Rediscovering Books & Repeating History

Computers may have ruined my literary attention span. I used to devour books in my childhood but, since I discovered the World Wide Web, I’ve not been as much of a reader of books; I read a lot of news articles and journals but physical books have sadly been fading out of my life. I would like to reverse this trend.

One of my favorite things to do in a quixotic rediscovery of books is coffee shop camping – simply go in to a coffee shop with a book, order a coffee, sit at a corner table, and lose yourself in your book for a couple of hours. Obviously there are a few safety measures to take when coffee shop camping during a pandemic (bring a mask and perhaps a bottle of hand sanitizer and keep a reasonable distance from other people). If the shop is too crowded, maybe turn around, and come back another day. You may find coffee shop camping to be incredibly rewarding for your mind.

My latest literary endeavor is a secondary source of American history, The Elusive Republic: Political Economy in Jeffersonian America by Drew R. McCoy Ph.D of Clark University. At its core, it’s a book about the philosophical foundations of America’s Founding Fathers as well as that generation of people. McCoy references many familiar names such as Samuel Adams, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Adam Smith and describes common ideas from that time period revolving around Britain’s apparent corruption and a growing necessity for the colonies in America to break away from the empire. The ideal was for the colonies to become a model for “republican virtue” on the world as well as a trading source of raw, agricultural materials for the rest of the world – an ideal that I think still has merit for modern humans.

The philosophy behind the republican ideal of an agrarian republic is an interesting theory on the development of human civilizations and describes stages through which civilization advance. These philosophical “stages of civilization” are:

  • hunting;
  • pasturage;
  • agricultural;
  • and commerce.

Whereas hunting is the most simple form of civilization and commerce is the most complex, hunting is also referred to as the “rudest” stage of civilization. The republican ideal and a prevailing theory in colonial America preached that the agricultural stage of civilization was the most ideal for liberty because it was the stage of civilization that was most conducive to the human propensity for productivity (the Protestant work ethic) and allowed for the greatest degree of happiness in individual citizens. These supposed stages of civilization was a part of an Enlightenment-era effort to apply a scientific process to human sociology.

This supposed scientific method for sociology largely comes from the French philosophe Montesquieu and his French and Scottish contemporaries including:

  • Claude Adrien Helvétius,
  • Anne Robert Jacques Turgot, Baron de l’Aulne,
  • Adam Ferguson,
  • Henry Home, Lord Kames,
  • John Millar,
  • Adam Smith FRSA.

The dilemma amongst purveyors of classic republican theory in colonial America was how to maintain virtuous simplicity throughout the republic’s cultural zeitgeist in an effort to prolong the agricultural stage of civilization, staving off the corrupting influences of the later stage of civilization. This dilemma provided republicans with a convenient justification for westward expansion to provide a surplus of land to “virtuous republicans” looking to establish homesteads for their ideal America.

Is it accurate to classify 21st century America as in a post-industrial stage of social development?

The classic republican ideal for early America revolved around financial independence for each citizen through land ownership. We have to remember that citizenship and civil rights were limited to a select group of people in 17th century America but the ideal was fairly progressive for the time considering it was a divergence from the strict gentry and titled nobility of the old European societies. The ideal was for “virtuous citizens” to become land owners and establish themselves as productive members of society through industrious farming. The antithesis of this ideal was that settlers might become disconnected from the rest of the nation and devolve into a lower stage of civilization in their isolation. The republican solution to this antithesis was to expand public infrastructure to keep frontiersmen connected to the fledgling republic’s internal markets.

Is it possible to maintain the classic, republican ideal for an agrarian republic but with a large post-industrial economic sector?

Reading about 17th century America, I’m noticing similar concerns to the issues that plague 21st century America – worries over large populations of unemployed, skepticism towards immigration and fears over emigration, concern for future generations and changing trends, etc. The predominant political debates seemed to be over the preservation of the agricultural sector versus the growth of the manufacturing sector with the democratic-republicans (Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, etc.) on one side and the federalists (Alexander Hamilton, Robert Morris, etc.) on the other; the fear being that an excessive manufacturing sector would lead to “superfluous luxuries” and ultimately “corruption in government” and “effeminacy in citizens.”

How often do we hear politicians today chastise the population on accusations of degeneracy and a lack of personal responsibility and “masculine values?” It’s funny how history tends to repeat itself.

R&R in 2021

Happy Friday, people. This new year is starting out with a bang, isn’t it? We’ve just witnessed an attempted “rebellion” against our dying empire (a pretty pathetic rebellion at that) and now we have a new strain of this pandemic-causing coronavirus. I guess we can always raise our steins to the next year.

I suppose the next big thing we can look forward to is the day our outgoing moronic president gets kicked out of the White House (only to be replaced by another aging, corporate moron). POSITIVES!

At least we might get some competent disaster relief for this pandemic. I’d be happy with a large stimulus check so I can buy a new computer. The hundreds of billions committed to fighting Covid-19 would be good too.

Of course, every other industrialized nation is still wondering why every American citizen is not guaranteed healthcare but one step at a time I guess.

But enough politics . . .

Instead of dwelling on the negative, we need to at least make an attempt to find whatever it is that makes us smile on this godless planet. Life is what we make it so let’s try and make it a little less shitty. The start of a new year is a good time for self-reflection, it’s a logical place to stop and think within the overall passage of time.

What if we used this new year as a challenge to try and make something? Anything – a fictional story, a memoir, a poem, an anthology of poems, a piece of music, a short film, a documentary, any piece of art that makes you smile.

After all, we’ve got nothing else to do.

Let us use this year to rest, heal, and recover from the previous shit show.

New President, Same Shit

In the wake of a tense presidential election, amid an uneasy truce between two presidential administrations (one outgoing and the other just starting up), it’s important to remember that the average American is still fucked into submission by a twisted democratic process and a rotten economic system that exploits the down-trodden while rewarding the most ruthless.

The jig is up for President Donald Trump. A federal appeals court has ruled against the outgoing one-term president in Pennsylvania and stock numbers are rising in the face of a new president. The Republican Party now has some important questions it must ask itself as we move forward.

As we move forward as Americans, let us remember that winning an election is actually the easy part of the political process. The harder part is actually governing. Anyone can talk up their game during an election with the intent of gaining power but candidates need to back up all that rhetoric afterwards (if they win). The reality is that our two dominate political parties have been failing us for a long time.

Tricky Transition

The final electoral vote count for the 2020 election is 290-214, Joe Biden is going to be the next President of the United States of America. Of course, President Donald Trump is throwing a temper tantrum over the election results because it did not go his way and he’s nothing but a spoiled New York socialite whose was handed success by his father.

I’m not going to pretend that there are not a lot of undemocratic things about American democracy but that is par for the course. As far as American elections go, Biden is the clear winner. President Trump needs to stop the whining and accept defeat; there’s a first time for everything.

Let us not forget the setbacks that the Democratic Party experienced this year. While Democrats were optimistic about picking up as many as fifteen seats in the United States House of Representatives; they lost at least six seats in the House.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in Florida’s 26th District is out – defeated by Republican challenger Carlos Gimenez.

U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala in Florida’s 27th District is out – defeated by Republican challenger Maria Elvira Salazar.

U.S. Rep. Kendra Horn in Oklahoma’s 5th District is out – defeated by Republican challenger Stephanie Bice.

U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson in Minnesota’s 7th District is out – defeated by Republican challenger Michelle Fischbach.

U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres-Small in New Mexico’s 2nd District is out – defeated by Republican challenger Yvette Herrell.

U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham in South Carolina’s 1st District is out – defeated by Republican challenger Nancy Mace.

What do these losses mean for the Democrats? It doesn’t matter, it’s not like they’re going to learn from any of them.

Post-Election Madness

By Dylan R.N. Crabb

In the aftermath of an incredibly close election, it looks like former Vice-President Joe Biden will become the 46th president of the United States of America. The current electoral vote count is 264-214.

I did not expect this election to be as close as the final results are showing but, in hindsight, it makes some sense. I’ve heard pundits on both sides of the aisle brag about the energy of their own voters claiming that the election would be a landslide for their candidate. NPR even reported this election containing the highest voter turnout in American history. With each side being galvanized to the teeth by punditry, a close race is a logical conclusion.

Let us not dwell too much on our collective orgasmic experience that was #ElectionNight and let us get back to the reality of the two shitty options that we Americans had to choose from in our supposed democratic-republic. Personally, coming from a family of loyal disciples to the Democratic Party, I expect the Republican Party to put up a shitty candidate (a childhood full of partisan brain-washing has engrained that bias in me). But the Democratic Party started this election cycle eleven candidates and THIS SHIT IS WHAT WE ENDED UP WITH?! Pervy-old Biden and Copmala Harris? Notwithstanding the fascistic corruption of the 2-party duopoly that has maintained control of American politics for a century, gradually dumbing down the national conversation with increasingly similar “opposing” candidates both favorable to the corporate interests that have become akin to a new aristocratic class. Presenting #Election2020 – the chance to choose between a Democratic Party man with a voting record of fraudulent war, “tough on crime” bullshit, and further degradation of higher education and a Republican Party outsider born into money with the emotional intelligence of a toddler and grabs whatever junk he wants to grab. If this is the best we can do as a nation, than we don’t deserve to hold the reigns of global power.

I used to be more involved in American politics – I’ve volunteered for three presidential elections and one gubernatorial election – and I’ve come to realize just how undemocratic our democracy really is. The democratic systems that govern Americans are far from ideal democracy/republicanism. I like to view our progressively degrading political candidates as a sign of our increasingly declining empire.

Is anyone interested in learning Mandarin with me? Which Chinese language would be more practical to learn: Mandarin or Cantonese?

A New Standard for SCOTUS Nominations?

I cannot imagine a bigger metaphorical bomb detonating than the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. We all knew it was going to happen eventually, the woman was 87 and had fought through cancer. She was tough but death comes for us all and the death of a Supreme Court Justice is like a time bomb in American politics, one that puts even more pressure on an election.

I understand that the 24-hour news cycle has shortened our attention spans but I want you all to try and remember back to 2016 when Justice Antonin Scalia died. President Barack Obama had nominated Judge Merrick Garland of the District of Columbia Circuit Appeals Court to fill the empty S.C.O.T.U.S. seat. U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (who still serves in that same position today unfortunately) stirred up drama around the upcoming presidential election.

“Given that we are in the midst of the presidential election process, the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee and I believe that it is today the American people who are best-positioned to help make this important decision — rather than a lame-duck president whose priorities and policies they just rejected in the most-recent national election.”

United States Senator Mitch McConnell (R, KT), The American People Should Have a Voice in the Selection of the Next Supreme Court Justice (2016), <https://www.mcconnell.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/2016/2/the-american-people-should-have-a-voice-in-the-selection-of-the-next-supreme-court-justice>.

Senator McConnell delayed Judge Garland’s confirmation to the S.C.O.T.U.S. until the next election then immediately started the process when President Donald Trump nominated Judge Brett Kavanaugh (from the same court – DC’s Circuit Appeals Court) to the empty S.C.O.T.U.S. seat.

Fast forward four years and the nation finds itself in a similar situation – a dead Supreme Court Justice leaving eight Justices on the court and a tense election in the near future. Will Senator McConnell display some consistency with the new precedent he and his party set back in 2016?

“President Trump’s nominee for this vacancy will receive a vote on the floor of the Senate.”

Senator McConnell, McConnell: ‘President Trump’s Nominee for this Vacancy will Receive a Vote on the Floor of the Senate (2020), <https://www.mcconnell.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/2020/9/mcconnell-president-trump-s-nominee-for-this-vacancy-will-receive-a-vote-on-the-floor-of-the-senate>.

The senator justifies his decision by linking the precedent to the year 1888, the last time there was a S.C.O.T.U.S. vacancy while the White House and the Congress were held by different parties.

Wikipedia, List of Nominations to the Supreme Court of the United States (2020), <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_nominations_to_the_Supreme_Court_of_the_United_States>.

In 2016, the Democratic Party held the White House while the Republican Party held both houses of Congress. Today, the Republican Party holds the White House and only one house of Congress. One can still argue that we have a divided government so I’m skeptical about Senator McConnell’s reasoning.

I don’t understand why a specific political party needs to be in control of the national government in order for the Senate to proceed with S.C.O.T.U.S. nomination hearings but, given that was Senator McConnell’s reasoning four years ago, he should definitely uphold that same standard today. Otherwise, Mitch McConnell’s name is now synonymous with a “double standard.”

What holds people back?

Take the right turn in Duke City and you can find anything.

The feeling of “living just enough for the city” as Stevie Wonder so elegantly phrased it is becoming more common in American cities.  Housing prices are soaring above wages and the gap between the working lower classes and the upper affluent classes is stark but opportunities remain.  There are always opportunities for the less fortunate, it just requires a little creativity.

I commute to my job on public transit and every day I see people who look as though they are going hard times – not well dressed, poor hygiene, a little spaced out (possibly on a foreign substance) – but they all seem to be able to scrape together enough money for a bus ticket.  What’s even more amazing is that most of these people have a smartphone in-hand with ear-buds or headphones on their heads.  Regardless of how my lower-class peers are able to afford these small luxuries, I don’t think they realize the kind of opportunities they can access with these devices alone.

A mobile phone can provide one with organizational tools for planning a day and recording other phone numbers for future reference (the start of any entrepreneurial endeavor) as well as grant you access to an internet connection via any public library or city-owned building.  Are most people even aware of the existence of public libraries these days?

I’m not the most entrepreneurial or business-minded person but I can still hold a job and keep hold of some money; it doesn’t take a lot of thought or effort.  What is holding so many people back?  Drugs, mental health, an inability to utilize money effectively, obsessive personalities combined with addictive (or even criminal) behaviors?  I genuinely want to know.

7-Ways-to-Stay-Motivated_v3-01-1

Juxtapositions of Modern Success

As I walk through my city streets, I see a strange juxtaposition of modern progress.  I see rising infrastructure along the skyline with empty windows and “for rent” signs.  I see people in suits with high-tech phones stepping over the tattered and dirty homeless.  I see cold and desperate people sleeping outside of night clubs filled with affluent and arrogant college students.  I see middle-class workers with their heads in their phones hustling between multiple jobs while lower-class street-walkers beg for some charity.  I see all these examples of the dichotomy in America’s current success story and I don’t know what to do about it.  I don’t have any answers for the poor and the down-trodden besides all the cliches that have already been preached publicly hundreds of times over.

What happened to our sense of community across America?

Old Address, Out-of-Date Voting

I went to a polling place today to vote in a local election and I was confused when I realized that my new address was not updated in the City of Albuquerque’s list of registered voters.  Earlier this year, I relocated from Albuquerque’s District 1 (West ABQ) to District 6 (Nob Hill) and immediately re-registered to vote (as I usually do).  Perhaps municipalities should update their voter registration records more frequently, but what do I know?

I still voted this morning, I just had to vote for my former neighborhood rather than my current neighborhood; not a big deal in the macro.

(If I’m missing something, let me know in the comments section below.  Don’t forget to tell me how big of an idiot I am.)

 

The D.N.C. is cheating AGAIN!

SOURCE: The Jimmy Dore Show, <https://youtu.be/BwjRnXGtkr0>, posted 8/27/2019.

^ This is what the Democratic Party does, they cheat the populists out of the process by manipulating their primary rules.  The Democratic National Committee (D.N.C.) was against Bernie Sanders in 2016 because they were beholden to the Clinton machine and Sanders was the anti-war voice against Hillary Clinton.  Now, the D.N.C. is against Tulsi Gabbard because she’s the new populist voice speaking out against the corporate interests who bankroll the Democrats.  Changes in debate rules in the middle of the election season, discounting specific polls that don’t favor specific candidates, setting thresholds for fundraising as qualifyers for potential nominations, these are some of the subtle tactics that the dominant political parties (the Republican Party is guilty too) use to maintain power and shut out candidates who value the public over their party.  Populists are at an incredible disadvantage because our elections are all about party loyalty and fundraising.
President George Washington warned the American public about party politics, these fucking donkeys and elephants have taken over the nation!

Populists are at an incredible disadvantage because our elections are all about party loyalty and fundraising.

SOURCE: United States Representative Tulsi Gabbard, <https://youtu.be/es3lWK-wXLs>, posted 8/27/2019.