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Sunday, January 29, 2017

Those Who Do Not Remember the Past are Condemned to Repeat It...

I, like millions of my fellow human beings have been watching with dismay and alarm at what Donald Trump has been doing since he took office. But what has prompted me to write about it was a conversation I had with a very old friend of mine yesterday. My friend is not an unintelligent man. In fact, he is very smart. I did not know until very recently, that he is in favour of what Trump is doing. Yesterday I asked him if he did not see the parallels between Trump and Adolf Hitler. My friend is interested in military history, so he knows the history of the Nazis and World War II. Despite his intellect and his knowledge, he is convinced that "a correction" was needed to offset the "social justice warriors" who are turning society into a police state. He is optimistic that Trump is nothing like Hitler. Throughout the call, I couldn't understand how he could look at what is happening, specifically the way in which Trump is steadily trying to strip ordinary citizens of their rights and freedoms, and concentrate power in the hands of elites that have nothing in common with the average world citizen, let alone the average American, and not see that something is very amiss.

After I was done talking to him I started to wonder: why do so many fail to see the parallels, and why do the Republicans have so much power in the US when it seems that they are overrun and controlled by religious zealots, xenophobes, and power hungry crackpots? I believe, that much of the reason has to do with how successfully the Republican party has attacked its own people, the American public, and conned them into believing that they are really just the other side of the political coin.

There was indeed a time in the history of the US when that was indeed true. Many people today would be surprised to learn that Abraham Lincoln was a republican, given that he held the country together during the Civil War and abolished slavery. Teddy Roosevelt who was instrumental in passing anti-combines legislation that broke up the Rockefeller oil monopoly and fostered improved competition, putting an end to the propagation of robber-baron tycoons that were created during the 1860's, 1870's and 1880's, was also a republican. Now, he also started the Imperialism of the US with the Panama Canal, but at least up to this point, there were only minor ideological differences between the Republican party and the Democratic party.

But then in 1919, the Republicans commenced their long running assault on the rights and freedoms of the American people with Prohibition, which made it illegal to drink and eventually gave rise to an era of gangster violence, with mobsters like Al Capone terrorizing cities like Chicago. It was introduced by a Minnesota Republican by the name of Volstead. The Democratic president, Woodrow Wilson, vetoed it, but the Republican controlled House and Senate overturned the veto and made it law. The suffering of the American people during the Great Depression, which also started because of their lax, Laizzez-faire economic policies was indescribable. It was Franklin D. Roosevelt, a democrat, who restored confidence in the banking system, and repealed Prohibition as some of his first acts. He introduced the New Deal, which softened the blow of the depression, and started the process of national recovery, although it would take the Second World War to really lift the country out of the depression for good. It was Roosevelt who established Social Security.

It may have been the Democrats under Harry Truman who established the CIA, with the National Security Act of 1947, but it was the first Republican administration after WWII under Eisenhower that really ramped it up into the covert paramilitary organization  that we know it as today. Under Eisenhower's watch:

  • The US had the McCarthy witch-hunts in which Senator Joseph McCarthy, a Wisconsin Republican ruthlessly destroyed the lives of many prominent people by accusing them of un-American activities and being communists. He was eventually censured when it was shown that he had done this without any evidence, but not before he destroyed many dozens, if not hundreds of innocent lives. 
  • The CIA started covert operations in Vietnam, which was then Indochina, Iran, and South America, to name just a few places. Of course when most people think of Vietnam, they think of Lyndon B. Johnson, a Democrat. While he may have escalated the war, it was the Republican party that dragged the US into it in the first place. 
  • The Civil Rights movement had begun, but George Wallace, and Bull O'Connor, and other Southern politicians were openly defying the national laws, and it was only at Little Rock, Arkansas that Eisenhower would send in the National Guard to enforce de-segregation in the schools. It was not until the Democrats re-took power in the 1960's that real progress in Civil Rights was achieved. The act that gave black Americans the right to vote was the work or Lyndon B. Johnson and Robert F. Kennedy, both Democrats. 
  • The Cuban revolution in which Fidel Castro took power took place in 1959.
Yes, under Kennedy, the American presence in Vietnam was intensified, and the Bay of Pigs fiasco occurred and subsequent Cuban embargo were imposed. These were not some of Kennedy's finer moments, but they were more than outweighed by the positive contributions made to world peace and the contributions made to the overall well-being of the average American, by the Democrats, who brought Medicare and Medicaid, as well as giving black Americans the universal right to vote. 

The next Republican administration was Richard Nixon's. Nixon was not a bad president actually, even despite the Watergate break-in. He handled the Cold War with an aplomb that few leaders could have and he kept the world safe. He also opened up relations with China in 1972, which was a big deal back then. Nobody can take that from him. But, his stance on the Viet Nam War protesters was hard lined and resulted in unnecessary deaths, most notably at the Kent State University shootings in 1970. Nixon did end the Vietnam war, but not before he doubled down and attempted to win it by bombing the shit out of Laos and Cambodia from 1969 to 1970 - countries that were not directly involved in the conflict, but which supplied the Vietcong with supplies. 

I can't really say much about Nixon's successor, Gerald Ford. He seemed by all outward appearances to be a genteel man, and he really didn't stand a chance of ever being elected on his own because he replaced Nixon after Watergate forced Nixon's resignation, and then immediately issued a Pardon to Nixon, which angered the public. 

Jimmy Carter, was the next Democratic president and he was unpopular because of his handling of the Energy Crisis and the Iran Hostage Incident. However, he was really just decades ahead of his time and was the first president to try to formulate policies to pursue environmentally sustainable forms of energy, and had really inherited a damaged economy following the Viet Nam War. However, I am not aware of any instances during his administration, of people's rights and freedoms being curtailed. 

Then in 1980, he was defeated by Ronald Reagan, a Republican, who while a nice man, was in the early stages of Alzheimer's in his second term, and even quite possibly his first. Everyone thought it was cute when he joked and came up with his quips, like "Honey, I forgot to duck" when he was shot by John Hinckley, or "We have outlawed the Soviet Union, we begin bombing in 5 minutes." at a press conference. While he did make great progress in ending the Cold War by working with Mikhail Gorbachev, it was during his two terms that:

  • The War on Drugs, which targeted the poor and disadvantaged gathered steam. There was never any real attempt made to treat the root causes of drug addiction, such as poverty and lack of opportunity. No, the entire war was focused on prosecuting otherwise law abiding Americans for taking recreational drugs. 
  • The rise of religious fundamentalism, with powerful figures like Jerry Falwell and others, whose mission it was to end women's rights to abortion, end easy access to contraception, block gay marriage, restrict access to even soft pornography like Playboy and Hustler (the People versus Larry Flint anyone?), gathered traction, and became a very strong presence in the Republican party.
  • The Iran-Contra scandal broke in which it became apparent that the US was selling weapons to Iran, which was at war with Iraq, when the US publicly supported Iraq, and then turned around and used the dirty money to train rebels in Nicaragua. This was just some of the shit the CIA was involved in during this time - there was much, much more. 
  • The Savings and Loan scandal in which almost a third of the Savings & Loan institutions failed or otherwise went bankrupt. It was later revealed that many of these had been technically insolvent for years, but due to lax regulatory oversight, they were allowed to continue operating, so that the losses to Americans when they finally did fail were catastrophic. 
  • Reaganomics took hold,  in which tax cuts were given to the wealthiest echelons of American society. These were done on the stated belief that the benefits would trickle down to the American public. Of course, what really happened was that the concept that with great wealth comes great responsibility and obligation was legislated out of the public milieu. 
After inflicting Reagan on themselves for eight years, the American voters elected his second banana, George H.W. Bush for four years. Bush was an intelligent president, but most of the erosion of freedoms that had started under Reagan, continued, and the U.S got involved in the Gulf War and set the stage for all the strife that continues there to this day. His son, George W, got the U.S fully entangled in the middle east starting with the 9/11 attacks, which there is very good reason to believe was an orchestrated internal attack against Americans to give the administration an excuse to go after Saddam Hussein and his so called "Weapons of Mass Destruction", which were never found - by anyone. Instead, a dirty, disheveled Saddam Hussein was eventually captured, found crouching in a hole in the ground. Now, he was NOT a good man. But he was hardly any kind of real threat to Americans. He was a threat to his own people more than anything, but he certainly didn't have weapons of mass destruction. He was just a very good bluffer and a despot. 

After 12 years of Republican stagnation, America got another breath of fresh air with Bill Clinton, who revitalized the American economy, and was instrumental in bringing some peace to the Arab-Israeli conflict. He managed to get Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, two sworn enemies for decades, into the same room and got them to shake hands and start working together on some peace between the Palestinians and the Israeli occupants of the West Bank - an area that had been the site of armed conflict since the Six Day War of 1967. He was a good president, but the Republican controlled Senate and House chose to focus instead on Clinton's sexual activities and for much of his second term was investigating him and trying to impeach him. Never mind the fact that one of the most outspoken Republicans at this time, Newt Gingrich was cheating on his second wife, with his now third wife, while he was condemning Clinton's supposed lack of morals. 

Thanks to their undermining of Clinton, the Republicans took power again with George W Bush, who may not have won fair and square the first term, due to the Florida vote count. I have already commented on the complete dearth of any positive accomplishments during his term, so I don't really have anything to add here about him, except that it was under Bush's watch that the use of torture techniques were authorized at Guantanamo Bay - a facility that Obama wanted to close down, but was not able to do successfully. 

In 2008, Obama took power and tried to do his best to undo most of the damage inflicted on the American economy by Bush. He has attempted to usher in an era of tolerance and diversity, and has tried to bring in universal health care and gun control - both good and positive things for society. Yes, he has continued much of the military involvement in the Middle East, but I'm not sure that he had much choice given the obligations the U.S has to its allies, and the mess that the Bush administration left behind. Political correctness and the rise of over-zealous "Social Justice Warriors" is an annoying by-product of an evolving society that is trying to adopt new social morays and decide what is acceptable, and what is not. But it is hardly such a horrible thing as to require a man like Donald Trump. The 2008 Financial Crisis has been blamed on Obama because he bailed out the institutions that were involved instead of letting them fail. However, this crisis was an inherited problem from the previous administration. The lax policies that led to the subprime mortgage meltdown were all had their genesis during the Bush years, just as the S&L crisis had it's genesis in the Reagan years.

Are all of you reading this beginning to see a pattern? Do you still think that Republicans and Democrats are equally corrupt? Now, I know there are good Republicans in the Republican Party. I have quite a lot of respect for John McCain, from what I know about him, and how I have seen him conduct himself throughout his career. But the Republican party as a whole has a demonstrated, long history now that goes back to 1920, of being wildly out of touch with the issues that affect the largest number of Americans. That may be because many of them are very wealthy individuals, and when the issues that concern most people like health care, paying the mortgage, putting food on the table are a non-issue for you, it tends to skew your perception of what really matters. Perhaps this is why the Republicans always seem to be overly concerned with issues that are not important to most people, and more often than not seem to involve taking away people's freedoms. The only thing they seem to oscillate between is whether they take those freedoms away from Americans, or whether they take them from people in other countries. It's not the Democrats that initiate these punitive actions generally. All Democratic administrations since 1920 have tried to make as many Americans as well off as possible, while making positive contributions to the rest of the world as a whole, or at least that is what history suggests.

But don't take my word for it. Look up any of the facts that I have written about here. Except for a few opinions, nearly everything I have written here can be fact checked on Google. 

The problem for America, and the world right now is not just Donald Trump. He is the closest thing there is to Adolf Hitler - no question. He has never shown that he cares about anyone other than himself, and that includes his wives. He is only where he is for himself. When he says "Make America Great Again", I don't think people have the slightest idea of what he really means by that. Steph thinks he means "Take America back in time to a time when only a certain percentage of the population had any rights". I think she is right - 100%. 

However, he wouldn't be where he is today if the Republican party had blocked him on principal. The problem facing the world today, then is the perverted nature of the Republican Party of the US. It is a party whose time has passed. It needs to be recognized as the general menace to civilized values that it has shown itself to be over the last 100 years, and decisively dismantled and disbanded. Those few honest Republicans can then either run independently, or form a new party if public service is so important to them. Donald Trump is on them. This is their doing and a simple defeat in the next election is not sufficient. 

It's time to take a stand. We cannot afford to let history repeat itself. The stakes are far too high this time. I close this with a video clip from the Newsroom that I believe is appropriate:


  1. how's the weather? getting a few cm of snow? and a bit cold??

    1. Full blown blizzard here today. About -4. However, it is the only blizzard we have had all winter, and we just turn up the heat and stay home - like we always do anyway. It's not like we have to be anywhere!