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THE WHITE POOR: LOVING THOSE WHO DESPISE THEM: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on September 25, 2020 at 7:00 am

Republicans have long tried to prevent or eliminate programs that aid the poor and middle-class, including:

  • Social Security (since it began in 1935)
  • Medicare
  • National health insurance
  • Food stamps
  • WIC (Women, Infants, Children).

So why are so many poor Americans now flocking to this party’s banner?

Two reasons: Racism and greed. There are historical parallels for both.

First, race:

In 1999, historian Victor Davis Hanson noted the huge gap in wealth between the aristocratic, slave-owning minority of the pre-Civil War South and the vast majority of poor white Southerners.

Victor Davis Hanson (@VDHanson) | Twitter

Victor Davis Hanson

“Before the war in the counties [Union General William Tecumseh] Sherman would later ruin, the top 10% of the landowners controlled 40% of the assessed wealth.”

In contrast, “more than half of those who were lucky enough to own any property at all still possessed less than 15% of the area’s valuation.”

So Hanson asked: “Why did the millions of poor whites of the Confederacy fight at all?”

He supplied the answer in his brilliant work on military history, The Soul of Battle: From Ancient Times to the Present Day, How Three Great Liberators Vanquished Tyranny.

Nonfiction Book Review: The Soul of Battle: From Ancient Times to the Present Day, Three Great Liberators Vanquished Tyranny by Victor Davis Hanson, Author Free Press $30 (496p) ISBN 978-0-684-84502-9

One of those liberators was General William Tecumseh Sherman, who led 62,000 Union troops in a victorious “March to the Sea” through the Confederacy in 1864.

So why did so many poor Southern whites literally lay down their lives for the wealthy planter class, which despised them?

According to Hanson: “Behind the entire social fabric of the South lay slavery.

“If slavery eroded the economic position of the poor free citizens, if slavery encouraged a society of haves and have-nots…then it alone offered one promise to the free white man–poor, ignorant and dispirited–that he was at least not black and not a slave.”

And the planter class and its allies in government easily fobbed off their poor white countrymen with cheap flattery. Said Georgia Governor Joseph Brown:

“Among us the poor white laborer is respected as an equal. His family is treated with kindness, consideration, and respect. He does not belong to the menial class. The negro is in no sense his equal. He belongs to the only true aristocracy, the race of white men.”

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Arlington House and plantation, former home of Robert E. Lee

Similarly, poor whites now flock to the Republican Party–which holds them in equal contempt– in large part to protest the 2008 election of the first black President of the United States.

According to a Pew Research Center study released on July 22, 2011: “Notably, the GOP gains have occurred only among white voters; a 2-point Republican edge among whites in 2008 (46% to 44%) has widened to a 13-point lead today (52% to 39%).”

Since the 1960s, Republicans have pursued a campaign policy of “divide and rule”–divide the nation along racial lines and reap the benefits at election time.

  • Republicans opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
  • Republicans opposed the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
  • Republicans, with Richard Nixon as their Presidential candidate in 1968 and 1972, pursued what they called a “Southern strategy”: Use “code language” to stoke fear and hatred of blacks among whites.
  • Republicans have falsely identified welfare programs exclusively with non-whites. (Of the six million Americans receiving food stamps, about 42% are white, 32% are black, and 22% are Latino–with the growth fastest among whites during the recession.)

Thus, in voting Republican, many of these poor whites believe they are “striking a blow for the white race.”

And they can do so in a more socially acceptable way than joining a certified hate group such as the American Nazi Party or Ku Klux Klan.  

Since 2015, openly racist groups such as the Klan and the American Nazi Party have flocked to the banner of Presidential candidate Donald Trump. By enthusiastically courting their support, the real estate mogul has made it possible for Republican candidates to openly display their own racism.

Now greed:

In the hit play, 1776, on the creation and signing of the Declaration of Independence, there is a telling exchange between John Dickinson and John Hancock. It comes during the song, “Cool, Cool, Considerate Men.”

Dickinson, the delegate from Pennsylvania, urges Hancock, president of the Second Continental Congress, “to join us in our minuet.” By “us” he means his fellow conservatives who fear losing their property and exalted status by supporting American independence from Great Britain.

John Dickinson

Hancock declines, saying: “Fortunately, there are not enough men of property in America to dictate policy.”

To which Dickinson replies:  “Perhaps not. But don’t forget that most men with nothing would rather protect the possibility of becoming rich than face the reality of being poor.  And that is why they will follow us.”

Today,  poor whites generally identify with the CEOs of powerful corporations. They believe the Republican gospel that they can attain such wealth–if only the government will “get out of my way.”

They forget—or ignore—the truth that government, for all its imperfections, is sometimes all that stands between them and a wide range of predators.

In return, the CEOs despise them as the privileged have always despised their social and economic “inferiors.”

Unless the Democratic Party can find ways to directly address these bitter, Politically Incorrect truths, it will continue its decline into insignificance.

THE WHITE POOR: LOVING THOSE WHO DESPISE THEM: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on September 24, 2020 at 12:35 am

On July 22, 2011, ABC News carried the following story:

The Pew Foundation, analyzing voter identification, found “the electorate’s partisan affiliations have shifted significantly” since Barack Obama won office in 2008.

The GOP had gained strength among white voters, most specifically “the young and poor.”

Whitehead Institute - News - 2011 - Whitehead Member Mary Gehring named a Pew Scholar

A seven-point Democratic advantage among whites under age 30 three years ago had turned into an 11-point GOP advantage. And a 15-point Democratic advantage among whites earning less than $30,000 annually had swung to a slim four-point Republican edge by 2011.

In addition:

  • The GOP gains had occurred only among white voters.
  • Republicans had made sizable gains among white voters since 2008. Fifty-two percent of white voters called themselves Republicans or leaned to the GOP, compared with 39% who affiliated with the Democratic Party or leaned Democratic.
  • Democrats had lost their edge among lower income white voters.
  • In 2008, Democrats had a 15 point lead among white voters with family incomes less than $30,000.  By 2011, Republicans had a four-point edge among this group.
  • The GOP’s lead among middle income white voters had grown since 2008, and Republicans held a substantial advantage with higher income white voters.
  • Republicans have made gains among whites with a high school education or less. The GOP’s advantage over Democrats had grown from one point in 2008 to 17 points in 2011 among less educated whites.
  • Republicans had made smaller gains among white voters who had college degrees.

Five years later, in 2016, these masses of disaffected white men would overwhelmingly vote for Donald Trump, a real estate mogul-turned-celebrity-TV-host of “The Apprentice.”

Trump had been born into a life of luxury. He began his real estate career at his father’s real estate and construction company. He rose to wealth and fame after his father, Fred, gave him control of the business in 1971.

Similarly, soon after acquiring the family business, Trump set out to build his own empire—hotels, golf courses, casinos and skyscrapers across North and South America, Europe and Asia. Of the 515 entities he owns, 268 of them—52%—bear his last name. He often refers to his properties as “the swankiest,” “the most beautiful.” 

During the Vietnam war, his father reportedly paid a doctor to claim that Trump suffered from “bone spurs” in his foot—thus enabling him to escape the draft.

Donald Trump

In short, Trump has literally nothing in common with the masses of poor whites who worship him. 

Howard Stern, the notorious radio host, has known Trump many years. Commenting on the appeal Trump has for his followers, Stern says: “The oddity of all this is the people Trump despises most, love him the most.

“The people who are voting for Trump for the most part …he wouldn’t even let them in his fucking hotel. He’d be disgusted by them. Go to Mar-a-Lago. See if there’s any people who look like you. I’m talking to you in the audience.”

Yet, while the poor worship Trump and Republicans generally, there is a disconnect between them: Since 1980, Republicans have pursued a policy of gutting programs aimed at helping the poor—while repeatedly creating tax-breaks for the wealthiest 1% of the population.

For Republicans, the patron saint of this “love-the-rich-screw-the-poor” ideology remains Ronald Reagan–two-time governor of California and twice-elected President of the United States (1981-1989)

Ronald Reagan, who taught Americans to worship the wealthy

Among those charting Reagan’s legacy as President was former CBS Correspondent David Shoenbrum.

In his bestselling autobiography, America Inside Out: At Home and Abroad from Roosevelt to Reagan, he noted:

  • On January 28, 1981, keeping a pledge to his financial backers in the oil industry, Reagan abolished Federal controls on the price of oil.
  • Within a week, Exxon, Texaco and Shell raised gasoline prices and prices of home heating oil.
  • Reagan saw it as his duty to put a floor under prices, not a ceiling above them.
  • Reagan believed that when government helped business it wasn’t interfering. Loaning money to bail out a financially incompetent Chrysler was “supporting the free enterprise system.”
  • But putting a high-profits tax on price-gouging corporations or filing anti-trust suits against them was “Communistic” and therefore intolerable.
  • Tax-breaks for wealthy businesses meant helping America become stronger.
  • But welfare for the poor or the victims of a predatory marketplace economy weakened America by sapping its morale.

“In short, welfare for the rich is good for America. But welfare for the poor is bad for America, even for the poor themselves, for it encourages them to be shiftless and lazy.

“Somehow, loans to the inefficient management of American corporations would not similarly encourage them in their inefficient methods,” wrote Shoenbrun.

Republicans have sought to dismantle Social Security ever since that program began in 1935. And Republicans have furiously opposed other programs aiding the poor and middle-class—such as Medicare, food stamps and WIC (Women, Infants, Children).

In short, this is not a political party with a history of rushing to the defense of those most in need.

So the question remains: Why are so many poor Americans flocking to its banner?

The answer lies in the history of the American South—and slavery.

KILLING LINCOLN: FIRST BOOTH, NOW REPUBLICANS

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 15, 2020 at 12:22 am

During the week of November 24 – 26, 2019, The Economist and YouGov conducted a poll of 1,500 American adults. The purpose of that poll: To compare President Donald Trump with President Abraham Lincoln—and find out who was more popular within the Republican party. 

Lincoln served as President from 1861 to 1865, steering the United States through the Civil War and the abolition of slavery.

Mr. Lincoln goes to Hollywood (1 of 2) | rené milot

Abraham Lincoln

Trump, by contrast, has largely made the United States a pariah nation throughout the world—and is now presiding over a pandemic which has killed more than 25,000 Americans.

So what was the result of the poll? 

Fifty-three percent of Republicans believe that Trump is a better President than Lincoln.

This starkly contrasts with the verdict of both Democratic and independent voters. Ninety-four percent of Democrats preferred Lincoln—and so did 78% of independents.

Overall, 75% of poll respondents picked Lincoln; only 25% picked Trump.

Some Twitter users found this sardonically hilarious.

One of these was Billy Baldwin, the brother of Alec Baldwin, who portrays Trump as a befuddled tyrant on Saturday Night Live: “53% of Republicans apparently don’t even know who Abraham Lincoln was.” 

Baldwin also posted an animated photo of the Lincoln Memorial with the Great Emancipator giving The Finger to Trump and First Lady Melania.

Toddlers & Tiaras with Tom Hanks - YouTube

“Economist/YouGov Poll: 53% of Republicans believe Donald Trump is a better president than Abraham Lincoln was while 47% believe the president that got this country through the Civil War was better,” wrote Josh Jordan. “If you were wondering what segment of the population can not be swayed by facts.”

Political commentator Ashley Pratte took a more serious view of the matter.

Describing herself in a December 9, 2019 column as “a lifelong Republican before 2016,” she wrote: “According to a 2017 C-Span survey of the nation’s top presidential historians, Lincoln sits above all other presidents as the greatest of all time. 

“The Republican party has strayed far since the days of Lincoln; it’s shameful to see how Trumpism has hijacked it. It’s truly shocking how Republicans are allowing him to carry the mantle of conservatism too with little-to-no hesitation.

“Trump’s years in office have been full of nepotism, scandal, profiting from his position as President and now he is about to become the third-ever president to be impeached.”

Donald Trump

Specifically: 

  • He has given unprecedented access to the Oval Office to unqualified members of his family and personal friends.
  • When his son-in-law Jared Kushner was denied a security clearance, Trump pushed it through anyway.
  • Republicans have refused to accept the conclusion of the Mueller Report that Trump campaign officials colluded with Russian Intelligence agents to win the Presidency in 2016.
  • They have also acquitted him—against overwhelming evidence—of trying to extort Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to run a smear campaign against former Vice President Joe Biden.
  • Trump is personally profiting from his role as President. At least 250 officials in the executive branch have made 630 visits to Trump properties, and 90 members of Congress have made 180 visits. 

For Pratte, Trump’s worst offense is this: “Trump has also been the most divisive president in our nation’s history….. From his Twitter rants and off-color statements to his pursuit of a travel ban and destruction of Obamacare, he’s not even bothered to try to get support for his policies.

“Instead, he’s forged ahead, continually pressed to build an impossible wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, withdrawn from the Paris Climate Agreement and threatened to withdraw from NAFTA as a way to negotiate a slightly new version of it.

“…Republican officials should be eager to uphold the ideals of accountability, no matter which political party controls the White House. The problem is that these so-called morals are just a sham, and abandoning them is the only way to defend the occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.”

There are two major reasons why Republicans regard Trump more highly than Lincoln.

First: In 2002, Republican Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott gave away the game at the 100th birthday party for racist South Carolina Republican Senator Strom Thurmond:

”I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We’re proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn’t have had all these problems over all these years, either.”

In short: If America had elected Thurmond—who ran ran for president in 1948 as the Dixiecrat candidate on a States Rights platform supporting racial segregation—we wouldn’t be having all these problems now with “uppity” blacks.

Thus, Lincoln—who freed blacks from slavery—is for Republican voters the root cause of “all these problems over all these years.”  

Second, Lincoln waged a civil war to restore the Union—which meant sending Federal armies into the rebellious South.

Under the banner of “States’ rights,” today’s Republicans openly court millions of voters in the South who still wish the Civil War had ended differently: With a triumphant South still running its slave empire—and millions of blacks still held in bondage.

While these voters secretly regret that those “good old days” will never return, they can at least show their support for “States’ rights” by backing Trump—whose racism toward non-whites is universally known and applauded by white supremacist groups.

WHAT MAKES A PRESIDENT LOVED? FORGOTTEN? HATED?

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on December 23, 2019 at 12:07 am

Why are some Presidents remembered with affection, while others are detested—or forgotten altogether?

Generally, Presidents who are warmly remembered are seen as making positive contributions to the lives of their fellow Americans and being “people-oriented.”

Among these:

  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Theodore Roosevelt
  • Franklin Roosevelt
  • John F. Kennedy

Among the reasons they are held in such high regard:

  • Abraham Lincoln ended slavery and restored the Union. Although he ruthlessly prosecuted the Civil War, his humanity remains engraved in stories such as his pardoning a soldier condemned to be shot for cowardice: “If Almighty God gives a man a cowardly pair of legs, how can he help their running away with him?”

An iconic photograph of a bearded Abraham Lincoln showing his head and shoulders.

Abraham Lincoln

  • Theodore Roosevelt championed an era of reform, such as creating the Food and Drug Administration and five National Parks. Popularly known as “Teddy,” he even had a toy bear—the teddy bear—named after him.
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt successfully led America through the Great Depression and World War II. He was the first President to insist that government existed to directly better the lives of its citizens: “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

FDR 1944 Color Portrait.tif

Franklin D. Roosevelt

  • John F. Kennedy supported civil rights and called for an end to the Cold War. He challenged Americans to “ask what you can do for your country” and made government service respectable, even chic. His youth, charisma, intelligence and handsomeness led millions to mourn for “what might have been” had he lived to win a second term.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy.png

John F. Kennedy

Presidents who remain unpopular among Americans are seen as unlikable and responsible (directly or not) for mass suffering.

Among these:

  • Herbert Hoover
  • Lyndon B. Johnson
  • Richard M. Nixon

Among the reasons they are held in such low regard:

  • Herbert Hoover is still blamed for the 1929 Great Depression. He didn’t create it, but his conservative, “small-government” philosophy led him to refuse to aid its victims. An engineer by profession, he saw the Depression as a machine that needed repair, not as a catastrophe for human beings. This lack of “emotional intelligence” cost him heavily with voters.
  • Lyndon B. Johnson is still blamed as the President “who got us into Vietnam.” John F. Kennedy had laid the groundwork by placing 16,000 American troops there by the time he died in 1963. But it was Johnson who greatly expanded the war in 1965 and kept it going—with hugely expanding casualties—for the next three years. Unlike Kennedy, whom he followed, he looked and sounded terrible on TV. Voters compared LBJ’s Texas drawl and false piety with JFK’s wit and good looks—and found him wanting.

37 Lyndon Johnson 3x4.jpg

Lyndon B. Johnson

  • Richard M. Nixon will be remembered foremost as the President who was forced to resign under threat of impeachment and removal from office. Like Herbert Hoover, he was not a “people person” and seemed remote to even his closest associates. Although he took office on a pledge to “bring us together” and end the Vietnam war, he attacked war protesters as traitors and kept the war going another four years. His paranoid fears of losing the 1972 election led to his creating an illegal “Plumbers” unit which bugged the Democratic offices at the Watergate Hotel. And his attempted cover-up of their illegal actions led to his being forced to resign from office in disgrace.

Richard M. Nixon, ca. 1935 - 1982 - NARA - 530679.jpg

Richard M. Nixon

Which brings us to the question: How is Donald J. Trump likely to be remembered?

Historian Joachim C. Fest offers an unintended answer to this question in his 1973 bestselling biography Hitler:

“The phenomenon of the great man is primarily aesthetic, very rarely moral in nature; and even if we were prepared to make allowances in the latter realm, in the former we could not.

“An ancient tenet of aesthetics holds that one who for all his remarkable traits is a repulsive human being, is unfit to be a hero.”

Among the reasons for Hitler’s being “a repulsive human being,” Fest cites the Fuhrer’s

  • “intolerance and vindictiveness”;
  • “lack of generosity”; and
  • “banal and naked materialism–power was the only motive he would recognize.”

Fest then quotes German chancellor Otto von Bismark on what constitutes greatness: “Impressiveness in this world is always akin to the fallen angel who is beautiful but without peace, great in his plans and efforts, but without success, proud but sad.”

And Fest concludes: “If this is true greatness, Hitler’s distance from it is immeasurable.”

What Fest writes about Adolf Hitler applies just as brutally to President Trump.

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Donald Trump

Intolerant and vindictive. Lacking generosity. Nakedly materialistic.  

He has:

  • Boasted about the politicians he’s bought and the women he’s bedded—and forced himself on.
  • Threatened his Democratic opponent—Hillary Clinton—with prosecution if he were elected.
  • Slandered entire segments of Americans—blacks, Hispanics, women, journalists, Asians, the disabled, the Gold Star parents of a fallen soldier.
  • Slandered President Barack Obama for five years as a non-citizen, finally admitting the truth only to win black votes.
  • Attacked the FBI and CIA for accurately reporting that Russian President Vladimir Putin had intervened in the 2016 Presidential election to ensure Trump’s victory. 

At this stage, it’s hard to imagine Trump joining that select number of Presidents Americans remember with awe and reverence. 

DONALD TRUMP’S “MEIN KAMPF” COMES TO VIDEO: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 22, 2019 at 12:05 am

Since taking office as President on January 20, 2017, Donald Trump has continued to hurl threats of violence against those he hates.

“Trump’s language of violence started with immigrants when he launched his presidential campaign in 2015,” wrote Washington Post Reporter Eugene Scott. “There is a direct line from his language to real violence against immigrants and other innocent Americans caught in the maniacal mass shootings of the past year.

“And this cancer is spreading: to Congress, to the media, to the intelligence community, to foreign allies. There is no end in sight as Trump becomes increasingly unhinged and the GOP remains frozen in abject silence.”

On October 2, 2019, Journalist Nina Burleigh wrote: “Since 2015, TV-watching Americans have been subject to the deimatic spectacle of more than 400 rallies (at least 80 since his election) in which Trump sometimes openly and more often coyly urged supporters to violence. These spectacles have conditioned many Americans to fear him and his more enthusiastic supporters.” 

Image result for Images of people giving the "Sieg heil" salute to Trump

Supporters giving the “Seig Heil” salute to Donald Trump

“Over the last few days, the President’s rhetoric of violence and hate has spread,” stated an October 3, 2019 press release by America’s Voice, a liberal immigration group.

“As Jamelle Bouie noted yesterday, ‘Over the weekend, in a rage over impeachment, President Trump accused Representative Adam Schiff of ‘treason,’ promised ‘Big Consequences’ for the whistle-blower who sounded the alarm about his phone call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine and shared a warning — from a Baptist pastor in Dallas — that impeachment ‘will cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal.’” 

Trump’s opponents have good reason to fear. And not simply the public demonstrations by the President’s fanatical base. They should fear the secret fantasies of the Right. 

Those secret fantasies have been revealed in a series of Right-wing videos featuring graphic acts of violence against those whom the Right—and Trump—hate.

From October 10 to 12, 2019, attendees of the American Priority Conference at the Trump National Doral Miami resort enjoyed many of those videos.

One of these, “The Trumpsman,” featured a digitized Trump shooting, stabbing and setting fire to such liberals—and even conservatives—as: 

  • Former President Bill Clinton
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden
  • Former Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton
  • Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi
  • Former President Barack Obama
  • Vermont United States Senator Bernie Sanders
  • Utah Senator Mitt Romney
  • The late Arizona Senator John McCain

And legitimate news media—such as CBS, BBC, ABC, CNN, The New York Times and The  Washington Post—were also depicted as among Trump’s victims.

Image result for images of the trumpsman video

The video was produced by Rightists who believed it reflected what Donald Trump would do to his enemies if only he could get away with it. And given his near-constant calls for violence against his critics, they were absolutely correct.  

But the video’s critics are wrong to call for its suppression.

On the contrary—it should be widely seen for what it is: The Mein Kampf of Donald Trump and his fanatical followers, in and outside the Republican party.

Like Adolf Hitler’s autobiography, it depicts the future America can expect if the Right gains the power to live out its murderous fantasies. And the fantasy Right-wingers prize most: The brutal extermination of everyone who refuses to submit to their Fascistic tyranny.

“The Trumpsman” is part of a growing genre of pro-Trump memes that routinely earn thousands of views on sites like YouTube and Twitter. Many superimpose the faces of Trump and his chief supporters slaughtering Democrats, liberal celebrities and/or members of the media.

The event’s organizer, Alex Phillips, hurriedly claimed that the “unauthorized video” was shown “in a side room” at the American Priority Conference.

But there is an upside to this exercise in Right-wing porn. Democrats could easily run TV ads showing limited clips from “The Trumpsman” video.

Unfortunately, the majority of Democrats lack the courage to attack their Right-wing enemies with the same ruthlessness used against them. That’s why they lost most Presidential elections of the 20th century.

Americans should be constantly warned: These videos were not made by liberals to parody the values and goals of the Republican party and its Right-wing supporters.

These videos were made by Right-wingers—and reflect the true values and intentions of the Republican party and its Right-wing supporters. 

The boiler-plate rhetoric that gushes out of Republican conventions—about love of family, God and flag—is the public mask of the Right.

The videos that depict Right-wingers ruthlessly slaughtering anyone who dares to disagree with them reflect the real face of the Right.

Of course, most Americans never imagined that a President would:

  • Fire an FBI director for investigating Russian subversion of a Presidential election.
  • Openly call on a foreign enemy nation—China—to investigate his political rival for the White House.
  • Accuse his Congressional critics of treason—a crime punishable by death.

Trump’s opponents should stop deluding themselves that: “Surely he’ll never do that.”

Whatever it is they fear he will do, he will do.

Like all predators, he will stop only when he meets a stronger opponent.

DONALD TRUMP’S “MEIN KAMPF” COMES TO VIDEO: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 21, 2019 at 12:14 am

On November 9, 1923, Nazi Party Fuhrer Adolf Hitler tried to overthrow the government in Munich, Bavaria.

About 2,000 Nazis marched to the center of Munich, where they confronted heavily-armed police. A shootout erupted, killing 16 Nazis and four policemen. 

Hitler was injured during the clash, but managed to escape. Two days later, he was arrested and charged with treason.

Put on trial, he found himself treated as a celebrity by a judge sympathetic to Right-wing groups. He was allowed to brutally cross-examine witnesses and even make inflammatory speeches.

At the end of the trial, he was convicted of treason and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment. Of this he served only nine months before being pardoned.

Hitler used his time in Landsberg Prison, in Bavaria, to write his infamous book, Mein Kampf-–“My Struggle.” Part autobiography, part political treatise, it laid out his future plans—for a revitalized Germany and the conquest of other nations.

Image result for Images of Adolf Hitler outside Landsberg prison

Adolf Hitler leaving Landsberg Prison, December, 20, 1924

Published in 1925, it was long ignored by all but the most fanatical Nazis. But as Hitler gained increasing numbers of votes in a series of elections, many people—inside and outside Germany—began paying attention to its contents.

By 1939 it had sold 5,200,000 copies and had been translated into 11 languages.

Most of those who bought the book never read it. Its style was bombastic, repetitious and illogical. The first edition contained grammatical errors, reflecting a self-educated man.

Few who read it took Hitler’s intentions seriously. Comedians portrayed him as a wildly gesturing  crank who screamed constantly.

Hitler made no effort to hide his program for Germany under his rule. His candor led many people to believe he was a lunatic who could be safely ignored. 

He was especially insistent on the need for eliminating world Jewry and conquering the Soviet Union. 

On the former topic he wrote: “The nationalization of our masses will succeed only when, aside from all the positive struggle for the soul of our people, their international poisoners are exterminated. 

“If at the beginning of the war and during the war twelve or fifteen thousand of these Hebrew corrupters of the nation had been subjected to poison gas, such as had to be endured in the field by hundreds of thousands of our very best German workers of all classes and professions, then the sacrifice of millions at the front would not have been in vain.”

A mere 17 years later, Hitler’s “Thousand-Year Reich” would translate those words into horrific action in a series of extermination camps equipped with gas chambers.

Mein Kampf(german Language Edition) (German Edition)

Hitler was equally insistent that Germany needed to find Lebensraum—“Living space”—in the east. And by “east” he meant “Russia.” 

Specifically: “And so we National Socialists consciously draw a line beneath the foreign policy tendency of our pre-War period. We take up where we broke off six hundred years ago.

“We stop the endless German movement to the south and west, and turn our gaze toward the land in the east. At long last we break off the colonial and commercial policy of the pre-War period and shift to the soil policy of the future.

“If we speak of soil in Europe today, we can primarily have in mind only Russia and her vassal border states.” 

Hitler finally attained power on January 30, 1933. He realized that Germany was not yet strong enough to impose its will on other nations. So he set out on a secret crash program to make Germany the strongest military power in Europe.

In 1936, he set out on his “mission of Providence”:

  • March, 1936: Ordering German troops to reoccupy the demilitarised zone between France and Germany (the Rhineland), in violation of the Versailles Treaty, which ended World War 1.
  • July, 1936: Sending troops to Spain to support the Fascist army of General Francisco Franco.
  • March 12, 1938: Occupying Austria and “unifying” it with Germany (the “Anschluss“).
  • September 29, 1938: Bullying British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain into surrendering Czechoslovakia’s Sudetenland districts to Germany.
  • September 1, 1939: Ordering the invasion of Poland, which unintentionally launched World War II.
  • June 22, 1941: Ordering the invasion of the Soviet Union. 
  • 1941: Secretly ordering “the Final Solution of the Jewish Question,” resulting in the extermination of at least six million Jews.

Only after Hitler set out to conquer, first Europe, then the Soviet Union, did his victims and intended victims realize that Mein Kampf had given them a deadly warning. A warning too many of them had refused to heed.

By the time World War II ended:

  • Fifty million men, women and children were died—most of them dying in agony.
  • The Soviet Union, having crushed Nazi Germany, become a world power.
  • Poland and eastern Europe—once captives of Nazi Germany—now found themselves captives of the Soviet Union.
  • The United States, untouched by the war, emerged as the world’s superpower—and the only country strong enough to contain the Soviet Union.

But Adolf Hitler isn’t the only would-be dictator to give ample warning of his murderous intentions.

And, like most Germans in the Weimar Republic, which preceded Nazi Germany, most Americans refuse to take that warning seriously. 

EGO AS THE ROAD TO DISASTER

In History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 14, 2019 at 12:37 am

It’s commonplace to read about the role sex plays in motivating behavior. But the power of ego to determine history is often ignored.

Consider the role that ego played in igniting the American Civil War (1861 – 1865).

According to The Destructive War, by Charles Royster, it wasn’t the cause of “states’ rights” that led 13 Southern states to withdraw from the Union in 1960-61. It was their demand for “respect,” which, in reality, translates into “e-g-o.”

“The respect Southerners demanded did not consist simply of the states’ sovereignty or of the equal rights of Northern and Southern citizens, including slaveholders’ right to take their chattels into Northern territory.

“It entailed, too, respect for their assertion of the moral superiority of slaveholding society over free society,” writes Royster.

It was not enough for Southerners to claim equal standing with Northerners; Northerners must acknowledge it. But this was something that the North was less and less willing to do. 

Finally, its citizens dared to elect Abraham Lincoln in 1860.

An iconic photograph of a bearded Abraham Lincoln showing his head and shoulders.

Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln and his new Republican party damned slavery—and slaveholders—as morally evil, obsolete and ultimately doomed. And they were determined to prevent slavery from spreading any further throughout the country.

Southerners found all of this intolerable.

The British author, Anthony Trollope, explained to his readers: “It is no light thing to be told daily, by our fellow citizens…that you are guilty of the one damning sin that cannot be forgiven.

“All this [Southerners] could partly moderate, partly rebuke and partly bear as long as political power remained in their hands. But they have gradually felt that this was going, and were prepared to cut the rope and run as soon as it was gone.”

Only 10% of Southerners owned slaves. The other 90% of the population “had no dog in this fight,” as Southerners liked to say.

Yet they so admired and aspired to be like their “gentleman betters” that they threw in their lot with them.

There were some Southerners who could see what was coming—and vainly warned their fellow citizens against it.

One of these was Sam Houston, the man who had won Texas independence at the 1836 battle of San Jacinto and later served as that state’s governor.

Sam Houston

On April 19, 1860, addressing a crowd in Galveston, he said: “Let me tell you what is coming. After the sacrifice of countless millions of treasure and hundreds of thousands of lives, you may win Southern independence if God be not against you.

“But I doubt it. I tell you that, while I believe with you in the doctrine of states’ rights, the North is determined to preserve this Union. They are not a fiery, impulsive people as you are, for they live in colder climates.

“But when they begin to move in a given direction, they move with the steady momentum and perseverance of a mighty avalanche; and what I fear is, they will overwhelm the South.”

Four years later, on April 9, 1865, Houston’s warning became history.

Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse.

Huge sections of the South had been laid waste by Union troops and more than 258,000 Southerners had been killed.

And slavery, the mainstay of Southern plantation life, had been ended forever.

The South had paid an expensive price for its fixation on ego.

Even more proved at risk a century later, when President John F. Kennedy faced off with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev.

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John F. Kennedy

In April, Kennedy had been humiliated at the Bay of Pigs when a CIA-sponsored invasion failed to overthrow the Cuba’s Fidel Castro. So he was already on the defensive when he and Khrushchev met in Vienna.Khrushchev pressed his advantage, threatening Kennedy with nuclear war unless the Americans abandoned their protection of West Berlin.

That August, faced with the embarrassment of East Berliners fleeing by the thousands into West Germany, the Soviet leader backed off from his threat.In its place, he erected the infamous Berlin Wall, sealing off East and West Berlin.

Kennedy’s reaction: “That son of a bitch won’t pay any attention to words. He has to see you move.”

Then, most ominously: “If Khrushchev wants to rub my nose in the dirt, it’s all over.”

In short: Kennedy was prepared to incinerate the planet if he felt his almighty ego was about to get smacked.

Nuclear missile in silo

What has proved true for states and nations proves equally true for those leading every other type of institution.

Although most people like to believe they are guided by rationality and morality, all-too-often, what truly decides the course of events is their ego.

For pre-Civil War Southerners, it meant demanding that “Yankees” show respect for slave-owning society.  Otherwise, they would leave the Union.

For Kennedy, it meant playing a game of “chicken,” backed up with nuclear missiles, to show Khrushchev who Numero Uno really was. And during the Cuban Missile Crisis, in October, 1962, humankind almost disappeared as Kennedy set out to make Khrushchev “blink.”

It is well to keep these lessons from history in mind when making our own major decisions.

MAJOR DUNDEE: A LESSON FOR OUR TIME

In Entertainment, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 2, 2018 at 12:06 am

Major Dundee is a 1965 Sam Peckinpah Western focusing on a Union cavalry officer (Charlton Heston) who leads a motley troop of soldiers into Mexico to rescue three children kidnapped by Apaches.

Along the way they liberate Mexican villagers and clash with French lancers trying to establish Mexico as a French colony under would-be emperor Archduke Maximilian 1.

The Wild Bunch is universally recognized as Peckinpah’s greatest achievement. It has certainly had a far greater impact on audiences and critics than Major Dundee. According to Heston, this was really the movie Peckinpah wanted to make while making Dundee, but he couldn’t quite get his mind around it.

As a result, Dundee’s virtues have been tragically overlooked. It has a larger cast of major characters than Bunch, and these are men an audience can truly like and identify with:

  • The charm of Benjamin Tyreen (Richard Harris), a Confederate lieutenant forced into Union service;
  • The steady courage of Sergeant Gomez;
  • The quiet dignity of Aesop (Brock Peters), a black soldier;
  • The quest for maturity in young, untried bugler Tim Ryan (Michael Anderson, Jr.);
  • The on-the-job training experience of impetuous Lt. Graham (Jim Hutton); and
  • The stoic endurance of Indian scout Sam Potts (James Coburn).

These men are charged with a dangerous and dirty mission, and do it as well as they can, but you wouldn’t fear inviting them to meet your family.

,Major Dundee

Major Dundee (Charlton Heston)

That was definitely not the case with The Wild Bunch, four hardened killers prepared to rip off anyone, anytime, and leave a trail of bodies in their wake. The only place where you would have felt safe seeing them, in real-life, was behind prison bars.

The Wild Bunch

Dundee is an odyssey movie, in the same vein as Saving Private Ryan. Both films start with a battle, followed by the disappearance of characters who need to be searched for and brought back to safety.

Just as Dundee assembles a small force to go into Mexico, so, too, does Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) do the same, with his hunting ground being France.

Dundee’s men retrieve the kidnapped children and survive a near-fatal battle with Indians. Miller’s men twice clash with the Germans before finding their quarry, James Ryan.

Before Dundee can return to the United States, he must face and defeat a corps of French soldiers. Before Miller can haul Ryan back to safety, he must repulse a German assault.

Both groups of soldiers—Dundee’s and Miller’s—are transformed by their experiences in ways neither group could possibly articulate. (Miller, being a highly literate schoolteacher, would surely do a better job of this than the tight-jawed Dundee.)

Dundee’s soldiers return to a United States that’s just ended its Civil War with a Union victory—and the death of slavery. Miller’s soldiers return to a nation that is now a global superpower.

Of course, Ryan was fortunate in having Steven Spielberg as its director.  With his clout, there was no question that Ryan would emerge as the film he wanted.

Peckinpah lacked such clout. And he fought with everyone, including the producer, Jerry Bressler, who ultimately held the power to destroy his film. This guaranteed that his movie would emerge far differently than he had envisioned.

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Sam Peckinpah

In 2005, an extended version of Dundee was released, featuring 12 minutes of restored footage. (Much of the original footage was lost after severe cuts to the movie.)

In this new version, we fully see how unsympathetic a character the martinet Dundee really is. Owing to Heston’s career of playing heroes—such as Moses and El Cid—it’s easy to overlook Dundee’s arrogance and lethal fanaticism and automatically view him as a hero.

If he is indeed that, he is a hero with serious flaws.

And his self-imposed mission poses questions for us today:

  • Where is the line between professional duty and personal fanaticism?
  • How do we balance the success of a mission against its potential costs—especially if they prove appalling?
  • At what point—if any—does personal conscience override professional obligations?

Whether intentionally or not, in Major Dundee, Peckinpah laid out a microcosm of the American history that would immediately follow the Civil War.

Former Confederates and Unionists would forego their regional animosities and fight against a recognized mutual enemy—the Indians. This would prove a dirty and drawn-out war, stripped of the glory and (later) treasured memories of the Civil War.

Just as Dundee’s final battle with French lancers ended with an American victory won at great cost, so, too, would America’s forays into the Spanish-American War and World Wars 1 and 11 prove the same.

Ben Tyreen’s commentary on the barbarism of French troops (“Never underestimate the value of a European education”) would be echoed by twentieth-century Americans uncovering the horrors of Dachau and Buchenwald.

And America would learn to project its formidable military power at great cost. Toward the end of the movie, Teresa Santiago (Senta Berger), the ex-patriot Austrian widow, would ask Dundee: “But who do you answer to?

It is a question that still vividly expresses the view of the international community as this superpower colossus hurtles from one often-disastrous conflict to the next.

WHY FASCISTS WIN AND LIBERALS LOSE

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on October 16, 2017 at 10:32 pm

It was September 26, 1960. The date of the first—and now legendary—Presidential debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon.

Robert F. Kennedy, who was managing his brother’s campaign, offered some blunt but effective debate-prep advice: “Kick him in the balls, Jack.”

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John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy

As a result, Kennedy came out fighting—and stayed on the offensive throughout the debate. At one point, he said flat-out that the United States should overthrow the year-old Cuban regime of Fidel Castro.

Nixon knew there was a secret CIA plan under way to do just that, but couldn’t afford to say so in public. So he came out hard against such a proposal, saying it would alienate American allies throughout the Caribbean.

Nixon had been warned by Henry Cabot Lodge, his Vice Presidential running mate, to tone down his “assassin image.”

During the 1950s, as a colleague of Red-baiting Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, Nixon had made himself immune from the damning charge of “soft on Communism.”

And yet, pitted against a surprisingly aggressive Kennedy, he came off as decidedly second-best in standing up to the successor of Joseph Stalin.

The Kennedy-Nixon Debate

Commentators generally agreed that Nixon lost that first debate—the most-watched of the four. And it may have proved fatal to his electoral chances that year.  

Kick him in the balls, Jack.

It’s advice that someone should have given to President Barack Obama. Not just before his October 3, 2012 debate with Mitt Romney, the Republican Presidential candidate, but at the start of his Presidency.

Romney came on strong from the outset and never let up.  He attacked the President relentlessly. And he repeatedly ignored calls by the alleged moderator, Jim Lehrer, to stop because he had exceeded his time-limit.

The Obama-Romney Debate

But, surprisingly, Obama:  

  • Never called out Romney on any of the lies he had aimed at the President throughout more than a year’s worth of campaigning.  
  • Never demanded that Romney produce specifics about the programs he would cut.
  • Never mentioned Bain Capitol, Romney’s private equity firm, as a job-killing corporate predator.  
  • Never attacked Romney for having personal assets in Swiss bank accounts.
  • Never mentioned the infamous “47%” videotape in which Romney contemptuously wrote off almost half of the electorate.

Obama was a supremely decent and rational man. He seemed to believe that if he was decent and reasonable toward his sworn enemies, they, in turn, would treat him the same way.

They didn’t. And Obama repeatedly failed to learn the only possible lesson from it.

As a result, he endured relentless personal insults and the stonewalling of his legislation by Republicans in the House and Senate.

But it did not have to be that way.

More than 500 years ago, Niccolo Machiavelli, the Florentine patriot and statesman, offered this advice in The Prince, his primer on political science:

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Niccolo Machiavelli

From this arises the question whether it is better to be loved than feared, or feared more than loved. The reply is, that one ought to be both feared and loved, but as it is difficult for the two to go together, it is much safer to be feared than loved.  

For it may be said of men in general that they are ungrateful, voluble, dissemblers, anxious to avoid danger and covetous of gain. As long as you benefit them they are entirely yours.  

They offer you their blood, their goods, their life and their children, when the necessity is remote. But when it approaches, they revolt.

And the prince who has relied solely on their words, without making other preparations, is ruined….

And men have less scruple in offending one who makes himself loved than one who makes himself feared.

For love is held by a chain of obligations which, men being selfish, is broken whenever it serves their purpose.

But fear is maintained by a dread of punishment which never fails.

Obama should have put this truth into practice at the start of his administration, through the example of South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson. 

It was Wilson who yelled “You lie!” at the President during his September 9, 2009 health care speech to Congress.

Wilson later apologized, and Rahm Emannuel, Obama’s Chief of Staff, accepted the apology on the President’s behalf.

Instead, Obama could—and should—have sent this directive to all Federal agencies: “If you have to make cutbacks, make them first in the Congressional district of Joe Wilson.” 

When military bases and hospitals and highway projects started disappearing from Wilson’s district, word would have quickly gotten around: Don’t screw with Obama. 

And Republicans would have behaved accordingly.

During the Civil War, General William Tecumseh Sherman said of his Confederate enemies: “They cannot be made to love us, but they may be made to fear us.”

General William Texumseh Sherman

Obama won the election. But, for all his brilliance as a Harvard graduate, he failed to learn and apply this most essential lesson.  

And that failure haunted him throughout his eight-year term.

OUR MOST-LOVED–AND MOST-HATED–PRESIDENTS

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on September 28, 2017 at 12:06 am

Why are some Presidents remembered with affection, while others are detested—or forgotten altogether?

Generally, Presidents who are warmly remembered are seen as making positive contributions to the lives of their fellow Americans and being “people-oriented.”

Among these:

  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Theodore Roosevelt
  • Franklin Roosevelt
  • John F. Kennedy

Among the reasons they are held in such high regard:

  • Abraham Lincoln ended slavery and restored the Union. Although he ruthlessly prosecuted the Civil War, his humanity remains engraved in stories such as his pardoning a soldier condemned to be shot for cowardice: “If Almighty God gives a man a cowardly pair of legs, how can he help their running away with him?”

An iconic photograph of a bearded Abraham Lincoln showing his head and shoulders.

Abraham Lincoln

  • Theodore Roosevelt championed an era of reform, such as creating the Food and Drug Administration and five National Parks. Popularly known as “Teddy,” he even had a toy bear—the teddy bear—named after him.
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt successfully led America through the Great Depression and World War II. He was the first President to insist that government existed to directly better the lives of its citizens: “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

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Franklin D. Roosevelt

  • John F. Kennedy supported civil rights and called for an end to the Cold War. He challenged Americans to “ask what you can do for your country” and made government service respectable, even chic. His youth, charisma, intelligence and handsomeness led millions to mourn for “what might have been” had he lived to win a second term.

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John F. Kennedy

Presidents who remain unpopular among Americans are seen as unlikable and responsible (directly or not) for mass suffering.

Among these:

  • Herbert Hoover
  • Lyndon B. Johnson
  • Richard M. Nixon

Among the reasons they are held in such low regard:

  • Herbert Hoover is still blamed for the 1929 Great Depression. He didn’t create it, but his conservative, “small-government” philosophy led him to refuse to aid its victims. An engineer by profession, he saw the Depression as a machine that needed repair, not as a catastrophe for human beings. This lack of “emotional intelligence” cost him heavily with voters.
  • Lyndon B. Johnson is still blamed as the President “who got us into Vietnam.” John F. Kennedy had laid the groundwork by placing 16,000 American troops there by the time he died in 1963. But it was Johnson who greatly expanded the war in 1965 and kept it going—with hugely expanding casualties—for the next three years. Unlike Kennedy, whom he followed, he looked and sounded terrible on TV. Voters compared LBJ’s Texas drawl and false piety with JFK’s wit and good looks—and found him wanting.

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Lyndon B. Johnson

  • Richard M. Nixon will be remembered foremost as the President who was forced to resign under threat of impeachment and removal from office. Like Herbert Hoover, he was not a “people person” and seemed remote to even his closest associates. Although he took office on a pledge to “bring us together” and end the Vietnam war, he attacked war protesters as traitors and kept the war going another four years. His paranoid fears of losing the 1972 election led to his creating an illegal “Plumbers” unit which bugged the Democratic offices at the Watergate Hotel. And his attempted cover-up of their illegal actions led to his being forced to resign from office in disgrace.

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Richard M. Nixon

Which brings us to the question: How is Donald J. Trump likely to be remembered?

Historian Joachim C. Fest offers an unintended answer to this question in his 1973 bestselling biography Hitler:

“The phenomenon of the great man is primarily aesthetic, very rarely moral in nature; and even if we were prepared to make allowances in the latter realm, in the former we could not.

“An ancient tenet of aesthetics holds that one who for all his remarkable traits is a repulsive human being, is unfit to be a hero.”

Among the reasons for Hitler’s being “a repulsive human being,” Fest cites the Fuhrer’s

  • “intolerance and vindictiveness”;
  • “lack of generosity”; and
  • “banal and naked materialism–power was the only motive he would recognize.”

Fest then quotes German chancellor Otto von Bismark on what constitutes greatness: “Impressiveness in this world is always akin to the fallen angel who is beautiful but without peace, great in his plans and efforts, but without success, proud but sad.”

And Fest concludes: “If this is true greatness, Hitler’s distance from it is immeasurable.”

What Fest writes about Adolf Hitler applies just as brutally to President Trump.

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Donald Trump

Intolerant and vindictive. Lacking generosity. Nakedly materialistic.  

He has:

  • Boasted about the politicians he’s bought and the women he’s bedded—and forced himself on.
  • Threatened his Democratic opponent—Hillary Clinton—with prosecution if he were elected.
  • Slandered entire segments of Americans—blacks, Hispanics, women, journalists, Asians, the disabled, the Gold Star parents of a fallen soldier.
  • Slandered President Barack Obama for five years as a non-citizen, finally admitting the truth only to win black votes.
  • Attacked the FBI and CIA for accurately reporting that Russian President Vladimir Putin had intervened in the 2016 Presidential election to ensure Trump’s victory. 

At this stage, it’s hard to imagine Trump joining that select number of Presidents Americans remember with awe and reverence.

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