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Trenz Pruca’s Observations: Rumination on the Long Generation.

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If when I was five years old and shook the hand and listened to the stories of someone who was the age that I am now, he would have been born during the Civil War. If he in turn, when he was five, shook the hand of another old man and listened to his stories, he might have learned that that man when he was young had shaken the hand of someone who knew Shakespeare at the height of his theatrical career. Two handshakes by old men represent a chain of history from Donald Trump to William Shakespeare.

Hmm——This may evidence that, as a species, we may have been devolving faster than we realize.

Recently, my partner told me that when she was young her Grandmother told her that when she was young and growing up near Balmoral Castle in Scotland, she used to see Queen Victoria and Prince Albert traveling in their carriage to the local church to attend Sunday services.

This is a long generation.

 

Historical Background: How Presidential Campaigns Are Won.

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Given that we are well into the presidential primary season, I thought it would be helpful, if admittedly a little late to provide some historical background on the process.*

First a few points:

1. The Constitution did not create a democracy. It created a Republic with certain minority rights contained in the first 10 amendments. It did not give the right to vote to all citizens. That right has evolved throughout our history and is still evolving.

2. There is nothing about a democracy that ensures that it will govern better than many other forms of government. If voting by citizens is a measure of democracy we have had democracies that have governed badly and authoritarian states that have been governed well. No one would call China a democracy but when they had elections over 90% of the people vote.

3. In most democracies who is elected is not determined by who votes but who does not vote.

4. Suffrage, the simple right of a citizen to vote, has never been universal. It began under the Constitution limited to propertied males and is still evolving. But that right has never come with real power. Power, in the United States, includes wealth and ideology.

5. Nominations are more important than the elections. Far fewer people vote or take part in the nomination process than the members of the parties that vote in the general election. It is essentially undemocratic at its core.

Now let us look at the evolution of political parties and the nomination process in the United States.

1. Beginning in 1789 and for more than 40 years thereafter, candidates were named by the legislators. This method was called the legislative caucus. Up to the early 1840s, there was a steady extension of democracy by changes in State voting laws, culminating in the Rhode Island reforms of 1842, resulting from Dorr’s rebellion, extending the suffrage to the ordinary man. By 1843, voting democracy for male citizens was established more or less in all the States.

2. The era of the spoils system, and it lasted for a little over 40 years, from just before 1840 to just after 1880. The spoils system arose, from the fact that in a system of mass democracy, where most men at least have the right to vote, there must be some way of nominating candidates for office. The method chosen was the nominating convention. This raised the problem of how to finance sending the delegates to the convention.

The solution that developed around 1840 provided for the party machine of the winning party in an election to reward the party faithful by appointing them to governmental office. To the victor belong the spoils. These appointees then kickback money to the party kitty, say, a quarter or 10 percent of their salary every year; and these kick-backs provide the funds for the nomination convention and the process of political campaigning. In that new system, government officials themselves went as paid delegates to the nominating conventions, and the nominations and getting out the vote in elections were controlled by the party machines. All of these were local in cities or on a State basis. It was a feudalistic power structure.

One of the interesting features of the whole system was the role that politics played in people’s lives. In this period, from 1840 to 1880, politics and religion, frequently revivalist religion, were the chief entertainment outlets of the American people. They did not have organized sports or other kinds of entertainment except an occasional traveling company of actors, and, more often, revivalist preachers. So people identified with a political party.

Here’s how the system worked. Professionals, not amateurs, ran the elections. Issues were of little importance. Charisma was not important; in fact, it was a drawback. The parties put up the most colorless dark horse they could find—the less people knew about him the better—and then counted on enthusiasm for the party to get out the votes.

Elections in that period were pretty close, although after 1865, on the whole, the Republicans did better than the Democrats because the South had become a minority area and the Democrats a minority party. But, on the whole, few people were interested in issues or in candidates, and it was very difficult for a winning candidate to be reelected because once people got to know him they quickly discovered how dull a person he was. That’s why he got nominated in the first place. The nominee was by definition the candidate that the local State party machines had nothing against. The local machines had an effective veto, and by the time they finished vetoing everybody who had any importance or was known, the only one left might be a man like James A. Garfield, a completely dark horse. The only alternative was a Civil War general, who did, of course, exercise some attraction. The elections were extremely close, and up to 80 percent of the electorate voted. We have the exact figures for most of this period. The average was 78.5 percent. We have never gone that high since 1896.

This spoils system was, in a sense, a shakedown operation, particularly against business. And as business and finance became stronger, they became increasingly restive under this exploitation by party machines. Take the New York Customs House, which had 1,100 officials who were the very core of the New York election machine, which in turn was the core of the system for the whole country. Those 1,100 officials kicked back a good part of their salaries to the New York State party machine. So they, in turn, charged businessmen outrageous tariffs, as much as the traffic would bear. The laws were ignored. The customs officials would tie up a shipment of steel and keep it tied up until the tariff they demanded was paid.

Businessmen changed the system in 1880-1883. William C. Whitney (who later started the modern American Navy as Secretary of the Navy in the Cleveland administration), devised a scheme to cut the very roots out from under the party machines. He established the Civil Service in the Pendleton Act of 1883. This had the effect of cutting off most of the funds on which the party machines depended. So the parties now had to look to big business to finance them.

3. This led to the third historical stage, the era of big-business domination, from 1884 to 1932. It was radically different from the one preceding. Voting dropped off drastically. In the 1870s political activity had cut across all groups and classes — rich and poor, white and black, Catholic and Protestant. African-Americans were more active in politics in the 1870s and 1880s than they have been at any time in the 20th century until very recently. Politics was everybody’s game. But once big business got control, voting fell off and hovered around 52 percent, instead of the 78 percent it had been before. The professionals were pushed out and amateurs took over — people who came in for one campaign or two, generally financed by business — men like William McKinley, who was elected President in 1896.

Then, big business discovered it could control the Republican National Convention, because of all those delegates from the Solid South who did not represent voters and who therefore could easily be bought. From 1896 on, as a result, the Republicans dominated the national scene through amateur control of politics and increasingly restricting political activity among middle-class whites to the WASPs. It was in the 1890s that we got the Jim Crow laws and other restrictions which in one way or another ensured that certain minority groups really couldn’t expect to make it.

Eventually, big business undermined its own dominance by being too greedy — there’s no other word for it — in the 1920s. They alienated not only the workers and the farmers and the petit-bourgeois white-collar workers but also much of the middle classes, including most of the merchants and light industry. All that was left, still in control at the top, was high finance (sometimes called Wall Street) and heavy industry — steel, coal, the automobile industry, and so on. By running politics solely for their own benefit they alienated everybody else.

So in 1932, everybody else lined up behind a Democrat. In the once solid mid-West, which for decades had voted Republican year in and year out — except rarely for a third party as in 1892 and in 1924 — many people now decided that the Civil War had been over for a long time and it was time to vote Democratic.

4. Out of this situation came the New Deal, the fourth stage. The New Deal was a system of organized blocs. Formerly organized finance and organized heavy industry had run everything else. Now the New Deal set about organizing all the other interests, especially mass labor in the CIO, the Steel Workers’ Organizing Committee (SWOC), and the United Mine Workers, which had been the only really strong labor union before 1930. They organized mass labor; they organized the farmers, they organized others: Most of their money came from merchants. The largest contributor to Franklin Roosevelt’s campaign in 1932 was the Strauss family of R. H. Macy. Second largest was Vincent Astor, whose real-estate holdings in New York City had been injured by the depression. Third was Bernard Baruch, who was a professional contributor to the Democratic Party.

These were the groups that the New Deal organized. What they wanted to set up was a system of countervailing blocs: finance, heavy industry, light industry, professional groups, labor, farmers, and so forth. They figured that if any party or political group got control of the Government and acted too selfishly, the others would form a coalition and restore the balance.

5. Well, the New Deal ran its course, and since about 1950 or so we have had plutocratic control. Three things are necessary to win elections: money, enthusiasm, organization. The role of money has increased to the point where it’s more and more difficult to offset the lack of it with good organization and enthusiasm. Organization must be super-efficient and enthusiasm has to be sustained and widespread. The costs of elections, what with TV air time, air transportation, and all the rest of it, have climbed sky-high. The Democrats just don’t have it. Do they have organization and enthusiasm? It’s hard to tell. I’m afraid the enthusiasm has dwindled to some extent.

Add to this the Nixon inspired “Southern Strategy” that used anger by the more ideologically conservative  Democratic Dixicrats to the civil rights initiatives of the New Deal Democratic coalition, to pry loose the so-called Solid South from the coalition that governed the nation for the previous 50 or 60 years.

It also signaled the rise of professional political consultants and lobbyists. It used to be the elections and nomination process was run by party loyalists paid by the party they now are serviced by the lobbyists and reams of professional consultants with little ideological commitment to the party. That later role is now taken up by various media organizations, news media like Fox News and MSNBC or social media blogs and the like.

Anyway, we now have a plutocratic system, and many politicians see it simply as a matter of buying elections. Here’s why. As our economy is now structured, the big corporations — aerospace, oil, and so on — are able to pour out millions to support the candidates they favor. The restrictions on the books are easily evaded, and the politicians in power won’t do much about it because they want some, too. The Citizens United and McCutcheon decisions by the Supreme Court merely confirmed a process that already existed. What it did do is take away the power of government to alter the process.

6. We perhaps are witnessing a new phase in the evolution of parties and elections in the nation. The traditional structure of both parties and the nomination systems that supported them appear to be in a state of collapse or at least major change. It is as though we are returning to the mirror image of the process that existed at the end of the Nineteenth Century. Now instead of nominating an unknown party hack the parties through the nomination process seem to be moving toward selecting celebrity outsiders. The nomination process now exists for the benefit of ideologically based media operations. To them, it does not appear to matter who wins the nominations as long as it enhances their ratings.

As I pointed out above, the nomination process is more important than the election. We as a nation are faced with a political party of the right well organized and capable no matter who is their standard-bearer or whether he wins or loses. On the left, any ideology more radical than acceptable to the more centrist elected officials on the Federal, State, and local levels lacks an organization to develop candidates on all levels and get them elected.

In 2016, on at least on the Federal level, the ideological based media organizations backed by the Financial, Natural Resource and Super Large Retailer plutocracy, elected one of their own to the Presidency (They had been successful one the more local level primarily through ideologically based radio in electing hoards of super conservative and generally unknown politicians under the rubric of the Tea Party.) 2018 has seen a significant reaction to the reality TV excesses (but surprisingly not the corruption) if the recently elected federal administration.

Nevertheless, the underlying fundamentals remain the same. The plutocracy and ideologically biased media continue to fund and prop the Republicans. The south remains solidly conservative Republican although cracks in that have appeared primarily through the emergence of ideologically Democratic women and people of color at the polls. Retail fundraising and identity politics appear to have worked in 2018 and may work again in 2020, but until there is another fundamental change in how campaigns are financed, I do not expect a long term change in national politics.

Note, a substantial portion of the above comes from Carroll Quigley’s lecture The Mythology of American Democracy given to the Industrial College of the Armed Forces on August 17, 1972. Some parts are taken directly from that lecture but updated and edited. My apology to the good professor for not placing those portions in quotes.

Tuckahoe Joe’s Blog of the Week: Colavito takes on the Russians and their Space Alien allies.

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I am growing quite fond of Colavito and his battle against the clithonic purveyors of conspiracy theories who prowl the sewers of our nation. In one of his most recent posts, he takes on the Majestic-12 documents that purport to be US government documents related to a council of scientists and military officials who in 1947 supposedly studied recovered alien spacecraft and communicated with their occupants. He also critiques an author, Nick Redfern, who believes among other things it is all a Russian plot. Colavito writes:

“Redfern’s first article discusses 47 pages of MJ-12 documents publicized by Heather Wade in 2017. These pages include a supposed 1947 interview with a space alien, who criticizes Western civilization, comparing the United States to Nazi Germany. When an American boasts about Western freedom, the alien retorts like any good Russian chauvinist, by likening Jim Crow to the Holocaust: “…tell that to the millions of Hebrews your western civilization has destroyed in the past decade, or the millions of Negro families whose sons died to stop the madman Hitler, but who do not have plumbing in their homes.”

“Aliens are rather specific in their criticisms.”

Colavito goes on:

“Redfern overstates the case for the documents being a 1980s Soviet hoax. Redfern couldn’t date the hoax, speculating that it occurred sometime between the 1980s and 2007, but we can be more specific. The hoax document makes a bizarre reference: “…in a remote part of the nation you call Yugoslavia, we visited and helped the people there to build a very advanced culture over seven thousand years ago.” This is a fairly transparent reference to the so-called Bosnian pyramids, natural formations that Semir Osmanagić has promoted since 2005 as the remains of a lost civilization known as the Illyrians, who lived in the region around 7,000 year ago. In 2017, he expanded his claim out to 34,000 years. Besides this obvious temporal signature, Redfern’s claim that the alien’s reference to Yugoslavia gives glory to communism isn’t a marker or Russian chauvinism since Yugoslavia broke with Moscow at the start of the Cold War and was at odds with much of the communist world down to the collapse of communism in 1989.

“In the second and third articles, Redfern states that two earlier batches of Majestic-12 documents are also the work of Russian propagandists, including the infamous first set from the 1980s that were investigated by the FBI and determined to be fake. The second set from the 1990s seemed to reflect Russian conspiracy theories that America had developed the AIDS virus as a bioweapon.

“Redfern doesn’t provide direct evidence that the documents were created by Russia, though he raises several important instances where the Majestic-12 documents reflect anti-American conspiracy theories. That said, while Russia may be the most likely source, there are plenty of others with anti-American views who might also have been responsible. It’s an interesting circumstantial case, and one worth reading, but I would have liked to see more direct evidence connecting the documents to Russia.”

I have always found most conspiracy theories entertaining. They resemble the fantasy novels I enjoy reading. However, the modern conspiracy theorists have ceased being the tellers of the amusing stories of fantasists but only too often the deranged gunman in the shadows firing bullets of perfidy at the heart of democracy and civilization.

Beware, the Republican Response to White Nationalist Mass Shootings Appear to be Coalescing Around Characterizing These Men as Disturbed and Focussing the Remedy on Identification and Removal Rather Than on the Ideology That Inspires Them or the Weapons That Enables Them.

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There have been three assault rife massacres in the US in little more than a week. — The first at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in California, then in El Paso Texas and finally in Dayton, Ohio.  Over thirty people were slaughtered and even more injured.

The assassins in two cases were young white men professing an alt-right point of view and hatred of Latino immigrants.  Mass murder by gun especially armed with military assault weapons wielded by civilians has become endemic in the United States in the past thirty years and has radically increased in frequency and magnitude in the last four.   Also, more and more of these events recently have been committed by white men claiming right-wing and racist justification for their actions.

The response from the right and the Republican politicians, who have steadfastly refused to consider any controls on guns or to place any blame on the white nationalist rationalizations claimed by the wielders of these armaments in their slaughter, recently appear to be coalescing around characterizing these men as disturbed and focussing the remedy on identification and removal rather than on the ideology that inspires them or the weapons enables them.

This approach is not only wrong, but it is also a subterfuge. It arms the police only with a vague and arbitrary standard that is difficult to understand and implement and easily subverted by politics or ideology. Why empower often poorly educated and trained but heavily armed police to make decisions on issues where even those who study them disagree, rather than simply requiring them to remove the means of mass mayhem and urging the media and the spokesmen for society, including the President, to condemn the ideology that motivated them?
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How Legislation Gets Passed — A Case History: The California Coastal Act Of 1976.

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Recently, rummaging through some documents in long-ignored files that I had accumulated on my computer over the years, I came across a draft post describing a critical and amusing point in the process during the passage through the legislature of California’s Coastal Program forty years ago. In an effort to emphasize it as a humorous but accurate example of the legislative process in general, the draft does not identify the legislation nor the parties by name.

 

How Legislation Gets Passed — A Case History.

 

For three days we sat in the Senator’s office mostly in silence. A little over four years before, I began the drafting, redrafting and editing, cajoling supporters and threatening the opposition where I could not persuade them to compromise on what eventually became what many were calling the most significant legislation of the decade. It was the Senator’s job to persuade and maneuver the bill that now bore his name through the legislature. About a week before, we had received commitments from seventeen of the twenty-one senators needed to pass the bill and send it on to the Governor to be signed into law. Since then, not a single additional legislator agreed to support the bill. Only three days remained before the session ended. If we did not have the votes before then, the bill would die.

Now and then, the Senator would return to the floor for required votes on other pending legislation or to try to find someone willing to consider voting for the bill. I would sometimes call around to one or another of the legislation’s supporters urging them to keep up the pressure on the uncommitted legislators and lying to them about our chances for success.

Mostly, however, the Senator and I just sat in his office in silence and waited and hoped.

It was close to noon that day when the phone rang. The Senator picked it up and after a series of grunts, yeses, a few okays and one right away, he hung up the phone, turned to me with a big smile on his face, and said, “That was the Governor’s Chief of Staff. The Governor has decided to come out in support of the bill.”

A little background may be helpful here. The bill itself was very Party-oriented, one Party generally supported it while the other did not. Nothing unusual there. The Party that supported the legislation was in power and the Governor was a member of that Party as was the Senator. However, one of the Party’s staunchest interest groups and some of the Party’s largest campaign contributors strongly opposed it and for all extent and purposes controlled the last remaining votes needed to pass the bill.

Early on in the session, the Senator and I met with the Governor to solicit his endorsement because during his election campaign he had expressed strong support for legislation like this. In response to our request, he said, “You have no bill. When you are down to needing one vote to pass the legislation come back to me and I will think about it then.” I could not help but recall Franklin Roosevelt’s response to his staff when they urged him to support the creation of Social Security. “Make me,” he told them.

The Senator instructed me to meet with the Governor and his Chief of Staff to try to come up with a strategy that would gain the required votes. He had to stay close to the Senate chambers in order to respond to vote calls and to present other bills he was carrying.

So, I traveled through the Capitol and on to the large doors that guarded the entrance to the Governor’s suite of offices. I entered and announced myself to the receptionist and then waited for someone to escort me to the Governor’s private office. To my surprise, instead of a secretary or an intern showing up to accompany me, it was the Governor’s Chief of Staff himself. He beckoned me to follow him. He then turned and without a word strode off down the long hallway that extended from the reception area to the Governor’s inner sanctum.

The Chief of Staff, an austere character, was as grey and colorless as his name. He was reputed to eat and breathe politics, at least that half of it that consisted of manipulation and strategy. The other half that entailed charisma and bonhomie he hadn’t a clue.

We walked down that long hallway to the room furthest from the reception area. We entered.

The Governor was seated behind the large dark wood desk one expects in the offices of the big kahunas of large powerful organizations. I was impressed that he made no pretense to be working on anything. Instead, his sharp eyes followed me as I walked across the room and went to sit on one of the uncomfortable under-upholstered armchairs that faced his desk. The Chief of Staff rounded the desk and took up a position slightly behind the Governors left shoulder. He remained standing.

The Governor was an unprepossessing man, balding slightly, somewhat hawk-faced, round shoulders, rather smallish in stature and bulk. He radiated no charisma other than that imparted by the room, the desk and his position as Governor of the State. Perhaps that was why, in my opinion, he ranked as a better Governor than the any of the six governors of the State I had known and worked for. Still, had he appeared before me for a management position in an organization that I might have run, I would not have chosen him. He seemed to lack that hubris and aggressive arrogance that we all too often mistake for ability in men. On the other hand, he possessed his own quirky brand of arrogance, often greeting proposals from his own staff with responses that bordered on disdain. Sometimes, he would propose alternatives that even his admirers would call bizarre. Surprisingly, however, many of those alternatives seemed to work out.

“How many votes do you got?”, he said in that gravelly and slightly unpleasant voice of his. I had not fully sat down yet. I stopped my descent and answered, “We’re three short.” That was a lie. We were four short but what the hell difference did it make. Three sounded better than four.

“Well, who’s holding out?” he barked.

I named seven legislators from the Governors Party.

The Governor turned to the Chief of Staff and asked, “Of that group, who do you think is dumb enough that I could get him to switch and maybe get the ball rolling?”


The Chief of Staff pointed out that all the recalcitrant Senators were very committed to the interest groups opposing the bill but suggested one Senator that he felt would have the qualifications the Governor desired. I readily agreed.

While, in my experience, most legislators seem unqualified for most things, especially formulating public policy and the legislation necessary to carry it out, they are, as whole experts, in getting elected. The Senator in question was an expert in busses. He owned a two-bus company that had managed to acquire a contract to provide bus service to a rural elementary school in his district. He entered his first political race for the State Senate as a very dark horse candidate and then surprised everyone by, in conjunction with the other bus owners in the district, appearing at the polls with many busloads of voters mostly from his ethnic group and who had rarely, if ever, voted before.

Following his stunning upset victory, he settled into the life of an elected representative by rarely speaking at legislative hearings and voting reliably for the interests of those who now financed his reelection campaigns in sufficient amounts for him to mostly forgo the busses at election time.

The Governor turned to the Chief of Staff and directed him to call the Senator and set up a meeting with him. He also told him to assemble all the parties in interest, the lobbyists involved and the members of the agency affected by the legislation. I then left the office and returned to my own.

A few hours later, I received a call from the Chief of Staff directing me to attend another meeting with the governor. This time he sent me to a room just off the temporary legislative chambers. The legislative chambers had been moved to temporary quarters because the Capitol building was undergoing restoration at the time.

I arrived at the designated room. It was a large space recently constructed for some unknown purpose and located near the temporary legislative chambers. I entered through a long ramp. The room was empty of furnishing except for a folding card table, two folding chairs and a lone telephone sitting on top of the table. About 20 or so people were milling about. I could see several representatives of the Party’s staunchest interest group standing together in a line looking like undertakers at a funeral. I was told that when the state police were ordered to round up the interested parties and bring them to the meeting, one of the leading members of this particular group escaped out the back door of his house and drove away to hide somewhere. I do not know how true that story was, but given the impact of the legislation on his interests, his absence was notable and curious. I was told, he believed his absence would prevent the Governor from pressuring him and that his colleagues would never agree to anything allowing the bill to pass without first securing his consent,

There were also a few lobbyists and representatives of other interests there. I spotted the director of the governmental agency most affected by the bill who was talking with the lobbyist that represented many of the groups supporting the bill. I caught their eyes and nodded to them, but before I could move over to join them, the Governor walked down the ramp and without speaking to anyone went directly to the card table and sat down on one of the folding chairs.

Almost immediately following the governor’s entrance, I noticed the Chief of Staff and the Senator in question also moving down the ramp. The Chief of Staff leaned toward the Senator and spoke to him in a low voice. I was close enough to the ramp to hear what he said. “Senator,” he whispered, “ we are only one vote short on the bill and you are it.” That, of course, was a lie, but lying, after all, is the stock in trade of politics.

The Senator, a short roly-poly man then entered the room and saw all those assembled there. He stopped. His eyes widened. He then spotted the lineup of the representative of the Party’s powerful supporting group, blanched slightly, and nodded to them. He then moved on to the table at which the Governor sat and plumped himself on the chair across from him. “Hello Governor,” he said in a low and somewhat wary voice.

Instead of greeting him in return, the Governor leaned in and asked, “Senator, what’s your problem with the bill?”

The Senator sat back in his seat. The slight murmur of whispering in the room ceased. Everyone seemed to lean in so as to catch every word of the Senator’s response.

“I have no problem with the bill,” the Senator replied. “But, I have received a letter from a constituent who does.” With that, he reached into his pocket and removed a folded piece of paper and waved it about.

I assumed that when he received the request for the meeting from the Governor’s office, the Senator had rushed back to his own office and rifled his files for some justification for his position other than fear of losing campaign contributions from some of the people gathered there in that room. The letter was what he plucked from the files.

“Well,” responded the Governor almost immediately, “let’s get him on the line and find out what’s his problem.” The Chief of Staff then picked up the phone to make the call.
The surprise and shock of this response caused almost everyone in the room (including the Senator) to look about wide-eyed and raise our eyebrows to signify bemusement whenever we caught someone else’s eye.

We could hear the ringing over the speakerphone. Then it was picked up. I do not remember the man’s name who answered so I will call him Mr. West. The phone call went something like this:

“Hello,” said Mr. West. He sounded a bit grumpy as though he had been interrupted while doing something important.

The Senator introduced himself and then said, “I am here with the Governor and we need to decide on the bill that you wrote to me about. We need to know the reason for your opposition before we can proceed with it”

“This is a joke, right,” Mr. West responded.

The Governor then jumped in. “This is the Governor, Mr. West. It is no joke. I am here with the Senator and a lot of people with interest in the legislation. Your letter of opposition is keeping us from passing the bill so we need to know what your problem with it is.”

I recall feeling that everyone in that room seemed to lean in a little more and stare hard at the phone as they waited for a response. After a moment or two of silence. Mr. West replied, “Well, I have a second home in the area affected by the legislation. It is in a high fire-hazard area. I am afraid I will be prohibited from clearing the brush from around the building.”

“Well, Mr. West,” the Governor replied, “we have here with us the head of the agency that will administer the bill and the committee consultant responsible for overseeing its drafting, let’s ask them.” With that, the Governor turned from the phone and stared at us.
The Executive Director and I briefly looked into each other’s eyes, then turned back to the Governor and said in unison, “No, it wouldn’t stop him from clearing the brush around his house to protect it from fire.”

Now, this was not strictly a lie, but the bill was almost one-hundred pages long and we could not possibly remember everything in it. Also, we all know that at times those in government who administer the laws become overly zealous and may misinterpret certain provisions. Nevertheless, under the circumstances, it was our best guess. At this stage, we could hardly be expected to sound equivocal.

The Governor then turned back to speaker-phone and said, “There you have it, Mr. West, from those who know. Do you have any other problems?”

“No,” West responded. “ That’s all I was concerned about. I support the goals of the bill.” Then after a moment’s hesitation, he added, “In the future, you don’t have to call, a letter will do.

Following the round of thank-yous, goodbyes, and the hanging up of the phone the Governor sat back in his chair stared at the Senator and asked, “Well Senator what’s your problem now?

The Senator did not answer immediately. Instead, he sat there for a moment and looked around the room as though he was searching for help. Then in response, I assume, to a signal from the undertakers, he turned back to the Governor and said, “Governor, I need some time to discuss this.”

“Take your time Senator. We’ll be right here waiting for your answer,” the Governor replied.

With that, the Senator got up out of his chair and along with the undertakers left the room. The rest of us remaining in the room broke up into small groups and the buzzing of our conversations replaced the quiet. The Governor whispered something to the Chief of staff then remained silently sitting at the table, unmoving. This struck me as a little unusual since I have always known him to be a bit of a fidgeter.

I resumed conversing with our little group. We avoided talking about what had just happened neither did we speculate on what may be being discussed by the Senator and his cronies a few feet away. Instead, we passed the time in nervous small talk, about families, the weather and the like — every now and then glancing at the doors by which the conferees had left.

I no longer recall how long we stood there waiting. It could have been as much as twenty minutes to a half-hour or perhaps even more. The doors finally opened, the conferees piled back into the room, the whispering ceased and the Senator announced, “Governor, we can support the bill only with the following five non-negotiable amendments.” The Senator handed a piece of paper to the Governor.

The Governor took the paper handed to him, glanced at it briefly, turned, gave it to me, and said, “Here, can you guys live with this.”

Along with the Executive Director and the Lobbyist for the supporters of the legislation, I examined the handwritten note. As far as I could see, it appeared as though neither the Senator nor the undertakers had read the legislation through because four of the five non-negotiable demands seemed either irrelevant or covered in other parts of the bill. The fifth, however, appeared more significant. While it did not call for any material changes in regulation policies, jurisdiction or authority, it did require a significant alteration in administration, one that would need logistical changes in the operations of the agency, and, of course, more staff. Nevertheless, it was livable and in my opinion, far more detrimental to the interest groups proposing it, then to the agency forced to administer it. After reading it through at least twice, the Executive Director and I looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders, turned back to the Governor and said more or less in unison, “We can live with this.”

At this date, I do not recall if there was a muted cheer or just a collective exhale of breath. The Governor, however, was not finished. He turned to the chief spokesman of the undertakers and said, “You heard it. Now that we have reached agreement release the rest of your votes,” and handed him the telephone.

The chief spokesman dialed the floor of the Senate which was still in session and asked to speak to a specific Senator. The Senator eventually came online. The Chief Spokesman said, “We have an agreement here. You are free to vote for the bill. You can tell the others.” The Senator responded, “Thank God” and hung up the phone.

At that point, there seemed to be a release of the collective breath in the room. Handshakes and smiles broke out among almost everyone except the undertakers. The Governor did not partake in the spontaneous celebration, but following a brief word or two with the Senator and the Spokesman turned and, with the Chief of Staff in tow, strolled up the ramp and out of the room.

The Non-negotiable amendments were placed into what was referred to as a “trailer bill” and it also passed.

There you have it. After more than a decade, the efforts of thousands of people and the expenditure of millions of dollars, it all came down to a few people in a room, some lies, a bit of theater, lots of exaggeration, and a bagful of coincidence and luck. That’s often how laws are made — — like sausages, but not as sanitary.

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Commentary: The guiding principles underlying fascism, Trumpism, and the religious and conservative right.

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Let us never forget that the nine guiding principles underlying fascism, Trumpism, and the religious and conservative right are:

1. “There are no facts, only ideology.”
(And, when one scrapes away the pseudo-intellectual veneer, what that ideology comes down to is “power,” how to get it, wield it, and keep it.)

2. “There is no morality, only religion.”

3. “There is no compassion, only transaction.”

4. “There is no love, only desire.”

5. “There is no peace, only order.”

6. “There is no mercy, only philanthropy

7 “There is no freedom, only obedience.”

8. “There is no humanity, only data, assets, consumers, and laborers.”

9. “There is no truth, only propaganda.”

Tuckahoe Joe’s Blog of the Week: Colavito battles the conspiracy merchants.

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“Usually, conspiracy theories are for losers,”
University of Miami professor Joseph Uscinski.

During my periodic searches through the internet for arcane and interesting (to me at least) blogs, I came across one by someone named Jason Colavito entitled interestingly ‘Jason Colavito.’ (http://www.jasoncolavito.com/). Colavito is an author and editor based in Albany NY. He specializes in the critique of authors and commentators who are crazy. At least to me, they are either crazy or dishonest. They are those people who write books or articles claiming things like, alien visitors created early human civilization, chemtrails are a deep state assault on us all, or the Illuminati conspiracy folderol is real. They use half-truths and at times outright lies in order to persuade the gullible to buy their books, alternative medicines, gold coins, computer currency, and other claptrap they may be selling.

They spring from the same fetid swamp as conspiracy theorists, patent medicine salesmen, far-right politicians, and Fox News commentators.

In a recent post entitled, “David Wilcock Claims YouTube Is Part of an Anti-Trump, Population-Reduction Plot,” he smashes into Wilcock, someone I have never heard of, like The Hulk into a building. Here is the opening paragraph of the post:

“David Wilcock hasn’t been having a very good couple of years. Only a few years ago, he was the third most prominent ancient astronaut theorist* on Ancient Aliens, behind Giorgio Tsoukalos and David Childress, and he was one of the biggest stars of the Gaia TV streaming service, which featured hundreds of hours of programming from him. He also had a lucrative line of books and DVDs and a speaking tour. But then Wilcock made the critical error of turning subtext into text. With the exception of Tsoukalos, nearly all of the Ancient Aliens crew and their colleagues are right-wingers, but they manage to keep their conservative ranting mostly confined to short asides in YouTube videos and tweets. Wilcock, on the other hand, has been outspoken in his embrace of the most extreme pro-Trump conspiracy theories, including both Pizzagate and Q-Anon, and he has proudly declared himself a recipient of Russian propaganda, which he repeats uncritically. Between this and his contentious departure from Gaia, even the brain trust behind Ancient Aliens finally cut ties with Wilcock, who has not appeared on the show since Wilcock refused to participate in their episode interviewing John Podesta, whom Wilcock considers part of an anti-Trump, child-raping alien death cult.”

One of the things I like about Colavito is his writing style. It is almost as bad as mine. I notice his last name, like mine, indicates an Italian heritage. As a result, like Italian prose is often written, he strings his sentences together into paragraphs of operatic magniloquence (I apologize, I could not resist). Most English speakers prefer a more leisurely and sparer style. One stretching out the story over several paragraphs — perhaps even over whole books. But I digress. Colavito continues:

As Wilcock’s platforms have collapsed around him, his claims have become more extreme as he “programs to the base” and attempts to develop a smaller but more intensely loyal audience for his self-produced products. In his latest blog post, whose six parts form a 51,000-word eBook, Wilcock has fully embraced the Q-Anon conspiracy theory, and he has extended it to the recent efforts by YouTube to clean up the video-sharing service by altering its algorithm to display fewer conspiracy theory videos. Wilcock has declared this action to be the work of the “Deep State.” “And, as we so often like and need to do,” he wrote, “this initial phase of the story will expand into a vastly more interesting mega-conspiracy as you read on.” Oh, don’t they all.

I like Colavito. He goes after those that hide in darkness — those conspiracy theorists, who prey on the gullible and whose success encouraged the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Alex Jones and other purveyors of malice and hate.

More:

Over the past year or so, YouTube has come under fire from a wide range of advocacy groups and law enforcement agencies for its algorithms, which by design direct viewers to progressively more extreme content in the hope of keeping viewers watching for as long as possible. This resulted in many viewers being directed to white nationalist content, extreme conspiracy theories, and content that sexualized young children. YouTube officials took steps to reduce the prominence of this content earlier this year after a wave of negative stories in the media. They did not eliminate the content, but they made it harder to stumble across unknowingly, and they also removed advertising revenue from some videos that did not meet their decency standards.

In his massive blog post last week, Wilcock likens this action to the music industry, which he accuses of deliberately killing off rock-n-roll for nefarious reasons, leaving only … Papa Roach? “Since the 1990s, there has been little to no financing, development, promotion or exposure of new rock bands of any real prominence, other than a handful of examples like Papa Roach,” he wrote, nonsensically. I hesitate even to begin to think about what is going on inside Wilcock’s head, particularly since we know that he remains fixated on what he called his traumas and mental illness during his adolescence in the 1990s, as he chronicled in The Ascension Mysteries. This might seem like a laughably silly digression on Wilcock’s part, but one of his overarching if wrongheaded themes is that pro- and anti-alien conspiracy theorists use popular culture products to deliver secret messages to the public. He typically associates this with science fiction movies and TV shows (he believes the series finale of Game of Thrones was a psy-op conspiracy, for example), but here he extends the idea to music acts beloved by himself and his father, a onetime music critic. Music he doesn’t like becomes part of an evil conspiracy. In this case, he follows some conspiracy theories suggesting that elites purposely designed hip-hop to promote criminal behavior in order to oppress African Americans.

Colavito ends his post with:

The last third of his blog post / eBook endorses every bizarre aspect of the Q-Anon conspiracy theory and then attempts to link it to Tom DeLonge and To the Stars Academy of Arts and Science, which he sees as fighting a battle against the Deep State to reveal the truth about … well, not quite UFOs. Wilcock picks up on DeLonge’s embrace of the ancient astronaut theory to argue that the real truth is that space aliens are also fallen angels and that they had an outpost in Atlantis from which they meddled in human affairs, sort of like super-Russians plotting a thousand Trumps.

It’s all too much, really. The volume of his conspiracy theories is mind-numbing, but the ease with which he abandons his supposed beliefs as soon as they become inconvenient is all too typical. He believes that he has a right to have major corporations promote his belief that they are all run by child-raping demon aliens, and he is mad that the corporations have decided not to put up with him anymore.

On a sadder note, Wilcock said that he has “very few acquaintances” apart from his family, his manager, and his “creative team.” That he describes none of them as friends is perhaps sadder than realizing that there is a “creative team” behind his seemingly dada verbal diarrhea.

 

I bet you never knew something like this existed in the dark underbelly of our nation. An entire industry of deranged lunatics crawling through the sewers of America desperately hoping to infect the rest of us with their peculiar derangement.

I regret that only a few lonely difficult to read and understand commentators like Colavito confront these people in their dank dens. Respectable pundits seem to shy away from challenging them. Perhaps they dismiss them as irrelevant. Perhaps they are embarrassed to engage with those they consider absurd and dishonest. Nevertheless, we should never overlook the fact that almost every pernicious, fascist and violence provoking political movement begins with those in the shadows whispering make-believe conspiracies and specious histories to the gullible and poorly informed.

* Is third most prominent ancient astronaut theorist something one would, or should, aspire to? For that matter, is first?

Mopey’s Musings: Is the secret of a good death looking forward or peering back?

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I publish several blogs,( HERE,) (HERE) and (HERE) They all more or less relate to my life even when I am referring to a poem, a political debate or a historical event. Many of the posts are in the form of stories. Given my age and the state of my health, many of them also discuss the problems of aging.

Recently, my friend Terry, a faithful reader, suggested I read an article that examined storytelling and death. He wrote:

Interesting that you have been joyfully doing (this) for years. And your friends love you for it.

When the future is running out, narrating the past helps to prepare
A growing body of work suggests that storytelling creates a sense of mattering.

I post portions of it here for the readers’ edification and in order to include it in my morning contemplations about what it is I should be doing now.

“I began to wonder whether the secret to a good death wasn’t looking forward, but peering backward — whether retrospective examination might be more therapeutic than prospective preparation. I thought of how often I’d focused solely on helping patients navigate the future: how many weeks or months of life they might expect, which procedures they should or shouldn’t consider. These discussions, while important, fail to address what research has revealed about the deeper wants and needs of seriously ill patients.”

“Nearly 20 years ago, a seminal study in the Journal of the American Medical Association explored what patients and doctors feel is most important at the end of life. Many responses were predictable and consistent across groups. Both doctors and patients, for example, thought it was important to maintain dignity, control pain and other symptoms, and have one’s financial affairs in order.”

“But where physicians and patients diverged is telling — and suggests both a missed opportunity and a path to progress.”

“Patients were far more likely to express that it was important to feel that their life was complete, to be at peace with God and to help others in some way.”

“In other words, to feel that their lives mattered.”

“A growing body of work suggests that a powerful but underused method of creating this sense of mattering is storytelling — reflecting on the past and creating a narrative of one’s life, what it has meant, who you’ve become and why…”

“In a 2018 study, researchers assigned veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder to engage in either five 30-minute writing sessions in which they reflected on traumatic experiences, or a rigorous 12-week program of cognitive processing therapy (CPT), a first-line treatment for PTSD. The study found that the short writing sessions were just as effective at reducing PTSD symptoms as the resource-intensive CPT program.”

“Other work suggests that the particulars of storytelling matter. Simply looking back and listing life events doesn’t seem to help. It is the constructing of a narrative — exploring linkages, formulating a plotline — that’s critical for arriving at a coherent sense of self…”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/when-the-future-is-running-out-narrating-the-past-helps-to-prepare/2019/07/12/e0b48ee2-91fe-11e9-aadb-74e6b2b46f6a_story.html

So that has been what I have been up to for the past 10 years — writing those blogs and preparing to die. I guess that beats obsessing about it — although I do that too.

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