Corruption

Objective journalism is one of the main reasons American politics has been allowed to be so corrupt for so long. You can’t be objective about Nixon. How can you be objective about [Bill] Clinton? … If you consider the great journalists in history, you don’t see too many objective journalists on that list. H. L. Mencken was not objective. Mike Royko, who just died. I. F. Stone was not objective. Mark Twain was not objective. I don’t quite understand this worship of objectivity in journalism. Now, just flat-out lying is different from being subjective. — “Writing on the Wall – An Interview with Hunter S. Thompson”, Matthew Hahn, The Atlantic, August 26, 1997.

Yes, I intend to have an epigram for each of my blog entries … and wherever possible, the epigrams shall be quotes from Hunter S. Thompson, a man who appeared insane and out of control (and who may very well have been in most ways), but in terms of his scathing journalism, he might also have been the most brutally honest writer of the 20th century. Very often, He Speaks Truth, and it’s startlingly common to find that something he said or wrote 20 or 40 years ago is just as true today (if not more so) as when he wrote it.

Now, I’m going to insert another quote here, not as an epigram, but to put the topic of today’s sermon In Your Face:

[W]e now conclude that independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption. … The fact that speakers may have influence over or access to elected officials does not mean that these officials are corrupt: “Favoritism and influence are not . . . avoidable in representative politics. It is in the nature of an elected representative to favor certain policies, and, by necessary corollary, to favor the voters and contributors who support those policies. It is well understood that a substantial and legitimate reason, if not the only reason, to cast a vote for, or to make a contribution to, one candidate over another is that the candidate will respond by producing those political outcomes the supporter favors. Democracy is premised on responsiveness.” McConnell, 540 U. S., at 297 (opinion of KENNEDY, J.). … The appearance of influence or access, furthermore, will not cause the electorate to lose faith in our democracy. By definition, an independent expenditure is political speech presented to the electorate that is not coordinated with a candidate. … The fact that a corporation, or any other speaker, is willing to spend money to try to persuade voters presupposes that the people have the ultimate influence over elected officials. … [I]ndependent expenditures do not lead to, or create the appearance of, quid pro quo corruption. In fact, there is only scant evidence that independent expenditures even ingratiate. — Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, No. 08-205, 558 U.S. 310 (2010), opinion of KENNEDY, J., speaking for the Court, emphasis mine.

The United States Supreme Court ruling on the Citizens United case startled and shocked not only most Americans, but most political observers around the world. Anyone who’s paid any attention to any form of politics anywhere in the world recognizes that there always is, and always will be, some corruption. It takes a certain level of ego to run for office, and it’s not a big step to go from “I certainly deserve to hold office!” to “I certainly deserve to have my palms greased!” As long as any person holds any amount of power, there will be others who will seek to influence that person to use their power for the benefit of those others. And those others will offer compensation to that person to exert that influence; usually money, but sometimes it’s trade goods, promises of more powerful positions later, offering the services of prostitutes, you name it.

Even in the United States of America, a nation founded on the highest principles, whose Constitution has been the basis for the constitutions of just about every other nation on the Earth, there is corruption. And Americans know there is corruption. Not many speak openly about it, but get anyone talking about politics in a private setting, and it won’t take long  before corruption is brought up. Sometimes someone will say “our side is fine, it’s only the other side who’s corrupt,” but even those people will admit, if only to themselves, that their side is corrupt as well.

Now, you can argue whether efforts should be made to discourage corruption (knowing that we’ll never be able to eliminated it completely). And you can argue what specific efforts could or should be made to reduce corruption.

What was so startling about the Citizens United majority decision written by Justice Anthony Kennedy was that he demonstrated something that was wither a woeful degree of naivete, or a towering falsehood, a lie such as has never been lied before, a lie so transparent that no one could believe that anyone else could believe such a thing. But there it is, right there, on page 42 of the Court’s released judgment: “independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.”

In this setting, “independent expenditures” meant, not donations given directly to a candidate or to their political party or campaign, but rather, spending that went elsewhere. The specific item in this court case was a 30-minute purported “documentary” about Hillary Clinton (then Democratic Senator for New York and 2008 presidential candidate), which was to have been shown for free as a “video on demand” via various cable TV companies. This “independent expenditure” violated the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill (officially the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002). But the Citizens United group appealed to the US Supreme Court, claiming the Act’s provisions violated their right to freedom of speech and expression.

But here came Justice Kennedy, backed by Chief Justice Roberts, and Justices Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito, and Clarence Thomas, telling us with blank faces that “Oh no, ‘independent expenditures’ like this would NEVER lead to corruption, or even the APPEARANCE of corruption!”

Well, guess what. That’s bullshit. Pure, grade A, organic, finest kind organic fertilizer. There have  been many, many, MANY examples in the last six years. But a Wednesday piece in The Guardian clearly exposes probably the single most clear-cut example, which no self-respecting person could possibly argue against.

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker speaks at the the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition Forum in Des Moines

Scott Walker has been the Republican governor of Wisconsin since January 2011. He has taken many drastic actions to reshape the state to match his desires, bashing unions, slashing government expenditures including public service salaries, while also rewarding big business in various ways. Voters in Wisconsin launched an effort to recall him from the post in 2012, but he managed to survive that vote 53-46%, a margin slightly than the margin with which he won the governorship in 2010 (52-46%).

But when the recall campaign began,Walker was scared. How was he going to raise the money for this campaign, so soon after his actual election to the post? Well, he asked his “people”, who told him “Corporations. Go heavy after them to give. Take Koch’s money. Get on a plane to Vegas and sit down with Sheldon Adelson. Ask for $1m now.” Straight from one of over 1,500 leaked emails obtained by The Guardian. And sure enough, money started flowing in. One $10,000 check from one financier had, handwritten in the “Memo” field, “Because Scott Walker asked”.

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The money didn’t go straight to Scott Walker. It did not go to his political party or to his official campaign apparatus. It went as “dark money”, to a group that doesn’t have to disclose its donors. These “dark money” groups aren’t supposed to co-ordinate their donations in any way with candidates or their campaigns. Justice Kennedy said so explicitly in the Citizens United decision: “By definition, an independent expenditure is political speech presented to the electorate that is not coordinated with a candidate.” [emphasis mine]

But guess what? This money from this dark money group was perfectly co-ordinated with the candidate’s efforts to avoid recall. There’s no way I can do justice to the whole story, and the whole article, here in my blog. You can go follow that link and read the whole story, and become convinced yourself that what Kennedy said was either inexcusably disingenuous, or it was a case of him lying through his teeth to the American people.

So. No wonder Americans’ only real choices for President this year are someone who is a pawn of Wall Street, and someone who is a clown on Wall Street. Are you happy with this? Do you think this is A Good Thing? Or do you worry, as I do, that this is yet one more reason #WhyAmericaIsDoomed if enough Americans don’t stand up to fight against the corruption that makes American government a government of the dollar, by the dollar, and for the dollar?

 

Blowback

Make no mistake about it: We are At War now — with somebody — and we will stay At War with that mysterious Enemy for the rest of our lives.It will be a Religious War, a sort of Christian Jihad, fueled by religious hatred and led by merciless fanatics on both sides. It will be guerrilla warfare on a global scale, with no front lines and no identifiable enemy. … Fewer than 20 unarmed Suicide soldiers from some apparently primitive country somewhere on the other side of the world took out the World Trade Center and half the Pentagon with three quick and costless strikes on one day. … We are going to punish somebody for this attack, but just who or what will be blown to smithereens for it is hard to say. Maybe Afghanistan, maybe Pakistan or Iraq, or possibly all three at once. Who knows? — Hunter S. Thompson, “Fear and Loathing in America”, Hey Rube, ESPN.com, September 12, 2001

I’m remembering a terrorist attack today.

It was an attack at the very heart of a Very Important, Very Powerful nation. The aggrieved nation was Very Angry at the other nation which had harbored the assassins, and attacked that other nation in order to root out the terrorists. Sadly, the whole thing escalated into a terrible, lengthy conflict that cost millions of lives, and in the end, many more years later than anyone had anticipated, that Very Important, Very Powerful nation existed no longer.

Oh, you thought I was talking about 9/11?

Nope. Hunter S. Thompson in my epigram was talking about 9/11, but I was talking about 6/28. 9/11 was a very important day in world history, certainly one of the most if not THE important and pivotal days in the last half-century. I know this is an important and serious and traumatic anniversary for millions of Americans. I have no intention of minimizing this horrible attack, its anniversary, or the consequences that we continue to feel today. But I think it’s also important that we talk about one of the most, if not THE most, important and pivotal days in the preceding half-century, and that is 6/28.

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To be exact, June 28, 1914. The Very Important, Very Powerful nation to which I referred on that day was the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Together with the then-recently-united German Empire, they controlled Central Europe and wielded enormous influence not only over all of Europe, but much of the world as well. And around the turn of the 20th century, an arms race was going on, with the German and Austro-Hungarian armies and navies frantically building to be able to be the equal of those of Britain, France, and russia.

What happened on 6/28? Well, let’s back up a bit. What used to be Yugoslavia — now Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, and Kosovo — had mostly been part of the Ottoman Empire or the Austro-Hungarian Empire (or sometimes one after the other). By 1914, Austria-Hungary possessed Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia; Serbia (then including Macedonia and Kosovo) and Montenegro were independent. The “fires of nationalism” were burning bright in Europe; for example, Bulgaria had recently gained independence from the Ottomans. And Serbian people, both in independent Serbia and in occupied Bosnia (home of a mixture of people who called themselves Serbs, Croats, or Bosniaks), were at least as fiery in their nationalist desires as any other European people.

1901 saw the genesis of what we might today call a “terrorist group” known as “the Black Hand” (Црна рука/Crna ruka). It started with a group of army officers of the Kingdom of Serbia who wanted to see a united southern Slav nation (i.e. Yugoslavia). By 1914, they had affiliated themselves with “Young Bosnia”, a student-led and Serb-led independence movement within Bosnia.

June 28 is a very important anniversary for Serbs. In 1389, Serbs were fighting the invading Ottomans in the Battle of Kosovo. Both armies were almost wiped out, but the Ottomans had more troops in the rest of the empire, and all of what is now Yugoslavia soon fell under Ottoman rule. But during the battle, a Serb knight pretended to defect to the Ottomans, and then managed to assassinate Ottoman Sultan Murad Hüdavendigâr. This heroic act has been commemorated ever since by Serbs. And in 1914, members of Young Bosnia, co-ordinated by Bosnian Serb and Black Hand member Danilo Ilić,  decided that June 28, 1914, would be the day to assassinate the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

The Archduke had been ordered by his uncle Emperor Franz Joseph to inspect military maneuvers in Bosnia, and so he and his wife Sophie went to Sarajevo (the capital of Bosnia). On the fatal day, they were in an open convertible as part of a motorcade driving from the train station to a military barracks, and then to Sarajevo town hall. Six would-be assassins lined the Appel Quay road (now Obala Kulina bana) by the Miljacka River. Two failed to act when the motorcade passed, but the third, Nedeljko Čabrinović, threw a hand grenade at the royal couple’s convertible at 1010 in the morning. The grenade bounced off the folded-back convertible’s cover and ended up underneath the car behind the Archduke’s, where it exploded, disabling the car and wounding at least 16 people. The remaining cars sped up to avoid further attacks, passing the other three assassins, who had no time to act.

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At 1045, the motorcade left the town hall, but with a change of plans; they planned to drive to the hospital to visit those injured by the grenade. But one driver didn’t get the change, turned down a side street, tried to turn around, and stalled, bringing the whole motorcade to a halt. Gavrilo Princip, one of the other assassins, had retreated to Schiller’s Delicatessen, hoping to act when the motorcade returned, and it was right outside Schiller’s where the Archduke’s car had stopped. Princip leapt to his feet, and, with an FN Model 10 Browning pistol in .380 ACP, fired twice, hitting Sophie in the abdomen, and Franz Ferdinand in the neck. The car rushed towards the residence of the governor for medical attention, but both the Archduke and the Duchess had died from loss of blood.

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What happened next was eerily paralleled by what happened after the 9/11 attacks. Austria-Hungary angrily issued an ultimatum to Serbia demanding a Serbian investigation and arrest of any co-conspirators, suppression of Serbian military propaganda advocating the destruction of Austria-Hungary, and preventing the smuggling of guns and explosives from Serbia into Austria-Hungary. The rejection of the ultimatum by Serbia led to Europe’s complex system of alliances all mobilizing their military forces, and 30 days after the assassination, on July 28, Austria-Hungary formally declared war on Serbia, and World War I had begun.

If you believe, as I and many historians do, that World War II was essentially “Act 2” of the first Great War, then we can say that this assassination, and Austria-Hungary’s response, was the spark to a powder keg whose explosion let to more than three decades of war, shattering Europe with the deaths of over 40 million people, and setting the stage for  a half-century of “cold war”. Europe in 1914 was hardly a stable place, and if this assasination hadn’t happened, some other spark somewhere else could easily have led to a similar result. But I still have to wonder how things would be different if Austria-Hungary had responded differently to this terrorist attack.

Why is this all important? Because of the reaction of the aggrieved nation (the United States of America) after the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001. The 19 hijackers were almost all from Saudi Arabia, and the leader of al Qaeda, Osama bin Ladin, was also a Saudi. They had gotten their funding from mostly Saudi sources. But Saudi Arabia, since the 1973 oil crisis (triggered in large part by US support for Israel in that year’s Six-Day War), has wielded enormous influence over the United States, thanks to US dependence on oil from Saudi Arabia and other nations in the unofficially-Saudi-led Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Then-US President George W. Bush is part of a rich Texas family whose fortune came from oil. He and his administration certainly weren’t going to give any kind of ultimatums to Saudi Arabia. So instead, they went after Afghanistan, which is where Osama and al Qaeda leadership were in hiding at the time. And later, lying to the world and to Americans (and Britons, thanks to then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair), Bush also went after Iraq, and toppled Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Since that response, Afghanistan and Iraq have devolved into chaos. At least 75,000 people, and as many as 170,000, have died in Afghanistan. At least 600,000 have died in Iraq. Today, a fanatic militant group called the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) or Daesh (Arabic acronym for ad-Dawlah al-Islāmiyah fī ‘l-ʿIrāq wa-sh-Shām/الدولة الإسلامية في العراق والشام‎) has occupied large amounts of territory in Iraq and Syria, and seems determined to create an Islamic caliphate to rule Muslims in the area (and around the world) with terror.

No, the consequences of 9/11 haven’t led to more than a million deaths … yet. Those consequences may never match the toll of the consequences of 6/28. But on this historic anniversary, I think we should still try to learn from the lessons of history on other historic anniversaries, and ask ourselves if we’ve learned anything from history, or if we’re just repeating it.

Transformation and Moral Foundations

The real power in America is held by a fast-emerging new Oligarchy of pimps and preachers who see no need for Democracy or fairness or even trees, except maybe the ones in their own yards, and they don’t mind admitting it. They worship money and power and death. Their ideal solution to all the nation’s problems would be another 100 Year War. — Hunter S. Thompson, Kingdom of Fear: Loathsome Secrets of a Star-Crossed Child in the Final Days of the American Century (2003), “Author’s Note”, p. xxi.

The Republican party, and American conservative politics in general, underwent an enormous transformation between 1964, when Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater was trounced by incumbent Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson, and 1980, when Republican presidential nominee Ronald Reagan trounced incumbent Democratic President Jimmy Carter.

There were a number of different aspects of that transformation that deserve inspection, but the death of Phyllis Schlafly on Monday, September 5, at the age of 92, prompts me to look at the two aspects for which she was arguably the key figure; pushback against women’s rights, and introducing millions of fundamentalist Christians into Republican politics.

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Before 1964, the Republican party had been guided by genteel patrician elites, generally from New England and the Northeast. The last such was George H.W. Bush, who served as Reagan’s vice-president for two terms and then as President himself in 1989-93 before his defeat at the hands of Bill Clinton. While they certainly favored conservative keep-the-rich-rich economic policy, and were just as strong on “defense” and attacking threats to America (i.e. threats to the flow of their income), they also favored fairness in dealing with most Americans. In the civil rights struggles of the 1950s and 1960s, black Americans generally got more support from Republicans like Michigan Governor George Romney than they did from Democrats, whose southern wing was virulently prejudiced against anyone that wasn’t white and Protestant.

1964 is also when Phyllis Schlafly burst on the scene with the publication of her first book, A Choice Not an Echo, which sold more than 3 million copies. While she’d been involved in politics since 1946, her book’s support of Goldwater and denunciation of the Northeast patricians as corrupt “secret kingmakers” was the beginning of the end of that iteration of the GOP. (Although I find Goldwater’s 1994 quote about “preachers get[ting] control of the [Republican] party” highly ironic, considering how critical Schlafly’s influence and rise was in turning southern white fundamentalist Christians into fanatic and dogmatic GOP supporters.)

Schlafly was a well-educated woman, having earned a BA and MA in political science, and later graduating from law school with a JD at the age of 53. Yet many of us today look back at her political stances and the things she said over her life, and we see them as regressive and unjustifiable. Consider these examples:

By getting married, the woman has consented to sex, and I don’t think you can call it rape. — “Schlafly cranks up agitation at Bates”, Sun Journal, 2007.

Sex education classes are like in-home sales parties for abortions. — Schlafly, Feb. 1997.

The atomic bomb is a marvelous gift that was given to our country by a wise God. — Schlafly, “Women are the Best Warmakers”, The Day, 1982.

I find it Very Difficult to read quotes like this and to think anything other than “How stone-ignorant can she possibly be?!” It’s as if the reality she inhabited is fundamentally different than the reality I think I inhabit. (And this apparent disconnection to reality is strengthened when one looks at Phyllis’ son Andrew, and the “Conservapedia” website he created as a “counter” to the “liberal bias” of Wikipedia, and the bald-faced lies and untruths that pepper that site.)

And then I remember Moral Foundations Theory, developed by psychologists Jonathan Haidt and Craig Joseph, and popularized in Haidt’s 2012 book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. Haidt asserts that as much as we think we make decisions with our “rational” minds, we actually tend to make fundamental decisions (including what kinds of politics and faith we accept or reject) based on how strongly we hold any of six “Moral Foundations”, namely Care, Fairness, Liberty, Loyalty, Authority, and Sanctity.

It turns out that while pretty much everyone holds strongly with Care, Fairness, and Liberty (allowing for some differences in meaning and connotation), only self-described conservatives hold Loyalty, Authority, and Sanctity as strongly as the first three. Self-described liberals have those latter three way lower on the scale.

And Schlafly very obviously held strongly to Loyalty, Authority, and Sanctity. Consider her three quotes I listed above.

  • The quote about marital rape comes from a strong belief in respecting Authority; in this case, with the husband as the “authority” in the marriage, who deserves respect from everyone else in the family, especially his wife. Schlafly was unwavering in her projected belief that the “patriarchal order” was necessary to preserve strong families. Who knows how much of this belief was a reaction to her childhood in the depression, when her father was chronically unemployed and her mother was the breadwinner of the family for many years?
  • The quote about sex education and abortion comes from holding Sanctity as a high priority. Conservatives in general, and Schlafly in particular, regularly spoke of anything to do with sex — teaching more comprehensive sex education to children, allowing anyone to use contraception, abortions, homosexuality, and even sex in a “conventional heterosexual” marriage (see the marital rape quote) — with an obvious undertone of disgust for anything outside of a paradigm of “don’t teach your kids anything about sex” and “it’s OK within a heterosexual marriage as long as you’re making babies and not having too much fun.” Whenever you see a conservative speaking against equal rights for LGBTQI people, or even just discussing the topic, you can usually see, quite clearly, disgust on the speaker’s face. (Former Senator and presidential candidate Rick Santorum gave the best “disgust faces” when speaking.)
  • Finally, her quote about the atomic bomb points towards her Loyalty. This moral foundation comes out specifically as a loyalty to one’s own “ingroup”. This “ingroup” can be a nation (hence patriotism or nationalism), a smaller community (region, state, city, neighborhood), an ethnic community (white, black, Latino/a, south Asian, east Asian), or some combination, such as the community of white, conservative, religious, straight Americans who killed the Equal Rights Amendment and gleefully elected Ronald Reagan to the presidency in 1980.

As a Canadian left-winger who lives in the US now, who previously lived in the US in 2008-14, who attends church with a lot of politically conservative people, and who Just Doesn’t Get American conservative politics, I have worked hard to understand American conservatives better. I try not to judge these people as stupid, as tempting as it may be. I try to believe that their intentions are honorable, and that they truly mean well for their nation and for the world. I try to believe that they are informed, aware, and educated when it comes to the world around them.

And then I run up against this sort of thing:

It is long overdue for parents to realize they have the right and duty to protect our children against the intolerant evolutionists. — Schlafly, “Time to End the Censorship,” Dec. 2004.

I’m sorry, but no matter how hard I try, I can not respect people who not only have difficulty accepting and believing reality, but who actively push back against it and have the nerve to accuse those who promote science and new truths of being “intolerant”.

Well, guess what? I’m intolerant of ignorance. I’m intolerant of stupidity. And yes, I have often been ignorant and stupid, and have often done ignorant and stupid things in my life. But I try to find the truth and change my thoughts and behaviors accordingly. One of the most critical problems we have in the world today are people who refuse to accept truth and reality, who actively push back against any advances in science and knowledge, and who enable conspiring people to profit from that ignorance (e.g. tobacco pushers, or “Big Oil” and climate change denial) at the cost of human lives and human dignity.

I have friends who have been able to be kind, or at least charitable, in their responses to Phyllis Schlafly’s passing. They are better people than I. Schlafly spent half a century fighting for patriarchy, war, and ignorance, and against science, truth, women, LGBTQI people, and anyone who didn’t fit her mold. The world is better off without her, and would have been more well off if she’d only stayed quiet or shuffled off this mortal coil decades ago. I’m sorry, but I cannot have any sympathy for someone who didn’t just acquiesce to evil, but who actively fomented and promoted it. Good riddance.

The Story of Hillary and Donald

This may be the year when we finally come face to face with ourselves; finally just lay back and say it — that we are really just a nation of [3]20 million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns, and no qualms at all about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable. — Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 (1973), pp. 413-4, population figure updated.

Three score and seven days from now, a minority of adult citizens of the United States of America will vote for a new President. They’ll also vote for Senators, Representatives, Governors, state representatives and state senators, mayors, city councilors, judges, prosecuting attorneys, and for all I know, dogcatchers. But it’s the presidential race that gets all the attention.

This race is remarkable for the staggering unpopularity of the two main candidates. Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are disliked by about 60% of polled registered voters. Many people, both inside and outside the US, are asking “324 million of you, and these two are the best you could come up with?!”

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Hillary, at least, is a known quantity. If she wins, she will continue along the neo-liberal corporatist path that started in earnest under Ronald Reagan, continued through every succeeding president (including Hillary’s husband and America’s likely first First Gentleman, Bill Clinton), and despite promises of “hope” and “change”, continued to continue under Barack Obama. The rich will get richer, crumbs will be thrown to the poor and middle class (this is how the Democrats distinguish themselves from the Republicans), wars of one sort or another will continue (and will also continue to make the rich even richer), and not much else will change.

But Donald Trump. What to say about Donald Trump? First, the only known quantity about Trump is his ego, which is about the size of one of the gas giant planets in our solar system. What does he stand for? We don’t know. He has flip-flopped so much over the last three decades — hell, over the last three months — that it’s impossible to know what he really thinks.

What he excels at, though, is telling a certain group of Americans what they want to hear. There are a LOT of Americans who are Very Very Angry about their lives, and about how they think government and others have hurt them. These are generally white, working-class, less-educated Americans, mostly male. They have seen well-paying manufacturing jobs dry up and become “offshored”. They are poorer than they were two or three decades ago; maybe they earn as many dollars, but everything just costs So Much More. Thanks to ratings-driven local newscasts, they fear violent crime committed by people of color. Thanks to the propaganda network for “The Owners”, i.e. Fox News, they fear any politician who doesn’t toe the Fox News line. They fear illegal immigrants from Mexico and elsewhere who “are taking their jobs”.

And while it’s been a staple of American politics to stoke up fear and then ride the wave into office, Trump is doing so in a manner that is galling even for those who do realise how horrible and evil American politics has always been. Yes, politicians have told lies before to stoke up their audiences. But Trump tells the most bald-faced lies with impunity, even though a quick Google search can prove him wrong within seconds of him uttering the lie. Aided and abetted by the eunuchs in today’s journalism, not to mention the intentional fear-based propaganda of Fox News that’s been shoveled at America now for almost 20 years (happy china anniversary on October 7, Mr. Murdoch), there is a hard core of tens of millions of Americans who now think Trump is the greatest thing since sliced bread. They think that with his business acumen, he would do splendidly in the White House. They think that he will “stand up for the little guy”. They think all his promises will somehow magically not put America that much further into debt.

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One of two things will happen if Donald Trump is elected president. First, he might actually be able to carry out many of his promises. The trick is that if he does do so, he will cripple not only the US economy, but that of the entire planet. Trade deals like NAFTA sure aren’t perfect, but now that they’ve been in place for so long, pulling out or renegotiating will slam the doors shut on two of the biggest international trading relationships in the world. If he follows through on his implications that maybe the US wouldn’t have to pay all its debt, just as he didn’t always have to pay all his debts after one of his businesses went bankrupt, then the real value of US government debt — T-bills and the like — will plummet, dragging every other financial instrument down with it. If he builds that wall along the Mexican border, how on earth is he going to “make” Mexico pay for it? No, those will be American dollars paying for it, and for all the extra Border Patrol agents he’s going to hire, and for all the new larger detention facilities he’ll need.

The second possibility is that he either chooses not to follow through on those promises, or that he is unable to do so (whether due to obstruction from Congress or a simple lack of executive resources). Then, of course, his base will become even angrier. And that base is a higher-than-average population of people who’ve served in the military, who’ve seen combat, who possess and know how to use firearms, and who take literally quotes like Thomas Jefferson’s “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

A final scary thought is that if Hillary Clinton wins, said base might take seriously Trump’s comments that the system is rigged (especially when combined with real evidence that the Democratic Party did indeed rig some of their primaries to ensure that Bernie Sanders would not win the nomination), and they might choose to try a little tree-refreshing in that eventuality, as well.

No matter what happens, the United States of America has been failing most of its people. The American dream is now a never-ending nightmare, people are feeling more and more hopeless, and those who are supposed to “promote the general Welfare and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity” seem to be doing the exact opposite. Of course there are tens of millions who are angry. And that doesn’t even begin to get into why tens of millions of Americans of color are angry at the way they’re treated by their nation, or why hundreds of millions of people in other nations are angry at the way the US has treated them and their nations.

I’ve been using the hashtag #WhyAmericaIsDoomed for a few years now. This is one of the key reasons why. I’ll get into more reasons and more details in upcoming posts.