Cherry-Picking And The Rule Of Law

If we assume that humanity will survive into the future–and that there will indeed be future historians attempting to understand the decisions and assorted insanities of the particular era in which we find ourselves–they may well dub ours the “Age of Cherry-picking.”

Think about it: we increasingly choose to rely on information that confirms our preferred beliefs. We routinely dismiss evidence that is inconsistent with our prejudices, ignore realities that are inconvenient, and resist information that challenges our world-views.

I can just see those future historians trying to figure out why more of us didn’t call out the hypocrisies.

Think, for example, of that go-to bible verse cited most recently by Jeff Sessions–the one that supposedly instructs believers to follow even laws they dislike. That verse, which Sessions used to support the administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy, has  also been cited to support slavery and “the Southern way of life.”

Religious groups opposed to the policy found and cited their own biblical selections.

“The Bible teaches that God ‘loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt’ (Deuteronomy 10:18-19).”

Since Trump’s election, a casual review of Facebook posts hurling biblical quotes back and forth would suggest that Republican and Democratic Christians own very different versions of the Bible. (Not that the Bible should even enter into a discussion of civil law in a nation that separates Church and State…)

On the issue of immigration, until he was forced by public outrage to moderate the policy, Trump had insisted that his administration had no choice but to separate children from their parents, because it was “a law” and his administration enforces all the laws. 

Speaking of cherry-picking….

As Howard Gleckman recently wrote for Forbes,

Question: What does the Trump Administration’s policy decision to separate immigrant children from their parents at the Mexican border have in common with its policy decision to refuse to enforce IRS curbs on church involvement in political campaigns?

Answer: Nothing.

As Gleckman noted, the administration’s insistence that the law required the separation of children from parents was somewhere between dubious and inaccurate.

But the Administration’s absolute claim that it must enforce laws, even if it disagrees with them, turns out to be somewhat…situational.

Twice in the last three weeks, in formal remarks, Vice President Mike Pence said the Administration would ignore another statute: The Johnson Amendment that bars 501(C)(3) non-profits, including houses of worship, from participating in political campaigns for, or against, a candidate.

Pence could have not been more explicit. Speaking to the Family Research Council on May 25, he said the Johnson Amendment “will no longer be enforced under this administration.” He repeated the vow in a speech to the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention last week.

So let’s summarize the delusional state of “leadership” in our country, where the administration picks and chooses its realities:

  • The administration enforces all the laws except those Mike Pence’s Bible doesn’t agree with. (What First Amendment?)
  • The “scientists” relied upon by administration climate-change deniers are sure that the warnings of the other 97% of scientists are bogus.
  •  Larry Kudlow, the President’s current “economic advisor” plucked from Fox News, says the Republican tax bill is responsible for the (non-existent) decline of the deficit. (The deficit and the debt are actually exploding–but not, evidently, in Kudlow’s alternate reality.)
  • Spitting on our longtime allies and cozying up to our enemies is putting America First.

As Kurt Vonnegut would say, and so it goes…..

 

25 thoughts on “Cherry-Picking And The Rule Of Law

  1. How can we expect the higher, especially the highest, court in the land to follow the rule of law when lower courts at all levels ignore it too often with due diligence? Plea agreements ignore the crimes as well as the laws to try to “clear the court dockets” after allowing countless continuances for bogus reasons. The judicial system in this country is much like the education system; not concentrating on teaching students before promoting them; then are aghast when they reach college level and are barely literate.

    I worked in Indianapolis Police Department; the Municipal Court Probation Department and for a number of attorneys; I also worked for a time in the Indiana Board of Law Examiners and while in later jobs used 2 vacation days twice yearly to work the Indiana Bar Exams. Historically, the Indiana Bar Exam is one of the toughest in the nation and has a “three-strike” limit to pass the test. This should give us faith in our local judicial system but…we witness otherwise in too many cases – which is why the ACLU is overburdened with cases attempting to undo the judicial miscarriages of justice within the system. And, keep in mind it is cherry-picked judges who read the law exam test results (in small book form) and give their personal thumbs-up or thumbs-down. With Pence in the “shotgun seat” in the White House, this increases the possibility of the newest member of SCOTUS coming from his home state – after McConnell ignored his Constitutional requirement and Oath of Office in the Senate to REFUSE to schedule only a hearing on President Obama’s nominee due to his ethnicity coupled with his political party affiliation.

    “Cherry-Picking And The Rule Of Law” aren’t even a consideration in the current administration; they do not even pretend to pick and choose (cherry-pick) which law best suits their outcome – they make up new versions of laws to fit their needs. No longer having the Civil Rights Law for support and Citizens United footing the “attorney fees”; rule of law is a passe term and coming close to being plea-bargained out of existence.

  2. The last I checked, Jesus was a Middle Eastern man of brown skin, yet every picture I’ve seen has him looking like Mike Pence’s brother in law or pure European. 😉

    There was an engineers survey done on the proposed damming of the White River in Anderson. Much of the literature put out was from the Chamber. A local judge ruled the proposal more political than factual and therefore, marketing could include “non-truthful statements.”

    In short, if it’s considered political speech, the court rules they can lie their asses off so they do. Most of them have perfected this art of lying (Pence) while Trump is a newbie. He’s horrible at it which is what makes it so fun to watch. His daily Tweets could keep us entertained ad infinitum.

    I remember one of the caveats of a market-driven economy was “let the buyer beware.”

    Nevertheless, our corporate owned media punditry pretend that these gasbags are all telling the truth and spend countless hours dissecting drivel knowing full well its junk.

    Adjust your expectations to reality – all politicians lie. Then you’ll be pleasantly surprised when one of them tells the truth. These people are all hired entertainers to put on a show. It’s reality TV although it isn’t real. It’s staged.

    Sadly, the people attending these political rallies that Pence and Trump speak at fully believe them. Is it gullibility or ignorance?

    Take your pick.

    Now you know why our government decided to abandon the “informed citizen” priority after WWII and went with creating “mass consumers”.

    We don’t think–we consume stuff we like. We consume stuff that makes us feel good. Etc., Etc.

  3. leave religion out of goverment,or its so called moral crap… even the hypocrites have a hard time agreeing,and theology of the subject is decided by interpretation..so, we can go on and on about who lives where..and i dont eat bibles. reality is cool, try it…im looking at also,as many do now, that our national holidays are requiring the masses to work( after all,they have starved us to work), i.e. car dealers detail shops,hardware,and such enities,like the reason for this holiday,means nothing,and its being kicked to the curb. but buisness likes it,because they want a reason to pay for that holiday,and get something for it,if your state hasnt changed that too..in the subject here, ive railed many times over,how corp america has decided this is in the way of their profits,and they have decided they wont tollerate this. im a firestorm on the subject,and wont rest. when employees see that commiting to managements whims and wishes,they getting screwed,and dont even speak out.corp america continues to tell legislatures in state and federal level we dont like that change it. wall street will follow suit,as soon as they see any profit from it. like cherry picking,they have actully passed those laws,and or, changed a few words,that changed the whole meaning of those laws,like the prior bush admin,and the iraq wordspeak, changes a few words to hold us hostage to going to war. “this congress is the most corrupt congress in Americas history”,mick mulvaney,OMB.at a bankers meeting.
    bumper sticker:
    clock in
    read the sign
    shut up and work…
    jeff bezos

  4. This administration is exhausting. They work diligently, day in and day out, to create both a dictatorship and a theocracy. They do this all while destroying what is left of the lower middle class and the poor. They will not be happy until they can revert this country back to legal slavery – and we really are almost there with low wages and an almost non-existent economic safety net. Paul Ryan must feel like he is on top of the world.

  5. “We don’t think–we consume stuff we like. We consume stuff that makes us feel good. Etc., Etc.”

    Well now, Todd; this quote initially struck a wrong note with me and I was ready to argue with you; but my better self came to the fore and I realized that I have “consumed” Trump’s speech last night repeatedly because it did make me “feel good”. In fact I feel great because it is his largest collection of lies and unfounded rhetoric thus far in his bid for the nomination, his campaign for the presidency and every idiotic comment spewed from his puckered lips since January 20, 2017. Proving beyond all doubt that he needs to be examined for mental competency and ability to sit in the Oval Office more than any of his speeches and rallies thus far. That his speech last night was “filled with lies” is the general consensus of the media which should keep it before the public as he meets one-on-one with Putin. Will he be allowed to have his demand met to meet alone, with no one “on our side” taking notes? We must wait for that answer and I hope someone(s) is scrambling through law books and history for some “rule of law” to prevent this terrifying meeting-of-minds to happen.

  6. It is well within the purview of any administration to prioritize enforcement. That’s how we got DACA. The fact that the current administration is horrifying most Americans by its choices of priorities doesn’t make it less so. How to change it? Vote Democratic in November.

  7. Nancy,

    “This administration is exhausting. They work diligently, day in and day out, to create both a dictatorship and a theocracy. They do this all while destroying what is left of the lower middle class and the poor.”

    They’re able to do this because the political forces behind this administration were not sufficiently tracked. What would happen if one morning you awoke and there was a hurricane outside your window, but it never was tracked.? How would you know what to do? You wouldn’t know anything about its future direction, velocity etc., etc.

    Just like the Jews in Nazi Germany, you would be FROZEN. In other words MOTIONLESS or KEPT AT A FIXED LEVEL.

  8. Just as follow-up to yesterday’s blog on Curtis Hill Indiana’s AG and the Old Boys Club:

    The Rev. Charles Harrison, the leader of the Ten Point Coalition, said Attorney General Curtis Hill has always had “honorable” conduct around women when they’ve been together. (Chaperone??)

    *** The Ten Point Coalition is an Indianapolis-based crime-fighting organization that has received backing from Hill in recent years. Hill helped secure funding for the group’s efforts in reducing gun violence in Indianapolis and Gary. ***

    There is a good article on The Ten Point Coalition in The Star – Donald Trump, urban violence and the struggle for Ten Point Coalition’s soul: – For every person standing with Ten Point at press conferences, though, there is a critic who argues there is not enough evidence of success to justify giving more government funding to a group that already has received more than $800,000 from Indianapolis. >> https://www.indystar.com/story/news/crime/2018/05/20/ten-point-coalition-indianapolis-donald-trump-ways-stop-violence-crime-prevention/607530002/

    As expected: Joe Donnelly’s Response:

    U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) also weighed in on the allegations but stopped short of calling for his resignation. He did say he believed the accounts of the accusers. (Side Bar – Backbone Alert – can anyone find Joe Donnelly’s backbone????)

    Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson:

    “Indiana deserves a safe work environment, which extends beyond the workplace. I am disappointed that I must make such a call, but Attorney General Hill should resign. Our state leaders are held to a higher standard and must behave in such a manner.”

    Three of Indiana’s top Republican leaders called on embattled Attorney General Curtis Hill to resign following allegations that he inappropriately touched four women at an Indianapolis bar in March.

    In coordinated statements, Gov. Eric Holcomb, House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate leader David Long demanded that Hill, a fellow Republican, step down immediately. They also called for an Indiana inspector general investigation of the groping allegations against him.

  9. There’s a good book that covers many of the conflicting Biblical passages: “Sex, Swords & Scripture” by Bertie Franke. That should be enough to dissuade thinking people that the Bible is not something that should be used to support secular behavior.

    Confirmation bias is a disease that science deniers all use to support their “ideas” and “philosophies” no matter where they learn them. Certain media, of course, make profits off of those biases and keep pumping B.S. into everything. As a retired science educator, I found that teaching the scientific method EARLY in child’s life helped them make better decisions. The scientific method promotes critical thinking as its main tool.

    Churches, of course, can’t tolerate that, so don’t “teach” anything but blind faith.

  10. ML – I hope that the investigation leads to criminal charges and the revocation of Hill’s license to practice law. The ball must not be allowed to drop on this offense.

    My guess is that Hill will resign before any investigation leads to revoking his license.

  11. Here’s the best take on Trump voters I’ve seen so far. It’s long, but very interesting.
    The Times finally gets to the bottom of Trump supporters: It turns out they’re garbage human beings

    Hunter
    Daily Kos Staff
    Wednesday July 04, 2018 · 2:00 PM MDT
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    ELKHART, IN – MAY 10: Supporters wait in line to attend a campaign rally with President Donald Trump on May 10, 2018 in Elkhart, Indiana. The line to enter the event, which has a 7,500-person capacity, circled the block. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
    Go team adultery / child detention / fake charities / money laundering / sexism / racism / actual genuine treason.
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    In the New York Times’ quest to get to the bottom of what makes every last Trump supporter in America tick, we have been treated to endless interviews, loving tributes to downtrodden towns in which nary a non-white person is ever seen, and one particular day when the op-ed pages were turned over to Trump supporters to argue for Trump’s genius directly. But this is still not enough, and so Sunday’s paper included a zoological analysis from a journalist who grew up among them.

    It is meant to be flattering, or at least neutral, but the short version is that the people who have been bleating about “family values” for the last half-century do not actually give a flying damn about family values and never did. It was all garbage from the get-go. While people from “college” or “in New York” or “religiously conservative” or “liberal” or take-your pick all had harsh words for the crooked, lying, adulterous, misogynist trash-heap of a human being, the salt-of-the-earth Trump supporters back in Nebraska could not possibly care less about the bullshit-laden values attributed to them in fawning tributes to the heartland’s common clay.

    To hell with it all: Go team adulter-crook!

    In contrast, almost all of the people I know in my hometown in Nebraska proudly supported him. They glossed over his infidelities and stressed that he seemed to be a good father. They were impressed by his “respectful” sons and admired the success of his daughters.
    “Glossed over” is a fine phrase. “Good father” is quite the phrase itself. And this new notion of “respectful,” which apparently consists of “glossing over” his sons’ histories of charity fraud, public attacks on black politicians, and that whole ‘met Russian agents in Trump Tower’ thing, is doing quite the heavy lift.

    Reading between the lines, what we have here is a group of people who practice what is known in the rest of the world as aggressive ignorance. You can’t say that Trump’s behavior bothers you if you drive wooden stakes into both ears and swear you didn’t hear about any of it.

    The author goes through some trouble and many paragraphs to explain this phenomenon of Trump support despite Trump’s grotesque family-values-averse behaviors via a mix of sociology and class, because we are not allowed to point out that these people are simply dishonest bullshitters. When you grow up in Nebraska, you are apparently expected to bleat about family values and the corruption of the elites, to be sure—but, socioeconomically speaking, it is apparently all a ruse meant for the children and whatever gullible reporters wander through town. In reality, when it comes to the churches and the voting booths, you can be as adulterous as you want, cheat your neighbor eagerly and gleefully, lie to everyone about everything and—if you are in the right tribe, and only if you are in the right tribe—it is expected.

    We’re not supposed to say it, but that is what the sociological modal boils down to. I think all of us have ample experience with these sorts of human beings, and it is not necessarily political. I believe I have pointed out multiple times that in my own experiences, for example, if any business owner mentions Jesus within the first 10 minutes of meeting you you can be absolutely, 100 percent assured they are out to scam you, good and hard, which is an interesting metric of what so-called Christianity has been reduced to in many subsets of the American psyche. But in general, journalists and other neutral observers are not supposed to notice that wide swaths of society are, in fact, Not Good People. Even if there are entire churches or towns filled with them.

    And so we instead get it explained to us in very neutral, analytical terms. Can’t very well take to the pages of the New York Times to explain that Trump voters are wife-beating fascists who admire Trump’s ability to build a golden tower for himself by cheating other people out of their money, but even in its most anodyne formulation the message is clear: Trump’s version of “family values” plays well to people who themselves have none.

    Baffling as it may be to elites, Mr. Trump embodies a real if imperfect model of family values. People familiar with the purple family model tend to view his alienation from his children’s mother as normal and his closeness to his children as exceptional and admirable. I saw this among my acquaintances in Nebraska. Even those from red families were more likely than my acquaintances in New York to know someone who has had a child out of wedlock or is subject to a restraining order.
    See there? By God, being a do-nothing father with no apparent love for his kids is the downright admirable way to raise a family. And who, among Trump’s base, has not had a restraining order slapped on them at some point in their lives? Oopsies have been made.

    The only way Trump could connect with these fine upstanding voters any deeper than he has, I tell you, is to start a meth lab in his basement.

    Yes, yes, this is all very rude—but strip the roundabout talk of religious denominations and average family incomes and the rest of the ancillary smoke tossed into the piece and you are left with the blunt notion that Trump’s supporters absolutely Do Not Care about his adultery, his misogyny, his lies, his crookedness, his racism, or the possibility that he committed treason against his nation in order to sit at the desk he now sits at. That is what they, themselves, will eagerly tell you.

    And from a moral point of view, rather than a socioeconomic one, there’s no “but economic status” or “but particular sub-denomination of Jesus” that justifies that.

    Plainly put: These are the hallmarks of terrible human beings. People who you would not trust with your children. People you would go out of your way to avoid, if you did care about honesty or family values. These are the people who press their mistresses for abortions but who also are not vexed by abortion-providing doctors being murdered in their Kansas churches; they are confederate flag-wavers in Union states, miffed that new civil rights laws a half century ago slighted their own ne’er-do-well families in some never-quite-describable way; these are people who are so obsessed with the thought that someone better is looking down on them that they are willing to punch whatever kittens need punching in order to prove they’re at least better at kitten-punching than the rest of you. The opioid epidemic is centered in Trump-supporting counties. The demand that brown-looking children be placed in detention camps for fear that a terrified 8-year-old might be a hardened gang leader is a phenomenon of Trump-Supporting counties. The insistence that Treason Might Be Good Now is peddled by Fox News celebrities to die-hard Trump supporters who will repeat and retweet it willing and eagerly; it was Trump supporters, Jesus-punchers every one, who gave Alabama crapsack Roy Moore their votes even after his exposure as a child molester—complete with Bible citations from “conservative” pastors arguing that Roy Moore trolling the malls for a child bride was, in fact, in fine Old Testament tradition.

    There is an obsessive need, in our journalistic culture, to explain bad behavior away. Donald Trump is not an amoral cesspool of lies, he is merely engaging in a particular brand of political rhetoric that seeks to persuade via the creative denial of the world everyone else can see with their own two eyes—and it’s not for we keepers of the truth to judge. Donald Trump’s supporters are not themselves dismal human beings who have open contempt for anyone not in their own small tribe, people who are forever obsessed with harming every other tribe in every other way, regardless of how it is done or how many family values rules need to be broken to do it, but are waving their little rebel flags and demanding child internment camps because their economic anxiety has gotten their stomachs all a-knotted of late.

    But the acts speak for themselves. Trump’s supporters do not care about his values, his lies, the means by which he achieves his ends, or whether or not he burns the Constitution in a barbecue pit so long as he can make them feel better about their own lot in life. This is not our construction, but their own; you need not look very far in any interview to find it. They are not good people. They are not good Americans, and their so-called morals are reptilian at best. We are allowed to say it.

    You want to find good people, look for the people who are just as poor but care for others anyway, or who are under just as much economic stress but do not use it as excuse for cheating and stealing their way through it—or offering up eager praise for those that do. Good people don’t claim to have family values and then discard those values at the drop of a hat when a rich, shouting hatebag they saw on their television set tells them to ignore all that. Good people don’t soak themselves in transparent lies about immigrants or minorities, then declare everyone else to be “elites” arrayed against them in “elite”-minded conspiracy when some newspaper, somewhere, points out that those things were, in fact, cheap and tawdry lies.

    The more we hear from Trump defenders, the more transparent it is that they are indeed, well, bad. It’s terribly rude to say, and the press cannot say it, but the rest of us can. If you still support Trump at this late date, you are a terrible human being. You should, in fact, feel bad about yourself.

    Yes, the rest of us do indeed look down on these people. Those of us with actual family values do; those of us who care about honesty in government do; those of us who are not furious bulging-eyed racists do; those of us who believe thousands of years of scientific discoveries are worth more than the dribbling pronouncements of a street-corner charlatan do; those of us with actual religious convictions do; those of us who are actual patriots do.

    And we’re not sorry. Get your act together, you losers. You voted for a two-bit conman you saw on a television show, and you did it because you either didn’t care, didn’t pay attention, or because you wanted to be conned good and hard. But that was then, this is now, and you are allowed to change your mind and remember all the things you supposedly believed in before this glowing orange lunatic arrived on the scene to Make Sleaze Great Again.

    You want to be respected, then do something worthy of respect. It’s as simple as that.

  12. Marv, even more exhausting is the witnessing of trump supporters digging in to support him and their blatant refusal to believe what they themselves actually see happening.

    I am unable to comprehend their stupidity and lack of common sense. I do believe we are experiencing a repeat of what happened under Hitler and just don’t see a way to stop what is happening. As long as people are willing to believe whatever they hear on fox noise they refuse to accept the truth. I am exhausted.

  13. In our times what’s the relationship between critical thinking and pervasive entertainment? Can they coexist?

    Entertainment has no tie to reality at all. It’s whatever we want. It’s what makes us feel good. Doesn’t that sound like religion too? It’s a path right to who we are as individuals that passes straight by all critical thinking by design.

    Entertainment is our world now. The little time that we have to spend in the real world is spent looking forward to our entertainment time which is so, so much easier and more pleasurable.

    It’s no wonder we are so easy to sell stuff to.

  14. President Trump’s mouth opened, and a lie popped out. Often. To the rescue came Vice President Pence, who wasn’t confident he could identify the truth when he heard it, but felt quite sure he had a handle on untruths. Support teams composed of representatives and senators jumped into the fray in an attempt to shield red-blooded Americans from being forced to differentiate between truisms and falsies.

    It’s not working, but it is causing the populace to realize that everything falls into three categories: the Garden Gate … Lituh Gate … or Water Gate. At least that’s the way President Trump explained it.

  15. Nancy,

    “I am unable to comprehend their stupidity and lack of common sense. I do believe we are experiencing a repeat of what happened under Hitler and just don’t see a way to stop what is happening. ”

    You can’t see a way to stop it because there is no organized effort to stop it. Behind the problem, is a VIRUS OF RACIAL AND ANTI-SEMITIC HATRED. It is a new strain of what has been called in the past: THE HITLER VIRUS.

    This catastrophe we are witnessing has much in common with the AIDS epidemic which had the same problem of identifying the GROUND ZERO OF THE VIRUS. Similarly, until you can do that, it will be impossible to treat this VIRUS OF THE MIND which has now reached PANDEMIC proportions.

    There will be no stopping this “Nightmare” unless there is a concerted will and effort to expose the forces that are preventing the DISCLOSURE OF GROUND ZERO.

    Unfortunately, there’s a very good chance that the above will not happen until it is too late to make a difference.

  16. Marv,

    re your comment “Unfortunately, there’s a very good chance that the above will not happen until it is too late to make a difference.”

    The above sentence sums up what is/has happened. So much damage has already been done that it will take generations to repair. No one in power at this time is willing to risk their own livelihood or safety to organize a fight against what is taking place. There appears to be no stopping trump and his fascism.

  17. An amalgamation of dictatorship and theology would be nothing new. The Holy Roman Empire’s emperor became an emperor only after papal endorsement, kings and queens and those of royal blood are said to be appointed to rule by God, and we yet offer an oath to God along with an alternative affirmation as choices for presidential oaths.

    I just recently tuned into some of the preacher channels to see what they are up to these days and found that the lack of Johnson Amendment control of 501 (C)(3)’s language is in full swing. There were open endorsements of Trump and some of his policies. I rechecked the channels to see that I was not watching Fox News.

    In our Madisonian-inspired tripartite government one of the obligations of the executive is to enforce the law. Trump (aided by Pope Pence) is not only not enforcing the law but in some instances is breaking the law. From what I saw and heard on these channels, their broadcasting licenses should be revoked if Johnson were enforced. Choosing what laws to enforce and not to enforce can be a prelude to dictatorship and the end of our democracy, so we must resist – bigly – and either stop or at least slow this chaotic trainwreck by the party in power in Washington.

  18. Nancy,

    “No one in power at this time is willing to risk their own livelihood or safety to organize a fight against what is taking place.”

    You’re absolutely right. What they don’t understand is that are going to lose their livelihood and safety by doing nothing. Their only chance is to do something now. But they can’t do that unless they can see the whole picture from BEGINNING TO END.

  19. Nancy,

    The answer, if any, lies within the following for anyone who has any thoughts of CIVIC COURAGE. I’ve posted this a couple of times before. It’s the best explanation of what is happening to us here in the U.S. Milton Mayer was a partner with my partner, Professor Harvey Wheeler, at the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions at Santa Barbara, California:

    An excerpt from
    They Thought They Were Free
    The Germans, 1933-45
    Milton Mayer

    But Then It Was Too Late

    “What no one seemed to notice,” said a colleague of mine, a philologist, “was the ever widening gap, after 1933, between the government and the people. Just think how very wide this gap was to begin with, here in Germany. And it became always wider. You know, it doesn’t make people close to their government to be told that this is a people’s government, a true democracy, or to be enrolled in civilian defense, or even to vote. All this has little, really nothing, to do with knowing one is governing.

    “What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if the people could not understand it, it could not be released because of national security. And their sense of identification with Hitler, their trust in him, made it easier to widen this gap and reassured those who would otherwise have worried about it.

    “This separation of government from people, this widening of the gap, took place so gradually and so insensibly, each step disguised (perhaps not even intentionally) as a temporary emergency measure or associated with true patriotic allegiance or with real social purposes. And all the crises and reforms (real reforms, too) so occupied the people that they did not see the slow motion underneath, of the whole process of government growing remoter and remoter.

    “You will understand me when I say that my Middle High German was my life. It was all I cared about. I was a scholar, a specialist. Then, suddenly, I was plunged into all the new activity, as the university was drawn into the new situation; meetings, conferences, interviews, ceremonies, and, above all, papers to be filled out, reports, bibliographies, lists, questionnaires. And on top of that were the demands in the community, the things in which one had to, was ‘expected to’ participate that had not been there or had not been important before. It was all rigmarole, of course, but it consumed all one’s energies, coming on top of the work one really wanted to do. You can see how easy it was, then, not to think about fundamental things. One had no time.”

    “Those,” I said, “are the words of my friend the baker. ‘One had no time to think. There was so much going on.’”

    “Your friend the baker was right,” said my colleague. “The dictatorship, and the whole process of its coming into being, was above all diverting. It provided an excuse not to think for people who did not want to think anyway. I do not speak of your ‘little men,’ your baker and so on; I speak of my colleagues and myself, learned men, mind you. Most of us did not want to think about fundamental things and never had. There was no need to. Nazism gave us some dreadful, fundamental things to think about—we were decent people—and kept us so busy with continuous changes and ‘crises’ and so fascinated, yes, fascinated, by the machinations of the ‘national enemies,’ without and within, that we had no time to think about these dreadful things that were growing, little by little, all around us. Unconsciously, I suppose, we were grateful. Who wants to think?

    “To live in this process is absolutely not to be able to notice it—please try to believe me—unless one has a much greater degree of political awareness, acuity, than most of us had ever had occasion to develop. Each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained or, on occasion, ‘regretted,’ that, unless one were detached from the whole process from the beginning, unless one understood what the whole thing was in principle, what all these ‘little measures’ that no ‘patriotic German’ could resent must some day lead to, one no more saw it developing from day to day than a farmer in his field sees the corn growing. One day it is over his head.

    “How is this to be avoided, among ordinary men, even highly educated ordinary men? Frankly, I do not know. I do not see, even now. Many, many times since it all happened I have pondered that pair of great maxims, Principiis obsta and Finem respice—‘Resist the beginnings’ and ‘Consider the end.’ But one must foresee the end in order to resist, or even see, the beginnings. One must foresee the end clearly and certainly and how is this to be done, by ordinary men or even by extraordinary men? Things might have. And everyone counts on that might.

    “Your ‘little men,’ your Nazi friends, were not against National Socialism in principle. Men like me, who were, are the greater offenders, not because we knew better (that would be too much to say) but because we sensed better. Pastor Niemöller spoke for the thousands and thousands of men like me when he spoke (too modestly of himself) and said that, when the Nazis attacked the Communists, he was a little uneasy, but, after all, he was not a Communist, and so he did nothing; and then they attacked the Socialists, and he was a little uneasier, but, still, he was not a Socialist, and he did nothing; and then the schools, the press, the Jews, and so on, and he was always uneasier, but still he did nothing. And then they attacked the Church, and he was a Churchman, and he did something—but then it was too late.”

    “Yes,” I said.

    “You see,” my colleague went on, “one doesn’t see exactly where or how to move. Believe me, this is true. Each act, each occasion, is worse than the last, but only a little worse. You wait for the next and the next. You wait for one great shocking occasion, thinking that others, when such a shock comes, will join with you in resisting somehow. You don’t want to act, or even talk, alone; you don’t want to ‘go out of your way to make trouble.’ Why not?—Well, you are not in the habit of doing it. And it is not just fear, fear of standing alone, that restrains you; it is also genuine uncertainty.

    “Uncertainty is a very important factor, and, instead of decreasing as time goes on, it grows. Outside, in the streets, in the general community, ‘everyone’ is happy. One hears no protest, and certainly sees none. You know, in France or Italy there would be slogans against the government painted on walls and fences; in Germany, outside the great cities, perhaps, there is not even this. In the university community, in your own community, you speak privately to your colleagues, some of whom certainly feel as you do; but what do they say? They say, ‘It’s not so bad’ or ‘You’re seeing things’ or ‘You’re an alarmist.’

    “And you are an alarmist. You are saying that this must lead to this, and you can’t prove it. These are the beginnings, yes; but how do you know for sure when you don’t know the end, and how do you know, or even surmise, the end? On the one hand, your enemies, the law, the regime, the Party, intimidate you. On the other, your colleagues pooh-pooh you as pessimistic or even neurotic. You are left with your close friends, who are, naturally, people who have always thought as you have.

    “But your friends are fewer now. Some have drifted off somewhere or submerged themselves in their work. You no longer see as many as you did at meetings or gatherings. Informal groups become smaller; attendance drops off in little organizations, and the organizations themselves wither. Now, in small gatherings of your oldest friends, you feel that you are talking to yourselves, that you are isolated from the reality of things. This weakens your confidence still further and serves as a further deterrent to—to what? It is clearer all the time that, if you are going to do anything, you must make an occasion to do it, and then you are obviously a troublemaker. So you wait, and you wait.

    “But the one great shocking occasion, when tens or hundreds or thousands will join with you, never comes. That’s the difficulty. If the last and worst act of the whole regime had come immediately after the first and smallest, thousands, yes, millions would have been sufficiently shocked—if, let us say, the gassing of the Jews in ’43 had come immediately after the ‘German Firm’ stickers on the windows of non-Jewish shops in ’33. But of course this isn’t the way it happens. In between come all the hundreds of little steps, some of them imperceptible, each of them preparing you not to be shocked by the next. Step C is not so much worse than Step B, and, if you did not make a stand at Step B, why should you at Step C? And so on to Step D.

    “And one day, too late, your principles, if you were ever sensible of them, all rush in upon you. The burden of self-deception has grown too heavy, and some minor incident, in my case my little boy, hardly more than a baby, saying ‘Jewish swine,’ collapses it all at once, and you see that everything, everything, has changed and changed completely under your nose. The world you live in—your nation, your people—is not the world you were born in at all. The forms are all there, all untouched, all reassuring, the houses, the shops, the jobs, the mealtimes, the visits, the concerts, the cinema, the holidays. But the spirit, which you never noticed because you made the lifelong mistake of identifying it with the forms, is changed. Now you live in a world of hate and fear, and the people who hate and fear do not even know it themselves; when everyone is transformed, no one is transformed. Now you live in a system which rules without responsibility even to God. The system itself could not have intended this in the beginning, but in order to sustain itself it was compelled to go all the way.

    “You have gone almost all the way yourself. Life is a continuing process, a flow, not a succession of acts and events at all. It has flowed to a new level, carrying you with it, without any effort on your part. On this new level you live, you have been living more comfortably every day, with new morals, new principles. You have accepted things you would not have accepted five years ago, a year ago, things that your father, even in Germany, could not have imagined.

    “Suddenly it all comes down, all at once. You see what you are, what you have done, or, more accurately, what you haven’t done (for that was all that was required of most of us: that we do nothing). You remember those early meetings of your department in the university when, if one had stood, others would have stood, perhaps, but no one stood. A small matter, a matter of hiring this man or that, and you hired this one rather than that. You remember everything now, and your heart breaks. Too late. You are compromised beyond repair.

    “What then? You must then shoot yourself. A few did. Or ‘adjust’ your principles. Many tried, and some, I suppose, succeeded; not I, however. Or learn to live the rest of your life with your shame. This last is the nearest there is, under the circumstances, to heroism: shame. Many Germans became this poor kind of hero, many more, I think, than the world knows or cares to know.”

    I said nothing. I thought of nothing to say.

    “I can tell you,” my colleague went on, “of a man in Leipzig, a judge. He was not a Nazi, except nominally, but he certainly wasn’t an anti-Nazi. He was just—a judge. In ’42 or ’43, early ’43, I think it was, a Jew was tried before him in a case involving, but only incidentally, relations with an ‘Aryan’ woman. This was ‘race injury,’ something the Party was especially anxious to punish. In the case at bar, however, the judge had the power to convict the man of a ‘nonracial’ offense and send him to an ordinary prison for a very long term, thus saving him from Party ‘processing’ which would have meant concentration camp or, more probably, deportation and death. But the man was innocent of the ‘nonracial’ charge, in the judge’s opinion, and so, as an honorable judge, he acquitted him. Of course, the Party seized the Jew as soon as he left the courtroom.”

    “And the judge?”

    “Yes, the judge. He could not get the case off his conscience—a case, mind you, in which he had acquitted an innocent man. He thought that he should have convicted him and saved him from the Party, but how could he have convicted an innocent man? The thing preyed on him more and more, and he had to talk about it, first to his family, then to his friends, and then to acquaintances. (That’s how I heard about it.) After the ’44 Putsch they arrested him. After that, I don’t know.”

    I said nothing.

    “Once the war began,” my colleague continued, “resistance, protest, criticism, complaint, all carried with them a multiplied likelihood of the greatest punishment. Mere lack of enthusiasm, or failure to show it in public, was ‘defeatism.’ You assumed that there were lists of those who would be ‘dealt with’ later, after the victory. Goebbels was very clever here, too. He continually promised a ‘victory orgy’ to ‘take care of’ those who thought that their ‘treasonable attitude’ had escaped notice. And he meant it; that was not just propaganda. And that was enough to put an end to all uncertainty.

    “Once the war began, the government could do anything ‘necessary’ to win it; so it was with the ‘final solution of the Jewish problem,’ which the Nazis always talked about but never dared undertake, not even the Nazis, until war and its ‘necessities’ gave them the knowledge that they could get away with it. The people abroad who thought that war against Hitler would help the Jews were wrong. And the people in Germany who, once the war had begun, still thought of complaining, protesting, resisting, were betting on Germany’s losing the war. It was a long bet. Not many made it.”

  20. Marv,

    Thanks for publishing the long section from that book. Here’s another, which I’m currently reading – and getting chills from, “In the Garden of Beasts” by Erik Larson”. It follows Hitlers rise during the mid-thirties to achieve absolute power when Hindenburg died. In some of Hitler’s speeches, there are passages, almost word-for-word, that sound like some of Trump’s mouthings.

    There is NO doubt that we are in the clutches of a madman who is seeking absolute power. BTW, the article that I just published on this page describes, exactly, how the “good” Germans did nothing during the “anschluss” of their country to barbaric fascism.

    BTW, have you followed the emerging story of how the Pentagon is quietly discharging soldiers who are on the citizenship track they were promised when they enlisted? Oh yeah! The only thing absolute about this administration is its utter lack of character and morality.

  21. Vernon,

    “The only thing absolute about this administration is its utter lack of character and morality.”

    You gotta give them credit for their consistency. I’m starting to get a clearer picture of their eventual doom. It’s no longer about IF; it’s only about WHEN.

  22. Marv,

    I hope you are right and that “WHEN” happens very soon. If we allow this bastard to destroy any more of our collective infrastructure, we will be generations away from recovery.

  23. Marv,

    Very interesting book excerpt. The same things are happening here and his followers become more devoted to him with each passing day. The astonishing thing is that it is a German descendent who is destroying all of the good in our country. On second thought maybe it isn’t so astonishing.

    Vern,

    The destruction will continue and, as I mentioned in an earlier comment, it will take generations to repair the damage.

    History is repeating itself.

  24. Vernon,

    “If we allow this bastard to destroy any more of our collective infrastructure, we will be generations away from recovery.”

    If WE don’t take action now, there won’t be much of anything to fight for in November.

  25. Nancy and Vernon,

    The following is from the Guardian posted a few minutes ago:

    “As we wait for the name of Trump’s new US supreme court nominee, the name that keeps rising in my throat like bile is Merrick Garland.

    Garland, of course, was Obama’s failed 2016 nominee to America’s top court. He was blocked by Republican leaders on Capitol Hill, who refused to budge on filling the supreme court vacancy until after the elections. Confident that Hillary Clinton would win, Democrats shrugged and went back to sleep.

    For that reason, Garland is someone the Democrats prefer to forget. Unlike Garland, who was a centrist, it is certain that Trump’s choice will be rightwing, no matter how thin the nominee’s paper trail. The Republican base is already mobilized for a bare-knuckle fight. And though the Democrats have liberal billionaire Tom Steyer’s money and pledges from activist groups to try to block the nomination, my prediction is that Trump will win a second seat on this already right-tilting court.
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    My certainty is based on my reading of the Democrats. Senate Democrats simply do not know how to wage a bare-knuckle fight any more. Without Nancy Pelosi, I doubt they could have won and saved Obamacare, the last truly important battle they won.

    The extreme right wouldn’t be so perilously close to consolidating a clear legal victory if the Democrats had played their cards differently when Antonin Scalia unexpectedly died in February, 2016. Instead of picking a liberal who would have excited the Democratic base, which had already taken up arms to reject the mainstream Hillary Clinton and embrace Bernie Sanders, President Obama opted for a “safe” pick. In picking Garland, Obama turned to someone so qualified and in the judicial center that even the Republicans would feel obliged to vote for him. Or, at least, that was the theory behind the choice of Garland.
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    The Garland nomination should be studied by anyone who wants to understand the differences between the leadership of Republicans and Democrats. McConnell, the Senate majority leader, didn’t just boldly announce that there would be no vote on the nominee. He demanded that his Republican colleagues refuse to even meet with Garland. Then he stuck to his guns.

    Though Susan Collins, the woman we now place our hopes on to block a staunch anti-abortion supreme court justice, defied McConnell and met Garland, the majority flicked her off like an annoying bug and kept his ranks in line. When he most needed her vote, to confirm Neil Gorsuch after Trump won the White House, Collins was a yes. (Don’t place too much trust in her now, even with Roe v Wade on the line. Collins, a Maine moderate, is already saying some of Trump’s candidates meet her standard that they consider Roe settled law.)

    The Democrats, meanwhile, basically threw up their hands. Briefly they considered tying the Senate in knots and shutting down the government over McConnell’s refusal to move the Garland nomination. But the Democratic leaders, even the sometimes feisty Harry Reid, decided such a move would be too risky and too irresponsible. It might hurt Hillary. They were afraid of getting covered in mud. Some of them even voted for Gorsuch after Hillary lost.

    Now, though they are vowing to fight, the few Democratic senators and aides whom I have consulted are saying there is little they can do to stop the new nominee. They sound defeated at the starting gate. That is no way to win a knife fight. They have not learned anything from the Garland episode. They still sound unwilling to burn the house down in order to prevent a catastrophe for the country, a US supreme court that will march the country rightward for at least a generation more. A supreme court where Clarence Thomas will be in the mainstream, not on the fringe. A supreme court that overturns Roe v Wade and lets the states decide whether to allow a woman to have an abortion.

    There are signs that a few Democrats do, at least, realize how McConnell snookered them in 2016. The Huffington Post recently captured their voices in a piece headlined Democrats Regret Not Fighting Harder for Obama’s Supreme Court Pick. Here is a sampling of what they say, looking back on Obama’s botched chance to change the country’s legal course: “We should have shut down the Senate,” Democratic senator for Hawaii Brian Schatz said Tuesday. “We made a calculation that we were going to win the 2016 [presidential] election and confirm a nominee. And it didn’t work out.” And: “Hindsight’s 20/20,” said New Mexico senator Martin Heinrich. “I think I would have liked us to take an even harder line.”

    But Connecticut’s Richard Blumenthal is more typical of the defeatist, Democratic attitude, “[McConnell] had the votes then. He has the votes now. Self-immolation was not an option. I have no idea what we could have really done.”

    If they had taken the risk and if Obama had nominated a firebrand worth fighting for, the Democrats could have forced and risked a shutdown. They could have made a principled case that the future of fair jurisprudence was at stake. They might have ignited the support and enthusiasm of labor, women, and minorities, the constituencies needed to win the election in November. Instead, they sat down, lost a supreme court seat and the election.

    Why don’t the Democrats know how to fight anymore? It’s complicated. This generation of Senate Democrats often seem cowed by the right-wing and beholden to monied interests who care more about the wellbeing of corporate America than the conservative wolf at the door. Baby boom Democrats like Blumenthal, who dishonestly portrayed his own personal Vietnam war history (Blumenthal received repeated draft deferments but spoke of his “service” there decades later) seem never have come to terms with not serving in that unjust, unwinnable war. Other Democrats of this generation seems obsessed with being viewed as “responsible” and moderate.

    Meanwhile, they have lost the devotion of their party’s core constituencies, especially young voters. These voters are woke and virulently anti-Trump. They abhor police misconduct, endemic sexual harassment, babies snatched from their parents at the border and the rise of white nationalist, fascist forces on the right. These and other causes have awakened them. They just stunned the Democratic party and its establishment supporters with the primary victory in New York of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

    Senate Democrats need to pay attention and take a page out of Mitch McConnell’s playbook and organize their hearts out, like Ocasio-Cortez. It’s time to fight fire with fire.”

    Jill Abramson is a Guardian US columnist

    We continue to fail to put pressure on the Trump Administration. That’s why we have to organize OUTSIDE direct partisan politics like was done with the TEA PARTY. That’s the only way we can construct a case STRONG enough to change the MINDSET of enough Republicans to defeat Trump’s nomination for the next Supreme Court Justice.

    We need to speak the TRUTH. Continuing on the course Trump has set will only, eventually, lead to RACIAL WARFARE which will be disastrous for everyone, Republicans included. THE PROOF IS THERE. But, The Congressional Democrats will never say the NECESSARY WORDS.

    When will we wake-up? Probably, as I previously said, “too late.”

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