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“Kakistocracy”: Government By The Worst Politicians Who Say They Love America, But Hate The American Government

We can see a troubling future looming for America in two seemingly unrelated events — the water crisis in Flint and the Republican presidential primaries.

Both suggest that America is moving away from the high ideals of President Kennedy’s inaugural address — “Ask not what your country do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Instead we see politicians who say they love America, but hate the American government.

There is a word to describe the kind of government Michigan has and America is at risk of developing. It’s called kakistocracy.

It means government by the worst men, from the ancient Greek words kákistos, meaning worst, and kratia, meaning to rule.

Think of Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona, Governor Paul LePage of Maine and others notorious for abuse of power and utter contempt for those who disagree with them.

We can see one of the worst in Michigan, where Governor Rick Snyder persuaded the legislature to grant him imperial powers to take over local elected governments. Soon a whole city was poisoned.

Snyder, like all leaders seeking to replace self-governance with dictatorship, claims that he acted solely in the best interests of the people. Snyder’s administration did not just fail to forcefully correct the evil it had wrought; it actively tried to hide the awful truth, another badge of dictators.

When the official secret was finally exposed, Snyder showed himself to be at best a slothful minimalist in fixing his mess. He also made what he claimed as a full disclosure, while withholding the most important documents about his toxic administration.

On television you may have seen National Guard troops, called up by Snyder, handing out bottled water. It was a cynical PR stunt: Seven Guardsmen at one location in a city of 99,000 people.

An accountant by profession, who calls himself a tough nerd, Snyder fields mass phone calls rather than take charge in Flint, the once prosperous home of Buick made famous in Michael Moore’s 1989 documentary Roger & Me.

Snyder tries to shift blame to people he appointed. And he remains focused on corporate tax favors, not the people of Flint, a city with a slight black majority.

To those who insist racism is in the past, Snyder’s behavior shows that racialized politics endure.

Bad as poisoning an entire city is, that’s nothing compared to what the Republican candidates for the White House propose – more war, more tax cuts for the rich, massive surveillance and a host of other policies fit not for a land of liberty, but a police state.

Think about Chris Christie, the New Jersey fabulist who misleads about his appointment as U.S. Attorney for the Garden State and who mocks people who say he should be doing more to address shore flooding since Hurricane Sandy in 2012. There’s his false justification for stopping a replacement for the century-old rail tunnel between his state and Manhattan, and his aggressively hiding of the facts about the dangerous George Washington bridge lane closures by his aides.

But the monstrous wrongdoing of Snyder and the incompetency and mendaciousness of Christie pale next to some other GOP presidential wannabes. Many of them love war, especially now that, having avoided military service in their youth, they’re too old to face enemy fire on the battlefield.

Senator Ted Cruz wants to “carpet bomb ISIS into oblivion” until the sand “glows in the dark.” Asked about the legality of this, Cruz doubled down during the Fox News debate last month. The Texas senator thinks this is a brilliant military strategy, even though actual experts think it is a terrible idea and so does America’s top general in Iraq.

By the way, indiscriminately bombing civilians is a war crime.

Donald Trump favors the policies of Mexican drug cartels and the most vicious Mafia bosses. He doesn’t just want to wipe out those seeking to create the Islamic State in Syria and the Levant. Trump vows to kill their families, too. Challenged by a college student on this, Trump too doubled down.

It was fellow candidate-at-the-time Rand Paul, the libertarian senator from Kentucky, who pointed out that killing the families of combatants is a war crime.

Of course killing families would only stir hatred of America and lead to more violence. Sending Americans once again into Middle East combat would only enrage more young Muslim men, which is why I earlier described Trump as ISIS’ chief recruitment officer.

Trump would also break up families by arresting 11 million or so immigrants who are here illegally; bar any Muslim from entering the country; spy on mosques; impose tariffs; punish corporations that make investments he dislikes, among his long list of promised extra-Constitutional actions.

Asked about what laws authorize his proposals, Trump claims unnamed experts are on his side.

Trump’s proposal is not so much for a term or two as president, but for a Trump dictatorship. (see Snyder, Rick; imperial powers).

Then there’s the vile language Trump uses, claiming variously that he was just repeating what someone else said or that he will not be forced into political correctness. Evidently Trump’s mother failed at teaching him any manners. The Presbyterian Church, which Trump recently made a public show of attending, also failed at teaching him about asking God for forgiveness, about the sacraments, the names of Biblical chapters, and the last five of the Ten Commandments.

Except for the now-departed Rand Paul, the Republican presidential candidates talk easily of war, almost as if they were proposing a picnic.  And they all insist we need a bigger military, even though more than 40 percent of all military spending worldwide is American.

ISIS is a pipsqueak threat, nothing like the Soviet Union during the Cold War or the Axis powers of World War II.  Yet the Republicans encourage us to live in fear. ISIS is failing and can do no more than harry us, but Trump, Cruz, and some of the other candidates would have us give up our liberties and grant them powers that the framers of our Constitution explicitly denied the executive branch.

Other Republicans have shown their lack of knowledge to be almost Trumpian in its vacuity, especially Senator Marco Rubio and Dr. Ben Carson. The one woman who was running on the GOP side, Carly Fiorina, has a track record in business (and veracity) that deserves boos, not applause.

On top of this the Republicans, everywhere, continue marketing the economic snake oil that what ails our economy is that the rich do not have enough and are in dire need of more tax cuts.

We should not be surprised that in so many places our governments are under the control of men and women who are careless, destructive, incompetent, and passive-aggressive.

Since Ronald Reagan declared in his 1981 inaugural address “government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem” we have seen more and more people who hate government going into government.

A government run by people who believe it is bad will, of course, make it fail. They are dedicated not to making our government work for us, but to making their own worst beliefs about government come true. We see this at every level from Uncle Sam down to the local school boards that try to replace biological science with religious beliefs.

Big business has learned to take advantage of government run by those who despite it. With cronies in high places big companies find it much easier to mine gold from the Treasury than the market, the subject of my book Free Lunch.

Our Constitution makes the federal government ours. We choose our leaders. We decide what powers they can exercise. And if we elect people who are nasty, brutish, or megalomaniacal we have no one to blame but ourselves.

That anyone in America would think that any of the Republican candidates, save Governor John Kasich of Ohio, is competent to hold office shows how easily politics can drift from ideals to the basest attitudes. (More than three dozen progressive members of Congress told me this month that while they don’t agree with Kasich on most issues, he is unquestionably competent.)

The Founders warned us to beware of those who lust for power.

Now we see on full display those who lust not just for the authority our Constitution conveys on the Office of President, but who seek to do as they please without regard for the checks and balances of our Constitution, without regard for thoughtful strategies in dealing with foreign powers and would-be powers, and without regard for human life, not just among the wives and children of ISIS combatants, but among those American citizens who are poor, black, Latino, Muslim — or happen to live in Flint.

Kakistocracy. Use that word. Get others talking about what it means.

 

By: David Cay Johnston, The National Memo, February 13, 2016

February 14, 2016 Posted by | Anti-Government, Donald Trump, Flint Water Crisis, Rick Snyder | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“GOP Gives Up On ‘Dump Trump'”: Republicans Have Started To Accept That Cleveland Will Be The Donald Show Debate

Republican grief over Donald Trump’s all but assured presence on the debate stage next month seems to be entering it’s final stage: acceptance.

Whether it’s the winery-owning mega donor, or the Koch-backed Hispanic outreach group or the former head of the American Conservative Union, there is a distaste for the abrasive reality television star and businessman.

But although there was preliminary chatter about finding a way to marginalize Trump or keep him off the debate stage in Cleveland, Ohio, the unhappiness with his recent insulting comments about Hispanics has yielded to mere condemnation and an unhappy acquiescence to his presence in the race.

“They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people,” Trump said recently.

John Jordan, the multi-millionaire winery owner and the third-largest donor to super PACs in the country in 2013, had originally contemplated gathering signatures to keep Trump off the debate stage.

“Someone in the party ought to start some sort of petition saying, ‘If Trump’s going to be on the stage, I’m not going to be on there with him,’” Jordan told the Associated Press last week. “I’m toying with the idea of it.”

But several days later, Jordan was thinking differently. He told The Daily Beast that he would not be putting together a petition effort.

“I’m content right to let the process play out, that is for the party and the candidates to figure out,” Jordan said. “I have one concern, and one concern only, and that is next November. I want to make sure that the nominee has the possible chance to win.”

Al Cardenas, the former chairman of the American Conservative Union and Florida’s first Hispanic GOP state chairman, said he hoped the primary process would naturally weed out Trump’s candidacy, rather than a top-down effort to push Trump out.

“[A]s distasteful as his comments have been to me, we should let the process play out. Hopefully, it’s the rejection by the voters, not a group of party leaders, that should determine his fate as a presidential candidate,” Cardenas said. “I respect the feelings of a number of our colleagues who feel differently—and strongly—about this and argue that his continuation in the race is detrimental to our party and to our brand. And they may be right, but the end does not justify the means in this case.”

“It’s a mild form of censorship to say that because we disagree with his tone or comments about the immigrant community, [he] should leave the race,” added Daniel Garza of the Koch-backed Libre Initiative, which seeks to appeal to Hispanic voters. “You allow him to mouth off… He has the right to speak, and we have the right to disagree with him… Calls to have him leave the race are ludicrous.”

Alfonso Aguilar, the head of the conservative American Principles Project’s Latino Partnership, views Trump’s “insulting and baseless” comments as creating pressure on other presidential candidates to step up their Hispanic outreach.

“Instead of seeing him as a problem, I see it as an opportunity—but one that requires strong leadership,” he told the Beast. “He’s a lunatic, but we’ve had other lunatics run for president. The problem is not that he’s on stage—it’s if you don’t respond and rebuke him.”

“He has shaken up the primary in a way that might not be welcome. But now that you have it, if you’re smart and astute, maybe you can use it in your favor,” agreed Garza. “Obviously you have to draw the contrast. If Donald Trump is showing how not to do Latino outreach, you show the way to do it effective.”

As for the Republican National Committee, it wants no part in any effort to sideline Trump. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus had called Trump to preach civility after the businessman’s controversial comments—then got mired into a he-said, he-said with The Donald over the contents of the call.

Asked about whether Republicans or big-dollar donors were making an effort to keep Trump off the debate stage, an RNC official merely said that, per Federal Election Commission guidelines, the networks and debate sponsors were responsible for setting up the guidelines for the presidential debates.
Meanwhile, a small plurality of Republican voters are favoring Trump. In a USA Today/Suffolk University poll released this week, Trump leads the field with 17%. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush is close behind him with 14%.

Two polls out last week showed him leading the field of Republican 2016 candidates, receiving 15 percent in an Economist/YouGov poll and 16 percent in a PPP poll.

Aguilar, who was in Arizona to counter-message an event Trump was having with Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, said the key to convincing Republican primary voters to steer clear of Trump was to point out the businessman’s prior positions like Trump’s praise of Bill Clinton and his donation to the Clinton Foundation.

“Before he was friends with Hillary, now he’s friends with Joe Arpaio,” he said. “Are you really sure he’s conservative?”

 

By: Tim Mak, The Daily Beast, July 15, 2015

July 18, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Primaries, Republicans | , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“Let’s Not Be Terrorized”: Let’s Honor Boston By Returning To Normal

Tragedies amplify the human tendencies toward both selflessness and assholishness. From a distance, watching horrible things happen (and happen, and happen) on TV, it can be much easier to see the assholishness. Yesterday an asshole planted bombs at the Boston Marathon — the Boston Marathon, for chrissakes — and today three people are confirmed dead with many, many more injured, in some cases horrifically.

That horrible situation, though, led to a great deal of examples of how Boston, and much of the U.S., is a pretty damn nice place full of impressive and great people. There was amazing journalism from Boston journalists, and a heroic response from Boston first responders, paramedics, doctors and surgeons. Boston blood banks filled up immediately and the Red Cross and Google both helped people find their loved ones. The Internet and the press even acquitted themselves reasonably well. It was amazing to see, within hours of the attack, eyewitness video from amateurs and professionals. The live stream of WBUR, Boston’s NPR news station, was compelling, restrained and informative. Fox News’ Shepard Smith was incredibly composed and also very careful not to speculate irresponsibly. The Boston Globe dropped its pay wall and put its heartbreaking and useful liveblog on the front page.

It wasn’t all good. There was no reason for Neil Cavuto to interview Joe Arpaio, at any point yesterday, and yet that happened. This was a particularly obnoxious reminder that Fox News can only turn off its shtick when a grown-up, like Shepard Smith, is running the show. (Smith returned to anchor coverage later, thankfully.) CNN’s political reporters were similarly unable to break out of their self-created shell of inanity and just react like human beings, with Wolf Blitzer and company fixated on the semantics of the president’s brief statement. The New York Post, always happy to out-ghoul the competition, was running poorly sourced bullshit all day.

That poorly sourced bullshit tends to stick around, too. The “Saudi national” “person of interest,” the New York Post’s “law enforcement source” and the “explosion” at the John F. Kennedy library. These are the random bits of information, usually false, that circulate during disasters and, inevitably, lead to conspiracy theories. This isn’t a brand-new, Internet-created problem. Morsels of misinformation broadcast on TV or the radio in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 and even the Kennedy assassination survive forever.

We still know next to nothing about what happened yesterday. The “ball bearings” that doctors are finding in victims might just be shrapnel. It seems now that there weren’t any additional unexploded devices in the area. People should probably be clearer, in the future, about the unreliability of information from emergency services scanners. Now we’ll see if the press jumps on every law enforcement lead and manages to convict innocent people in the court of public opinion, as has happened way too many times in the past following bombings and terroristic violence. Basically, be skeptical of what you see and read over the next few months.

Weirdly and probably inappropriately, I kept thinking yesterday of the 2007 incident in which Boston police closed the trains and the Charles River because a guerrilla marketing firm placed a series of LED ads for “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” around the city. It seemed at the time like the height of ridiculous post-9/11 paranoid hysterical overreaction. These were effectively LITE-BRITEs with cute cartoon aliens on them, but because they matched some idiotic police description of the characteristics of IEDs they were treated as a threat. I did not hold back in mocking them. Now, following an actual IED attack on Boston, it’s an embarrassing memory.

But here’s the thing: In terms of “sophistication,” the bombs that went off yesterday could hardly have been any more powerful than the bomb that exploded on Wall Street in 1920, which killed 38 people and injured 143. More people, many more, could die or be confirmed dead in this attack, but right now tornadoes in Mississippi and Missouri last week were just as deadly, and MBTA trains are deadlier. Whoever it turns out did this and whatever their motive, he or they sucked at being a terrorist. That is something that should be made clear, loudly and forcefully, this week. This guy was an embarrassment to terrorists and as a result we will not be terrorized.

Here is what I’m hoping happens, next: I hope Americans as a whole do nothing, besides find and punish the person responsible. As Bruce Schneier says, if we acknowledge that terrorism isn’t an existential threat to the American way of life, or to our freedom, or anything else, we can take reasonable steps to mitigate the threat without freaking out and, say, getting every flight with people who look Middle Eastern grounded, banning backpacks from public spaces or launching any wars. There is no way of stopping dedicated assholes from putting crappy little bombs in trash bins on street corners. Thankfully, it barely ever happens in the United States.

So while I feel a great deal of affection for the city of Boston and its residents today, and while I might be listening to the Modern Lovers and remembering how great the whole Mark Wahlberg arc in “The Departed” is, and while we all have every reason to be incredibly pissed off at the asshole that killed at least one child and hurt so many more innocent people, it is our responsibility to that fine American city to help it get back, as soon as possible, to normal.

Which is why as an American, and a resident of New York, I am most looking forward to when Boston returns to despising us and our stupid city and the goddamn overpaid, ancient Yankees, and we return the sentiment. That will be a return to normalcy and a message that this asshole didn’t accomplish a damn thing. In the first round of the NBA playoffs, beginning this weekend, the Boston Celtics will face the New York Knicks. There will be patriotism and solidarity on display, and certainly a tribute to the victims of yesterday’s attack. That’s understandable. Let’s also hope there is a healthy amount of booing, vulgar heckling and signs referencing Cheerios sneaked into the arena. Let the cops catch the asshole that did this; we have lives to live.

 

By: Alex Pareene, Salon, April 16, 2013

April 17, 2013 Posted by | Terrorism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The GOP’s Dangerous Animals”: Mitt Romney Needs To Keep The Animals In Their Enclosures

At this week’s Republican National Convention, a pair of attendees found a novel game to play: They threw nuts at a black camera operator for CNN and told her, “This is how we feed animals.”

Convention officials evicted the tossers, who, like almost all of the delegates in the Tampa Bay Times Forum, were white. The Romney campaign condemned the antics as “deplorable” and “reprehensible.”

It’s good to know that some behavior on the far right exceeds Mitt Romney’s tolerance, but this episode of “animal” feeding was, well, peanuts compared with the broader issues restraining racial politics in the party. In his acceptance speech Thursday night, Romney became more than the Republican Party’s nominee for president; he became its zookeeper. To win the presidency and to become successful in the Oval Office, Romney must keep the animals in his own party in their enclosures — and that’s no easy task.

Hours before Romney’s speech, about 100 GOP delegates from the Western states assembled for a “special reception with elephants” at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo, hosted by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and the state GOP. There, in the faux-adobe Safari Lodge, delegates mingled with Chanel the East African crowned crane, Pita the South American porcupine, Bo the African martial eagle — and Joe Arpaio, the sheriff of Maricopa County, Ariz.

Arpaio, you’ll recall, is the guy who claims that Barack Obama’s birth certificate is a forgery, who calls for the arrest and deportation of millions of illegal immigrants, who is being sued for racial profiling, and who has been an outspoken champion of the Arizona immigration crackdown largely invalidated by the Supreme Court.

At the zoo, Arpaio argued that there is no daylight between him and Romney. “The governor’s stance corresponds with my stance,” the sheriff said. “Everything he says, I agree with him.” He further boasted that he was Romney’s “campaign guy in Arizona” in 2008 and that he conferred with Romney during this year’s debates, during which Romney buried other opponents for being insufficiently tough on immigration.

Arpaio justifiably took credit for establishing the party’s position on immigration. “I don’t know how to say this without being egotistical,” he said, but “I have a lot of support across the nation from all these delegates.” Asked if he was hurting Republicans, he scoffed. “If I’m hurting the party, why did all the people running for president either visit my office or call me?” he asked. “And they all want my endorsement.”

He’s right — and it’s a shame Romney won’t send Arpaio where convention officials sent the nut-throwers. Romney needs urgently to broaden his appeal beyond the white faces on the convention floor, and he made a nod in that direction in his acceptance speech, reminding delegates that “we are a nation of immigrants.” Romney’s advisers filled the program with leaders of color such as Marco Rubio, Condi Rice, Ted Cruz and Nikki Haley.

But such gestures are easily undone by others. Romney has long lacked the courage to stand up to the more dangerous beasts on the right, from birther Donald Trump to the woman who accused President Obama of “treason.” In some cases, Romney has encouraged these sinister elements, with his recent quip in Michigan that “no one’s ever asked to see my birth certificate” and his false claim that Obama is gutting welfare reform. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews got into a tense standoff with Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus this week when he accused Romney of playing the “race card.” Priebus called that “garbage.”

No, “garbage” is what Arpaio was tossing around at the zoo on Thursday afternoon. The sheriff let everybody know “my mother and father came from Italy — legally, of course.” And he gave them an update on Obama’s birth certificate. “We’re just looking at forged documents,” he said. “Fraud, that’s what we’re looking at.”

He discussed his round-’em-up views on illegal immigrants, he voiced his opposition to driver’s licenses or other benefits for the children of illegal immigrants, and he assured his audience that Romney was of like mind. “He’s not just talking,” Arpaio said. “I’m convinced that, the first year at the White House, he will bring this issue out.”

It’s easy to dismiss Arpaio as, er, nuts. He went on a paranoid rant about how “I’ve got demonstrators I hear out there. . . . They’re the same ones who go in front of my church.” But there wasn’t a single demonstrator outside.

Romney should be making clear that Arpaio doesn’t speak for his Republican Party any more than the nut-throwers do. Instead, the sheriff wore a convention floor pass that said “honored guest.”

 

BY: Dana Milbank, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, August 31, 2012

September 2, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Oath Keepers” Alive In Arizona: Pushes Unconstitutional Bill Restricting Federal Law Enforcement

Arizona’s county sherriff’s are not exactly known for setting the standard for effective law enforcement and loyalty to the Constitution — indeed, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is currently under federal investigation for widespread mistreatment of Latinos and other violations of the law. Nevertheless, an Arizona senate committee just approved a unconstitutional billwhich would require federal law enforcement officers to provide advance notice to Arpaio and his fellow sheriffs before taking action in their counties:

A Senate panel voted Thursday to fire a warning shot of sorts over the heads of federal law enforcement agencies: Don’t come around here unless you get local OK.

The legislation, crafted by Rep. David Gowan, R-Sierra Vista, would require employees of those agencies to first notify the sheriff of the county “before taking any official law enforcement action in a county in this state.”

The only exception would be if the notification would impede the federal officer’s duties. But even then, HB 2434 has a requirement to notify the sheriff “as soon as practicable after taking the action.”

The Constitution simply does not allow states to order federal officials to do anything. Under our Constitution, federal law is “the supreme law of the land,” so when Congress enacts an otherwise valid federal law and empowers federal officers to enforce it, the states have no power whatsoever to limit that enforcement or place conditions on it.

Disturbingly, the bill may also be connected to a radical anti-government group known as the “Oath Keepers.” The Oath Keepers is a right-wing group that pushes local law enforcement to pledge to defy federal “orders” the Oath Keepers believe are unconstitutional. Their website is riddled with paranoid rhetoric about government officials “disarm[ing] the American people,” “confiscat[ing] the property of the American people, including food and other essential supplies,” and “blockad[ing] American cities, thus turning them into giant concentration camps.” In early 2008, the Oath Keepers’ founder warned that a “dominatrix-in-chief” named “Hitlery Clinton” would impose a police state on America and shoot all resisters. After Democratic primary voters chose President Obama over Clinton, the Oath Keepers simply rewrote their paranoid fantasy to include a taller, African-American lead. Rep. Gowan, the lead sponsor of this bill, is listed as a member of the Tucson Oath Keepers on their Meetup page.

So, while merely notifying local law enforcement of federal actions may seem like a minor imposition, the bill makes sense in the context of a broader Oath Keeper agenda, because it gives local sherriffs advance notice of which federal actions they wish to defy.

 

By: Ian Millhiser, Think Progress, March 16, 2012

March 17, 2012 Posted by | Arizona, Constitution | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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