How It Is and How It Got This Way (26 Days)

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Our new Supreme Court Justice, Bart O’Kavanaugh, the noted liar, aka the Keg Meister, took a hard line in his first appearance with the court. He said an immigrant who committed a minor crime thirty years ago and did his time is still subject to being locked up. Even his right-wing colleague, Neil Gorsuch, didn’t go that far:

The question in the case was whether the federal authorities must detain immigrants who had committed crimes, often minor ones, no matter how long ago they were released from criminal custody. Justice Kavanaugh said a 1996 federal law required detention even years later, without an opportunity for a bail hearing.

“What was really going through Congress’s mind in 1996 was harshness on this topic,” he said.

But Justice Gorsuch suggested that mandatory detentions of immigrants long after they completed their sentences could be problematic. “Is there any limit on the government’s power?” he asked.

Now we know O’Kavanaugh will take bad behavior seriously even if it happened thirty years ago, as long as it allows him to make life difficult for an immigrant. 

For more ugly truths about the Supreme Court, “How It Is and How It Got This Way (27 Days)”, go here:  An Ingenious Device for Avoiding Thought.

Stay Angry, Get Involved (29 Days)

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David Leonhardt of The New York Times is royally pissed but sees a way forward:

“Decades ago, a businessman built a fortune thanks in large measure to financial fraud. His corrupt gains helped him become famous. He then launched a political career by repeatedly telling a racist lie, about the first black president secretly being an African….”

More at  An Ingenious Device for Avoiding Thought.

Who Gets to Rule a Nation? The Rise of the One-Party State

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A government in which one person has unlimited power is an autocracy. A government in which a small group has a great deal of power is an oligarchy. Unlike an autocracy, there is no requirement that oligarchs have unlimited power. 

Here in the United States, we still have a representative democracy, although lately it’s been veering toward oligarchy. We also have a president who would prefer America as autocracy with himself as the autocrat.

Anne Applebaum has written a long article for The Atlantic that explains the form of government that’s on the rise around the world. Her article is labeled this way:

Polarization. Conspiracy theories. Attacks on the free press. An obsession with loyalty. Recent events in the United States follow a pattern Europeans know all too well.

Whether such governments are autocracies or oligarchies isn’t clear-cut. She suggests “single-party” or “one-party state”. The paragraphs below explain how they work and how their adherents justify them. Reading the article helped me understand the current crisis….

[Continued at An Ingenious Device For Avoiding Thought ]

Are We Near the Bottom Yet?

[Copied from the blog I’m intending to update in the future: An Ingenious Device for Avoiding Thought:]

A minority President who only wants to represent his supporters has nominated a judge to the Supreme Court who has promised to take his revenge on the liberals and progressives he accuses of conspiring to fight his nomination. I bet no judicial nominee in recent American history has displayed a similar lack of judicial temperament during his confirmation hearings. Judge Kavanaugh’s lies and falsehoods may also have set a record.

This means we now have an unfit President who tells lie after lie selecting an unfit judge who won’t tell the truth about his life or his beliefs. We should all believe Kavanaugh, however, when he says he intends to have his revenge. Meanwhile, the Republican majority insists on treating a glorified job interview as if it’s a criminal trial where the defendant must be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Democrats raised relatively few objections when this President nominated a staunch reactionary to the Supreme Court last year. Justice Neil Gorsuch now occupies a seat the Republicans successfully held open for a year, denying Obama’s highly respected nominee, Merrick Garland, a hearing. No women accused Gorsuch of assaulting or otherwise mistreating them. Yet the Republicans blame the Democrats when women do come forward to complain of Kavanaugh’s behavior. Are we near the bottom yet?

For further reading:

Shamus Khan, professor of sociology at Columbia University, explains that Kavanaugh is lying because of his upbringing [The Washington Post]. 

Alexandra Petri asks a rhetorical question in capital letters: “HOW DARE YOU DO THIS TO BRETT KAVANAUGH?” [The Washington Post].

Megan Garber discusses the “pernicious double standards” that protect the privileged from the consequences of their drinking and bad behavior [The Atlantic].

Nathan Robinson analyzes some of Kavanaugh’s testimony in detail and concludes that “this man shouldn’t serve another day as any kind of judge” [Current Affairs]. 

Jennifer Rubin, a conservative columnist, argues that “if we want to protect the Supreme Court’s integrity, Kavanaugh should not be on it [The Washington Post].

Eliot Cohen, professor of strategic studies at Johns Hopkins University, complains that his Republican Party has abandoned conservatism and that’s unfortunate for all of us [The Atlantic].

Even the editors of America, the Jesuit review, explain why the Kavanaugh nomination should be withdrawn [America]:

We continue to support the nomination of judges [who support a “textualist” interpretation of the Constitution]—but Judge Kavanaugh is not the only such nominee available. For the good of the country and the future credibility of the Supreme Court in a world that is finally learning to take reports of harassment, assault and abuse seriously, it is time to find a nominee whose confirmation will not repudiate that lesson.

November 6th, the date of the mid-term election, is only 37 days away. There may still be time to register to vote. You might be able to vote by mail. If we are going to have any checks and balances on the current administration, we need to elect Democrats up and down the ballot.

Okay, one more:

James Fallows explains what the President and Kavanaugh have in common. It isn’t pretty [The Atlantic].

An Ingenious Device for Avoiding Thought

Not having come close to saving the world (since 2012) and finding that, in recent years, this blog has mainly dealt with things I’ve read, I’ve decided to stop posting here, maybe temporarily, maybe permanently.

Instead, I’ll continue to update a blog I’ve had since 2010 called “An Ingenious Device for Avoiding Thought”. Up to now, it’s consisted of brief comments on books I’ve read. I might as well use that blog to discuss other things as well, including other things I’ve read, instead of discussing them here.

Thus, I might discuss these recent articles over there: 

“Scientists Identify Four Personality Types: Sophisticated Psychological Algorithm Confirms That Some People Are Jerks” at The Washington Post

“The Ignorant Do Not Have a Right to an Audience” (on TV, in college lecture halls or elsewhere) at The New York Times

“Are We All ‘Harmless Torturers’ Now?” also at The New York Times

“Civility as a Reciprocal Public Virtue” at 3 Quarks Daily

“My Modest Proposal for Solving the ‘Meaning of Life Problem’ — and Reducing Global Conflict” at Scientific American.

I could discuss them over there, but probably won’t.

If you’re interested in following An Ingenious Device, or just want to give it a look, please click here.

A Brief Note On What May Happen

Jasmin Mujanović, a political scientist, wrote the following on Twitter yesterday:

Assume for a second that the US is in the midst of a constitutional crisis (it is). Notice how the stores are still open, your bus completed its usual route and the game is still on? That’s what makes genuine crises terrifying, because they (co)exist for so long within our normal expectations of life.

They continue to do so all up until the point that they don’t. When the news is no longer something you can turn off, when it’s on your street, at your kid’s school, in your community, it’s too late for “resistance”. Then it’s largely a matter of individual survival.

That’s why both scholars of authoritarianism/sectarianism and/or survivors of such regimes have implored you to organize and inform yourself now, when it is still “normal”, when it’s still “someone else’s” child, when it’s a question of archaic rules of order.

The last two days have brought credible allegations of major dysfunction and crisis within the US government. There are fundamental questions regarding the integrity/legitimacy of the 2016 election. It’s unclear what, if any, steps have been taken to secure the mid-terms.

The fact that it is unclear who is genuinely in charge, what the civilian/military chain of command is, what would happen in event of a major security crisis, suggests the situation has already catastrophically deteriorated.

Until there is a concerted and consistent civil society and Congressional effort to restore accountability and leadership in the White House, it is difficult to see any of this ending without major instability of the sort unlike anything Americans have seen in generations and possibly ever.

Mr. Mujanović is probably too pessimistic. Somehow the federal government will continue to muddle through despite having a dangerously unfit person in charge of the Executive branch and a supine majority in charge of the Legislative. But there is no guarantee.

That’s why it is crucial that the Democrats take at least one house of Congress in the upcoming election. If that happens, at least half of Congress will once again take on its constitutional role and operate as an equal branch of the government. 

The midterm election is only 61 days away. We all need to do what we can in order to elect Democrats up and down the ballot. We need to encourage all reasonable people to register and vote. That’s how we can begin to address the current crisis,  restore some sanity to the federal government and avoid the dark future Mr. Mujanović fears.