the overly intellectualized whites that they had bodies and that those bodies were supposed to be rockin’ n’ rollin’, “a whole lot of shakin’ goin’ on….” As Cleaver put it: Rock n’ roll taught “whites how to shake their asses again,” something they had forgotten how to do. And, hence, in the fifties and sixties, when Elvis made it cool for whites to listen to R&B in the form of rock n’ roll, and to shake their asses again, their parents and others were worried for the fate of western civilization! And not surprisingly, millions, yours truly among them, have made their pilgrimage to Graceland, where “we will all be received in Graceland.”

         Here, we will be reading some novels and watching some movies, some of the movies being based on the novels we read. We are doing this because I think it is a way to access crazy wisdom and it seems to me that accessing this wisdom is not only beneficial but even necessary if we humans are to be, well, happy.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Trump's Impeachment as Magic Trick

Trump’s Impeachment: A Magic Trick
Peter Schultz

            Donald Trump’s impeachment is defended by many as an act necessary to save “the rule of law.” However, little could be further from the truth.

            Our political system does not function legally because its power holders, its movers and shakers are all-too-willing to lawless forces, such as “organized” or “tolerated” crime, to maintain and fortify their preeminence, their power. Thus, as Peter Dale Scott has illustrated, “a symbiosis” exists among our elites and other lawless forces that has turned our political system into “a system of accommodations. . ., characterized by alliances…with lawless forces” such as drug trafficking, organized crime, or the CIA. At times, this symbiosis becomes most visible when the to government tries to cover it up while pretending to “investigate” events like the Kennedy assassination, Iran-Contra, or 9/11. The gaps in these “investigations” point toward what is really going on, point toward the alliances our elites use with lawless forces to maintain their power by making “adjustments” to meet “the overriding political priorities of [our] power-movers and –shakers.”

            This symbiosis also is visible when our elites construct such alleged “crises” as the Cold War, the Global War on Terror, or even Bush’s construction of an “axis of evil.” These constructions carry with them the implication that, to succeed, the government cannot be bound by the rule of law. It must, as Dick Cheney said after 9/11, go to “the dark side.” That is, it must forego legal and even constitutional arrangements and thinking, while wielding power freely and, of course, inhumanely and unjustly. Notions like “due process” are treated as “quaint,” as hindrances to a will to power that must be indulged. Apparently, these elites believe that inhumanity will produce humanity, that injustice will produce justice, that endless war will lead to peace, and that greed will enrich all people and not destroy the planet.

            So then Trump’s impeachment for preserving the rule of law is like just another magic trick: Overturn the result of the 2016 presidential election using any means necessary, even lawless means such as the CIA, and, viola, like pulling a rabbit out of a hat, the rule of law will be restored and fortified. In our political order, where the rule of law disappeared some time ago, such magic tricks are absolutely essential for preserving the illusion that we live in “a nation of laws.” And while this is strange enough, even stranger is that some of our elites don’t even seem to know they’re doing magic.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Russiagate, American Politics, and American Imperialism

Russiagate, American Politics, and American Imperialism
Peter Schultz

            I have just read or re-read the best account of how and why “the furor of Russiagate was born” in the “Afterword” to Max Blumenthal’s The Management of Savagery: How America’s National Security State Fueled the Rise of Al Qaeda, ISIS, and Donald Trump. It goes as follows.

            Trump’s election triggered “a moral panic” among those who were most heavily invested in our national security state and the war on terror. Trump had been “anti-interventionist” in his campaign and he “lambasted Bush’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq,” asserted that he was not prepared to “arm Syrian ‘moderate rebels,’ voiced his “suspicion of NATO,” as well as expressing an “interest in détente with Russia.” [p. 275] So, “Joining with the dead-enders of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, who were desperate to deflect from their crushing loss, the mandarins of the national security state worked their media contacts to generate the narrative of Trump-Russia collusion. Out of the postelection despair of liberals and national security elites, the furor of Russiagate was born. [pp. 275-76]

            It has probably been forgotten how “Trump roasted Bush and his family’s neoconservative legacy of military failures.” As Trump said in the November debate, “We’re giving hundreds of millions of dollars in equipment to these people – we have no idea who they are!. . . They may be far worse than Assad.” [p. 243] As Blumenthal notes: “Trump’s diatribe was among the most incendiary attacks of military interventionism ever witnessed by a nationally televised audience. And it was perhaps the first time the Bush family had been so publicly and personally skewered for the damage that their wars had done to the country’s social fabric.” [p. 243] And this attack sent “Trump surging ahead of [Jeb] Bush by twenty points.”

            When later, Bush attempted to counter by arguing that “While Donald Trump was building a reality show, my brother was building a security apparatus to keep us safe, and I am proud of what he did.” To which Trump responded: “The World Trade Center came down under your brother’s reign. Remember that? That’s not keeping us safe.” [p. 244] As Blumenthal says: “Trump had crossed a line, or at least the crown of lobbyists, white-gloved party activists and campaign aides [present] thought so. Senator Rubio defended Bush, asserting “he kept us safe and I’m forever grateful for what he did for this country.” To which Trump responded: “How did he keep us safe when the World Trade Center came down?” [p. 244]

            The beltway crowd was “stunned” by Trump’s accusations. But Trump went on to lament the consequences of the overthrow of Saddam Hussein who, Trump asserted, “killed terrorists [while] today Iraq is the Harvard terrorism.” [p. 245] As Blumenthal points out, “The political class has underestimated the depth of antiwar sentiment across middle America, and the depth of the visceral hatred average Americans held for the political establishment.” [p. 245]

            So, in a panic after Trump had won, the political class resurrected “the phantasmagoria of the McCarthy era,” branding “the president as a Russian agent – and ‘the Russians’ as a singular source of evil.” [p. 276] James Clapper described the Russians as “typically … almost genetically driven to co-opt, penetrate, gain favor, [or] whatever….” And this description has a cartoon character to it but it was propagated by the mainstream media and especially by Rachel Maddow at MSNBC. The goal was “to encircle the largest and most militarily powerful nation in Eurasia and gradually transform it into a toothless, economically dependent vassal of the United States.” [p. 277] However, Putin put a stop to this project by pointing out how the United States had taken “illegitimate actions” in Iraq, thereby creating “’ new human tragedies and … centers of tension.’” [p. 279]

            Eventually, Russiagate afforded those fortifying the national security state the opportunity to reassert its version of the national discourse. But when things in Syria went awry, the failing power of the American empire was becoming obvious to many, even to some of Trump’s critics. Syria was supposed to fall after Iraq and Libya had fallen but it didn’t and the fiascos of Iraq and Libya were continuing. Yet the imperialists in the political class refused to admit their failure and so they turned on Trump with an intensity belied by the explicit charges they leveled against Trump. The American project, as conceived by the neoconservatives and other beltway players was not fatally flawed. No, Trump was the fatal flaw with his “isolationist” politics and crass mentality. If only Trump could be disposed of, all would be well once again and, hence, his impeachment gained ground.

            It is quite amazing though that so many fail to see that it was the American project as conceived by the neoconservatives, et. al., that fed the forces that led to Trump’s election, just as that project led to the rise of fascist-like conservatives in Europe and Great Britain. The blowback from waging endless and inconclusive wars, costing billions, even trillions, while middle Americans struggled at home, blaming immigrants and other minorities for their troubles, led to Trump’s nomination and election in 2016. While Hillary refused to admit that her adventure in Libya was a disaster – and even praised it as a success – most Americans concluded that she could not be trusted, that is, trusted to help them. And so, here we are in 2019, Trump is still the king-pin and still the one who comes closest to relating to middle America. He doesn’t care two cents about middle Americans but his act is actually more genuine than that put on by establishment Democrats like Pelosi, Schumer, Biden, or even Warren. So as 2020 rolls around, I am imagining that the Democrats will, once again, fail to seize the opportunity to breathe some new life into our republic. As noted often, these Democrats prefer a Trump presidency to a Bernie presidency or to anything representing significant political change.

Consensus Politics: American Style

Consensus Politics:  American Style
Peter Schultz

            The following is a quote from an article on the Truthdig web site, entitled “Pete Buttigieg Is The Past.” [Link is below]

“There is no public policy in modern American history on which progressives, moderates and conservatives have found themselves in agreement of what the goal should be, much less what the solution is.”

            Little could be further from the truth than this assertion. Progressives, moderates, and conservatives actually agree about a lot, and certainly about what are the most important issues confronting the US. For example, consider the overwhelming rejection of Trump’s decision to say that what Turkey does regarding the Kurds on its borders is none of the US’s business. Of course, this is presented by the MSM as just one decision by Trump, whereas it is a challenge to the foreign policy of “interventionism” – a euphemism for US imperialism – that is embraced by progressives, moderates, and conservatives. Not many really care about the Kurds, as is usually the case, but a whole lot of people care about maintaining US imperialism by projecting US power throughout the world.

            Moreover, this isn’t just a “foreign policy” issue because US imperialism is central to the maintenance of our Orwellian oligarchy. Hence, it is fair to say that progressives, moderates, and conservatives all agree about maintaining the power of the oligarchy that governs us. So, anyone who challenges our imperialism, like Tulsi Gabbard, must be marginalized, just as anyone like Bernie Sanders who claims to be a “socialist” must be marginalized as well.

            Moreover, I haven’t heard many progressives, moderates, or conservatives advocating the overthrow of our “national security state” and its embrace of not only the war on terror but also its current project of spying on Americans, especially those who are Muslim but also anyone who espouses what are considered to be “subversive” arguments. Similarly, while every so often the phenomenon of “mass incarceration” is raised as an issue, it isn’t a central concern, as it would be if people didn’t agree that our “prison complex” is necessary and not a threat to republican principles. “Lock’em up” isn’t just a phrase used by Trump supporters vis-à-vis Hillary Clinton; it is also a policy that undermines the republican bona fides of our society.

            And this is the thing about the quote above. It seems true and the oligarchs want us to think it’s true because that way people will not realize that our republic, which is what the US at its best always aspires to, is dead or dying. By creating phony issues, like should Trump be impeached – when even the Democrats don’t actually want him impeached – the oligarchs in both parties can disguise their shared belief that they, not the people, are the proper rulers in the US. And, of course, the louder and more intense the debates on these marginal issues become, the more likely it is that people will think that the republic is alive and well. But it isn’t. And as is illustrated time and again – the Democrats subverting Sanders in 2016, the Republicans embrace of voter suppression – both parties are engaged in a covert collusion to make sure that the republic stays dead or that it dies. That is the goal, that is the “solution” that almost all progressives, moderates, and conservatives agree about. It is consensus politics American style.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Trump: The Aftermath

Trump: The Aftermath
Peter Schultz

            In light of recent and now unfolding events, it seems worthwhile to ask what life in the United States will be like after Trump is gone, either done in by a coup (impeachment) or by an election. And to speculate about this, it is useful to ask: What is the greatest harm Trump has done?

            For me, Trump’s greatest harm is his ability – unintentional of course – to revitalize the legitimacy, the bona fides of the oligarchy that has governed the United States since at least 1980, that is, the Reagan oligarchy. Like 9/11, Trump has reinforced, fortified, re-legitimized what had become a suspect oligarchy after Iran-Contra, the Clinton presidency and impeachment, the election of 2000, 9/11, the botched occupation of Iraq, the economic meltdown of 2008, and the rather flaccid although drone infested presidency of Barack Obama. Trump has done what the killing of bin Laden, the overthrow of the Taliban, or even the election of the first black as president could not do, resuscitate what was a nearly dead political regime.

            And when Trump is gone, either by coup or by election, the damage he has done will continue because a reinvigorated, reinforced, and stifling consensus will arise, one that will enforce the exceedingly narrow political discourse that is animating those opposed to Trump and was so apparent in the Kavanaugh hearings. In this consensus, Bush/Cheney and their torturing, their war in Iraq, their war on terror, will like look “statesmen,” achieving a rehabilitation only rivaled by Richard Nixon once Clinton invited him to the White House so he, Nixon, could be eulogized as a statesman. And in the face of this consensus, only the bravest or the most contrary will dare question the value of patriotism, the worth of the CIA, the prosecution of Julien Assange, or U.S. alliances with the likes of Saudi Arabia or Israel and the continuing decimation of the Middle East in the name of “freedom.” Of course, those questions and questioners will be marginalized, even “psychologized” as misfits who are “anti-America.”

            Thanks to Trump, the nation will have achieved the kind of stifling conformism many conservatives and even liberals have wished for since the presidency of Jimmy Carter ended after one term. Flags will wave, bands will play, drones will obliterate, space will be weaponized, and the wealthy will continue to reap more wealth while the others will struggle from month to month to make ends meet. Oh, it will be a glorious time, at least for America’s wealthy and its military once Trump is banished and thoroughly discredited. In a way, the U.S. will look like it did in the 1950s, that is, once McCarthy and McCarthyism was banished, all awash with the mind-numbing conformism that accompanies a “consumer’s paradise,” with even perhaps another old, verbally challenged white man as president.

            I can hardly wait!

Monday, September 30, 2019

Weirdness Prevails: Trump and His Critics

Weirdness Prevails: Trump and His Critics:
Peter Schultz

            Things are really getting weird in Trumpland because those who style themselves “progressives” are attacking Trump for undermining the rule of law. Why is this weird? Because progressivism and its originators – T. Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and FDR – deliberately jettisoned the rule of law as inadequate, pre-modern, and unable to support the kind of active, interventionist government needed in the modern world. The Progressives embraced three kinds of power, military power, bureaucratic power, and presidential power. And they recognized that by doing so, they were “modifying,” even undermining the rule of law.

            Central to Teddy Roosevelt’s “stewardship theory” of presidential power, as well as FDR’s New Deal, was the creation of a new kind of politics, the kind that transcended legal concepts and law itself. In a real sense, this is what the “modern presidency” was – and is – all about, liberating presidents from the confines of the law, whether that law is statutory or constitutional.

            Military power is, obviously, beyond the rule of law. Making war puts a nation beyond, well beyond the rule of law, which is why the Constitution allows the government to suspend the writ of habeas corpus in time of war. As Justice Jackson said in his concurring opinion in Korematsu, the case where the Supreme Court upheld FDR’s decision to authorize the “internment” of all persons of Japanese descent, including natural born American citizens, presidents are obligated in time of war to be super vigilant in protecting the nation and, hence, were not bound by legal principles, by the rule of law.

            Drone assassinations, including those of American citizens, torture, Guantanamo, in fact the entire war on terror so readily embraced by the Bush administration and the American people, make a mockery of the rule of law. This is what Cheney meant when he said we had to go to “the dark side” after 9/11. Of course, we had already gone to the dark side in Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, Guatemala, Chile, and Iran, long before the war on terror was declared.

            Embracing bureaucracy, as the Progressives openly and eagerly did, also undermines the rule of law. Bureaucratic government, bureaucratic institutions are alternatives to the rule of law, which FDR knew and which was central to his New Deal. The rejection of the rule of law was then close to the heart of the New Deal and was what helped make that deal new. The old deal was the Constitution and especially its separation of powers and the rule of law. Bureaucracies are not bound by legal reasoning, as reflected by the enormous discretion they are entrusted with. For the Progressives, such discretion was seen as indispensable for what they called “good government,” that is, efficient, flexible, but not law bound government.

            And on top of this, the Progressives embraced presidential power, both its bureaucratic and its “monarchical” characteristics, amounting to a wholesale rejection of the rule of law. Teddy Roosevelt’s embrace of presidential power, his “stewardship theory,” encouraged presidents to do anything they thought necessary for the well-being of the nation, including confiscating private property or, a la FDR, “interning” persons, even American citizens, who had done nothing illegal. It is only a short step from such a theory of presidential power to “interning” even children separated from their parents. And it is no step at all to creating a “Security Index,” a la J. Edgar Hoover, composed of the names of persons to be “interned” whenever the government decided it was necessary to do so. This makes a mockery of the claim that the U.S. is “a nation of laws.”

            So, if Trump were guilty of undermining the rule of law as claimed, that would make him just like the Progressives. Which of course makes a mockery of those progressives who argue that Trump should be impeached for doing so because, once Trump is gone, these same people will embrace any president who continues and even expands the war on terror, who continues and even fortifies the “imperial presidency,” just like Reagan did and just like Bush Jr. did. The charges against Trump for undermining the rule of law are, of course, bogus coming from those who call themselves “progressives.” Those making the charges are being hypocritical, dishonest, and disingenuous.

            And insofar as this is true, the attempt to impeach Trump looks more and more like a good, old-fashioned coup, dressed up to look like something else. But as the old expression has it, even if you put make-up, earrings, and a dress on a pig, it’s still a pig. It’s hard to hide a coup. Just ask Bill Clinton.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Trump's Opponents: Naive and Dangerous

Trump’s Opponents: Naïve and Dangerous
Peter Schultz

            As noted in a previous posting, Trump’s opponents seem often to be oblivious to the implications of some of the arguments they put forward when criticizing Trump.

            For example, they like to refer to “the rule of law” and how Trump is undermining that rule. But it seems they haven’t noticed that the rule of law was undermined long before Trump took office. Where was the rule of law when Reagan was president and funding the Contras in Nicaragua even though the Congress had forbidden that? Where was the rule of law when Clinton, as governor of Arkansas, was facilitating the importation of drugs into the United States by the same Contras Reagan was supporting? Where was the rule of law when Bush Sr. pardoned Caspar Weinberger and several others in order to protect himself from being exposed as a main character in the Iran-Contra debacle? And where was the rule of law when Obama decided to have an American citizen assassinated by drone because he was a Muslim who allegedly posed a threat to the United States by preaching jihad? The rule of law has been hard to find of late.

            But more importantly perhaps, Trump’s opponents seem unaware that the rule of law, even when honored, doesn’t guarantee justice, freedom, or equality.  Anatole France, I think, said that the majesty of the law prohibits both rich and poor from sleeping under bridges. Anyway, some one said it and it is correct. The rule of law invariably benefits the most powerful because the most powerful make the laws. In the United States, for a long time the law protected slavery and then prohibited interracial marriages. The latter law did formally treat both races equally, as did the concept of “separate but equal” which underlay our apartheid regime after the Civil War. Nonetheless, every one knew these were racist laws, through and through. So much for the rule of law as the basis of a decent political and social order. Laws often are racist, sexist, or homophobic, as well as being the foundation of tyrannical regimes.

            Moreover, the rule of law easily becomes law and order and we should all be aware of how this apparently worthwhile concept was used by Nixon and a host of others to suppress dissent, to repress individual liberties, and to crack down on those whose politics were considered unwholesome or un-American. Law and order led, I think had to lead to mass incarceration, as well as to children being kept in cages throughout the nation. There is a lot about the rule of law that is suspect, but Trump’s opponents seem to have forgotten that.  

            Of late, Trump’s opponents are all over him for compromising what they consider to be “national security,” apparently without giving any thought to how arguments justifying government action because of national security have been used repeatedly throughout American history in vindictive, punitive, and oppressive ways. The internment of all persons of Japanese descent, even US citizens of Japanese descent, after the attack on Pearl Harbor was based on the need to protect national security. J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI used arguments based on the need to protect national security to erect an impressive bureaucracy devoted to sabotaging, and in some cases killing, those who were allegedly a threat to our national security and the “American way of life,” including black power advocates, the American Indian Movement, and of course the Communist Party. And much of this repression was undertaken by the CIA, NSA, and other agencies of the government as well without showing any respect for the Bill of Rights and the dignity of individual Americans. And yet today Trump’s opponents naively accuse Trump of not respecting these institutions as if these institutions have been blameless and have always acted responsibly with regard to fundamental American values like freedom of expression, freedom of religion, the right of privacy, due process, or the dignity of persons regardless of their race, religion, or politics.

            The point is this: Many of Trump’s opponents are making arguments with implications that extend far beyond Trump and far beyond arguments that show any discrimination about basic concepts like the rule of law or national security. Of course, those in power, those who are most invested in the status quo, most invested in the Orwellian oligarchy that governs us are quite content with these arguments because they fortify their power. What government official who is devoted to preserving the status quo, whether elected or appointed, doesn’t endorse the rule of law or actions taken on behalf of national security, no matter how suspect those actions may be? I can’t think of one.

            In opposing Trump, it would be beneficial for people to take care that the arguments they make don’t lay the groundwork for repression or oppression once Trump is no longer on the scene. This would mean opposing Trump by focusing on his policies and how those policies serve to undermine the republic by creating an ever-greater disparity between the wealthy and the rest of us, as well how his foreign policies create death and destruction throughout the world. But, of course, to make such arguments against Trump, those making them most not agree with Trump’s policies and their after effects. And this is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak, because we know that some Democrats not only agree with Trump’s policies in these ways but have recommended them in their own name.

            So be it. But if you are interested in an alternative to Trump’s politics, his vindictive, punitive, and oligarchic politics, take care how you criticize Trump. Take care that you aren’t fortifying the very policies, the kind of politics that Trump represents.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Milk and Cookies Politics: Trump's Opposition

Milk and Cookies Politics: Trump’s Opposition
Peter Schultz

            The opposition to Trump has now come to embrace what might be called “milk and cookie politics,” a politics favored by conservatives in the U.S. According to “milk and cookie politics” the United States is and has been a beacon of decency, democracy, and diversity that has lit up the world against the forces of darkness, despair, and dictatorship so prevalent world-wide. The United States is the exceptional nation.

            By this view, Trump is undermining the rule of law, which has allegedly guided American politics since 1789. Further, he has and is undermining American democracy, which has also had an unbroken reign since 1789. And, of course, he has been behaving indecently as no other president has done since, well, since the Clinton administration. But that administration has been absolved of its sins, probably because it gave us mass incarceration, the end of welfare, and the Defense of Marriage Act.

            The interesting thing about all of this is, however, how Trump’s opposition is now embracing some of the most common themes of conservatism and this despite the fact that much of his opposition considers itself liberal. But these liberals are laying or reinforcing the groundwork of a fortified conservatism, a conservatism that thoughtlessly embraces bourgeois decency, law and order, deference to all authority, capitalism, American interventionism (what some call “imperialism”), and most importantly, embracing what is called American exceptionalism.

            But this is where “milk and cookie politics” always ends up, embracing what is, ultimately, a vindictive and punitive politics. Currently, this vindictiveness and punitiveness is directed at Trump and his supporters. But eventually – and maybe even now – these traits, having been reinforced by the hysteria surrounding Trump, will be directed at other targets, e.g., those foolish enough to question “Greta the Great,” Dr. Ford, or the “Me Too” movement.  So, far from offering an alternative to Trump’s vindictiveness, his nastiness, his conservatism, his opponents are actually reinforcing these traits. Which is a rather interesting situation.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Rants on Recent Events

Rants on Recent Events
Peter Schultz

       Here are some rantings of mine that I recently posted on Facebook. Enjoy!

Goodwin is correct: Trump's phone call is nothing. But Goodwin doesn't get that this impeachment is a farce and the Democrats know it's a farce. Why do it? Because when you have a political order that is controlled by the wealthy and their representatives, works for them and does little else, it helps to create "dramas" that make it seem like something else is going on. Remember Kavanaugh? Both the Republican and Democratic elites will profit from this farce, just as happened when the Republicans pretended to want to remove Clinton from office. I marvel at how obtuse people can be, how taken in by dog and pony shows. But then, they don't have to acknowledge that our political order is thoroughly corrupt, from top to bottom, from left to right. Enjoy the show!

Whenever I see this person [Greta], I feel like I’m watching a “reality tv show,” because she seems to be so scripted, a script used by moralists “to stage ritualized displays of anger and disgust” in allegedly crisis situations. The script has a general outline too: first, a threat is identified. Then stereotype the reprobates, here politicians and others. Follow up with escalating threats (here: we can’t wait and must act!). Top it all off with moral absolutism and make-believe solutions like more laws or symbolic acts (here Greta’s school protests every Friday). It all seems so contrived, so predictable, and ultimately so propagandistic. And yet people eat it up. Goebbels is laughing in his afterlife, “Told you so!”

Response from a friend and my response to her:
My exact sentiments. She looks like an actress plucked out of some 1940s film about the Nazis. And the entire speech is a giant sound bite. Also... the world is going to end whether we like it or not. Let’s all calm down.
Me: She's learned her lines and her scripting, from her transatlantic sailing to her appearances in Congress and the UN, has been quite professional. Certainly something I would expect from a teenager! It blows my mind how easy it is to propagandize even intelligent people. Perhaps what is needed to resist such stuff is more than a bit of perversity, which is what I have. 

More on impeachment:
The coming formal impeachment investigation of Trump has nothing, absolutely nothing to do with national security or with "Russiagate" or with anything Trump has done, other than being president of course. Rather, it has to do with the political battles within the Democratic Party, the battles between "the Squad" and those called "the frontliners," especially first term frontliners who are looking to retain their seats in 2020. From this perspective, it matters not whether Trump will be successfully impeached - which of course no sensible Democrat really wants to happen - or not. It is enough that the Democratic Party pretend it wants to successfully impeach Trump and remove him from office, just as it was enough that the Republicans pretended to want to remove Clinton from office via impeachment when of course they didn't. In other words, this move is blatantly political, forced on Pelosi et. al. who is trying to maintain her control of the Democratic Party against "the Squad" and other alleged "radicals." All the rest of the rhetoric from the Democrats is, to put it bluntly, bullshit.

Oh where will this lead, they wonder as if they didn’t know. This is such fun, watching the “drama” of our Orwellian oligarchs unfold as if something important is going on. As one guy quoted here claimed, he only knew this would be an X factor in the campaign 2020. He got that right because that’s what this is about, the 2020 campaign, nothing more, nothing less. Just as the Republicans were after Clinton before 2000, so the Democrats are after Trump, with just about as much legitimacy. But when the political order is thoroughly controlled by the wealthiest Americans, providing for them and almost no one else, it is necessary to pretend something else is going on. Well, like the BS that went on with Kavanaugh, this is the latest faux drama going on. I will sit back, not watch Fox or MSNBC, and wait for the denouement of this farce. We have become a world-wide joke and that joke is on us.