The Moral Case for Draft Resistance

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On Monday, Oct. 16, 1967, Americans gathered by the thousands in cities and on campuses all over the country for the first “Stop the Draft” week. On the steps of federal buildings, city halls and university buildings, hundreds of young men protested the Vietnam War by turning in their draft cards — a national act of civil disobedience.

In Boston, draft resisters assembled in the historic Arlington Street Church and turned in their cards in what seemed like a sacramental rite. They moved solemnly up the aisle, some in tears, and deposited their draft cards in offering plates. Others burned their cards in the flame of a candle held by a candlestick once owned by the abolitionist preacher William Ellery Channing.

Reflecting on the moment when he turned in his draft card, James Oestereich, a seminarian in Boston, said, “It’s hard” to confront one’s government during wartime. “We know how to pay our taxes … but we don’t know how to oppose our government in a way that’s responsible and that will be listened to.”

In the national memory of the Vietnam War, anyone who violated draft laws is typically seen as selfish, cowardly and unpatriotic. It was one thing for civil rights activists to confront the government by breaking the law; by 1967, many of them were regarded as among the nation’s finest citizens. But if a citizen defied the draft laws to take a similar stand, few saw it as the resisters did: as a desperate appeal to the nation’s highest ideals.

Certainly, President Lyndon Johnson did not understand. When draft resisters showed up in Washington on Oct. 20 with nearly 1,000 draft cards collected from all over the country and turned them in at the Justice Department, he was furious. Johnson raged privately about whomever “the dumb sonofabitch was who would let somebody leave a bunch of draft cards in front of the Justice Department and then let them just walk away,” and ordered the attorney general, the F.B.I. and the Selective Service to investigate.

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Seeing so much of the present through Watergate makes it harder to see the future ~ The Washington Post

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How can we reconcile the conviction that Donald Trump’s presidency is a singular abomination with the sense that we’ve seen all this play out before?

For months, countless commentaries have warned us — or, depending on your perspective, reassured us — that this administration may be heading toward the same conclusion as Richard Nixon’s. In May, after the firing of FBI Director James Comey, Nixon chronicler Elizabeth Drew wrote in Politico: “While Watergate was sui generis and is likely to remain so, Trump’s metastasizing crisis, and Washington’s reaction to it, make for a discomfiting reminder of that period. And suddenly it seems increasingly possible it could end the same way.” A few weeks later, New York magazine’s Frank Rich wrote that there is “reason to hope that the 45th president’s path through scandal may wind up at the same destination as the 37th’s — a premature exit from the White House in disgrace — on a comparable timeline.”

That comparison has persisted, or even deepened, as Robert Mueller’s investigation has expanded. Noah Feldman and Jacob Weisberg began an essay last month in the New York Review of Books by arguing, “As more and more evidence of collusion between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia has come to light, the analogy to Watergate has grown ever stronger.”

There are strengths and weaknesses to the Watergate comparison, but our fascination with it is, perhaps more than anything, a product of our visceral discomfort with uncertainty. At the mercy of a president whose stock in trade is unpredictability, and amid a presidency that has provided more surprises than most, Americans crave foresight. We want to know how this story ends. Analogy provides a seductive answer, cloaking the cold ambiguity of the future in the blanket of the past: If today looks like yesterday, we reason, our tomorrow will look like yesterday’s tomorrow.

But relying so heavily on this heuristic may actually make it more difficult to anticipate what’s coming. Analogy encourages us to see the past as static, when it was in fact a dynamic collection of possible futures that just happened to gel into the present we know. That mistake blinds us to our own potential futures — and what we might learn from them. In trying to reduce uncertainty, we may have ensured that Trump will surprise us even more than he already has.

We take our experience of time for granted. Scholars Allen Bluedorn and Robert Denhardt put it this way: “As a society, we tend to agree on an objective concept of time, one that is unitary (subject to only one interpretation), linear (progressing steadily forward from past to present to future), and mechanical (containing discrete moments subject to precise measurement).”

~~~  GOOD PIECE, STAY WITH IT  ~~~

The Philosophical Assault on Trumpism

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Homesteaders heading west across the open plains. CreditAmerican Stock/Getty Images

David Brooks, NYT ~ Op/Ed

The only way to beat Trump is to beat him philosophically. Right now the populists have a story to tell the country about what’s gone wrong. It’s a coherent story, which they tell with great conviction. The regular Republicans have no story, no conviction and no argument. They just hem and haw and get run over.

The Trump story is that good honest Americans are being screwed by aliens. Regular Americans are being oppressed by a snobbish elite that rigs the game in its favor. White Americans are being invaded by immigrants who take their wealth and divide their culture. Normal Americans are threatened by an Islamic radicalism that murders their children.

This is a tribal story. The tribe needs a strong warrior in a hostile world. We need to build walls to keep out illegals, erect barriers to hold off foreign threats, wage endless war on the globalist elites.

Somebody is going to have to arise to point out that this is a deeply wrong and un-American story. The whole point of America is that we are not a tribe. We are a universal nation, founded on universal principles, attracting talented people from across the globe, active across the world on behalf of all people who seek democracy and dignity.

The core American idea is not the fortress, it’s the frontier. First, we thrived by exploring a physical frontier during the migration west, and now we explore technological, scientific, social and human frontiers. The core American attitude has been looking hopefully to the future, not looking resentfully toward some receding greatness.

The hardship of the frontier calls forth energy, youthfulness and labor, and these have always been the nation’s defining traits. The frontier demands a certain sort of individual, a venturesome, hard-working, disciplined individual who goes off in search of personal transformation. From Jonathan Edwards to Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln to Frederick Douglass, Americans have always admired those who made themselves anew. They have generally welcomed immigrants who live this script and fortify this dynamism.

The Republican Party was founded as a free labor party. It believed in economic diversity, cultural cohesion and national greatness. The entrepreneurial economic philosophy was highly individualistic, but strong local communities built a web of nurturing relationships and shared biblical morality helped define common standards of character.

This American vision champions social mobility. The original Republicans were not for or against government, they were for government that sparked mobility; they were against government that enervated ambition. These Americans heavily invested in schools at a time when other nations were investing heavily in welfare states. These Americans built railroads and roads to increase mobility. They tore down social, racial and legal barriers to give poor boys and girls an open field and a fair chance.

Today, the main enemy is not aliens; it’s division — between rich and poor, white and black, educated and less educated, right and left. Where there is division there are fences. Mobility is retarded and the frontier is destroyed. Trumpist populists want to widen the divisions and rearrange the fences. They want to turn us into an old, settled and fearful nation.

The Republican Party is supposed to be the party that stokes dynamism by giving everybody the chance to venture out into the frontier of their own choosing — with education reform that encourages lifelong learning, with entitlement reform that spends less on the affluent elderly and more on the enterprising young families, with regulatory reform that breaks monopolies and rules that hamper start-ups, with tax reform that creates a fair playing field, with immigration reform that welcomes the skilled and the hungry.

It may be dormant, but this striving American dream is still lurking in every heart. It’s waiting for somebody who has the guts to say no to tribe, yes to universal nation, no to fences, yes to the frontier, no to closed, and yes to the open future, no to the fear-driven homogeneity of the old continent and yes to the diverse hopefulness of the new one.

The Abbie Hoffman of the Right: Donald Trump ~ David Brooks, NYT

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It has to be admitted that Donald Trump is doing exactly what he was elected to do.

He was not elected to be a legislative president. He never showed any real interest in policy during the campaign. He was elected to be a cultural president. He was elected to shred the dominant American culture and to give voice to those who felt voiceless in that culture. He’s doing that every day.

What’s troubling to me is that those who are the targets of his assaults seem to have no clue about what is going on. When they feel the most righteous, like this past weekend, they are actually losing and in the most peril.

Let me try to explain what I think is happening:

After World War II the Protestant establishment dominated the high ground of American culture and politics. That establishment eventually failed. It tolerated segregation and sexism, led the nation into war in Vietnam and became stultifying.

So in the late 1960s along came a group of provocateurs like Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin and the rest of the counterculture to upend the Protestant establishment. People like Hoffman were buffoons, but also masters of political theater.

They never attracted majority support for their antics, but they didn’t have to. All they had to do was provoke, offend the crew-cut crowd, generate outrage and set off a cycle that ripped apart the cultural consensus.

The late 1960s were a time of intense cultural conflict, which left a lot of wreckage in its wake. But eventually a new establishment came into being, which we will call the meritocratic establishment.

These were the tame heirs to Hoffman and Rubin. They were well educated. They cut their moral teeth on the civil rights and feminist movements. They embraced economic, social and moral individualism. They came to dominate the institutions of American society on both left and right.

Hillary Clinton is part of this more educated cohort. So are parts of the conservative establishment. If you’re reading this newspaper, you probably are, too, as am I.

This establishment, too, has had its failures. It created an economy that benefits itself and leaves everybody else out. It led America into war in Iraq and sent the working class off to fight it. It has developed its own brand of cultural snobbery. Its media, film and music industries make members of the working class feel invisible and disrespected.

So in 2016, members of the outraged working class elected their own Abbie Hoffman as president. Trump is not good at much, but he is wickedly good at sticking his thumb in the eye of the educated elites. He doesn’t have to build a new culture, or even attract a majority. He just has to tear down the old one.

That’s exactly what he’s doing. Donald Trump came into a segmenting culture and he is further tearing apart every fissure. He has a nose for every wound in the body politic and day after day he sticks a red-hot poker in one wound or another and rips it open.

~~~  CONTINUE  ~~~

Conspiracies, Corruption and Climate ~ Paul Krugman ~ NYT

After the devastation wreaked by Harvey on Houston — devastation that was right in line with meteorologists’ predictions — you might have expected everyone to take heed when the same experts warned about the danger posed by Hurricane Irma. But you would have been wrong.

On Tuesday, Rush Limbaugh accused weather scientists of inventing Irma’s threat for political and financial reasons: “There is a desire to advance this climate change agenda, and hurricanes are one of the fastest and best ways to do it,” he declared, adding that “fear and panic” help sell batteries, bottled water, and TV advertising.

He evacuated his Palm Beach mansion soon afterward.

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Rush Limbaugh in 2012, left; A satellite image on Thursday showed Hurricane Irma in the Caribbean Sea.CreditJulie Smith/Associated Press, left; NASA/NOAA GOES Project, via Getty Image

In a way, we should be grateful to Limbaugh for at least raising the subject of climate change and its relationship to hurricanes, if only because it’s a topic the Trump administration is trying desperately to avoid. For example, Scott Pruitt, the pollution- and polluter-friendly head of the Environmental Protection Agency, says that now is not the time to bring up the subject — that doing so is “insensitive” to the people of Florida. Needless to say, for people like Pruitt there will never be a good time to talk about climate.

So what should we learn from Limbaugh’s outburst? Well, he’s a terrible person — but we knew that already. The important point is that he’s not an outlier. True, there weren’t many other influential people specifically rejecting warnings about Irma, but denying science while attacking scientists as politically motivated and venal is standard operating procedure on the American right. When Donald Trump declared climate change a “hoax,” he was just being an ordinary Republican.

And thanks to Trump’s electoral victory, know-nothing, anti-science conservatives are now running the U.S. government. When you read news analyses claiming that Trump’s deal with Democrats to keep the government running for a few months has somehow made him a moderate independent, remember that it’s not just Pruitt: Almost every senior figurein the Trump administration dealing with the environment or energy is both an establishment Republican and a denier of climate change and of scientific evidence in general.

And almost all climate change denial involves Limbaugh-type conspiracy theorizing.

Mitch Landrieu, Mayor of New Orleans addresses removal of Confederate statues ~ a thoughtful, powerful talk ~

“It is the best I have heard in a long time.  This guy could be presidential material.”

Dr. Higdon

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~~~  LISTEN TO THE SPEECH  ~~~

On May 19, 2017, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu delivered a moving speech about why the city took down four Confederate monuments that had been installed by supporters of the “Cult of the Lost Cause.”