Americans care about our history

When a high ranking politician offhandedly calls a history book “fact free”, we have a problem.

The 137 year old American Historical Association points out that we care about knowing the truth when it comes to learning about history. This is true across all political persuasions, sex, age, race or other distinctions. Multiple sources confirm that we care about knowing the facts when it comes to learning history. Even people who are inclined to ignore facts and data in other fields like science, medicine and social programs still care about facts when it comes to history.

Nine states under Republican governments have already passed laws that restrict the teaching of historically accurate history when the true history would cause upset or division in some people. Republican governments in 17 more states are considering passing similar laws.

This week Texas state government took it a step further and pushed for the cancellation of a book signing and lecture event about a new history book published by accomplished historians. Ironically, a core theme in this new history book is how our modern culture has distorted the historical facts over time to suit our currents needs. When a high ranking politician offhandedly calls a history book “fact free”, we have a problem. That’s exactly what happened here. Texas state government is actively supporting propaganda and repressing the historical truths.

We’ve made a joke about the saying “Facts and data have a liberal bias”. But I’ve never really considered that well documented facts about American history would actually be so blatantly opposed by modern American governments. More often now we hear different versions of the theme ‘we will believe what we want you believe and make enemies of those who prove us wrong’.

To some of us accustomed to free thought and free access to academic learning, this Orwellian government action seems shocking, like something out of a sci-fi movie. I am quite surprised myself that I am writing something like this in 2021 in the United States of America. Where do we go from here?

Memorial

Today I’m thinking about three Vietnam war veterans who influenced my thinking years ago. All three suffered mental health collapses in the war. It might’ve been drugs or chemicals or traumatic brain injury or (I suspect) a combination of these. But the point is they left here as normal kids and came back and never recovered their lives. Two of them spent a substantial part of their lives living on the street. As far as I know all have died since. As a young adult I remember having the opinion that every town in America had at least one brain injured veteran living on the street downtown. I tried to be kind but not patronizing. It hurt to see how they were teased and mocked by younger kids who had not lived during war time. I had already adopted my pacifist beliefs as a child and knew that I would never serve in the military. That has never been a popular decision and I assume it never will be. But I will never forgive my government for what it did to these boys and then abandoned them in the street.

The craziness around us

The most important person in the Republican Party today is Donald Trump.
The most important thing Donald Trump has to talk about today is how the bizarre QAnon-led search for bamboo fibers in Arizona ballots is going to put him back in the White House. We know that a good number of our friends and neighbors will believe whatever lies he says. So how do we move forward from here?

This cartoon by Kevin Kallaugher seems to sum it up.

The New Bipartisanship

The new American bipartisanship means eliminating the unconstitutional power of minority rulers to oppose the will of the majority of Americans.

Republicans lawmakers in both the House and Senate guarantee us – again and again – that no matter how popular actions are with Americans, they will continue to receive zero votes in Congress. This is the same result – but in reverse – as we saw in the last Congress where Republicans would vote against the will of voters again and again despite the clear will of the majority of Americans.

The current Congress’ legislative actions – including what is already passed (like the Rescue Plan) and what is now proposed (like the infrastructure Plan)- are among the most popular laws that we have seen in our lifetime. This is very important. It is worth repeating. Never before in our lives have we seen such popular national laws. The majority of ordinary people actually like what’s happening in DC this year!

The resulting action plan of our national leaders is simple:

1) Continue to build consensus among the people no matter what party (like Biden was doing in deep Republican Louisiana territory yesterday), and

2) Fix the broken provisions in Congress not part of the Constitution that allow for a minority of mostly rich white men to control the interests of the majority of Americans of all parties and Affiliations. Both the filibuster and super majority must go as relics of the past that only block and oppress the will of the majority of Americans today.

For me personally, this is exciting. i’ve been on a lifelong progressive mission to end minority rule in our government. Mostly, it’s even a losing battle. Never have we bso close to making the concept of rule by the majority of people a reality.

Will it be easy to accomplish majority rule government? No way.

Will minority rulers fight back? Definitely.

Will there be violence in the streets? Probably.

Will the fight for self-determination by the majority be successful? I’m well aware that most of the smartest commenters (like Thomas Friedman’s widely published opinion on Tuesday) warn us that it will not.

Our most basic principle of self governance is on the line. It looks like it’s survival is a matter of acting now or never.

The proliferation of lies and ignorance

Each passing day and each occurring event brings out more revelations of ignorance and wildly successful intentional propaganda. It seems ridiculously easier to get the majority of people to believe a falsehood than it is to encourage them to learn facts. The desire to distinguish facts from opinion seems to be critically low, an understanding of the value of doing so minimized, while the desire to promote one’s opinion seems to be at an incredibly high level.

We are seeing this effect again right now today and this week over the National Defense Authorization Act, the COVID relief act and the Consolidated Appropriations Act where you’ll find a wide range of misinformation today. It is especially frustrating to me when a media calls themselves “news” but actually allows unedited and incorrect commentary by anchors. Likewise, people who call themselves “professionals” who have apparently not evolved past the point of having a process to differentiate reliable from unreliable information. It seems clear that commercial media understands the economic value of disinformation. Of course, those aspiring to political power understand the power of propaganda.

That’s not to say that we don’t all occasionally make a mistake. Nor does it mean that we don’t all sometimes engage in deliberate propaganda. But that’s entirely different from not having developed an internal cognitive process that will lead to differentiating facts from propaganda or opinion and recognize the importance and value of doing so.

It is normal to wonder if this problem always existed and how we handled it before. Virtually all of recorded history indicates that ignorance of the masses was a constant force in society. But nowhere in mankind’s history has the democratization of free information flow through the internet raised the power of ignorance and propaganda to the level it is today. in the past we could easily ignore and step over the smelly problem. That’s not so easy today.

I conclude that thee future of mankind looks dimmer because of the empowerment f this form of widespread mental laziness.

How to end minority rule government in the United States

I’m writing this hours after the minority government packed the Supreme Court with a Justice who is not supported by the majority of Americans. We had one simple and effective tool to use to prevent minority rule government that does these despicable things. We failed to use our right to vote effectively in 2016 and 2018. Our failure as U.S. voters directly led to this poor result. Legal scholars predict this will hurt the average American, especially women and non-white people, for generations to come.

Will we fail to use our power to vote in preventing minority rule government again in 2020? This is how U.S. voting looks by the numbers:

257 million are eligible to vote

240 million are registered to vote

150 million are likely to vote (a high side estimate)

60 million have already voted (a week before the deadline)*

It’s easy to conclude that the 90 million who do not vote (registered but not voting) who are primarily responsible for enabling the minority party to continue to control the majority of us and govern in ways that harm the majority of us. The encouraging thing, statisticians tell us, is that we don’t need to change the behavior of all 90 million. Just getting 1 in 100 of these non-voters to cast a ballot would end minority rule government in the United States federal government. Even in the most lopsided local voting districts, getting 1 in 10 non-voters to cast a ballot would displace most minority governments.

The big unanswered question is whether this year’s final vote count will still result in the over-representation of older white voters relative to their share of the population or whether we see more equal rates of voter turnout across all voter groups. I’m guessing that nothing has really changed and that minority rule will continue in many parts of the country.

My own work and financial support in recent years has focused on supporting increasing the number of votes, rather than support parties or candidates. We’ve made some progress but we must do better.

Only by increasing voter participation can we get rid of this destructive and cruel system of minority rule in government. Few things in our lives are this simple and this clear. We are sick of government by rich old white men. I will continue to do my best to end this broken system by encouraging more people to vote. That’s our only hope.


* early voting number per Axios estimate yesterday. Other voter data was reported by USA Today this week.

Why I conclude that the 2016 Election Result is Invalid Based on the Republican Senate Intelligence Report on Russian Interference

The Senate Intelligence Committee conducted an investigation on Russian interference in the 2016 election. At the conclusion of the investigation the Republican Senators issued a five volume report in pieces and at various dates over the past few years. The report received relatively little attention due to the busy news cycle headlines.

Because Republicans control the Senate, the Senate Intelligence Committee is led by Republicans who controlled the release of the report. We presume that Republicans have no motivation to publicize the report findings or act on their findings in a way that might hurt Trump’s chances of re-election.

The full text of the first volume of the Senate report is available online here. Volume 2 is here. Volume 3 is here. Volume 4 is here. Volume 5 is available here.

This blog post summarizes the findings of the report. I wrote this summary so that I would have a clear basis of recall the findings of the Senate report. In this age where facts are deliberately blurred for political purposes and memory is less than perfect, this is important. My notes and quotations are based almost entirely on writings of Heather Cox Richardson. The notes support my overall conclusion.

VOLUME 1 – RUSSIA DID ACCESS THE U.S. ELECTION SYSTEM

Russians successfully breached U.S. election system security in 2016. “Russian intelligence obtained and maintained access to elements of multiple U.S. state or local electoral boards,” but the Department of Homeland Security “assesses that the types of systems Russian actors targeted or compromised were not involved in vote tallying.” The section on Russian attacks on voting machines is almost entirely redacted so we still do not know those details.

VOLUME 2 – RUSSIAN GOALS TO HELP TRUMP AND THE OTHER METHODS OF INTERFERENCE USED

Russians “sought to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election by harming Hillary Clinton’s chances of success and supporting Donald Trump at the direction of the Kremlin” and “in 2016, Russian operatives… used social media to conduct an information warfare campaign designed to spread disinformation and societal division in the United States. Masquerading as Americans, these operatives used targeted advertisements, intentionally falsified news articles, self-generated content, and social media platform tools to interact with and attempt to deceive tens of millions of social media users in the United States. This campaign sought to polarize Americans on the basis of societal, ideological, and racial differences, provoked real world events, and was part of a foreign government’s covert support of Russia’s favored candidate in the U.S. presidential election.”

VOLUME 3 – U.S. GOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO ELECTION INTERFERENCE

How the elected U.S. government responded to the intelligence reports of Russian attacks on our election.

VOLUME 4 – U.S. INTELLIGENCE AGENCY RESPONSE

The methods and findings of the Intelligence Community are investigated, supported and justified.

VOLUME 5 – RUSSIAN CONNECTIONS WITHIN THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN

Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort was actively working with a Russian intelligence officer who was a longtime business associate in Ukraine.

CONCLUSION

The Republican Senate report does not conclude that the results of the 2016 presidential election are invalid. As a user of the Senate report, I do reach that conclusion that the result was invalid.

Blink Review: “The Un-Trumping of America: A plan to make America a democracy again” by Dan Pfeiffer

This is a review of the Blinkist text and audio of “The Un-Trumping of America: A plan to make America a democracy again” by Dan Pfeiffer. This is the summary excerpt:

“Despite everything that Donald Trump has done during his time in the White House, he’s not the biggest threat to American democracy. Dan Pfeiffer believes that the Republican party as a whole – now thoroughly shot through with “Trumpism” – is a much greater and longer-term threat. The Democratic party needs to respond to this threat with fresh energy and ambitious, visionary plans.

Actionable advice: 

Get involved in politics.

It’s tempting to feel disillusioned by politics – or that you’re too insignificant to make a difference. Well, now is frankly not the time to feel like that. There are all sorts of steps you can do to support change in the political process, from proudly expressing your political affiliations online to donating money. Don’t forget – the presidency isn’t the only show in town. So much politics happens on a smaller scale than that: there’s always something to get involved with. Could you even run for office yourself?”

One of the author’s strongest positions is that the damage done to the Supreme Court by denying Justice Garland will cause a loss of public respect and support by Americans for decades to come. He feels this requires a retaliatory and corrective action. He lists possible corrections for this and the other damaging actions to ensure that this cannot ever happen to us again.

I am now clear that my most effective contribution is offering accounting and governance services to organizations that can make a difference. I helped launch a handful of new nonprofit groups this past year, also launched a political action committee and acted as campaign treasurer to three candidates. I’ve ruled out running as a candidate myself. The projects I’m most concerned about focus on educating and registering voters for mail-in balloting. I’ve distanced myself from Trump supporters and would not knowingly support, serve, hire or allow a Trump supporter as a guest in my home or businesses.

Making sure that my Republican Party can never allow this to happen again by registering and enrolling more voters in mail-in voting options is the best thing I can do as the first step on this long road to recovery.