Why Didn’t the Democrats Stop the Nomination?

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If the Democrats had hammered away at the many lies told by Kavanaugh under oath, they may have stopped the nomination. Flake for one, said lying to Congress would be disqualifying. The Democratic leaders could have made that issue their number one talking point. But they didn’t. So the network news, including PBS, hardly touched on it during the days leading up to the vote.

Why didn’t the Democrats concentrate on the lies? One possibility is that the focus on sexual assault, especially after Trump took the bait and started sympathizing so strongly with men, will bring more women to the polls. So the Democrats prolonged the process to make it more difficult, if not impossible, to appoint another nominee later this year -- a nominee who would likely be even more hard line than Kavanaugh -- and did not attack Kavanaugh forcefully enough to prevent his elevation.

That’s the only explanation for their weakness I can figure and I haven’t seen any other analysis of the question.

If that scenario is accurate and it helps the Democrats next month to win an overwhelming majority in the House -- which can restrain and expose Trump and perhaps prompt him to resign -- were those tactics justified?

What price will we pay? What gains did we lose out on?

The Kavanaugh Nomination: A Symptom

The Kavanaugh Nomination: A Symptom

Sexual assault usually involves the exercise of power grounded in a lack of empathy. As an adolescent, Brett Kavanaugh displayed a serious lack of empathy. As a judge, his opinions have done the same. That lack of empathy disqualifies him from serving on the Supreme Court. But Democrats and Republicans have ignored those issues.

Selfish ambition is our society’s primary problem. The pursuit of power by climbing social ladders is the System’s driving force. One result is the abuse of power.

Two days prior to the Kavanaugh hearing, a New York Times editorial recommended to the Senate Judiciary Committee thirteen critical questions to be posed to Kavanaugh. The Democrats could have made certain that they asked those questions.

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Don’t Feed the Trolls

Don’t Feed the Trolls

A recent public controversy about how Facebook bans content and a June 28 column by Thomas B. Edsall, “Don’t Feed the Troll in the Oval Office,” illustrate the importance of how “racism” is defined.

As reported on September 20, Facebook bans content that affirms “white supremacy,” which it considers a “racist ideology based upon the belief that white people are superior in many ways to people of other races and that therefore white people should be dominant over other races."

But Facebook allows “white nationalism” and “white separation.” Trying to take into account how their policies impact people around the world (such as the Zionist movement in Israel and the Basque movement in Spain), they believe white nationalism “doesn't seem to be always associated with racism (at least not explicitly.)” Many white nationalist groups say they’re not racist because they don’t consider other races inferior, but merely seek to ensure the survival of the white race and white culture.

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Comments on “The Precariat: Today's Transformative Class?”

Comments on “The Precariat: Today's Transformative Class?”

The September focus of the Great Transition Network forum is an essay by Guy Standing, “The Precariat: Today's Transformative Class?”  Standing’s essay and the comments on the forum address an important issue: economic insecurity. Unfortunately, with one exception, those comments echo Standing’s economic determinism. They neglect the need for personal, social, and cultural transformation that could proceed prior to and concurrent with economic transformation.  

Standing’s proposed solution is to impose taxes on profits from the use of common resources --”natural, social, civil, cultural, and intellectual” -- and use that revenue to guarantee everyone a basic income. He argues that approach “would enhance personal and ‘republican’ freedom..., provide [insecure workers] with basic security, and strengthen social solidarity.”

Economic security is essential. But toward what end?

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Racism: Language Matters

Racism: Language Matters

Racism -- the belief that a particular race is inherently superior -- is thoroughly interwoven into our social system. It’s a prime example of how the System nurtures domination and submission. Undoing racism and transforming America will require multi-dimensional personal change as well as social, cultural, and political change.

That work needs to be careful and compassionate. Some change efforts backfire. Clarity about “race,” racism, and systemic racism can help.

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Self-Improvement

Self-Improvement

Most Americans would like to be less judgmental and more compassionate. They’d like to love their “enemies.” They want to engage with others as equals. They know that trying to relieve suffering can be rewarding. When they think deeply about it, Americans realize:

The individual and the community are interwoven. What affects one individual affects every individual.

What serves the individual serves the community, and what serves the community serves the individual.

The Earth is a spaceship and yes, all humanity is in this together.

There’s no irreconcilable conflict between self-interest and community-interest, though there’s often a tension.

Building an effective compassionate, transformative movement will require activists to liberate those innate instincts. As James Baldwin said, “The things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.”

For various reasons, however, most people are not committed to ongoing self-improvement. Instead, they reflect one or more of the following characteristics…..

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Trump the Symptom

Trump the Symptom

Two recent columns in the Times echoed each other on a key aspect of our condition and Trump’s role in it. “The Devil in Steve Bannon” by Frank Bruni features an interview with Oscar-winning documentarian Errol Morris about his new movie, “American Dharma.” Bruni describes the film as “essentially one long, transfixing interview with B:annon.” Morris tells Bruni:

The question is: How resilient is our democracy? Was de Tocqueville right that we would just disappear into silos of self-congratulation and self-interest, or can we hope for something better?

The second column is “How Far America Has Fallen” by Roger Cohen. It concludes:

Trump was a symptom, not a cause. The problem is way deeper than him.

For William Steding, a diplomatic historian living in Colorado, American individualism has morphed into narcissism, perfectibility into entitlement, and exceptionalism into hubris. Out of that, and more, came the insidious malignancy of Trump. It will not be extirpated overnight.

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Why Launch a “Transform the System Network”

Why Launch a “Transform the System Network”

NOTE: Following are some arguments in favor of “A Suggestion.”

Personal, social, cultural, and political transformation are all needed to transform our global society, which is a coherent, self-perpetuating social system, the System.

Agreeing on the broad understanding of the System articulated in “A Suggestion” could help unify a community of various forces who see how their primary issue is connected to other issues.

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Charlottesville, Parkland, and Schlesinger

Charlottesville, Parkland, and Schlesinger

The August 13 “The Daily” podcast from The New York Times, “A Year of Reckoning in Charlottesville,” was disturbing. Though anti-racist protestors now hold most positions of power, including the Mayor’s office, it seems in Charlottesville “the left is eating itself.”

Wanting to find some alternative analysis of Charlottesville one year later, I googled the issue and found very little. But I did find a substantial July 21 Times article,  “Year After White Nationalist Rally, Charlottesville Is in Tug of War Over Its Soul.” That article includes:….

All that indicates the need for new strategies. Fortunately, an August 15 article, “‘Let Us Have a Childhood’: On the Road With the Parkland Activists,” illustrates an alternative…..

The wisdom of that strategy is reinforced by “The High Table Liberal,” a review by Sean Wilentz of a new biography of Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., …

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Notes of an Urban Hermit (627 words)

Notes of an Urban Hermit (627 words)

A Brain Pickings essay about Pema Chodron prompted me to shift my self-image. Some elements in Maria Popova’s post, “When Things Fall Apart,” that hit me hard include:

  • Use fear to dismantle old ways of thinking.

  • Don’t hold on to arrogant ideas.

  • Face unsettlement with openness to possibility.

  • Get the knack of catching yourself.

  • We can be with what’s happening and not dissociate.

  • Awakeness is found in pleasure and pain.

  • Let concepts and ideals fall apart.

  • Loneliness, fear, and feeling misunderstood and rejected is the heartbeat of all things.

  • When we feel ready to give up, healing can be found in the tenderness of pain itself.

  • Only through self-compassion to our own darkness can we offer light to others.

Those affirmations led me to deepen my commitment to drop my 50-year-old identity as a community organizer.,,,

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Transformation

Transformation

Personal,
Social,
Cultural,
Political,
Global
Transformation.
The overwhelming majority of people
In most nations
United,
Grounded in compassion,
Loving themselves as they love others,
Avoiding both self-sacrifice and selfishness,
Treating others as they want to be treated,
Setting aside destructive instincts,
Liberating their higher angels,
Realizing their nation’s highest ideals,
Helping to transform their nation
Into a compassionate community
Dedicated to the common good of
All humanity,
Their own people,
The environment,
And life itself --

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“Your Privilege is Showing”

“Your Privilege is Showing”

Mutual support for self-development can be risky (as well as valuable). Phoebe Maltz Bovy addresses some of the dangers in The Perils of “Privilege,” Why Injustice Can’t Be Solved by Accusing Others of Advantage. In her extensive, important, informative, and disturbing review, Bovy evaluates the “call-out culture” -- a recent explosion that’s commonly reflected in the charge, “Your privilege is showing.” Her observations suggest more effective ways to nurture personal growth and political action.

Privilege -- whether “earned,” gained by birth or luck, or granted arbitrarily -- is an advantage held by a particular person or group. Bovy affirms “admirable self-awareness of advantage” and agrees with Roxanne Gay’s statement: “If you cannot recognize your privilege, you have a lot of work to do; get started.” But she strongly criticizes most efforts to increase privilege awareness.


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Reflections on “How Do We Get There?”

Reflections on “How Do We Get There?”

The most popular topic recently on the Great Transitions Network forum was “How Do We Get There? The Problem of Action.” In their 45 comments, the contributors made many points that grabbed me, sharpened my thinking, or introduced me to new ideas about how to advance global transformation. Some of the comments with which I agree are posted here.

However, the forum disregarded the emotional world. Words such as “feelings” and “emotions” were rarely used. Merely influencing thinking is insufficient. Feelings shape ideas. Progressive activists need to learn how to connect on deep emotional levels.

More specifically, from my perspective, the discussion was weak with regard to open-ended mutual support for personal transformation.. As Asoka Bandarage has said, "Transformation of the self and the society are inseparable.”

There were some exceptions to that neglect of emotions….

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GT Nuclear Disarmament Discussion

GT Nuclear Disarmament Discussion

…I found the following statements in the lead essay to be particularly compelling:

  • Nuclear weapons, unique in their power and capacity for destruction, pose an existential threat to humanity.

  • ...celebrating technological achievement, serves to keep the nuclear arms race alive.

  • The only way to change direction is to build a strong popular movement,...

  • The nuclear abolition movement must join with other movements seeking systemic global change…,

  • Change ultimately begins with individuals.

Seeking a movement focused on nurturing the Beloved Community and believing "transformation of the self and the society are inseparable," as Asoka Bandarage put it (see “A Holistic Masterpiece”), I submitted the following comment to the Great Transitions forum.

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Great Transition Initiative: A Beacon of Positivity

Great Transition Initiative: A Beacon of Positivity

Discovering folks like Asoka Bandarage who affirm holistic, systemic transformation is heartening (see “A Holistic Masterpiece”). It’s even more rewarding to find the Great Transition Initiative (GTI), a large network whose members engage in thoughtful online dialog. These efforts counter the divisiveness that’s spreading like a plague throughout society.

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The Power of Yes

The Power of Yes

Positive words benefit the brain. As reported by Andrew Newberg, M.D. and Mark Waldman,” thinking, hearing, speaking, and reading positive messages lowers stress and helps people respond quickly, deal with problems, live longer, develop satisfying relationships, be flexible, and become more caring.


An intuitive awareness of those recent scientific discoveries may have contributed to these historical events.

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Undermine Trump with Love

Undermine Trump with Love

The word civil has many meanings. Trump critics who recommend civility don’t counsel patience, deny righteous anger, or oppose all disruption. To say they do is to attack a straw man.

But they do reject demonizing. One synonym for civility is respect. That’s what they mean. They recommend respecting opponents’ essential humanity.

Critics of civility who call on the moral authority of Dr. King usually do so selectively, while neglecting key elements of his philosophy. According to the King Center:

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Civility, Racism, and the Red Hen

Civility, Racism, and the Red Hen

The civility controversy is disheartening. Name-calling may lead to a Republican victory in 2018, and help re-elect Trump in 2020.

On June 28, Thomas B. Edsall posted “Don’t Feed the Troll in the Oval Office,” an extremely important piece. According to Edsall, Trump’s provocations are calculated and could work, aided by liberals who take the bait.

Edsall reports that most Democrats believe opposition to immigration is racist, whereas “Trump’s tactics are based on the conviction of many of his voters that opposition to immigration is not a form of racism. They deeply resent being called racist for anti-immigrant views they consider patriotic and, indeed, principled.” Those supporters do not consider non-Europeans essentially inferior, which they acknowledge would be racist. Rather, they merely prefer to preserve the nation’s character, as other communities have sought to preserve their character, which they do not consider racist.

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Paying the Price for Unity

Paying the Price for Unity

Americans are self-centered and fragmented. Until an overwhelming majority of Americans commit to the common good, unite, and stay united, we face a terrible future.

What’s in it for me. You can be whatever you want to be. Someone must always be in charge. Winning is everything. My people, we have the answer. Those are key beliefs in the American credo.

Until Americans set aside those beliefs, drop their abstract ideologies, and push for concrete improvements in unison, we face a terrible future.

Change agents must change themselves as well as the world. If we learn to avoid divisive behaviors, we’ll be able to transform this nation into a compassionate community dedicated to the common good of all humanity, ourselves, the environment, and life itself.

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Transform the World: Let Compassion Be Our Guide

Transform the World: Let Compassion Be Our Guide

The world is being torn apart by a struggle between love and hate. If hate prevails, life as we know it will perish. If love wins, humanity can transform the world into a compassionate community. This draft strategy offers a way to move in that direction.

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As proposed here, the first step toward global transformation is to develop widespread agreement on the nature of our situation, based on an honest evaluation of our personal and collective strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

At present, hateful tribes -- driven by deep fear, grounded in arrogance and rigid ideologies, focused on winner-take-all competition, led by autocratic “saviors,” convinced they’re right and unable or unwilling to understand opponents, refusing to compromise, and inclined toward selfish individualism -- are trying to defeat “enemies” by any means necessary, regardless of consequences.

Fear and anger have their place. Awareness of danger and outrage at injustice are valuable. But when fear and anger are inflamed and distorted, they become counter-productive.

At the same time, compassionate communities are working  with pragmatic idealism to improve lives and protect the environment with new policies, structures, and procedures. …

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